For Twilight’s 10th anniversary, author Stephanie Meyer decided to release a special edition of the novel with a fresh twist: a gender swap. Life and Death, Twilight Reimagined flips the gender roles of the original novel’s plotline. Meyer has explained that her purpose for rewriting Twilight was to prove to critics that Bella’s character was not written as a damsel in distress. Rather, Meyer argues that Bella is meant to be a human in distress who is caught up in the frenzy and excitement of first love.
By flipping the genders of nearly every character and maintaining the original Twilight plotline, Meyer hopes to prove that her “love story” transcends stereotypical gender norms. But in reality, this special edition of Twilight only helps to highlight the sexism hidden within the original storyline.
Edward comes to Bella’s rescue multiple times within the original Twilight, notably in the very beginning of their relationship when he saves her from being attacked in Port Angeles. In Life and Death, Twilight Reimagined, a similar scene occurs between Edythe and Beau. There is a scenario involving mistaken identities and a robbery gone wrong where Edythe saves Beau. But in the context of this scenario, there is an absence of the inherently gendered stereotypes that exist the scene between Edward and Bella. In this scenario, Edythe is helping Beau work his way out of a difficult situation while Edward is the only reason Bella was able to escape her attackers.
As a couple, the dynamics between Beau and Edythe are very different than the dynamics between Bella and Edward. Bella was a plain, insecure character who depended on the approval and guidance of Edward for her happiness and well-being. Beau is not this type of a character. He makes his own decisions and takes care of himself in a way Bella was never allowed to do. Edythe allows Beau to make his own choices and live his own life, which is something Edward never let Bella do.
Many critics of Twilight have complained that the relationship between Edward and Bella is very controlling and manipulative. These are fairly accurate accusations yet the relationship that is created in Life and Death, Twilight Reimagined between Edythe and Beau is much less unhealthy.
These changes that were made to the presentation of the Twilight love story may seem minor on the surface. But in actuality, these tweaks confirm Meyer’s inability to recreate the plot line without considering gender. Twilight’s plotline reinforces gender expression stereotypes for both males and females. The plotline clearly establishes which sex is meant to be more masculine and which sex is meant to be more feminine. Even by swapping the genders of the main characters in Twilight, the general message remains clear.
Cover image courtesy of The Mirror.