Susan L. Brody, The John Marshall Law School, has published Twilight: The Unveiling of Victims, Stalking, and Domestic Violence at 21 Cardozo Journal of Law & Gender (2014). Here is the abstract.
This article posits that the Twilight protagonist, seventeen year old Isabella Swan, is not the strong, independent, and mature young woman that she appears to be, but rather, she is a victim. She is a victim of stereotypical life circumstances, the only child of divorced parents bereft of any parenting skills to care for her; she is thus crafted as a young woman who, reinforcing gender stereotypes, is in need of care, protection, and rescue by a “prince charming.” Worse yet, she is also a victim of power, control, and violence, which legally constitute stalking and domestic violence. Telling the story in a first person narrative, Bella falls in love with Edward Cullen, a teen aged boy who sits next to her in a typical high school biology class and who lives nearby in her small town community of Forks, Washington. As the saga unfolds, Bella learns that Edward is a vampire, who could kill her in an instant. Throughout their love story, Bella continuously conflates Edward’s acts of control and violence with love and sex and astonishingly, she even relishes the violent acts against her. She is a precarious role model for impressible young women readers (perhaps numbering in the millions), who may identify with Bella as they are embarking on their own teenage journeys of self-discovery. Although they may recognize as fiction and fantasy the vampire elements of the story, they may, as Bella does, dangerously label as “love” harmful and illegal acts of control and violence, and also like Bella, they may believe such acts are acceptable, normal, and even desirable in a relationship. Male readers likewise may subliminally receive the message that control and violence are normal in a relationship and seek to emulate Edward’s controlling and harmful conduct. Finally, while Bella in the end becomes herself quite powerful, she does not acquire that power by her own actions, but instead, she acquires it because Edward, the man in her life, has given it to her, indeed the result of a violent act against her. For all these reasons, Bella is a harmful role model and one whose decisions to accept the illegal acts against her should not be emulated by anyone, much less young teenagers who may be experiencing a relationship for the first time. This article ultimately presents several alternative ways to rewrite Twilight, which do not eliminate the “fantasy” or the “romantic relationship,” but would make Bella a far better feminist role model and a significantly more deserving heroine.Download the text of the article from SSRN at the link.