What if those bruises are just “decorations”? Thoughts on Breaking Dawn’s Morning-After Scene featuring a bruised (and feathered!) Bella Swan

With the wide release of Breaking Dawn: Part 1 looming, what scene are you most anxious to see?

If the stars and attendees at Comic-Con are any indication, most people name the wedding or the birth scene. Not me. I am most anxious to see the morning after scene. And, I do mean ANXIOUS, not EXCITED, as I have trepidation regarding how this scene will be handled. Though Bella admittedly WANTS sex with Edward, does she also want the bruises that result?

There has been much debate regarding if the morning after scene represents sexual violence, violent consensual sex, hidden messages about women being “punished” for sexual desire and so on. As a recap, here are some details from the book:

Before Edward and Bella do the deed, when they are standing in the moonlit ocean, he says “if I hurt you, you must tell me at once.” This quote lends credence to those who argue we cannot place blame on Edward, as do other quotes where Bella notes she does not remember ever feeling pain.

As in the above parody, Edward is let of the hook for causing so many “decorations” on her body.  While Bella seems to relish her newly “decorated” body, he feels remorse, saying to the waking Bella the next morning: “How badly are you hurt, Bella? The truth—don’t downplay it.”

Bella assesses her body, noting “stiffness, and a lot of soreness” and “the odd sensation my bones all had become unhinged at the joints,” but also notes her happiness on “this most perfect of mornings.” Here, we could read this as understandable post-sex session soreness and equally understandable post-multiple-orgasm euphoria.

The problem is though, Bella is not just sore, she is covered in black and purple bruises – bruises which cause Edward to say “Stop acting like I’m not a monster for having agreed to this” and “Look at yourself, Bella. Then tell me I’m not a monster.”

To this, Bella “followed his instructions unthinkingly” (as she does all too damn often in the books!) and at first only focuses on “the fluffy white snow” that clings to her skin and hair. It is only at Edward’s insistence she looks at her arm that she has “large purplish bruises” that “blossom across the pale skin.”

Here, Edward is again presented as the kind, caring guy, and she as the oblivious, feather-covered sap. Sure, she is blissed out in post-coital mode, but must she speak of her bruises in flowery terms (“blossom”)?!? This description problematically suggests, as does the later use of the term “decorated,” that Bella’s body is beautifully and lovingly MARKED by Edward, harkening to the age-old notion of woman as man’s property to mark on as he pleases – the one that the institution of marriage they just entered into is historically based on.

As Bella looks at the bruises that “trail” up to her shoulder and across her ribs, Edward places “his hand against the bruises on my arm…matching his long fingers to the patterns.” So, indeed, he has quite literally marked her with his handprints, turning her body into a decorated object of “violet blotches.” However, Edward is not held up as the baddie here and Bella is presented as the happiest she has ever been.

Edward does not share her euphoria though, insisting “I’m… so sorry, Bella…I knew better than this. I should not have–…I am more sorry than I can tell you.” So, flipping the traditionally gendered script, he has morning after regrets, she does not.

But might we read her euphoria as more indication that she does not take sex seriously enough – that she is a “bad girl” who wants it too much and is punished for her desires? Or, are we supposed to read her as a sexually liberated, kinky vixen who likes her sex rough? While both readings are tenable, given the strong pro-abstinence messages of the saga, the religious underpinnings of the text, and the “sex is dangerous” message that permeates the books, the first reading is more apt.

Further, Bella is not really presented as sexually confident or in the know – she has to ASK if Edward enjoyed it, and says incredulously to his insistence that he most certainly did,  “Really? The best ever?” That she asks this “in a small voice” only furthers the notion that she is sexually naïve, small, and silent – or, in other words, a “good girl” gone bad – a bruised apple, so to speak.

Perhaps no other scene in the saga so crosses the lines between sex as bad, sex as enjoyable, Bella as good girl or Bella as slut. Yet, the representation of Edward and his acts are not complicated – while Bella’s sexual desires are left open to reader interpretation (we can read her as punished for her desires or read her night of headboard busting as a sexual triumph), Edward is framed as full of remorse and dutifully goes off to cook her enough eggs for two (hint hint).

After his departure, she stares in the mirror (as depicted in the above parody), thinking about how she will hide the bruises: “There was a faint shadow across one of my cheekbones, and my lips were a little swollen, but other than that, my face was fine. The rest of me was decorated with patches of blue and purple. I concentrated on the bruises that would be the hardest to hide—my arms and my shoulders. They weren’t so bad. My skin marked up easily….Of course, these were just developing. I’d look even worse tomorrow. That would not make things any easier.”

Recall that Bella is concerned with hiding the bruises not for others (they are on a deserted island!) but for Edward’s sake. So, she puts on a white cotton dress “that concealed the worst of the violet blotches” and trots off to the kitchen for her scalding hot eggs.

