Written by: Kristen Lopez, Editor in Chief
**This article does not express the political and/or religious beliefs of CC2K as a whole. This is one writer‘s particular opinion. Also if you’ve not read/seen the final Twilight there are spoilers.
Since the inception of film itself they’ve always sought to bring a message. Some movies display their message subtly, leaving it up to writers like me to seek out and interpret, while others make their agendas and themes blatant. In the last few years I’ve become more and more inquisitive about the meanings of movies, especially with our highly charged political arena and current global situation. I have only read the first Twilight, finding the book too boring to read further, but have seen all the films and have written several school papers on the role of Twilight in society.
The movies and books have had countless papers written on them from the various stances on feminism, to gender roles, and what I plan to address in this article: sex and abortion. I Googled “Twilight + Pro-Life” and found several articles so apparently I’m not the only one whose noticed this issue. What I find interesting is that most of these articles were on Breaking Dawn the novel, probably because the movie’s only been out a few days. Based on the research I’ve done I seek to assert that the devotion to the novels in Melissa Rosenberg’s script, makes the latest Twilight film a preachy anti-abortion opus that confuses young girls on abortion and ultimately what sex and pregnancy are all about. I will be using the film only and also borrowing bits from Melissa A. Click’s book Bitten by Twilight: Youth Culture, Media and the Vampire Franchise.
The film obviously follows Bella Swan (Kristen Stewart) as she marries vampire Edward Cullen (Robert Pattinson). The two go to on a romantic honeymoon yet Bella refuses to be turned into a vampire until after so she doesn’t spend it “writhing in pain.” That’s all well and good but she is told having sex with Edward could kill her if she’s still human. Regardless, they do it anyway and Bella wakes the next morning with bruises and pretty much wants to hump like rabbits despite Edward’s fear that he’ll hurt her and refuses to have more sex. What makes this issue problematic is that Edward is fully in charge of this relationship, he determines when they’ll have sex, and for being on the Earth so long he’s never researched what will happen when a vampire and human have sex? I won’t even go into the issues inherent in the fact he’s a 500 year old vampire who’s apparently never had sexual feelings or a girlfriend apparently! He never answers if he’s a virgin so it’s left in the air if he’s “laid” with another woman, but for someone who seeks to love Bella so much you’d assume he’d want to make sure he doesn’t hurt her. The scene obviously hearkens back a virgin’s first night, albeit with a more literal sense of pain, and the fear of being hurt by the one you love.
According to Click the couple’s “desire to have sex and the negotiation of sex is one of the driving forces of the novel.” They may go into further discussion in the novel, making it worthy of a being labeled a “driving force” yet the need to keep a film moving, and show teens the hyped sex scene between their idol R-Patz, removes any and all adult discussion from the arena. You see Bella and Edward playing chess, the pieces reminiscent of the book covers, as a means of “strategizing” but any conversation between two consenting adults is removed. The fact that you have Bella marrying at eighteen, giving up her family for a man and her family being fine with it, is ingrained in this series by this point. Bella and Edward are still teenagers yet they’re acting out adult decisions so have them act like consenting adults. To remove these two discussing the logistics of one of the most personal acts in a marriage shows to young girls that a man will take control in lovemaking, and a girl must be coy (as Bella parades in lingerie to make Edward want her) in order to get the attention of her husband/boyfriend/boy in general.
The need to progress the story continues when Bella discovers she’s pregnant. Vampire pop culture usually shies away from vampire/human babies as the logic behind it refuses to make sense. I’m thinking the fact Edward is dead would negate his ability to give off live sperm? Anyway, Bella proclaims “it’s impossible” yet in this series vampires and werewolves are real so pregnancy is pretty damn possible Bella! The vampires are pretty much human; lacking fangs and other attributive vampire characteristics so why isn’t it possible? By that logic it only takes one time to get pregnant as those annoying ads tell us, so what makes Bella so special that she would be exempt from that? The film doesn’t settle down to explain this element to young girls; it simply says sex will result in pregnancy. I’m usually all for telling teens the consequences of their sexual actions, but in this case it furthers the “miracle” that Bella talks about as the film progresses. This vampire baby should not exist; therefore it belongs on this Earth! It’s Christ-like in many ways which makes it even more awkward when it’s called a demon so many times. Click says the miracle pregnancy is Bella’s “reward” for being a proper wife, again asserting to teen girls that pregnancy comes as the result of wifehood, not running around having sex with whomever. Were Bella to have a discussion with Edward and decide they were in a committed relationship and wanted sex, I don’t believe the baby would be such a blessing or reward.
