Tuesday, November 29, 2011
Twilight Breaking Dawn and Imprinting
Unlike many who criticize Twilight, I have actually read all of the books and seen all of the movies. Many of the complaints commonly aimed at Twilight, appear quite regularly in the urban fantasy genre. This includes stalking and abuse as love, an annoying female protagonist, erasure of GLBT characters and of course racism. Urban fantasy, just like anything else in this society, is not adverse to promoting isms, and this occurs because isms are ingrained in the very fabric of our society. This is specifically why I don't hold Twilight to a different standard than I do any other book or movie in the genre.
That being said, to me the largest fail in Twilight has to be the imprinting. Jacob makes the point that imprinting means the loss of his freedom, and it is something that he does not wish to happen to him. He literally believes that it makes him a slave to his biology, because the element of choice is solidly removed. In this I would have to agree that he is right. Unfortunately, as soon as he sees the White savior baby Renesmee, he imprints, thus saving the Cullens from a war with the werewolves.
In what I can only believe was an attempt to make imprinting seem less creepy, the directors show Jacob looking at Renesmee and seeing a vision of her aging from infant to young adulthood. It is a way to reassure us that Jacob will eventually find love with the adult Renesmee and not the infant in Rosalie's arms. He will wait until she reaches the age of maturity to consummate his love. I fully believe that when Meyer wrote this, she envisioned it as a form of love at first sight sort of deal; however, what it really comes down to is men grooming young girls to be their future mates. This is not surprising because Meyer is after all Mormon, though she is LDS rather than FLDS.
This sort of grooming comes down to pedophilia, thus making Jacob a pedophile. The fact that he supposedly feels love and not lust for Renesmee at this point, does not erase the fact that she is a child who has no understanding of his love or sexual desire, and has no ability to consent. This makes the act of imprinting on a child extremely predatory. In Renesmee's case, she physically matures at a faster rate than an average human child. This means that her actual age could be 4 or 5, while her body presents as that of a young woman. Meyer did not expand upon this point, but if we follow it through to its natural conclusion, Jacob could potentially have sex with Renesmee when she is as young as 4 or 5, though she would appear to be older. The common excuse for this sort of action as we saw in Octavia Butlers Fledgling, is that the child in question is actually old enough to consent because of maturity level. The bottom line is that maturity is about more than a date on a calender. Life experience is what creates maturity, and though Renesmee may eventually look like a young woman at the chronological age of 4 or 5, she will not have had the same experiences as someone who has lived 18-20 years, thus making her even more vulnerable and susceptible to Jacob's advances.
Jacob tells us that once you imprint, you will do anything or be anything to please the person that you have imprinted on. The fact that Renesmee is the Whitesome and delightsome child, means that literally from birth, Jacob not only has the opportunity to ingratiate himself into her life, he can train her in a manner that will make her compliant with his wishes. Bella is the only one who expresses any form of dismay with this situation, but Edward is all to willing to welcome Jacob into his family and call him son. SON. What kind of father is accepting of a grown ass man crushing on his infant daughter?
No matter what romantic spin Meyer attempts to put on this situation, imprinting on a child is the act of a pedophile. It is further telling that this sort of behaviour is limited to the characters of colour in the series. The Cullens all have the ability to choose who they will love, and who they will partner with, while the werewolves who are of colour, are reduced to their biology. (read: baser instincts) It serves to make the werewolves appear savage next to the refined and ever so White Cullens. Not only does the person doing the imprinting experience a loss of agency, it turns them into a sexual predator if the imprintee is underage. It is important to note that in both cases in which imprinting occurs with a child, the child in question is not just prepubescent, they are an infant. Renesmee is literally only minutes old when Jacob imprints, thus making her a possession.
Under these circumstances, Renesmee will have no chance to grow to be the person that she was meant to be, because she will always and forever be under Jacob's influence. Jacob does not want her because she is intelligent or funny, no he wants her for the purposes of breeding. Given that this imprinting takes place shortly after a drawn out saga where Rosalie continually refers to the fetus as a baby, it tells us that in the Twilightverse, women's true purpose is reproduction -- no matter what sacrifice this reproduction may eventually entail -- as seen by Bella's near death in carrying and birthing Renesmee.
Pedophilia is not something you can just chalk up to the common tropes that occur in urban fantasy. It's is in a category of evil all of it's own. I think that many consumers of urban fantasy have a tendency to look past the bad the occurs. This is why you have fans lining up to see the homophobic Cassandra Clare, or the racially obtuse Charlaine Harris. I think that pedophilia does not amount to one more thing that we should ignore for the sake of the story. If we don't hold these writers accountable for the elements they choose to include in their various stories that are harmful, what we are actually doing is disrespecting survivors of abuse and showing approval to the idea that some groups should be by their very nature oppressed. Twilight is most certainly not the worst book in urban fantasy in terms of isms, but it certainly has reached a level of gross abuse because of its outright support of the grooming of children, for the purposes of mating. I think that MABLA would be proud.