September 16, 2010

Review of the Twilight Saga: How Stephenie Meyer bridged socio-political gaps with her vampire/zombie/werewolf love story

Who knew that Stephenie Meyer, far from writing novels with questionable messages is actually an astute social ommentator? Jenny from Forever Young Adult did, that's who.  

In the world of fantasy books, monsters have had their fair share of love stories, save one: zombies.  The fact that zombies have been the victim of such prejudice has been truly concerning to this reader. For far too long zombies have been forced into a literary corner where all they get to do is maraud around eating people’s brains, spreading fear and general ookiness propaganda.  So imagine my utter surprise and delight when I read Stephenie Meyer's Twilight series!  With just four books, Ms. Meyer has tackled a subject heretofore untouched, finally giving zombies the chance to shine they've been long denied.

As I first read the Twilight Saga, observing Bella stumbling around the town of Forks, having no real desires apart from her next meal, seeking out a controlling relationship, I asked myself "what is it the author is trying to do here? Will this impart misogynistic ideals to young girls?" But that is when I realized: Meyer is a genius. This series was marketed to the wrong audience--an unfortunate side-effect of Meyer being so subversive with her text, that an entire generation missed what it was she was trying to say, which is this: Bella is a zombie. And zombies can evolve.

Sure, at the beginning of the story, Bella is a typical zombie, complete with a lack of fine motor skills and the fact that the scent of blood overwhelms her mind. But she clearly has a DESIRE to evolve, and that fact is made evident when she meets a century-old vegetarian vampire. Who better to teach a zombie some control than one who has chosen, as a life-style, to attend high school over and again? Thus begins the relationship that is the key to Bella’s evolution. 

Of course, she has a setback when Edward leaves her in a misguided attempt at chivalry, (or, let's call a spade a spade-- buckling under the societal pressures that can arise from being involved in an inter-creature relationship! I mean, what WOULD the neighbors say?) However, after a few months of sitting in a stupor, probably admittedly thinking about nothing but brains, Bella moves of her own volition, getting back on the dating wagon, and this time, seeking out a monster with nearly as little impulse control as herself. (See what Meyer did there? It is only those capable of evolving who can learn that if one action fails, you don’t try the same thing, expecting different results. You try something different!) This marks the first tangible evidence that zombie Bella is EVOLVING. She also begins to train her physical self--working on those motor skills--by learning to ride a motorcycle (also a practical solution for her, since we all know that zombies aren’t the fastest of monsters).

But Meyer doesn’t rest on her laurels once she’s established that zombies CAN evolve, oh no! She barrels forward, and under the guise of a teen-aged love triangle, shows us just HOW QUICKLY they can transform by having Bella choose between her two loves and make life-altering decisions at the tender age of a teen.
Finally, Meyer addresses xenophobia with the birth of Bella and Edward’s daughter. (Notice how the ‘society’ of Volturi react to a child born of an inter-creature union?) This gives Bella a chance to develop her strategic thinking in preparation for the final conflict. Yet what is it that saves them all in the end? The zombie’s mind. Using the mental shield Bella learned to develop, Meyer has taught us all to never again underestimate the power held in a zombie’s brain.

Next up on Week of The Living Dead...
Review of Carrie Ryan's The Dead-Tossed Waves, sequel to the haunting Forest of Hands and Teeth.


Lauren said...

I literally laughed my butt off the entire length of this post. Especially the observation about Bella's lack of fine motor skills. So very perceptive, and so utterly hilarious. Fab guest post. :D

Natalie (Mindful Musings) said...

Hahahahaha!!!!!!!!! This post is HILARIOUS! I definitely wasn't expecting this. Bella is a LITTLE bit of a klutz, so I can definitely see her fitting the zombie persona!