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Friday, January 7, 2011

MLIT: Look Upon This Work And Despair

You look at something like this and you think No Big Deal, this is just some crazy person making some misguided fan art from their favorite scene in the Twilight Saga which is when [spoiler alert] Bella and Edward finally have sex in Breaking Dawn. But then you remember that this scene is actually not sexy at all-- for one thing Bella is covered in bruises which is a disconcerting enough image as it is, made all the more disconcerting when you remember that there is a side character in New Moon who is covered in scars from when she was mauled by her lover who is also a werewolf and Bella, when presented with the image of this scarred up girl and her lover, feels nothing but jealousy and pain in the face of the great love she sees between the abuser and abusee because Edward, her sometimes inadvertently abusive vampire beau, is absent at the time. It's a terrifying scene that comes right back into your mind's eye when you read about the bruises. Here, Bella's been fucked so hard she's covered in black and blue, which is notably absent from the above image. Photoshop is (clearly) difficult. But the feathers are very much present. The feathers, you see, result from Edward biting pillows during intercourse because he simply can't control himself. This is discovered by Bella the morning after because she apparently fell asleep immediately post-sex and made no note of her surroundings which is strange but not the most important thing. The most important thing is that The Feathers carry a lot of weight in certain Twilight circles. Look around and you will see references to them everywhere. To some people, these feathers are sexy, this scene is sexy. Fans breathlessly anticipate the film adaptation of Breaking Dawn and speculate as to how explicit the scene will be, as if they expect 9 Songs or some shit. But when you really get down to it, this scene, and The Feathers, are not sexy. This scene is about all of Edward's fears about sex being confirmed, about his over protective father-like attitude toward Bella being resumed despite their recent marriage. For three books and hundreds of pages he stalls on making Bella a vampire, which is also symbolic sex until real sex also comes into play. He uses Bella's eventual immortality as a bargaining chip to get her to marry him, which we eventually discover is a ploy to protect her virtue. Edward is religious (seriously) and he is worried that pre-marital sex (or pre-marital vamping, again, they are confusingly equated until they just aren't anymore) will blow Bella's chances at eternity at Jesus's side. Bella plans on being immortal anyway, and is generally painted as being of a secular inclination, but she gives in nonetheless, throwing up her hands in exasperation with the rest of us after several scenes of dizzying rhetorical loopty-loops. For a while Edward resists Bella's request in turn that he have sex with her before she becomes immortal (she is worried that her thirst for blood will outweigh her thirst for sex when that happens). By the way, it's important to understand that in the text the word "sex" is avoided at all costs. Euphemisms like "a real honeymoon" are used in order to befuddle younger readers, which has the unintended effect of also confusing older readers. Anyway, Edward eventually relents and after the wedding spirits Bella away to an island his father bought for his mother (sure) in order to give her "a real honeymoon." At this point you can speculate freely as to what kind of Oedipofreudian (if that isn't a word, it is now) shit is going on in Edward's head that he would take his new wife off to his father's love nest for a shag. All we really get in the text is the morning after said shag, the implicit sex is made all the more implicit by Stephenie Meyer's odd penchant for having a disoriented narrator as frequently as possible, regardless of whether or not it has a narrative purpose. And during said morning after, Edward is filled with self-loathing over the physical damage he has done to Bella. When he sees her naked, he turns away in disgust and clenches his fists (no really). He swears to never "make love" to Bella again until she has changed into a vampire. It's a fundamentally unsexy scene that brings back a lot of the uncomfortable religious and patriarchal overtones from the first three books, which were gloriously absent from the first hundred pages or so of Breaking Dawn. You realize that people who find this scene sexy find Edward's self-loathing and overprotectiveness sexy. They find bossiness sexy. They find lack of sex sexy. It's that, or they aren't reading so much as moving their eyes over the page and liking it because everybody else likes it. So all of that runs through your mind when you look at something like this, and pretty soon it's replacing every image from the horror movies that stayed with you from childhood. Your brain re-maps around it, like the way you forget the faces of your high school classmates in college. This image is burned into the backs of my eyelids, and now it will haunt you too. You're welcome.

I'm not a twi-hard but I examine them on my blog.


  1. I remember reading Twilight when it was just one book before the phenomenon and enjoying the mindlessness of it and the weird addictive quality of it, reading it all in one afternoon. As the series progressed, I was increasingly aware of how stupid the books were and how problematic the relationships it portrayed were but I tried to ignore it. I think in reading Breaking Dawn I was hoping that finally after they were married Edward would stop being such an uptight, controlling asshole and I remember being distinctly disappointed after they finally "had a real honeymoon" that he was just as prudish and weirdly patriarchal after the fact. The final book was really the last straw as far as me as a reader no longer being able to ignore how idiotic it all was. So what I'm trying to say is, thank you for articulating this and exploring just how truly fucked up this series is.

  2. Doesn't it make sense that he's religious & old fashioned? I'm sure if i was a300 year old cannibal with a thing for high school girls,i'd be the same way.

  3. I just hate the abusiveness of it all. The "if he really loves me he will abuse me but feel bad about it, and I'll love him all the more for it and comfort him and ask for more abuse!" shit

  4. i have chud ( ) to thank for letting me know about the werewolf falling in love with a baby! and now my brain also thanks you for real honeymoon island.

    also: biting pillows=SO SEXY!