Bella and Her Violent Encounters With the Men of Twilight: Or, why white male violence is ok but violence committed by men of color is not (a guest post by Shante Weston)
One of the most prevalent idea’s in Jackson Katz’s video Tough Guise was that males perpetuate 90% of all violence in our society; and the violence that our media covers tends to almost always be carried out by subordinate groups within our society: men of color. Pop culture trends are no different; often the white guy being portrayed as the all too perfect “hero”, and the black, Native American, Mexican, or male of Asian decent portrayed as the violent guy that the hero must stop in order to save the damsel-in-distress.
Violence against women is frequently the most rampant type of violence in our society, with rape culture helping people to look away pretending that it’s not an epidemic, or placing the woman (the victim) at fault. “‘Rape culture is telling girls and women to be careful about what you wear, where you walk, when you walk there, if you’re alone [and] it’s dark to always be alert, always pay attention, always watch your back, always be aware of your surroundings and never let your guard down for a moment lest you be sexually assaulted, and if you are and didn’t follow all the rules it’s your fault.’ (McEwan)” (Torkelson pg 3).
Stephanie Meyer doesn’t steer her Twilight Saga away from this concept with Bella portraying the female who is at fault for being assaulted by Jacob (the male of color), and whom ultimately always needs to be saved by Edward (the white good guy). Despite both Edward and Jacob committing violent acts against Bella, the Saga falls into the common notion that only men of color commit acts of violence against women that should be condemned, while any violence committed by the white guy was accidental, couldn’t be controlled and is portrayed as sexy. Two different scenes in the saga illustrate this clearly.
Jacob Black is the character in Twilight who is vying for the affection of Bella, and when not voluntarily receiving it, he turns violent, forcing her to kiss him on more than one occasion. Although his exterior is not as rock hard as his vampire counterpart, Jacob has pretty tough skin as a result of his life as a werewolf. So it is almost obvious that Bella would not be able to fight Jacob off, or if she tried (as she did the first time) she would fail miserably.
Meyer uses very descriptive words such as angrily, roughly, forcing, and gripping to describe the kiss, and shows Jacob as very smug during and after the kiss. “Jacob ignores her when she fights back and when she shuts down in self-defense. When Bella asks if he is finished, he responds with a smile. Bella accepts a ride home from Jacob, who banters and whistles, his conscience completely at ease with his assault on Bella moments before” (Torkelson Pg. 4). While the kiss is not condemned in the Saga by any characters other than Edward, the scene is depicted in a way that can make some readers feel as if Jacob’s assault on Bella was completely wrong and uncalled for. Edward confronts Jacob immediately and warns him never to touch Bella again without her permission.
In the fourth and final book of the Saga, Bella encounters more violent acts from a male character. This time, our hero is the one committing the violence against her. Right away Meyer’s depiction is different then that of when she was describing the violent kiss between Bella and Jacob. In Breaking Dawn the details of the sexual assault are almost non-existent, just as they would be if it were a real-life incident and our media were covering the violence. On Bella and Edward’s wedding night, they end up swimming in the ocean, the scene then cutting off and picking right back up the next morning after their sexual encounter with all details of it left out.
Contrary to Jacob’s attitude after his assault on Bella, Edward is illustrated as our perfect hero who is horrified by what he had just done. “‘I’m… so sorry, Bella, I knew better than this. I should not have-’” (Breaking Dawn Pg. 89). At first, Bella doesn’t even notice her injuries until after Edward draws attention to them, and even then she “justifies and downplays her pain in multiple instances, such as by saying she has had worse…and explaining that her skin ‘marked up easily’ (Breaking Dawn Pg. 89)” (Torkelson Pg 6). And contrary to Edward defending Bella’s honor against Jacob after the kiss, there is no one that comes to Bella’s rescue after being physically battered by Edward.
While she tries to fight off Jacob during their violent encounter, “Bella only thinks of Edward [during theirs], hiding her bruises to spare his feelings and worrying that he might not have enjoyed himself,” (Torkelson Pg 7). These two different depictions by Meyer suggests, just as our society does, that the violence committed against women by men of color is something worth talking about, and the violence committed by white men should be ignored. “‘Yes [Edward is] abusive and does a lot of bad things, but he does it because he loves her! If the act of abuse has love as its motivator then it’s absolutely okay and forgivable’” (Torkelson Pg 16).