A little over ten years ago, Stephanie Meyer released a novel that would grow to become a worldwide phenomenon. Twilight found a special place in the hearts of millions of teenagers. The Twilight saga went on to spur a film adaptation spanning five movies, and even a brief novella about some random character in the third book.
In celebration of her novel’s 10th anniversary, Meyers released a new addition to the saga titled Life and Death. This new novel features the same storyline as Twilight, with an added twist––all of the main characters are the opposite gender.
Meyers’ inspiration behind this novel was proving that “it would have made no difference if [the] human were male and the vampire female,” therefore dismissing the idea that Bella was a typical “damsel in distress.”
In this story, the Bella character, Beaufort, moves to Forks and falls in love with a female vampire, Edythe. Meyers’ new novel has everything fans loved about the original, with even more gender stereotypes.
Meyers’ agent wanted her to release something new for her fans, but the author didn’t have enough time to finish Midnight Sun, which is Twilight from Edward’s point of view. Fortunately, Meyers was able to, as she put it, complete her new “fast and easy” project, which consisted mostly of changing names and pronouns.
However, Meyers also adds changes she saw necessary in order to solidify Beau as a male character. Bella, as Meyers states, was “flowery with [her] words and thoughts,” whereas Beau is “more OCD.”
There is an excellent example of Meyers solidifying Beau’s masculinity in the first few pages of the novel. In Twilight, Bella describes the nature surrounding Forks as “beautiful, of course.” Beau, as a male, is unable to acknowledge beauty, and says that “it was probably beautiful or something.”
Meyers also makes sure that Edythe reaffirms Beau’s sense of masculinity when she explains the struggles of having superhuman strength and adds “‘Beau, you don’t know how… well, fragile you are. I don’t mean that as an insult to your manliness, anyone human is fragile to me.’”
While it is great that Meyers is trying to make her novels less sexist, she doesn’t seem to grasp that the damsel-in-distress trope isn’t the only stereotype to look out for when writing a novel. Her approach towards the issue of Bella as a useless character amidst a conflict that is mostly penciled-in in order to add fuel to the love story driving the saga is disappointing, at best.
Meyers missed out on an opportunity to have an emotional, feminine male character at the center of a semi-alright storyline that was already extremely popular. If she had just stopped at hitting Ctrl-F and changing the names, she could have had a male character that actually broke gender stereotypes by crying, acknowledging adolescent insecurities and everything else Bella did in those books. But Meyers cuts out all of Bella’s feminine characteristics for Beau, and ultimately accomplishes nothing.