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It’s a Nice Day for a WHITE BIKINI?!? Thoughts on Breaking Dawn’s Sex/Wedding Fervor and EW’s Rob/Kristen Cover

August 12, 2011

It was starting off to be such a great Friday until I read this E-online post Breaking Dawn Sex Buzz Begins! And It’s All About the Bikini! in which Ted Casablanca and John Boone enthuse: “Damn! K.Stew is workin’ that bikini bod.” Eeeewwww. The authors of the post are closer in age to Edward than Bella and their let-me-just-stare-at-your-boobs meme creeps me out!

Sure, it’s lovely to admire beauty, and beautiful bodies, but it’s disturbing when such bodies are ogled like objects, with no consideration of the relative ages of the ogler and oglees. (I was similarly weirded out when I witnessed a mid-40s woman jump up on her chair and scream for Taylor Lautner several years ago at a Comic-Con event – and by the follow up discussion where various older Twi-Moms gushed they just couldn’t wait until Lautner was not longer “jail bait.” Icky.)

Admittedly, Summit is promoting this type of voyeurish-celebrity-body-stalking, and more so than ever in the run-up to the release of Breaking Dawn: Part 1.

Sure, as noted in the above linked e-online piece “Sex sells!” – but, need it sell in way that fetishizes the female body as virginal? Must Bella wear not only a white wedding dress, but also a white honeymoon dress, a white bikini, and white shorty-shorts that might as well be underwear? (see the photo line-up here)

While the trailer for the film is very wedding heavy, (as discussed in a previous post), it appears the film will be, like the books, filled with whiteness – not only the uber-sparkly-whiteness of vampire skin, but also white clothing, at least for the females…

Why does this rankle me? Because the notion of “a white wedding” is predicated on a sexist paradigm where only females are expected to be virgins. You don’t notice Edward wearing much white in those photos, do you?

Of course the wedding dress will be white – that is a no-brainer. But the bikini??? This I find particularly irksome as it, in skimpy bathing suit form, speaks to the “look super hot but be pure” message that so infiltrates are oxymoronic pornified-abtsinence culture. I get she is gonna wear an itsy-bitsy-teeny-weeny, but couldn’t it be polka-dotted (or anything OTHER THAN WHITE)?!?

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17 Comments leave one →
  1. August 12, 2011 4:59 pm

    I am really beginning to think you read too much into this stuff. You know just maybe they put her in a white bathing suit to offset her pale skin. What would you being making money off if the books were never published? They are fiction!! Give it a rest.

    • Natalie Wilson permalink*
      August 13, 2011 4:10 am

      G,
      Well, white isn’t really the best choice to “offset pale skin.”
      As for the “it’s just fiction” claim, as I have previously noted in various posts and comments, I disagree entirely with this premise. Fiction, whether in book or film form, profoundly shapes how we view the world as well as how we act in it. As a literature professor, my work is based on a belief in the profound importance of narrative. As a women’s studies professor simultaneously, my work is further informed by an analysis of gender and other markers of identity (race, class, sexuality, and so on) and how such formations privilege some and oppress others. Fiction is one of the realms that can keep oppressive cultural formations in place, but it can also work to subvert, or question, such formations. My point in the post, which you seem to miss, is that placing Bella in white reifies the “women need to be virgins” meme. And, by the way, I make my money through my work as a professor, and not all that much money at that – certainly nowhere in the same range as Meyer or Summit Entertainment, in fact, I would be lucky to make the amount Meyer probably tithes to her church each year!

    • Michelle permalink
      August 13, 2011 5:03 am

      I support you, G. *blows kiss*

      • Natalie Wilson permalink*
        August 13, 2011 7:17 pm

        MIchelle and G,
        I support both of you, and thank you, for being willing to engage with my analysis even though you disagree with it. But I am not blowing any kisses.

  2. Taure permalink
    August 12, 2011 11:53 pm

    This cover is confusing to me. I get that they’re capitalizing on the much- anticipated, fade-to-black, sex-in-the-water scene, but the water looks stormy and Edward looks terrified. I don’t know if this is meant to herald the conflict and angst that comes after the honeymoon or if it’s just a bad photo. But basically it doesn’t even look like it’s related to the Twilight saga, aside from being a picture of Rob and Kristen. And of course there are all the issues you bring up, as well.

    • Natalie Wilson permalink*
      August 13, 2011 4:12 am

      Taure,
      Well, I have not seen the photon “in real life” (i.e. I don’t have the magazine), but once I do, I will go over it with a fine tooth comb. Interesting that Edward looks terrified (as you rightly point out!)- perhaps he is worried that white suit will be see through when it’s wet. He is quite the jealous type!

