The fiction of Twilight competes with feminist ideals, as Meyer’s protagonist Bella Swan is clumsy and weak in contrast to the strong male heroes around her.
Throughout Twilight, the lead male character, Edward, determines and even undermines the life choices of the female lead, Bella. Whether it’s sex, school, friends, or family, Bella ultimately defaults to Edward’s judgment. In Eclipse, Bella attempts to convince Edward to have sex with her while she is still human, but ends up looking like a lascivious seductress being “coerced” into marriage (Eclipse, 451). Edward, attempting to uphold Bella’s virtue, forces Bella to go against her modern upbringing (which is “to shudder at the thought of marriage,”) (Eclipse, 456). Additionally, she submits to the Cullens’ lavish lifestyle and agrees to attend an expensive, elite university like Dartmouth and drive a fancy sports car. Furthermore, Edward’s emphasis on avoiding damnation through sexual piety does more harm than good to Bella, as their eventual consummation not only directly hurts Bella physically, but also, without birth control, narrows Bella’s remaining life choices: to die or to turn into a vampire. Finally in Breaking Dawn, when all Bella wants is to die (Breaking Dawn, 377) Edward chooses immortality as a vampire for Bella (Breaking Dawn, 354).
In addition to following Edward’s antiquated rules on sex and marriage, Bella also sacrifices all other human relationships for her vampire romance. Regardless of the fantastical feud between the vampire Cullens and the werewolf Quileute, Edward continually denies Bella access to her best friend Jacob, even going so far as to remove her truck’s engine so that she can’t drive to La Push (Eclipse, 63). Even when he is not faced with romantic competition, Edward continues to hinder Bella’s relationships with family and friends (whom she won’t be “allowed” to see when she is a vampire) (Breaking Dawn, 73).
While Bella ultimately does have a choice throughout Twilight, Edward manipulates Bella into choosing what he wants. Throughout Eclipse, Bella is determined to experience sex as her last human act, but Edward resists her advances. Only after enduring duress and choosing eternity with Edward over a lifetime with Jacob, does Edward appear to give in to Bella’s sexual request. Not surprisingly, Bella ultimately denies herself this act in favor of doing it "right" and "following all the rules" (Eclipse, 619-620). However, when Bella breaches the purity that Edward preaches by later kissing Jacob, Edward’s saintly reaction only makes Bella feel guilty and fall more deeply in love with him (Eclipse, 532-536). And with the additional feeling of guilt, Bella falls deeper into Edward’s love spell.
Rarely seen in anything but domestic contexts, the women in Twilight perpetuate traditional female spheres of existence, living as complements to the men. Throughout the series, Bella’s relationship at home with her father, Charlie, revolves around his reliance on her to cook meals; in Eclipse, Bella knows that something is amiss with Charlie because he makes an unusual attempt to cook spaghetti (Eclipse, 5-6). Likewise, throughout the New Moon movie, Emily is only seen at home, waiting around and cooking food for the wolf pack. Finally, according to Rosalie (the most outspoken of the Cullens who opposes Bella’s desire to become a vampire) the only thing worth living for is to “have been allowed to marry someone who loved me and have pretty babies” (Eclipse, 162). When she explains her jealousy over Bella’s ability to choose life or death, she implies that the only right choice is to fulfill that societal female prescription, and not necessarily to pursue a or a greater meaning in life.
According to all the model relationships within Twilight, heterosexual, monogamous relationships are the only way to find happiness. Meyer's characters (Carlisle and Esme, Jasper and Alice, Emmett and Rosalie, Sam and Emily, Quil and Claire, Jared and Kim, Paul and Rachel, Ben and Angela, Renee and Phil, and as especially exemplified by both Edward and Bella and Jacob and Renesmee) only find solace in romantic relationships. Bella particularly lacks any depth of personality before she meets Edward; and later when she is completely consumed by her love for him, she literally becomes a blank page at the point he leaves her in New Moon. Only during a burgeoning romance with Jacob does Bella begin to find herself again. Ironically, the character Jacob protested the mandated pairing, “Imprinting is just another way of getting your choices taken away from you” (Breaking Dawn, 319).
While the men in Twilight exist as characters full of personality and ambition independent of a female counterpart—(as Jacob does for most of the series)—the despair expressed by the single women (Bella without Edward in New Moon, Leah without Sam) and the prominence of male-female pairs throughout Twilight sends an anti-feminist message that women exist in order to fall in love with their men.