For the sanctity of our souls, I will be handling both films in a single post here.
Because what else is there to say once Bella enters the upper class?
Well, she’ll have to maintain her spot, regardless of what the 1% has to say about it.
The wedding, and marriage, are all about looking the part just as much as it is being a member officially of the upper class. More and more Alice plays a direct role, not just in the wedding, but in Bella’s wardrobe choice. She’ll need to learn how to walk in heels. As the fashionista of the group, Alice’s forward thinking helps to predict designs and establish Bella as a conforming member of their family, rather than some girl from HICKVILLE.
Charlie arriving in a tuxedo, and Bella’s stunned and positive reaction, just goes to show that it is not only the prospect of joining that has her excited, but in “lifting all boats” as it were. Maybe Charlie will stop wearing those fishing vests and upgrade to a more modern attire? Trickle down economics anyone?
After the wedding, the honeymoon features games of playing chess, which is really the sort of extravagantly fancy activity we all crave on a honeymoon…
For some reason, compared to other games in 2020, chess always gets a pass as this kind of elite experience. It’s classic nature somehow makes it far more intellectual than other games. The prevailing assumption that chess is a mind game is somehow apt here. Seeing as how those mind games end up being more for the abstinence themes than the Marxist ones, I’ll move on, but it should be interesting to note that you never see Charlie and Jacob playing fucking chess.
And on the subject of Jacob, for him to be able to get a tuxedo would be to almost break the rules of the class distinctions. To imagine Jacob in a tuxedo, to imagine that he cleans up well, would be to see some alternative timeline where Bella could change her man into becoming far more articulate and cosmopolitan. So instead, rather than attend the wedding proper, Jacob lurks in the shadows, along with most of his tribe, in order to not stain the wedding as much as simply sending one. Somehow Sam, wearing a cutoff hoodie, would not be a good fit…
Questions of value come up again at the wedding reception with some self-referential humor. Anna Kendrick laments in her speech that she does not know what Edward saw in Bella, compared to Jessica, who was captain of the volleyball team and the president of the student council. Jessica throughout the wedding critiques the approach. “Who else gets married at 18?”
It’s clear that there is plenty of bitterness from her friends at going up a notch, and why shouldn’t they? Bella pretty much abandoned their warm embrace from day one, and to see how much she was able to upgrade after setting foot in Forks not only gives the other students some insight into her value as being the new girl, but it also allows them to compare their own value. It’s no coincidence that Bella’s friends somehow, despite going to prom with eligible boys, do not seem to be dating throughout the movies.
I could also go on here about the mercenary way that schools are complicit in forcing people to compare each other with arbitrary schemes and measures that have little bearing on future success, and I could once again mention the Ideological State Apparatus (see my post on New Moon) for presenting needs, wants, and desires for Bella and her gang that only Bella can achieve.
And Bella’s pregnancy…
You know, I’m sort of at a loss here for what this represents in part 1 only. I think it’s more the ramifications of what happens in part 2 that are more important. But here I can point out that Jacob breaks with his tribe on the subject and agrees to help Bella and the baby. Here is where the imprinting begins.
I’ll speak about the imprinting now. To me, the concept of imprinting is far less romantic and more willful servitude, though it seems to me to be an ambiguously painful experience. There are moments when Jacob, against his better judgment, seems duty-bound to protect Renesmee. Indentured servitude, or slavery, seems apt here, and though Jacob is thrilled by the end of the movies for “understanding his purpose,” it cannot be denied that he has been time and again given the short end of the stick. Jacob’s story ends here by getting relegated to the labor of nannying.
On the subject of the baby naming conventions. For the boy, which Bella seems to assume it is, she gives the Edward Jacob name. No surprise there: both names are firmly embedded in white people history.
It may be easy to dismiss this as silly teenager behavior, but the portmanteau of the mothers indicates a celebrity level status to the baby like what we see with other absurd names at the top of the economic classes. Simply Google search “weird celebrity baby names” and let your heart take you away to far off places…
The rich love to stand out I guess.