  3. August 13, 2011 12:27 am

    How come you didn’t post my earlier comment? I guess you can’t take criticism. Well here is a link of Edward wearing white in Breaking Dawn: http://www.imagebam.com/image/151bad144592891

    • Natalie Wilson permalink*
      August 13, 2011 4:16 am

      G,
      Well, surprise, surprise, but I am only now just checking in at blog comments after a long day of prepping syllabi, writing, reading, mothering, and so on.
      But, given the tenor of your previous comment (i.e. knee jerk attack), I am not surprised at your impatience nor by your “neener neener” attitude.
      I never claimed Edward doesn’t wear white, but that he doesn’t wear white in the recently released EW stills – or, in other words, his honeymoon swimsuit, in contrast to Bella’s is not white. Edward, and many of the “good vampires,” wear LOTS of white in the films, just as they decorate their house in white. I have many posts analyzing the symbolic use of whiteness in the saga, but then as it’s “just fiction” you are probably not interested.

  4. August 13, 2011 12:28 am

    White hardly suits anyone’s complexion, least of all dark-haired, pale-skinned people (like me). When I marry, I want to wear a bright dark green dress. 🙂

    I also can’t believe that people would choose to look symbolic rather than pretty on their wedding day…

    But, since you’re talking about the paradox between the official claim of abstinence and the reality of hypersexualized bodies, I’d say this is inherent to a platonic love story. How can you make anything about love, without making it about sex? The only possible answer for me is: you cheat.

    • Natalie Wilson permalink*
      August 13, 2011 4:24 am

      Asia,
      I so agree about white not suiting dark-haired pale-skinned people! And your dark green dress idea sounds lovely.
      As for looking “symbolic” on a wedding day, there is certainly a lot of symbolism in the attire, as well as all the surrounding wedding rituals. I myself find it sad that weddings have become part of a billion dollar “wedding industrial complex,” but, not being a huge believer in traditional, monogamous marriage as the necessary “happy ending” for everyone, I don’t put all that much truck in weddings in the first place. Fun to attend? Sure!
      And, I am curious, do you think “platonic love” stories are thus dishonest at their core, hiding, as you suggest, the inevitable sex component? Does the “cheating” heighten the appeal, or is that what we have been socialized so find romantic/sexy?
      Wouldn’t it be nice if sex was seen and presented as just as natural as love – rather than a “dirty” desire that has to be hidden, danced around, and fetisihized – and, in the case of Twilight — turned into a pregnancy narrative!

  5. Michelle permalink
    August 13, 2011 5:02 am

    Sometimes, when people want to really analyze something, to see the deeper parts, they tend to see thing that just… aren’t there. Studying an image ends up in mostly imagination. A white bikini -big deal. It combines perfectly with the atmosphere and the rest of the picture. A blue bikini, red, yellow, purple, wouldn’t have the same harmonious effect. it’s pure aesthetics, not some hidden, virginity-related undermessage as you try to make it seem. As you try to make everything in the saga seem, actually.

    Of course we get excited with the pictures because they’re great. And yes, beautiful bodies are obviously going to provoke some desire-loaded reactions. Part of the charm of the saga is feeling that way: excited, passionate, alive and in love. Weren’t you ever young? Didn’t you have a crush on someone (artist or real-life person) that you found sexy and desirable? Same thing here. Taylor Lautner is way too attractive not to stir some feelings, no matter what the age.

    And don’t we know that Kiki did exercise and diet to prepare for these scenes? That’s good, she cared for Bella, and it’s only fair to admit that she looks beautiful and sexy. Her body is gorgeous, and I cannot see why it’s so wrong and dirty to admire it. I think they chose white because it suits our princess, not because they try to give us some lecture on purity. White, white, white, what’s so wrong about white. Pretty color! And, by the way, the beautiful lingerie Edward destroyed one of those nights was black. Considering your criteria, that’s probably a satanic reference, isn’t it?

    We knew this movie is all about the wedding and the honeymoon. Those two events unleash the rest of the plot. We knew it was going to be the most sensual movie, and we’re ok with it.

    It seems to me that you rather dislike the saga, judging by the tenor of every single post. Wouldn’t it be better to leave this mission (studying this story) to someone who’s not determined to make everything look like mysogyny, and who actually enjoys having Twilight all around?

