People love to hate on Twilight, and there’s no shortage of targets for ire: the sparkles, the prose, the werewolf falling in love with a baby, the sparkles, Renesmee. When my good friend, also a lawyer/mom, finally read the last book, she kept calling and texting: “Did that really just happen?” “She did what now?” and so on, until finally I got a series of texts, that simply said, over and over “WTF?!”
The movie tones down the weirdness, tries to make it reasonable and well-grounded in the universe of the movies. Which is why I was so disappointed with it. BD1 is a decent movie, but Breaking Dawn, the book (certainly for the first half), is deeply, personally about me—WTF is the story of my life. I think, perhaps, that it is the story of lots of other women's lives too.
Vonnegut on the Shapes of Stories
So the Twilight Saga may not be narratively pleasurable, but I think they have resonance. I think that the dead-on emotional truth in the Twilight books is the reason they never quite succeed on a narrative level (Catherine Hardwicke was commended on her direction of the first movie for creating a plot for the movie based on a largely plotless book). But if you can get past the random weirdness, and the sparkles, Twilight nails exactly what it’s like for a girl the first time she falls in love, and New Moon nails exactly what it’s like the first time a girl gets dumped. Eclipse exactly gets the strangeness and ambivalence of choosing a lifetime commitment, even or especially to someone you love. And Breaking Dawn is about having a baby and being a mom. Critics focus on the limp-wristed sparkler, because Bella does, but really, he’s beside the point.
The intrinsic weirdness of Breaking Dawn (book) is how the same characters stay the same, but the fact of the protagonist's pregnancy changes everything about the world they're in.
The way you move — you orient yourself around him without even thinking about it. When he moves, even a little bit, you adjust your position at the same time. Like magnets… or gravity. You’re like a… satellite, or something.(What's so subversive about this is that the books treat this like “yep, that’s how it is.” !!) And then in Breaking Dawn, this so-intense relationship ceases to matter. It makes no sense to the narrative to make Edward irrelevant. The former center of the universe now just drops in and out, rising and setting on the newly sideways axis on which the her world now rotates. He is such an afterthought that Jacob, the scorned lover, narrates half the book. Everything about Breaking Dawn is offensive to symmetry and narrative sense.
But I think that's why this series has so much resonance--life doesn't make narrative sense. Motherhood doesn't make narrative sense.
Also: what Breaking Dawn lacks in narrative cohesion, it makes up for in awesomeness.
For half the book, the half-vamp fetus nearly kills her in graphic detail. The books go from teenage longing and a sweet honeymoon to full-on gruesome horror. Baby kicks cause broken ribs. And the birth--where Edward has to chew the baby out of her stomach, and what happens next. . . I had such high hopes for the movie's ability to show this rift: the birth scene is where the story severs the connection with everything that comes before, just like the birth trauma severs Bella’s spinal column.
Every mother has a horror story in her. And I do so wickedly love to horrify people with mine. One nurse walked into the birthing suite wearing a full Hazmat suit, and the other one laughed. “You really think that’s necessary.” “Look at her chart. It’s Dr. Miller,” she said. The other nurse paled and ran out. I didn’t start to panic until they started covering the equipment with plastic. “He’s just a little messy,” they explained, like that was supposed to make me feel better. Later: screaming, blood on the walls and ceiling somehow, and when Dr. Miller did arrive, he started screaming because Hazmat nurse, who at one point smacked B in the head (he deserved it), was standing there holding the baby he’d come to deliver.
It was awesome.
Movies are supposed to give us heightened reality. I wanted to see something that awesome for Bella onscreen.
Because oh jeez, I have really, really high hopes for Breaking Dawn Part 2, out this fall. The second half of that book has the most promising, most hopeful, most awesome depiction of the power of motherhood as anything I’ve ever read. I loved reading it—I love thinking about it. And I want to see it be as awesome as it already is on the page and in my head.
Because fiction is hope, it’s uplift, I want to believe that Meyer gets it right about what comes next in this story we never hear. In this case, I want to see story of how a weak, whiny, kind of boring girl is become Life, protector of worlds.
Plus this time, finally, she's the sparkly one.