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Breaking Dawn pt 1. Broken, then

So on Saturday, my friends and I headed to watch Breaking Dawn, partly because I wrote my thesis on the saga and partly because we thought it would be entertaining.

I think it was an interesting start to the evening when we sat down to an advert about abusive relationships. Part of me rolled my eyes, part of me laughed at the irony, but actually the larger part of me was thrilled that ‘cinema people’ were being responsible. Showing teenagers having a seemingly innocuous argument which then escalated, it was a great representation of how easily abuse can be masked as a ‘mistake.’

With that in place, the film proceeded to show why it was necessary. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed elements of the film. Kristen Stewart, Taylor Lautner and Robert Pattinson are, in my opinion, actually rather skilled. It is not their fault they have a weak plot and uninspiring script to work with. Some bits were lovely - Bella’s preparation for the wedding, the pause in Rio on the way to their honeymoon, and so on. Bella’s first time and her feelings about have the potential to be a wonderful example of losing virginity, at least until Edward decides that he’s hurt her and refuses to discuss continuing a physical relationship. Whilst this is promoted as loving and caring, he refuses to engage in discussion about this hugely important topic, much as he refuses to listen to his wife’s views on her pregnancy. The biggest problem with the film as a piece of cinema is that there wasn’t enough plot to sustain the film - the action scenes and human interest are all going to be in the second film. Bella and Edward essentially get married, go on honeymoon, and she gets pregnant. The main misery of the film enters at this point, which is too late to make the first part exciting enough.

And the second half of the film was one of the most horrific things I have ever seen - had I seen it as a 12 year old, I’d have been traumatised. Not only was it the most obvious and cruel piece of anti-abortion work I have ever seen, but childbirth itself was made out to be a thing of nightmare. Now, I know that we aren’t all going to carry demon babies, and so it’s different, but the emaciated, broken Bella who could only think of her baby and scream in agony was horrific. Let alone the fact they cut her open before her husband ate his way in to get their child out, and then fussed over the child till Bella ‘died’ and laid there, glazed eyes open, covered in her own blood. 

But to me, this wasn’t the worst part. The film walks a careful line between anti-abortion (Bella is rewarded with vampirism and the other girls’ friendship for successfully giving birth) and anti-choice (‘what do you mean it’s killing her? Get it OUT of her?), and doesn’t really end up backing either. I actually started choking on my drink when Bella told Edward that if she died he’d still have a part of her in their child, and he scathingly insisted that he could never love a thing that killed her. I was shocked - men do just this, every day, across the world. Women die in childbirth and we do not blame the innocent child. I could not believe such an argument was included in a film that pre-teens would be seeing. I had been laughing at incredibly emo talking werewolves who had been sulking all film, but this utterly removed the enjoyment.

I really, really hope the second film is better. And I really, really recommend that if you know a pre-teen female you don’t take them to see this film, or if you do, then at least with a proper discussion of the implications of Bella’s story. I have rarely experienced something so anti-feminist and oppressive, and I wrote a thesis on the books that inspired this film (this will soon be available to read at http://cambridge.academia.edu/HannahLove). This film suggests you should comply with your boyfriend wishes in anything except motherhood, and has a terrible view on babies and childbirth in general, regardless of the vampiric context.

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