The third offering in the Twilight Saga, Eclipse, taps into the same sexual tension that the rest of the series has. The stunning foreplay between Bella and Edward continues to profile a titillating fantasy of desire. (Although this time the relational porn for girls is supplemented by the visual elements of Jacob’s shoulders and six pack.) What interested me this time was the way the film toyed with the traditional male gender roles: lead, protect, provide.
The basic tension in the plot is that Bella loves vampire Edward but she’s also got a thing for werewolf Jacob. So the question of the film is who is better for her: Edward or Jacob? And the two guys actually have conversations about that. Edward acknowledges that both he and Jacob can protect Bella. Jacob asserts that he can provide better for Bella – she won’t have to change for him and she will continue to have the relational support of her family. So that’s protect and provide dealt with. And on balance, Jacob’s looking like the better option.
So that leaves ‘lead’. Certainly, this is a role that Edward assumes. Within the first few minutes of the film, he commands Bella to say in the car (though she disobeys). As the story goes on, it becomes apparent that he holds the power in the relationship: he arbitrates their (lack of) sex life; he holds the power to give her her heart’s desire and turn her into a vampire; he chooses to reveal their marriage plans to Jacob despite her disapproval.
In classic third wave style, Bella accepts the helpless-female-in-need-of-protection role but absolutely refuses to play the submissive role to Edward’s leadership. Furthermore, she becomes the sexual aggressor in the relationship, another classic third wave trait. You’d think Jacob would offer her more: his desire and pursuit of her is just as strong as Edward’s, yet he’s more open, less controlling. Surely he fits better her ‘protect, provide but don’t you dare lead’ preference. And she’s definitely got chemistry with him.
Except, she goes for Edward – why? If you ask Bella, it’s that she loves Jacob but she loves Edward more. But you also get the feeling that she won’t get her way all the time with Edward while she could wrap Jacob around her little finger. This is the tension that third wavers face: they resist powerful men on one hand, on the other, they find them magnetic. Apparently ‘protect and provide’ are an OK option without the ‘lead’ but inexplicably more intoxicating with it.
Tamie Davis is an Aussie living in Tanzania, writing at meetjesusatuni.com.