By Bridget Keenan
So, apparently Stephanie Meyers wrote fanfiction of her own franchise…
Although the fact that it was written by the original author as a supplement to the original series disqualifies it from fan fiction, “Life and Death” has the exact same goals as most gender-swap fanfic. As far as I understand, Meyers wrote the new novel solely as a response to criticism.
I am not going bother to prove that “Twilight” is sexist; that dead horse has already been beaten. What remains to be seen is what exactly Stephanie Meyers wanted out of the new book. What exactly is she proving about the roles of gender in her newest book?
I appreciate the effort to deconstruct the heavily natured gender of the series, but that does not change the fact that Meyers was taking the entirely wrong approach. Rather than downplaying the role of gender, the new series only depicts gender to have just as much control over the characters as it did originally. Despite all this, I do not think it is right to belittle her attempt to right the sexism within her own series.
Meyers is frequently accused of archaic gender roles. Although completely denying these accusations at first, she has become painfully aware of their power and validity. It is unclear whether she agrees, but the claim has been aptly made enough times to cause Meyers to take action. “Life and Death” was essentially written as a defense against claims of misogyny from readers.
Before continuing, it is vital to understand the character of these complaints. We have reason to believe that Stephanie Meyers is only held to these high standards based on her being a woman. Although especially apparent in Twilight, the ideas she has presented are by no means out of the ordinary. Perhaps gender has played a bigger role in starting the controversy than solving it.
To the best of anyone’s knowledge; Meyers intended to prove that the book “Twilight” need not be read in a sexist manner. By switching the genders of the main characters, she would prove that the storyline is not dependent on gender. However, she was unable to do this without adulterating much of the concept to meet her conservative ideology.
“Life and Death” attempts to show how the mania of love and the main characters response to distress are not innately gendered. However, Beau reacts completely differently to both of these situations than his woman counterpart. He responds with much more autonomy than Bella had, and often tries to save or dominate Edward rather than the other way around. Beau isn’t afraid of Edythe the way Bella is of Edward, suggesting a toxic gendered aspect to both relationships.
While I completely credit Meyers for featuring a much healthier relationship than was presented in the original novel, gender still remains a determining factor for its dynamics. She proved that the relationship would be more healthy and realistic if it conformed less to traditional notions of gender. However, it is unclear whether she believes this to be true or if it is merely coincidence. Meyers has proved that she does not see gender as entirely essentialist, but she does, nonetheless, believe in gender-based restrictions.
It is assumed that the characters will perform their newly assigned gender role somewhat traditionally. However, rewriting the plot around gender goes against the ethos Meyers set out with. It is to be seen whether Meyers will stand by these viewpoints in the future, but for now, it provides an opportunity to dissect Meyers’s views on her own works.