Revolution #176, September 13, 2009

The Twilight Books

Dear Bella

The Twilight series by Stephanie Meyer has become a craze and obsession for millions of young women. Over 70 million books have been sold. It’s been translated into 37 languages. The four Twilight books have set records as the biggest selling novels in 2008. It’s a major cultural phenomenon.

Twilight is the story of Bella coming of age in the small town of Forks, Washington. Bella is alienated from mainstream America and “normal human life.” She falls in love with a vampire, and he with her. However, his attraction to her is based almost entirely on his intense, almost overwhelming desire to drink her blood and take her life. Repeatedly, and lacking any subtlety, she swears that she would rather die than give him up.

The tagline for the Twilight film is, “If you could live forever what would you live for?” Most readers we’ve talked to find the answers in this book—love and to be a wife and mother—are romantic and positive. It is like millions of young girls are in an abusive, unhealthy relationship with this vampire character, but they think that it’s “true love.” When a character and cultural work come to so represent what is wrong with relationships in this society, under this system, when a story like this becomes so emblematic of the oppressive chains on humanity that need to be broken and gotten rid of for good, when something like that comes along, we are called upon to stage a literary intervention.

So, we hatched a literary scheme of our own.

We imagined a different character, Jay, who befriended Bella in her hometown and stayed in touch after Bella moved to Forks. As events unfolded, Bella shared everything. As a good friend should, Jay replied to her, with an arm around her shoulder, and often with some uncomfortable truths.

Dear Bella,

I still can’t believe that you moved to a town named after an eating utensil! I mean really, Forks, Washington?!? Anyway, I just want you to know that our little crew of misfits and freaks really misses you and we hope you won’t forget us. Sugar, write back. I want to know everything that’s going on.

All the best,


There is absolutely no reason to blame yourself. Just because “the most beautiful guy you’ve ever met” freaks out around you and tries to withdraw out of biology class doesn’t mean that it’s your fault. People, especially guys, can act odd for a number of reasons, hormones perhaps, I don’t know? What I do know is that you shouldn’t beat yourself up. Bella, you’re a smart, creative and funny person. Anyone who’s worth you spending your time thinking about should relate to you on that. If you and he had actually had any interaction besides staring at each other, then maybe it would be worth trying to figure out what happened. But seriously, glaring at you is not reason enough for you to fall for him.


Dear Bella,

So you’re in love with a vampire. I usually don’t judge your choices in guys, but you should re-think this one. I have no problems with human/vampire relationships. It’s just that I have a problem with relationships in which one partner dominates and controls the other. How come he won’t let you drive your own car and physically forces you to let him drive? How come he has to pick you up and carry you around? How come he forbids you from going places and visiting your friends? You’ve said that you give in because he’s so charming and you think this is romantic. But it seems that you’re just another possession to him and even if he puts you on a pedestal like a “prized possession,” he’s still not treating you like a human being. All of this overprotection is not love manifested. It’s control, Bella, and that scares me.

I mean, you were able to make your own decisions and had your own thoughts and ideas before Edward. How come things are so different now?

Slightly confused,

Bella, Bella, Bella,

I’m not against Edward because he’s a vampire! It’s just that the more I hear about your relationship with him, the more it troubles me.

You’ve said that your relationship with Edward was different because you were the one pursuing Edward sexually, that he was pushing you away. He even told you that he doesn’t want to have sex before marriage because he is fearful of taking your “virtue.” Well, for starters Bella, your “virtue” is not tied up into your sexuality. A virtue is a character trait or quality valued as being good. So being kind is a virtue and so is standing up for justice. But a woman’s virginity or lack thereof is neither good nor bad. It’s not a quality, character trait or a virtue. It just is what it is.

You know that I grew up being taught that sex before marriage was a sin. But as I get older and I’m starting to think for myself, things that I once believed to be true don’t seem that way anymore. Like, why is it so important for women to be virgins but not men? I mean, have you questioned Edward’s virtue? Probably not and if you did, it would seem weird because men are expected to have sex but women aren’t. We’re teenagers! We’re supposed to be figuring out who we are and experimenting and sex is a part of that. At least that’s what my aunt Martha said. You remember her, don’t you? She’s the one that claims that in the Woodstock movie during the Richie Havens set, when the camera pans the audience, you can see her left arm? Anyway, I’ve been hanging around her a lot lately, and she says that people can be intimate on a number of levels and that sex is just one of them. She says that sex is natural and can be beautiful when shared with people who truly care about each other. And she says that passion can be a good thing. That it means we’re alive and we can feel and that we shouldn’t be ashamed of it. But she also says that friends and friendships are just as important as relationships—even more important—and it’s no good when people got all lost and caught up in just one person, all the time, and forget about everything else.

Look, I get that a lot of the sex people our age have is all about using women’s bodies in gross ways and then talking bad about them after. And, obviously, sex that is not voluntary, that we feel pressured into and that we don’t want to be a part of, is not beautiful. So we shouldn’t feel bad about ourselves if we’re not ready or just don’t want to.

Sometimes I just get so tired of talking about all of this. I mean, think about how many hours we’ve spent talking about sex. Is there nothing else going on? What about global warming? What about the polar bears? I saw this documentary where they are having a harder and harder time finding food because the North Pole is melting. Shouldn’t we be thinking about this stuff way more than who we are dating?