The chapter closes with her asking “You aren’t going to touch me again while we’re here, are you?” to which Edward answers “I will not make love to you until you’ve been changed. I will never hurt you again.”

Once again, Bella’s wants are refuted and Edward calls the shots. But, Bella’s insistence there is nothing to worry about regarding her bruised body, the bitten pillows, or the busted headboard can be read as a failure to recognize the dangers of sex with an uber-strong vampire – or, to put  it another way, for her, the danger sex poses for females like Bella but NOT males like Edward.

A sex positive message? A pro-consensual violent sex is sexy message? I don’t buy it. More like punishing silly, oblivious Bella for wanting it too much… And her punishment is only just beginning given that her pregnancy is hardly a “blessed event” but one filled with pain, broken bones, and the promise that “the creatures” like the one in her womb “use their own teeth to escape the womb.”

And how will the film present the birth? Will Bella scream in “a blood-curdling shriek of agony: and then vomit “a fountain of blood”? Will we hear the “crunching and snapping as the newborn monster” tear through her “from the inside out “ and the “shattering crack” as her spine is broken?

No doubt, we will see the gooey scenes of her loving her “little nudger” and her going ga-ga over the newborn Renesmee. But, I do wonder if the more horrific details of Bella’s pregnancy and delivery will be included, and, if so, if there will be any indication that this is her “punishment” for her sexual transgressions. I doubt it – instead, in keeping with the traditional happy ending message the saga ultimately upholds, pregnancy and motherhood will be framed as her reward…

What if weddings were not framed as “The Event That Will Change Everything”? (Thoughts on the Breaking Dawn trailer and continuing wedding fervor ala Twilight)

Rivaled recently by Royal Wedding fervor, the Bella Swan/Edward Cullen union will soon have the world agog in all things weddings.

The recently released Breaking Dawn trailer centered attention on the upcoming nuptials with an almost fetishistic focus on the wedding invitation – an aspect of weddings that is of utmost importance (as anyone familiar with the wedding industrial complex or with planning a wedding surely knows).

 

The trailer’s framing of the wedding as “the event that will change everything”  is hardly surprising given the way the wedding/honeymoon/headboard-busting has been framed as THE climax (pun intended) of the Twilight saga. More generally, popular culture continues to frame weddings as THE EVENT of a female’s life as in all the shows dedicated to getting married (The Bachelor), to planning a wedding (My Fair Wedding), to brides (Bridezillas) – followed in short order, of course, by the NEXT EVENT – the babies (as in shows such as A Baby Story, Bringing Home Baby, and Baby’s First Day).

As documented in books such as White Weddings or as in posts about the wedding industrial complex (as here, here, and here), society is in the grip of severe wedding fever, a fever which is on the one hand very expensive and promotes our consumer-driven society, and, on the other, which keeps humans (and females especially) all wrapped up in a romance narrative framed by ideas about (white) purity, true love, happily ever after, and normative (read monogamous and heterosexual) gender/sexuality roles.

This is one of the many reasons we, as a society, are so seduced by Twilight, it taps into our cultural love affair with weddings and romance BIG TIME.  And, in a few short months, this human-vampire union will be writ large on cinematic screens, allowing fans to wed themselves even more deeply to the immortal love-story between Bella and Edward.

The trailer pays lip service to the very narrative that I see driving a huge part of Twilight’s popularity – that love can last forever and that the best kind of love is that between a female and a male joined in marriage and resulting in the creation of children. New? Hardly. New for vampire tales? Why, yes. And that is a bit allure of the saga – taking things that are subversive and sinister – vampires, werewolves, immortality – and wrapping them in a true love conquers all package. Such a perfect, depoliticized message for our conformist times…

The fever surrounding the cinematic depiction of this wedding will no doubt rival another union that recently captured the public imagination, Kate and William’s royal nuptials. Like the sexy feminist, I was annoyed with this wedding and its hijacking of our mental desktops. As she asked, “when was the last time you saw the media go ga ga over a minority union, inter-racial marriage or gay marriage for that matter?” Hmmm, I can’t recall that EVER happening.

It’s not that weddings themselves are bad, rather, as the sexy feminist puts it so well, it’s that “The global focus on this wedding reinforces the most anti-feminist message around: Get married, ladies, and all your dreams will come true.”

Yet, am I excited about the film’s release and the cinematic depiction of Bella’s marriage to her virginity warrior? Of course. Would I like to get an invite? Sure! Even though I doubt there would be an open bar or that great of food! Like Kiva Reardon’s arguments at Ms. Magazine Blog as to why she was going to watch the Royal Wedding, I contend that we ignore popular culture (and its weddings!) at our peril. Whether one has wedding fever or not, understanding why so many do is key to a feminist analysis of our current societal norms and institutions.
So, come November 18, I will be there. I hope there will be cake.