More so it is the indication that people must pay attention and respect this person no matter what the name. For others, the name on a resume speaks volumes before we even arrive for an interview. But for Renesmee, it’s unclear of whether she’ll need to interview for anyone…ever.
“I was born to be a vampire” Bella says, as Edward and the gang realize in the incredibly campy scenes of preparing for the final battle that Bella is a “shield.” “That’s why I couldn’t read your thoughts,” Edward says. The story attempts to find some retroactive way to provide an answer to Bella’s power, as well as provide her worthy value. In this reading, Bella was not someone like Cinderella, but Anastasia, someone who is lurking as apriori rich, who has skills or talents and needs to be recruited, rather than a prince taking in someone who simply arrives at the ball with a pretty dress.
This kind of power upends the pre-established order of things as the birth of a supposedly immortal child sends the Volturi, seen as people who simply read and write all day, to investigate and possibly do battle.
But there is some frission about exactly why they want to do battle, and Edward hits on the fact that Alice is a rare thing, with the ability to see the future. They do not want to indict Renesmee, Edward, and Bella, but rather use that as an excuse to take something they want.
Sounds like the Iraq War if you ask me…
“Their goal isn’t punishment, it’s power,” Edward says, to great effect for my Marxist reading. All the plebeian storylines of Forks, Washington are over, and now that Bella is in the upper class as a full on vampire, she now has to deal with what that world looks like. It’s a small world and big one at the same time, a globalized elite drifts internationally without regards to borders or the Transportation Security Agency.
We get vampires from all walks of life, including some tribes in Brazil. It may seem at first glance that there is some inequality here when it comes to economic standing in the world. Comparing the Cullens to these native members of Brazil would have us say there is no contest. But here I want to stress that each of these groups represents the top 10% of their own cohort. They gather and make decisions unbeknownst to the ordinary populace.
And the Volturi look for ways to keep their place at the top. In a fascinating directorial twist, we get to have our cake and eat it too: we get to have the big fight and we instead have peace.
Alice shows the Volturi a future in which they lose, and their response to the child is one of complacency. Once they have seen not only that there is a precedent for the half-man, half-vampire in the form of a tribal man from Brazil, and once they see the outcome of lost resources should they fight, the decision is clear. For Lee Pace to say with trepidation “The redcoats are coming” it ends with a wet fart.
Some sacrifices had to be made of course.
For a false accusation, Irina is killed in front of her sisters, and Vladimir and Stefan will not be given their revolution they have wanted for, I don’t know, 1,500 years.
Interesting that the problems of capital do not necessarily have a 1:1 relationship with whatever is invested or withdrawn.
David Harvey has written about this in his recent books. As a geographer, Harvey writes about how capital does not necessarily solve a crisis, but simply moves the crisis around. One such example would be the rippling effects of the housing crisis in the United States affecting world economics.
Is there something to be said here? After a trade in information, the Volturi are allowed to stay in power despite their unethical treatment of nearly everyone they encounter, with Dakota Fanning causing literal suffering in the minds she chooses to hurt (and it seems she enjoys it). And Bella, Edward, and Renesmee are allowed to continue existing. For Aro’s bias towards Bella “such a fair maiden,” he uses the Cullen family as one more buffer between the Volturi and everyone else.
And I haven’t even talked about the new home that Edward and Bella get to simply have. A beautiful and rustic home where they can have sex for a decade before coming back out into the public. But their romance quickly runs dry before they have to meet back up and settle affairs of the estate. For a home to just appear like that, and then for the two to establish a romantic challenge, only to fail miserably (to which Emmett remarks upon with “back already?”) is to lend credit to the marriage as simply contractual.
Breaking Dawn is about matters of inherited wealth. It is the movie in which Bella and Edward must attend to their newfound estate, provide proper education and care for their daughter from the working class (Jacob and Charlie), must establish contacts and be under the good graces of other elites, and must gain acceptance for their roles.
