Bella, Realized?

Bella Swan has never been a character I’ve related to. She’s frustratingly timid, overwhelmingly insecure, and apparently has no interests or hobbies aside from her obsession with Edward Cullen. Sure, she’s had her redeeming moments, and yes, it was Bella who saved Edward from exposing himself to the Volturi in New Moon. But it wasn’t until the final moments of Eclipse that Bella became someone I can respect, and even admire.

The Twilight Saga has been heralded by many as a positive step for women in Hollywood, primarily credited for its representation of the female gaze. While I find this argument both positive and necessary, it is also problematic because it operates around a binary understanding of gender; if men do something this way, women will flip it and do it the opposite way. Feminist research and scholarship aim to disrupt this way of thinking and urge us to seek alternatives by exploring the gray area. It is in this gray area that Eclipse offers the most feminist perspective of all the Twilight films yet.

Consider the term twilight as a useful analogy: the time between day and night that can’t be classified as either, but is rather a little of both. The same is true for Bella’s struggle throughout the series, and it is never more apparent than in Eclipse. She is human, but has never felt at home in that world. With Edward, and the Cullen Clan, she feels things she hasn’t felt before: real, strong, and capable. But as any card-carrying feminist knows, leaving your “natural” world, seeking alternatives, and disrupting the status quo is never easy, and never without doubt.

Unfortunately, for Bella, her doubt comes in the form of a warm-blooded, hot-bodied fella, her best friend Jacob. While most of the film, and nearly all the witty dialogue, focuses on the jealousy and tension between Edward and Jacob, in the end it is Bella who makes the choice. And as she articulates at the close of the film, her decision is not based on pleasing Edward or Jacob, or anyone else for that matter, but rather on fulfilling her own desires.

Cinematically, the film has found balance amid the Hollywood effect; Eclipse lacks the low budget kitsch of Twilight without falling victim to the highly dramatized vampire visuals, and indulgent makeup, of New Moon. Though it is full of action and violence, the filmmakers should be commended for opting away from blood and gore, and instead crystallizing the vampire skeletons so they shatter like glass.

There are quite a few threads of social commentary being made throughout the film that offer plenty of fodder for further analysis, primarily around issues of choice. The ongoing battle between the dark-skinned, warm-blooded Quileutes versus the cold, soulless White people is an easy analogy for colonization. But when Jacob is injured during battle, Dr. Cullen is not only allowed on the Rez, but genuinely thanked by the tribe. We also learn the sad and violent story of Rosalie’s turning, and are provided insight into her disdain for Bella. “None of us chose this,” she reminds her, offering a subtle but important acknowledgment of the privilege of choice, and the power of having one.

Cross-posted at Elevate Difference


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