 

 

What if we are a fanpire nation, allowing the passage of Prop 8 via our Twilight obsessions?

I have been absent from blog-land for some time now, immersed in teaching, grading, research, parenting, etc. I was spurred to post today due to the appalling decision yesterday regarding Prop 8 that has blighted the sunshine state in which I reside.

Part of what has kept me from blogging is my current research/writing project – a feminist analysis of the Twilight phenomenon in relation to girl culture, abstinence-only education, the hyper-sexualization of females, and our corporate capitalist patriarchal world of Christian, white, male, hetero privilege.

This project was born via the intervention of one of my very favorite feminists – my ten-year-old daughter. She wanted to read the series and find out what all the fuss was about, so we read it together. I expected to be disturbed by it, I expected to hate it, yet I was surprised on both counts.

I was DEEPLY disturbed by it – but not only or mainly for the reasons I expected (more on this later).

And I did hate the series in many ways– but I also became fascinated by it – I could not put the damn books down!  (more on this later, too)

For today, I want to focus on Prop 8 and what it represents – the continuing homophobia and heteronormativity of our culture– and how the mega-profitable Twilight franchise helped to enshrine such hatred into law.

As Dancin With Your Mouth Open posted back in November of 08,

With the huge boxoffice success of “Twilight,” it grossed over $70M domestically, this past weekend, not only is Stephenie Meyer making tons of money so is the Mormon church. Stephenie Meyer, described as the “the Mormon Anne Rice,” does what any good Mormon does which is called tithing. Tithing is a requirement in the Mormon religion and it’s usually 10% of their earnings. So, with all the talk about the Mormon church being a huge supporter of Prop 8, it seems like “Twilight” and Stephanie Meyer are contributors as well.

Meyer has on multiple occasions stated that, in accordance with her Mormon belief, 10% of all  her profits for all things Twilight go to the Mormon church. (See, for example, The Advocate).

While she has not made any public statement regarding Prop 8, her tithing to the church supports institutionalizing discrimination against those who are not heterosexual. By extension, a percentage of the multi-billion dollar Twilight industry went towards the Mormon Church, an institution that played a huge funding role in initially getting Prop 8 on the ballot, and then kept the funding in plentiful supply in order to grow support for the Yes on 8 camp. The success of this campaign, which relied on dollars and dogma, would not have been possible without the big money that came from the Mormon Church and other religious donors.

Can we finally admit that rather than a separation of church and state we have a MARRIAGE between church and state – they are like the perfect couple, supporting each other via campaign contributions on the one hand and tax exempt status on the other.

In terms of the fanpire’s role, their obsession with all things Twilight has further lined the pocketbooks of a Church that is unashamed of its homophobia. Even those of us who are not members of the growing legions of fanpires, those of us who merely read the series and watched the movie and yet can still somehow sleep at night without dreaming of Edward, have contributed to Meyer’s tithing, and, by extention, to the success of Prop 8. To be honest, I didn’t consider this component of purchasing the books until a friend mentioned it to me, and I feel the fool for NOT realizing it. (Then again, it seems even going to see Milk helped those in support of prop 8).

How in a world where homophobia is the norm can one NOT contribute to it? I think not contributing at this time is an impossibility  –  our culture has it set up so we all must contribute, even if only subconsciously.

Yet, I find tithing, from whatever religion (as not only Mormons tithe), particularly abhorrent when used in such ways. Not only is it tax-exempt but it  is used (as in this instance)  to turn prejudice and discrimination into law in the name of religion. How ironic given the frequent complaint from the Mormon Church that they are discriminated against for their religion, that they are the Christain ‘Others’!

Meyer’s silence about the issue of homophobia in her church in general, and Prop 8 in particular, comes across as deafeningly loud –it speaks volumes, showing support for discrimination via economic buttressing of an institution that helped California, the state I live in, to etch inequality into law. So much for the sunshine state – so much for dazzling, sensitive vampires – instead, we have Prop Hate funded in part by Ms. Meyer and her adoring fanpire. Guess it’s ok for a lion to love a lamb, but not for a man to love another man.

What if married people were treated like singles?

(A guest blog by Lisa and Christina from Onely)

We (Lisa and Christina, co-bloggers at Onely) both identify as white, middle-class, heterosexual women who are single and happy. We’re tired of cultural stereotypes that suggest we’re not supposed to be.

According to a U. S. Census report published last July, single people comprise 92 million, or 42%, of the American population (though several other sources put the number closer to 50%). 54% of us are women, 60% of us have never been married, and 40% are divorced or widowed (note that these breakdowns do not account for those who wish to be married but are refused that right by the law). 30.5 million, or 27%, of the U. S. population live alone, and 12.9 million of the general public are single parents. Singles comprised 36% of actual (not eligible) voters in the 2004 presidential election (numbers weren’t readily available for the 2008 election).

