So, this one is a bit late largely because I finished reading the series before Thanksgiving. I’ve not managed to catch up with these posts since. But, even so, I wanted to revisit these books as I prepare for final reviews that are quite a bit more in depth than any I wrote in the past. With a little more background knowledge, it becomes apparent that there are truly some disturbing facets to these novels I had never noticed before.
As I wind down my reading of Eclipse, I realize something devastatingly infuriating. There’s some sort of gross irony to the fact that Jacob points out the abusiveness of Edward’s controlling nature. It’s proof enough that Meyer was aware, in some small way at least, how damaging her books were. The fact that both the characters of Jacob and Edward point out the other’s dangerous nature, the manipulation and control they each exhibit over Bella is the most annoyingly disturbing piece about this whole book.
The characters are literally sat there pointing out to the reader just exactly how this book romanticizes abuse and instead of recognizing it, a large number of readers acted like Bella and partook in a lot of abuse forgiveness. It is this, ultimately, that makes the books so toxic. Not one of the characters calls the unacceptable acts out for what they are.
It took me a long time to understand what consent was, not because I ever really encroached on others but because I was never taught that it wasn’t okay for others to encroach on mine. Resultingly, I grew up with this idea that it was perfectly alright for a guy to kiss a girl out of the blue simply because he assumed that she would like it. And so, I had a hard time truly understanding the disturbing implications of the acts performed by a sixteen year old boy who was convinced that the girl of his affections was in love with him.
This scene never sat well with me, but I ignored it because I basically loved Jacob Black when I read these books and because my full understanding of what was going on was minimal. Within moments, Jacob Black forces his kiss onto Bella, completely ignoring consent, and continues to kiss her with the hope that she’ll change her mind. What’s worse is that he doesn’t even feel bad about it afterward. Instead, he happily gloats and makes claims that she kissed him back despite her protests, anger, and the fact that she punched him in the face.
Utterly absorbed in his own personal bliss, Jacob even proceeds to blame Bella for her broken hand, despite the fact that it was his obstruction of her bodily autonomy and personal space that resulted in her feeling as though she needed to react in such a way in the first place. And then, to make matters even more problematic, Bella’s father quickly congratulates Jacob for sexually assaulting his daughter.
It was here that I devolved into infuriated screeches for several moments only to later realize that Jacob would continue his manipulations by threatening suicide via vampire battle when he finds out that Bella is engaged to Edward. In a rather disturbing twist, he basically uses this to coerce Bella into asking him to kiss her. This is wrong on a number of levels but I think the worst part is that it promotes this idea that people can threaten to kill themselves in order to get what they want from romantic interests. And that makes me sick.
Other details to the story that are still problematic, but not as glaringly obvious come in the form of this comparison to ownership that arises in Bella and Edward’s regular discussion about turning her into a vampire (and, in a small way, marriage). At one point, Bella even goes as far as to say, “I wanted his venom to poison my system. It would make me belong to him in a tangible, quantifiable way.”
It’s kind of terrifying to look back on these books and see how truly damaging a lot of the ideas presented in these books really were. And I was young enough not to have been introduced to a lot of them in a way that would allow for a full understanding of the issues. Unfortunately, my education was only further stymied by the fact that my mother’s was lacking as well. She, too, was unable to recognize the problems and therefore could not teach me about them.
I think this is perhaps the biggest travesty of books like these, the fact that so many of us are not educated on these important matters in a way that will allow for an understanding of problems that let us recognize what we should see as unhealthy. I like to think that’s changing with events in recent years, but if not I hope it does soon and I will do whatever I can to keep everyone informed.