Aug 7 2008
I’ve gotten more than one inquiry as to my response to this post by Alisa Valdes-Rodriguez in which she makes, on the surface, compelling argument as to why she thinks that Meyer might be racist. Many spoilers follow:
Valdes-Rodriguez argues the following:
1. Jacob Black is “presented initially as a sweet, normal teen boy from the Paiute Reservation, but we soon learn that he is a werewolf, and that werewolves are the enemies of vampires.” In the comments, Valdez-Rodriguez points to “a historical event in which Mormons used Paiute Indians (and dressed up as Paiutes) to slaughter people the Mormons viewed as taking their land”.
2. “In the final book, Bella must choose between these two boys. Naturally, she chooses the (white) vampire over the (brown) werewolf.”
3. The inclusion of Native Americans is suspect because “you must consider that in the Book of Mormon 2, 5:23, God is said to have placed ‘the curse of black skin’ upon the Lamanites, in order to make them unattractive to the Nephites. .. . Among the leading Laminites mentioned by name in the Book of Mormon is-Jacob.”
4. “In the movie, as with the book, the most evil of the vampires (the ones who are enemies to the white Edward) is dark Laurent.”
Having said that, some of her basic assumptions about the book are incorrect. Jacob’s tribe is the Quileute tribe located in La Push, Washington and not the Paiute tribe which is located in Utah. Paiutes are not mentioned in Twilight at all. This may not make a difference to Valdes-Rodriguez because the mere use of Native Americans as the opposite for the cold, white vampires might be all the imagery that is necessary to form the basis of the argument.
Second, Laurent is not the worst of the vampires. It is James who attacks and nearly kills Bella. James is described as “slighter than the leader, his light brown hair and regular features both nondescript. His eyes, though completely still, somehow seemed the most vigilant.” And Laurent is not dark skinned, merely dark haired and is said to be a “tall, dark-haired man in a manner that clearly displayed who led the pack.” James is the leader of the coven and Laurent is afraid of James.
Third, despite Bella choosing the white boy over the brown boy, in Book 4, Jacob Black imprints on Bella and Edwards’ child who is the most perfect white creature of two perfect white beings. He will eventually be Edward and Bella’s son in law. If Meyers is consciously writing a racist book, then Black would be killed or at least ostracized and not allowed to be united with the most precious of all beings, the child of Bella and Edward.
“In well-crafted fiction, there are no coincidences.” says Valdes-Rodriguez. Therein lies the problem, the ultimate false basis for the argument. Valdes-Rodriguez gives way too much credit to Meyer as a craftsperson of writing. Meyer, to me, is a very unconscious writer, giving virtually nothing but superficial thought to her characters. If she did inspect the themes and mores of her story she may be horrified and not because of the underlying racism but because of the underlying anti feminist message (although maybe that wouldn’t horrify her. I don’t think I can safely make any assessment either way). Meyer is a gifted storyteller but I don’t think she is creating well crafted fiction.
The reason I say this is because Breaking Dawn, in particular, lacks any nuance. For example, a conscious writer would choose to show both the dark side of wish fulfillment and the good side of wish fulfillment, or at least play with the concept of control and wish fulfillment. A conscious writer would recognize that in promoting the concept of free will that imprinting (the magical method of finding one’s soul mate) would be in direct conflict with one another because what could be less about free choice than being magically bonded to someone for all eternity? A conscious writer would realize that a book that has no sacrifice, no loss, represents very one dimensional characters and stories.
Stephenie Meyer is a great storyteller, but there are many other there that are better at their craft. This is not to say that Meyers isn’t racist. She very well could be but I don’t see her stories as unconscious dog whistles.