Exasperatedly yours,

Dear Bella,

I thought things were weird enough with you meeting and hanging out with vampires, but now I’ve gone and met some communists. Yeah, real communists! They were hanging outside of school and I had never met a communist before so I wanted to see what they were like. I bought this one copy of “A Declaration: For Women’s Liberation and the Emancipation of All Humanity.” It was pretty heavy. There was this one point that says, “Imagine if, instead of being a place where people’s need for love and compassion is so often frustrated and even mocked, families themselves were undergoing a radical transformation. Imagine marriages and partnerships forged on a truly voluntary basis in a context where love, respect, compassion and equality were increasingly characterizing the way people related throughout society.”

I’m like, my friend Bella totally needs to read this! (I’ll send you a copy.) Then I was like, this couldn’t happen but they were like, actually, this was increasingly happening when they had revolutions before. I kept asking all these questions about how society changed and how people changed because I had never heard of any of this before. People often tell me that I ask too many questions and that I’m too opinionated, especially for a girl, but these communists were actually interested in what I had to say and they kept asking me questions as well. They were challenging me on what I believed and were asking me what kind of future I wanted to live in. No one ever asks me what kind of world I want to live in, and to be honest, it was hard to imagine the kind of future society where people would relate to each other as that particular quote reflects.

But they kept challenging me, saying that I have a role to play in figuring all this out and doing something about it. They actually believe that things could be different now. It was something else!


Dear Bella,

All I hear from you now is Edward, Edward, Edward. You’re like a broken record and no one should have to dance to that song. Edward is jealous and possessive, and it’s not romantic, it’s creepy. He won’t let you be friends with other boys and follows you around in his car. It sounds to me more like Edward is a stalker. This whole idea that we can’t just be friends with guys anymore really pisses me off. I mean, ever since I grew breasts, it’s like all the guys we used to hang out with don’t remember where my eyes are!!

Edward says that you are his life and his soul. Isn’t that a lot to put on another person? Why can’t he have his own life, and you have yours and sometimes they are shared? This kind of relationship where you sit around and obsess over each other is boring to me already and will get boring to you too after a couple months, let alone an eternity!!

And what about you? Where is the Bella I used to know who talked about changing the world, wrote poems, played soccer and cooked up some mean chili and cornbread? I have all these things to share with you about the world—about how we could actually make it better—but I feel that you’re all shut up in your never-ending drama with Edward.

You keep insisting that love is not rational. I know, feelings are not “rational” in the way that algebra is or a logic puzzle. But even when you feel something, you still have to think it through, like whether it’s a good idea or not. And sometimes, when you really think something through and understand it differently—you start to feel different about it too. Like, remember how mad I was when my parents got divorced. Especially with my mom. I couldn’t believe that she made us move and I was so mad that she wouldn’t just forgive Dad. I mean, I know he was wrong. But why mess up my life? It’s a little embarrassing now, but I can’t believe how angry I was with her! The truth is, I don’t want my mom to be stuck in a marriage with a man who treats her badly. When I really thought about it, her choice wasn’t really between the “perfect family” and divorce—it was between a really miserable household and one that was different. Now, I am actually proud of my mom.

I’m just saying, sometimes even with our really strong feelings, we still have to examine them.

But I’m thinking, like, Bells, relationships should not be the ONLY thing in our lives; they shouldn’t even be the main thing! We should be about a whole lot more with this time we have on the planet—making a whole new world, and whole better world. Think about it…


Dear Bella,

Wow! It’s been so long since I’ve heard from you! What, like a year now? I know you were upset at me over my last letter and I wasn’t sure that you’d write again but it’s good to hear from you...

Congratulations on graduating high school!

So, now you’re not only married, but you’re pregnant!?!?!

I’m really worried about you. I have half a mind to get on a plane and bring you back here for a weekend. Don’t you think it’s strange that your life has become all about Edward and this fetus you’re carrying? It’s like you’re choosing to enter into these oppressive relations and you don’t have to. At first, you were defining yourself in relation to Edward, and now it’s in relation to this fetus you’re carrying and I’m like, this is not a progression.

And then you tell me that not only are you pregnant, but that the fetus you’re carrying is killing you.

I just don’t think that women should have to continue with a pregnancy because it’s the so-called responsible thing to do. That’s the wrong decision to make because there’s nothing “to take responsibility for” just because you had sex.

And besides, just because women become pregnant, doesn’t mean they have to have a baby. Bella, we’re not breeders! Becoming pregnant is not magic and not some gift from god. Hello! It’s all about sperm meets egg. That’s just a natural fact. Maybe if you were paying more attention instead of only flirting with a guy who has constant urges to kill you in biology class....

Can you believe it? I used to think that abortion was an “abomination,” but a lot has changed and I’ve learned to look at the world different. And you know, abortion is NOT murder. It’s a medical procedure. And in this case, it can save your life. Your life matters. It matters to me, and it should matter to you—much more than any fetus.

Bella, we’re young. If I got pregnant, I would have an abortion and not look back. I’ve got dreams, Bella. I am passionate about so much sometimes it feels like I can hardly contain myself! Skateboarding! Music! Theater! Ending world hunger! I want to read every book and see every movie. I want to write poems about truth and life and revolution and love, to look around and get to know the world, however long I have in it. I want my life to be about something. At night I lie awake and think about being part of something that’s really going to be different. The world drifts through my mind sometimes in nightmares that are as real as any vampire or werewolf, probably more so, and outrageous dreams that this ever-changing world could really change for the better, in big ways and small. The moonlight seeps into my eyes in the dark, I can’t help but get up in the quiet of the night and look out at the city through my window, and sometimes for a moment there is a feeling that could only be called possibility.

Bella, this should be the beginning of so many things—not the end. For us, and for all kinds of people on this crazy, complicated planet. Why not wake up, Bella, and join me in taking responsibility for all this?


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