We define “single” as anyone who is unmarried: including coupled-but-not-married and domestic partners; anyone who identifies as GLBT and are either legally unable to marry or refuse the institution of marriage altogether; those who identify as polyamorous or asexual; divorcees and widowers; single parents; and, of course, anyone else who is just plain single. (Note: When we refer to the social [as opposed to legal] stigmatization of singles below, we’re referring more specifically to anyone who is uncoupled.)

In the PWI spirit, we’ve asked (and answered) a few questions to highlight the material, social, and legal restrictions habitually placed on adult singles, more often than not in favor of those who are married.

What if married people were treated by the media, friends, and family like singles (in this case, uncoupled singles)? They would encounter statements such as:

  • “Don’t worry, you’ll get a divorce someday!”
  • “Oh, you’re married? I’m so sorry!”
  • “You’re so great – how come you’re still married?”
  • “It’s okay to be married for a while, but eventually you need to grow up and become single.”
  • “You’re so lucky to be married and not have as much responsibility.”
  • “But don’t you feel bad not having a life, seeing as you’re married?”
  • “When are you going to get a divorce?”
  • “It’s so sad having to come home to a house with someone in it all the time.”
  • “Well, I would’ve invited you to book group, except you’re married and I thought you wouldn’t want to be around all those happily single people.”
  • “What’s a beautiful woman like you doing married?”

What if married people were treated by the government as singles? They would have to:

  • Fight to be recognized as a legitimate and powerful voting bloc, no matter how much of the American population they represent.
  • Lose the 1,138 federal provisions that currently accommodate married people on account of their marital status in the distribution of rights, benefits, and other legal privileges.
  • Come to work even if their spouses, children, or parents are sick and in need of their help. After all, they don’t get to take advantage of the Family and Medical Leave Act.
  • Leave medical decisions for their loved ones to doctors and immediate family not related to the able spouse.
  • Live in the barracks like every other soldier.
  • Give up that extra cash-per-month and increased housing allowance that the military currently grants married soldiers.
  • Testify against their spouses in court instead of being granted immunity.

What if married people were taxed like singles? They would have to:

  • File individual returns only and never gain a tax “bonus” for filing jointly with a spouse.
  • Pay income tax on their spouses’ employment benefits.
  • Give up as much as 60% of their assets to the government in death taxes.
  • Lose all social security benefits when they die.
  • Give up benefits for those children living in the household who do not meet the criteria for a “qualifying dependent,” or those children who are not related to their caregivers by blood or marriage.

What if married people were paid and treated in the workplace like singles? They would:

  • Make, on average, 26% less than they currently do; they would be paid the same as everyone else regardless of their marital status.
  • Not be able to negotiate salaries and other work-related perks using marital status as a factor.
  • Be expected to stay late and work during the holidays, just like everyone else.
  • Have to give up vacation privileges (or implied benefits that assume that single people are not as invested in their families and personal lives as married people must be) – singles like to travel just as much as, if not more than, married people do!
  • Have to pay for expenses related to whole-family relocations due to work.
  • Encounter no support from employers in helping spouses find jobs.

What if married people had access to the same health and other insurance policies as singles? They would:

  • Be unable to add anyone, even spouses, to their employer-provided health care plans.
  • Have considerable trouble paying for independent health insurance, especially if the married people work part-time or if they freelance.
  • Have to decide between buying a high-deductible, bare-bones health plan and no plan at all because they can’t depend on their spouses to help them afford the low-deductible, full-coverage model.
  • Pay more for car insurance, especially if the married couple is young.
  • Have access to only limited options when it comes to life insurance; there’s only one or two plans in which married people can invest through any given company, whereas singles get many options.

What if married people were treated like singles in the marketplace? They would have to:

  • Convince real estate agents to sell to them by promising to pay on time, not relocate, and generally be financially responsible.
  • Also have to convince real estate agents that they really do want to look at the spacious house with the view, instead of the tight quarters that real estate agents insist would “be just right” for the married people and their families.
  • Pay more for travel packages so that single people could receive single-traveler discounts.
  • Pay more than singles for club and gym memberships, so that singles could reap the benefits.
  • Purchase single-serving sizes of food at the grocery store in order to receive a decent discount.
  • Dine alone so as to get the better deal at restaurants (especially large chains that cater to the singles population, like Applebee’s and TGI Friday’s).

(Many thanks to the following blogs and resources for providing much of the above information: see the Alternatives to Marriage Project; Bella DePaulo’s Living Single Blog; Rachel’s Musings; National Singles Association; American Association for Single People; Reuters and U.S. Census Bureau; and Cracked.com)

Published in: on March 11, 2009 at 11:18 pm  Comments (33)  
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