Why a Gender-Swapped ‘Twilight’ Is a Terrible Idea
Love it or hate it, you can’t deny Twilight‘s cultural impact. The teen book series about a sparkly vampire and the moony girl who loves him became an international phenomenon and spawned an insanely successful film franchise. And to commemorate the series’ 10th anniversary, author Stephenie Meyer just released a special edition of the novel that includes Life and Death, a new version of Twilight with the main characters’ genders reversed.
Meyer has accomplished a rare feat — reinvigorating interest in her books even though their time in the spotlight has long past. There’s just one problem: A new version of Twilight is a truly terrible idea. Because other than the financial windfall that Meyer and her publisher Little Brown will undoubtedly receive, there’s really nothing about Life and Death that should be celebrated. So before you buy this special edition for the Twihard in your life, take these issues into consideration.
Changing the genders doesn’t fix Twilight’s weak points
This “bold and surprising reimagining” follows the same basic story as Twilight. But now Bella the lovesick teen is Beau, the lovesick teen, and Edward, the brooding vampire is Edythe, the brooding vampire. While Meyer may think this is revolutionary, early reviews of Life and Death seem to indicate that she didn’t solve Twilight’s major problems: poorly drawn characters and an incredibly unhealthy romantic relationship.
Meyer maintains in the reissued book’s introduction that Bella is looked upon negatively by critics for being a “damsel in distress.” But for many, the real problem with the Twilight series is her codependent and borderline abusive relationship with Edward. Simply changing the genders of the main characters doesn’t make their interactions any healthier, it just reinforces what a terrible example their relationship sets for impressionable readers. It won’t invite new readers who have been wary of Twilight’s themes to fall in love with the the series any time soon. And that’s not even the only major issue with Life and Death.
By most accounts, the book basically sucks
You’d think that Twilight fans would be the first to jump on the Life And Death bandwagon. After all, they readily handed over their cash for four books, five movies, and untold quantities of ‘Team Edward’ and ‘Team Jacob’ merchandise. But both critics and fans are turning their nose up at the novel’s retelling. Why? It’s pretty much the exact same book with the names swapped out. And readers understandably feel a little bit cheated.
So it seems that calling it a “reimagining” is misleading, to say the least. For Meyer to have truly done that, she would have had to rethink the characters’ motives and interactions. Instead, she did the bare minimum required and hoped that nobody would notice. Unfortunately for her, we did. When even your most ardent fans are yawning or rolling their eyes through your work, you know you’ve done something wrong.
There are better ways to keep fans engaged
If Stephenie Meyer needed some ideas on how to keep her readers interested, she could have looked to J.K. Rowling. Since she wrapped up the Harry Potter series in 2007, she’s worked steadily to maintain its vibrant world. She’s not only creating a play based in the Harry Potter universe and a spin-off film, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them. She also uses Pottermore, the series’ official site, to offer up new morsels about characters’ backstories and their lives after the series ended.
Or Meyer could have followed in the footsteps of Twilight fanfic-author-turned-bestseller E.L. James, who’s latest novel Grey tells the 50 Shades of Grey story from Christian’s perspective. It’s especially strange that Meyer didn’t go this route, since she’s had Midnight Sun, an unpublished version of Twilight’s events told from Edward’s point of view, for years. Either of those options would have likely given fans more of what they really seem to yearn for — another glimpse at the Twilight universe they fell in love with in the first place.