To the surprise of many, many people, Brown, Little released a new Stephenie Meyer book today, Life and Death.
Yes. Yes, it really is. It’s a new Twilight book.
Now, some of you may recall that I started Sacred Blood as my response to the romanticization of abuse in the Twilight series. Oh, how naive we all were to the horrors awaiting us in Fifty Shades…. Anyway, I was alarmed that teen girls and young women were declaring themselves so in love with a controlling stalker that they were planning to hold out for someone like Edward.
Eventually the Twilight whirlwind died down, and was replaced by fanfics that exemplified the abusive aspects, and it felt like I was the only one still against what had become mild abuse compared to what came next.
Imagine my surprise to find out today that Life and Death is now a thing.
Like the anti-Twilighter I am (I’m a mother who hopes my boy-crazy daughter will find a young man who’ll treat her well instead of disabling her vehicle, sneaking into her room without any consent, and more), I dove right into finding out all I could, and it’s not favorable.
There are only a few notable differences in this “reimagining.” The most notable is that the sexes have been swapped. Gender is different than sex, and they don’t always line up–let’s please call this what it is, which is SEX-swapping where everyone happens to be cisgendered too. Their new names are all alliterations, which make it easy. Edward is Edythe. Bella is now Beaufort. …Beaufort? I guess it’s better than Renesme…
Meyer claims she did this in an attempt to dispel the “myth” that Bella is a weak character. We we are all well-aware, fan or non-fan, Bella was passive and needed to be rescued. A lot. If she was breathing, or even just faking, she needed to be saved from something. Unfortunately, Meyer failed miserably at showing us, through Beaufort, how strong she says Bella really is. Beaufort needs to be saved just as often as Bella.
The only ways the sex-swap works is that Bella’s klutziness isn’t Human being a lousy human, but instead about Human Boy having a growth spurt, and Human’s lack of confidence isn’t a fish for compliments, but Human Boy being self-conscious about said-growing spree. I’m presuming that Meyer observed this with her own three sons, who are now either all teens or nearing their teens.
Everywhere else, it fails. It magnifies how much Vampire had to save Human. Where we could root for Female Vampire to save Human Boy, we can much easier see how often Edward was saving Bella.
The biggest kicker comes in the ending. This really shows how twisted Meyer is. Just wait….
In Twilight, Bella was kidnapped by James for Reasons. James was going to kill Bella more or less just because he’s a vampire, and she smells particularly tasty. No, that’s really the reason. She’s an incredibly delectable chocolate cake. Yummy. Edward finds them just in time to save Bella, though not before she got some venom in her. Edward sucked it out to stop her from becoming a vampire even though he knows she wants to become one.
In Life and Death, rather than having Human-Boy kidnapped by Big Bad Vampire so BBV can eat Human-Boy, and Vampire-Girl saving him, we have BBV kidnapping Vampire-Girl to lure Human-Boy into sacrificing himself because BBV wants to eat Human-Boy. Yes, in an attempt at showing how strong Bella is, Meyer actually re-wrote this scene so that the girl still has to be saved by the boy. Why not have Vampire still save Human if Human-Bella is really strong?
Oh! Because Bella’s weak, and so the story has to change so her male-proxy actually does something. Unfortunately, this change not only really drives how how little Bella does, it once again results in a girl who can’t save herself or be the least bit proactive.
Meyer? Hey, Meyer! THIS DOESN’T WORK.
Another problematic change is what happens after the human is bitten. Edward sucked out the venom even though he knew Bella wanted to become a vampire. No choice for her! Now, the fact that Bella’s a minor, and so probably shouldn’t get to make such a major, MAJOR life-altering/ending choice doesn’t matter at all right now. Let’s not debate that since it really doesn’t matter at the moment.
Beaufort was bitten. Of course he was. Unlike Bella, Beaufort is given a choice. For some reason, sucking the venom out will kill him. So they leave it up to him. Vampire or death. (Too bad original-book Rose wasn’t given this decision, considering how miserable she was throughout the entire series since she was clear about preferring to die a human than “live” as a vampire.) Of course Beau makes the decision Bella would have, had anyone bothered to care about what she openly wanted. So, rather than not becoming a vampire, he makes the choice to become a vampire, and he and Edythe live happily ever after (though some sources cite this book as the first of four.)
The author of the above-cited article says, “Say what you want about Bella, but she always had a CHOICE — and we’re happy to see that Beau did, too.” No, no, no, Crystal Bell, Edward sucked out the venom when he knew Bella really wanted to change. That’s the opposite of choice.
Many subtler issues exist as well. A couple examples:
In the original, Charlie reminded Bella who Billy Black is my telling her Billy used to go fishing with them, while in the new one, Charlie reminds Beaufort that Bonnie and her husband used to go fishing with them.
In the original, Billy Black fixed up the truck Charlie bought for Bella. In the new one, Bonnie had someone else fix up the truck.
Clearly, women can’t enjoy fishing or be good at mechanics, and must instead be going along for the ride and paying men to do the hard work. This wouldn’t be an issue (not all women enjoy fishing or working on cars) if we didn’t have the original character to compare things to. We can plainly and easily see what things male characters do that female characters aren’t allowed to do for no reason other than their sex.
All this book does is drive home how poor of a character Bella is, how weak she is, how worthless her choices are to those around her.
And yet it’s a best-seller because apparently readers really do want more stalking and controlling in their relationships, and it shows, once again, how hesitant publishers are to give readers anything new. At this point, I don’t know if readers are eating this stuff up due to a lack of options (indie books are still largely overlooked by the mainstream thanks to smear campaigns against the independent world), or if publishers believe this is what readers genuinely want. Which came first, the chicken or the egg? What’s pretty hard to deny though is that it’s a cycle that’s not breaking, and this isn’t good news for either authors or for readers who are sick and tired of literally the exact same books and stories.
I suppose I shall dust off Sacred Amour, and get back to work. Even if only a few people will ever read it, at least it’ll be an option, and at least I’ll feel like I’m doing something to cause some positive change.