Where is Twilight’s Feminine Face of God?
In his recent interview with Lev Grossman, John Granger (Forks High School Professor and author of Spotlight: A Close-Up Look at the Artistry and Meaning of Stephenie Meyer’s Twilight Saga) argues that the Cullens are “a celestial family” acting as a “body-mind-spirit triptych.”
Though I favor socio-cultural readings and Granger tends towards religious based analysis and an iconological approach, I find many of his ruminations on the series interesting. For example, I agree that there are certainly a lot of religious undertones in the book generally, and that Meyer’s Mormonism is an important aspect of any critical examination of the saga.
In regards to the above body-mind-spirit reading of the three Cullen couples, Granger claims “Carlisle and Esme are the otherworldly spirit figures of love and self-control to whom the family defers, Alice and Jasper have powers to sense the mental and emotional fabric of the world and the people in it, and Emmett and Rosalie are, well, center-fold portrayals of the body.” I find this tripartite reading intriguing, but if the duo of Carlisle and Esme are at the top of this hierarchy, it seems to me Esme is profoundly silenced (and sidelined) in the text.
If we are to read Carlisle as a sort of quasi-God figure, creator of the Cullen clan and ultimate arbitrator of Cullen commandments, where does Esme come in? She is hardly an equal-in-vampire-arms female deity. Of course, her relative unimportance in the text (and her portrayal as mainly wife and mother) is in keeping with the way mainstream religion frames females.
Though feminist theologians have argued religious texts have been “edited” in ways that render females LESS important and argue, for instance, that the bible had a far more gender-equality before it was whittled down into current canonical form, the accepted notion of God is male (and the majority of power within religions is granted to or conceived of as male.) *
I agree with Granger that the saga can be read as containing subtle criticisms of Mormonism “especially the prevalent misogyny” (as Granger puts it). But I wish that in regards to what we can see as the god-like representation of Edward and Carlisle we had a corresponding female deity.
Esme is no matriarchal god (more of a domestic goddess with little power) and Bella is far from a female deity – even if we read her as gaining god-like power towards the series end, we must remember she is only able to tap into this power by submitting to male rule (via capitulating to Edward’s marriage ultimatum) and by acquiescing to the prescribed role the majority of world religions still constrain women within – that of wife and mother.
While some may retort that godliness has no gender, I would ask, why is it almost always portrayed as male then? And if “gender does not matter,” why not (for once) present a female as “savior” and a male as Eve? Especially given that, as Granger points outa, Rosalie is given the maiden name of Joseph Smith’s first wife – a woman that had quite a bit of religious power but whose history and role (as in the tendency in our patriarchal world) has been largely ignored and forgotten?
*See, for example, the work of Elaine Pagels.