Stephenie Meyer puts new twist on vampire love story

Gemma Fasciano, Staff Writer

Goodbye, Bella, hello…Beau?  In commemoration of the tenth anniversary of her debut novel, tween-lit author Stephenie Meyer adopted a particularly offbeat, yet intriguing, concept for her latest piece: the gender-swap.

Life and Death: Twilight Reimagined was published on Oct. 6 by Little, Brown Books for Young Readers.  The novel follows a similar plot trajectory to the original Twilight, only teenage mortal Bella Swan is replaced by Beaufort (Beau), and her dazzlingly attractive vampire lover, Edward Cullen, becomes the equally alluring Edythe.  In changing the genders of the characters, Meyer hoped to combat stereotypes.  However, both fans and critics of the original series have proved to be less than satisfied with Life and Death’s attempt at defying gender roles.

Ever since the publication of Twilight, Meyer has received criticism for her portrayal of Bella, and an assortment of other characters, due to their traditional gender roles.

Twilight’s representation of men and women was unrealistic.  It made me uncomfortable,” said sophomore Isabella Henderson.

Many consider Bella Swan to be the quintessential damsel in distress, wrought with physical insecurities, exaggerated angst, and other such “feminine” attributes.

Bella relies on her brooding, much older vampire boyfriend not only to swoop in and save her life at just the right moment, but also to dispel her self-doubt.

This criticism, as Meyer said in an interview with NPR, contributed to her desire to rewrite Bella and Edward’s now iconic love story.  But the question remains: has Meyer succeeded in defying these gender stereotypes with Life and Death?  Does Edythe share Edward’s raw and intimidating physical power?  Is Beau just as insecure and innocent as Bella? In short: no.

There are several glaring instances in which Life and Death actually manages to reaffirm the traditional gender roles presented in the original Twilight.  If Meyer were truly “breaking the gender stereotype,” she would grant Edythe the lenience in physical appearance allowed for men, perhaps writing her with the same stunning musculature as Edward.  However, Edythe is still held to the unhealthy beauty standards that women are expected to attain.  In Life and Death, Beau outlines Edythe’s “slim shoulders,” her “fragile-looking twigs of her collarbones,” and visible ribs.  She concludes her description by calling the possibly malnourished body of Edythe “perfect.”  This implies that Meyer expects her primarily female readers to accept the poisonous ideal that their beauty lies in their lack of strength.

Bella’s insecurities fail to carry over to her male counterpart.  For much of Twilight, Bella struggles to strike that happy balance between being labeled as “bossy”  or a “slut.”  Her innocence seems to depend on her ability to turn away or accept her male suitors with the utmost grace and forethought.

Conversely, Beau turns away his many suitors with humor and enjoyment, as opposed to Bella’s torturous deliberation.  This affirms the meek, submissive female archetype, while demonstrating the social pardon allowed to men who turn down women.

“Even though gender roles have shifted significantly in modern time, authors still have a ways to go before they can break them,” said freshman August Zeidman.

This is true not only for the representation of women in literature, but for men as well.  Beau does not accept help from Edythe without putting up a fight.  Beau does not stand in front of the mirror, pointing out his own flaws, as Bella did.  Beau does not cry. Why?  Because he is a boy, of course.