On October 6th Little, Brown Books released the 10th Anniversary edition of Stephenie Meyer’s Twilight, which included a special bonus: the novel rewritten and gender-reversed, with Edward now Edyth, and Bella now Beau. The bonus was born of the author’s desire to show the story as truly universal and that the gender of the protagonists did not matter, in response to crticism of the original narrator’s tendency to be a moon-eyed damsel in distress.
I have not read either one, Twilight being in fact on my to-read list; but let’s examine the covers the Little, Brown chose for each one and see what they code.
Red apple, green apple; on the surface both are pretty sweet (sorry for the pun) and a great example of series branding.In the first one, note that the female offers the apple, symbolic of temptation and loss of innocence, somewhat tentatively. The use of both hands cupping it implies it weighs heavily on her, that it requires more than the usual effort to hold. Alternatively, she might be cupping it to protect it, like it’s her virginity. We can’t see the rest of her body, but she is holding it with arms lowered at the level of where her genitals might be. For someone to take it, the recipient must come close and bend low — an intimate position.
The male hand, in contrast, boldly holds the apple as if he were freely offering it to someone. There is almost a dare in it. He holds it away from his body. If it was given to him and he accepted it, he might be holding it at arm’s length, weighing and appraising. He might pitch it away in a second, or take a bite. He might also be boasting of his possession of it. In any case, his ownership, offer, or acceptance are all active and decisive.
The typeface of Twilight is curving, slightly baroque, while the typeface used for Life and Death — a far more florid and ambitious title — is more modern and techno. The red apple implies sweetness and juiciness; the green, tartness and zest.
Not too hard to guess that the stories inside do indeed differ according to gender’s protagonist, and how, right?