    • Natalie Wilson permalink*
      August 13, 2011 7:16 pm

      Michelle,
      As your comment is long and complex, I will address it point by point:
      “Sometimes, when people want to really analyze something, to see the deeper parts, they tend to see thing that just… aren’t there.”
      True, and sometimes when people want to analyze something, they spend years researching and writing, carefully analyzing language, themes, characters, and socio-historical contexts. Other times, they shoot off comments attacking other people for their analysis, which seems rather ironic. Disagreements about such analysis are inevitable as texts are dependent on the interpretation and world-view of the reader/viewer. We are all entitled to our opinions, and to our analysis. Yours may be different than mine, but don’t you see the irony in telling me to shut up, when you yourself want to have a say?
      “A white bikini -big deal. It combines perfectly with the atmosphere and the rest of the picture. A blue bikini, red, yellow, purple, wouldn’t have the same harmonious effect. it’s pure aesthetics, not some hidden, virginity-related undermessage as you try to make it seem. As you try to make everything in the saga seem, actually.”
      Hmm, not sure what you are suggesting that only white “combines perfectly with the atmosphere” – does the same hold true for skin color? As for “pure aesthetics” there is no such thing. Nothing is ever that pure or simple, and if you think the filmmakers didn’t painstakingly construct every shoot and every costume choice, well, then, you are failing to recognize how much time and thought goes into each shot. As far as me looking for the “undermessages” – yes, I do. I am a literary critic. That is what I do. This is not a celebrity worship site nor a fandom site, and it has never pretended to be.
      “And yes, beautiful bodies are obviously going to provoke some desire-loaded reactions.” I admit as much, which you fail to note, instead going on to the insulting “Weren’t you ever young?” Uh, no, I was born the exact age I am now. I am a freakish anomaly, cursed with a mind that finds pleasure in analysis.
      “And don’t we know that Kiki did exercise and diet to prepare for these scenes?” Well, I am not a nickname basis with Stewart and, no, I don’t know that. My interest is in analyzing the saga, films, and fandom, not monitoring the celebrities’ diets and whereabouts.
      “Her body is gorgeous, and I cannot see why it’s so wrong and dirty to admire it.” I never claimed that. Are you perhaps reading not too deeply, but erroneously? Because if you read my post carefully, you would see I don’t condemn admiring beautiful bodies and champion human sexuality, instead of framing it as “dirty” as you wrongly suggest. Do you get the whole reason I am critical of the virginal “undermessage”? Apparently not.
      I think they chose white because it suits our princess…” Sorry, gag. I don’t choose to view females as princesses, but as humans.
      “… the beautiful lingerie Edward destroyed one of those nights was black. Considering your criteria, that’s probably a satanic reference, isn’t it?”
      No, again you are not reading deeply enough. If so, you would know that I critique whiteness as a symbol THROUGHOUT the saga, not just as represented by the bikini. And, if teasing out the white wedding gown vs. the black lingerie, it doesn’t take a PhD in symbolism to make the links between the virgin/whore binary that structures much of Western literature. It’s not about Satan, it’s about female sexuality and framing it as either pure and virginal (white), or impure and sexual (dark). Perhaps you have read some of the Western literary canon and recognize this meme? The light/white Jane Eyre verses the sexual/dark Bertha Rochester? Perhaps not.
      “We knew this movie is all about the wedding and the honeymoon. Those two events unleash the rest of the plot. We knew it was going to be the most sensual movie, and we’re ok with it.” Who is we? Do you speak for all people?
      “It seems to me that you rather dislike the saga, judging by the tenor of every single post.”
      I dislike parts of it, and like others. I choose not to live in a love it/hate it binary world, but one that is more complex – that allows for, and embraces, analysis.
      “Wouldn’t it be better to leave this mission (studying this story) to someone who’s not determined to make everything look like mysogyny (SIC), and who actually enjoys having Twilight all around?”
      I think there is room for everyone at the table, something you obviously disagree with. I think there is room within fandom culture to analyze the texts we enjoy and thus deepen our understanding of them. Do I enjoy Twilight “all around”? No, I don’t. But I don’t think that calls for my silence, nor anyone elses. Please give me the same courtesy that you give to yourself, and allow me to voice my opinions. I welcome critique and am glad you chose to engage with this post. We disagree, and that’s ok. I am not asking for your silence. Please don’t ask for mine.

  6. Ana Bastow permalink
    August 14, 2011 7:27 pm

    Natalie
    You might want to check the other pics of the honeymoon. Edward wears white too and Bella is wearing a blue bathing suit as well. The color palette for both is light grey, blue, tan, nude and white.

  7. August 21, 2011 3:25 pm

    How the hell do you people put this much thought into this crap?

  8. perpetuallyfrank permalink
    August 28, 2011 1:30 pm

    I thought I would post this based on your post’s comments more so than the original post. Greg Smith has a really great chapter on why analysis is important (and why text-based and textually-supported analysis is not “just reading into” the text) that works really well with my undergraduates: “‘It’s Just a Movie’: Why You Should Analyze Film and Television” in his _What Media Classes Really Want to Discuss_. I’m not sure if you have as much trouble with your undergrads as you have had with those commenting on this post, though.

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