Bella is a successful venture for the Cullen family. For by the end of the series, what vampiric clan has not heard of the Cullens? By producing a child of both worlds, it may appear as though it represents a blending of classes. But no, Bella leaves her class behind, even to the point of disappearing entirely.
Were it not for Jacob, another member of the working class, beating them to the punch and telling Bella’s father Charlie that she still in fact exists, Bella would have been wholly indoctrinated into the upper class. Those working class people have to stick together.
Renesmee, who can eat blood or human food, represents a far more efficient individual than Edward and Bella. It remains to be seen whether Renesmee can die, or how long she’ll live.
So, here we are.
I think there are considerable weaknesses to this analysis. For one thing, the wealth that the vampires provide to the community is not entirely clear beyond the role of the father, Mr. Cullen, as doctor. Which means they seem totally bound up in OLD MONEY rather than NEW MONEY.
But that leaves some ambiguity for the Volturi. Surely they are obviously the definition of old money?
So the economic standing, and how that wealth is represented in the larger community, is not entirely certain.
For instance, the only mention made of the Volturi in Italy to the greater public is that of a secretary in a brief clip. Bella asks if she is human, and they suggest that the secretary wishes to also become a vampire. “Our next meal” I believe is the rebuttal.
It’s a nice contrast to Bella, who used a much less obvious attempt to beg to the upper class for a chance. Rather she uses her ASS(ETS).
Another criticism seems to be that we really have no idea what Bella’s life would have been like had she not met Edward. Charlie and Renee seem to be able-bodied working employees of the nation-state, but their sense of family is totally decimated. They literally could not be more far apart in the continental USA (Washington and Florida), and that shows itself in Bella, who is ill-content to handle traditional concepts of marriage and virginity. Had it not been Edward and his immediate benefits, Bella may have suffered from teen pregnancy, an opioid addiction, while doing part-time work at the local diner, using what assets she has left for big tips…
But just as equally, Bella could have kept a low profile, married Jacob, and lived a happy provincial life.
Or she could have gone to college in Alaska.
Economic arguments typically need that sense of alterity. If we do not see what sort of destitution lies in store for Bella, the wealthy argument has less heft.
And since 2008, the rich have actually gone in a different direction than what we see in the Twilight series. Fashion has catered more towards casual leisurewear than anything robust like wool coats. To see some of the outfits Alice has planned is…well…kind of tacky? So even if the movies do not present other options inside of its work, the Twilight series as a whole does not stand up well in a historical context overall.
This is especially true when it comes to Bella’s role in the household. She is definitely not the working mother of the newer generation of power couples like Sheryl Sandberg, Chief Operating Officer of Facebook and author of Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead. Bella’s passive role is an old world trick, catered to an old world man like Edward. It’s unclear how women are supposed to manage the new economic paradigm with this sort of example.
Third is that the economic argument in genres has been done before. Vampires are timeless, and equating time to wealth has been done before in the 2011 movie In Time starring Justin Timberlake.
With each movie, I had to make certain leaps in order for us to see what is the rough texture around the edges of a story that is clearly about abstinence. Movies like Elysium starring Matt Damon are centrally about economics, more notably inequality, and as such make stronger arguments for a Marxist reading.
Lastly, I do not particularly like critical theory all that much. Sure, it’s fun to use as a toolkit. But much more often I have found this kind of filtered reading gives people tunnel vision more so than it gives them rare insight.
Still, I hope this provides an alternate viewing experience for Twilight. For someone like me who has never seen the movies, I think it proves that anything can be interesting as long as you bring yourself to it and take it seriously.
People dismiss fandom. They claim that there is little productivity to be had in dissecting popular trends and ideas. I disagree, if only because I enjoy the sort of disgusting realizations that could be had if we simply looked at the art longer than others do.
If you have made it this far, damn. Thank you for going with me.