Several reviewers noted this subtext, although they weren't sure what to make of it. Some quotes from reviews:
The Cullens are even whiter. The pancake make-up on the actors has been applied with a trowel, while the less glamorous human characters include Bella's Native American childhood friend Jacob (Taylor Lautner), and a dorky boy of Asian heritage (Justin Chon) who writes for the school paper. It's hard to know what purpose this "colour-blind" casting served for the director Catherine Hardwicke, a specialist in teen films of one kind or another. (The Age)
No explanation is given--yet perhaps this is all the more reason that Bella notices the assorted alabaster faces of the Cullen clan, and vice versa. It's possible that this movie isn't about vampires or teenage abstinence or oddball ostracism--maybe matching skin tones is the running theme. (Indie Movies Online)
Many people noted that the movie changed some of the students from whites to minorities. I haven't read the books, but even I noticed the in-your-face diversity. I can't put my finger on it, but somehow it seemed artificial.
Normally I appreciate diversity, but let's think about this a moment. The vampires and vampire wannabe Bella are pure white. Normal people are multi-colored. And the
Also consider the class issues. The normal students are unnaturally friendly. Unlike every school in reality, they welcome a stranger with open arms. They plan to feature her in a front-page article in the school newspaper.
This seems good on the surface, but it serves to emphasize the class system. The Cullens are the upper class, standing apart from and looking down on the others. Bella also stands apart--as if she's trying out for the Cullen clan. Meanwhile, the Quileute Indians are the lower class, going to their own school and remaining apart. Everyone else is part of the happy-go-lucky middle class, where the most serious problem is whom to invite to the prom.
In the real world, this isn't quite true. The Quileute Nation has its own school, but, as its website notes:
By the way, if you're going to say this racial subtext wasn't in the book, don't bother. I believe Stephenie Meyer had final approval over the movie, or at least a huge amount of input. As with the book's messages, the movie's messages are basically hers.
Vampires as the upper class
But wait, there's more. Much more, actually. Below are some of the ways the Twilight movie differentiates its vampires and werewolves by race and class. First, the vampires:
Note that the Cullens are trying to avoid arousing suspicion. They have to move frequently to avoid this suspicion. So why do they live in an ostentatious house with all the marks of permanence?
What they should've done is buy an inexpensive ranch house in a quiet suburb where they could blend in and leave quickly. Instead, they've chosen to stand out. This isn't a logical move, it's a message to viewers. Vampires are the elite.
Werewolves as the lower class
On the other hand, here's what we learn about the Quileute werewolves:
You could dismiss any of these choices as random coincidences. But taken together, they paint an overwhelming picture of race- and class-based differences. If you didn't get this message, perhaps you weren't paying attention.
Vampires as evildoers?
In White Vampires Yes, Indian Werewolves No, I took some heat for describing the vampires as a noble elite. You don't understand, people told me. In Twilight, the vampires are evil and the werewolves are good.
I'm glad to see the Twilight movie vindicates me. Do the math, people. The movie shows seven good vampires and three evil ones. Moreover, Laurent switches sides, so the final tally is 8-2.
To reiterate, 80% of the vampires shown in Twilight are good, not evil. I guess all the evil vampires will show up later, because they aren't evident in the first movie.
Even if they do show up, note that the first book sets the tone. Some people will stop with the first book, or remember the first book best. Message to readers: Vampires are more good than evil.
True, Edward calls himself a monster because he lusts for human blood. But none of the Cullen clan does anything one could construe as evil. They have impulses and needs, just like anyone else, but they act as if they're good. Their worst flaw is giving Bella dirty looks when she intrudes on their family.
The Cullens are much like a noble or royal family. Nobles lust for wealth and vampires lust for blood, but that doesn't mean they aren't good inside. Their nature is defined by resisting temptations, not by having temptations.
To sum it up, Twilight gives us three racial and social classes: vampires, humans, and werewolves. The vampires are the white-skinned upper class and the werewolves are the brown-skinned lower class. Any questions?
For more on the subject, see Quileute Werewolves in Twilight.
Below: Dark werewolf vs. light vampire.