The film takes a turn towards pushing the anti-abortion debate once Bella decides to keep the child. The “reward” mentioned above turns deadly as the baby is literally feeding off Bella, perverting the symbiosis normally seen between mother and child. The child also yearns for blood, making Bella drink it and connecting her even further to her eventual vampire roots. When it becomes apparent Bella is dying, Edward proclaims that if she dies he won’t love the child. This is understandable in some form, but as Bella becomes gaunter and steadfast in saying she’ll keep the baby “because it is a part of you [Edward]” it makes his comments seem callous. Bella will die for Edward, giving him a child in the process, but he cannot live to raise that child? It adds to matters that Bella feels “it’s a boy” returning things to a primogeniture world of the first-born son and Bella only able to “beget” more Edward’s.
Edward and a few other characters even go so far as to call the baby “It” returning it to the demonic presence mentioned in the beginning, but also showing that men don’t understand the joy of pregnancy until they see their baby. Bella proclaims it a “miracle,” while Edward’s sisters Alice (Ashley Greene) and Rosalie (Nikki Reed) get into an argument between the word “fetus” and “baby.” As if this needs to be explained, you obviously have the debate between science/government and maternal instincts with Alice being the one questioning whether the fetus is viable vs. the conservative stance that a child is alive from the moment of conception.
The fact that the women have the only opinions on the baby itself, not Bella, says according to Click, Meyer’s intent to show “motherhood is a natural, healthy, true goal for women.” The men debate saving the mother, again returning to the government “agenda” about abortion protecting women, vs. the village atmosphere of women actually raising the baby. The broader question is no one ever seems to ask Bella what she wants! I take that back, the female characters including Rosalie ask Bella. The men discuss getting rid of it to save Bella, but they never have a sit-down conversation about Bella’s fears and wishes vs. the medical facts. This makes the film seem overly preachy, pushing its agenda further, and making Bella seem like a young girl letting her emotions rule her. She’s an adult who willingly got herself into the situation, why not remove the interlopers and have a conversation with your husband? Instead the film divides down gender lines to show the domineering men who know what’s best vs. the sweet women who love all babies.
As Bella gets worse, by the end looking like she’s survived the Holocaust, her and Edward are only alone once. It’s when Edward is able to “hear” the baby and the two finally bond and all three share in a happy family moment. There’s no discussion about the consequences of Bella giving birth, that she might die, but look they’re snuggling and hear their baby say how much they love them! It not only says “your baby loves you and therefore you must keep it” but it’s Edward who hears him and says it loves Bella, again giving the decision factor to the man who plays on Bella’s vulnerability/maternal instinct. When Bella finally delivers and Edward moons over the baby he literally leaves Bella bleeding out on the table. We know her life is hanging by a thread, but Edward is so overcome with fatherhood, finally seeing the joys of birth, his wife now takes a backseat to children, a role she will seemingly play her entire life.
Click mentions in her book that “The LDS (Church of Latter-Day Saints) allows for abortion when the life of the mother is endangered.” That would put Meyer firmly in line with her church, and the men could be seen as the church who allow Bella to abort the child, but instead we’re meant to feel the power of love which allows Bella to sacrifice herself for her child. Again, I have not read the books, but screenwriter Melissa Rosenberg refuses to deviate from the novels so I can not help but say the films promote a pro-life, pro-LDS agenda. Where the movies could have lessened that for secular audiences, and given girls more to think about than laying in a field waiting for a man, is in allowing adult conversations to take place. Let Edward and Bella discuss their life, sex, and children, in a way teens can understand and take with them as they make decisions. The books’ cultural impact is abundant but these films could have gone far more serious and showed two characters, who despite one being a bloodsucker, actually talk to each other. Give me something like Juno any day, a film about a pregnant teen that actually explores all options and comes to a decision logically!
Author: Kristen Lopez, Editor in Chief
Kristen Lopez is the editor-in-chief of CC2K and a freelance pop culture essayist. Her work has appeared on Roger Ebert, The Hollywood Reporter, and The Daily Beast. When she’s not burning down Film Twitter she runs two podcasts, the female-centric film show Citizen Dame, and the classic film-themed Ticklish Business.