It was about time I wrote this blog post. It needs to be done. I recently began re-reading Stephanie Meyers’ Twilight series documenting teenage Bella’s obsession with her sparkly stalker vampire boyfriend Edward. Oooh, it sounds harsh when you put it that way, doesn’t it? I just finished the second book, New Moon, today, and the more I get into it, the more I realize how very un-healthy their relationship is, and what a poor model it is for anyone ever.
Here is a list of all the things I picked out in “New Moon” that I think are very, very bad:
- When Edward and Bella say, “I would rather die than be without you,” they actually mean it. If one of them were to die, the other would commit suicide.
- On that note, they use the story of Romeo and Juliet as a model for their own lives. TERRIBLE idea.
- They make themselves guilty for the decisions of the other– something they have absolutely no control over.
- When their relationship ends in Book 2, rather than trying to work through their emotions, they live the life of living zombies, barely even able to get out of bed.
- Bella is even worse. She spends the next 8 months trying to get into the most dangerous situations possible, because she hallucinates that she hears Edward’s angry voice yelling at her to stop. And that’s better than not having him at all.
- Both Bella and Edward constantly think they know what the other is thinking and feeling– filling in the blanks with disastrous results. “I know Edward doesn’t love me anymore, and that the only reason he threatened to kill himself was he feels guilty that I committed suicide.” Instead of trying to actually talk the person and figure out what their motivations and desires are, they assume they know what they are!
- Edward– and in some situations Bella too– makes decisions for the other constantly, regardless of what the other wants. “I know what’s best for you” and “It’s better this way.” Almost every crisis in the book revolves around some iteration of this.
- Edward has this self-righteous view of love that he almost constantly uses as a weapon against Bella. Things like, “If you ask me to leave, I will leave,” painting his love as more constant than hers in some way.
- Bella (and Edward too) constantly is worrying that she isn’t worthy enough for Edward, painting him as a flawless Adonis that she will never be able to live up to.
- After Edward leaves, Bella views herself as “broken goods”, and refuses to start a healthy and positive relationship with Jacob.
- Bella never takes into account how her decisions affect other people, including her dad Charlie and her mom Renee. She defines her entire life around Edward. Forget school. Forget friends.
- I really hate this one. Edward insists that dating Bella is the morally wrong choice, but then comforts her by saying he has lost his sense of right and wrong, so he will never leave her.
- Edward has this fire and brimstone belief that vampires have lost their souls. He refuses to turn Bella into a vampire, even when she absolutely insists. Either way, a little messed up.
- Some things provoke Edward so badly that he can’t control his anger. Jacob too, for that matter.
If Twilight is really that bad, why have I not consigned it to the bottom of the trash can? Believe it or not, Twilight helped me through a particularly difficult time in my life: my coming out. Get ready for a little reminiscing. When I first admitted to myself that I was gay, I had mixed feelings of relief and soul-weighing guilt. One immediate result was that I could explain why I had never felt strong and overwhelming feelings for a girl before. (Weren’t those supposed to accompany true love?) I had never had a crush or a feeling of romance before (at least that I acknowledged as such– I didn’t count my feelings of “admiration” I had for a few guys). As I started to realize this part of myself, I constantly used Twilight as an analogy for my own life, for better or for worse. It seemed like Twilight was written about my life (oooh, don’t vomit yet haha).
Twilight is filled with “coming out” stories. Think about it. Both Edward and Jacob have a little coming out moment– and in both cases, with enough clues, Bella is able to get it. Edward is a vampire. Jacob is a werewolf. Here’s Jacob’s scene (excuse the English– I’m reading the German version, and I’m translating back into English). A little background, Bella has worked it out that Jacob is a werewolf, and she thinks that he is the one responsible for the deaths of a few hikers in the area. She thinks he’s a murderer:
Bella: “No, Jake, no. It’s not about whether… you’re a wolf. With that I have no problem.” In that moment as I said that, I knew, that it was true. It didn’t matter that he transformed into a giant wolf– he was still Jacob. “If you could only find a way to not hurt anyone… that’s what gets to me. These are innocent people, Jake, people like Charlie, and I can’t simply look away when you…”
Jake: “That’s all? Really?,” he interrupted me and his whole face lit up. “You only are afraid that I’m a murderer? That’s the only reason?”
Bella: “Isn’t that enough of a reason?”
He began to laugh.
Bella: “Jacob Black, this is absolutely not funny!”
Jake: “Of course,” he said, still smiling.
With one large step he came up to me and hugged me so tightly it felt like I was in a vice.
Jake: “It really doesn’t bother you that I turn into a giant wolf?” he bellowed in my ear.
Bella: “No,” I managed. “No.. air… Jake!”
He let got of me and took my hand. “I’m not a murderer, Bella.”
Some of those feelings seemed so real to me! I could feel like Jacob right there. A feeling of relief that the person could care less about what I am, and loved me anyways. I would be just as relieved, just as joyful, and I would squeeze them just as hard. Call me crazy for comparing myself to a werewolf or a vampire. Being gay is my superpower haha.
Edward feels guilty for imposing his vampire-ness on Bella. From the very beginning of his relationship with Bella, Edward is constantly guilt-ing himself for being who is his. “I’m not good for you, Bella.” He does it all the time. Perhaps some people think it’s romantic. But it really wears on you, because he never stops through all four books! Here’s one scene from New Moon, as Edward explains why he cut off their relationship and left her:
“I only did it to give you the chance to live a normal happy human life. With me you would constantly be in danger, I would cut you off from the world where you belonged, and constantly be putting your life on the line. So I had to try. I had to do something, and leaving you was the only way. If I didn’t believe that it was best for you, I would have never done it.”
As a Latter-Day Saint, I had every intention of living a life of obedience to God’s law. Before coming out, I had pictured marrying a woman in the temple and having a beautiful family. But know, I wasn’t sure if it was going to ever be possible. Even if I could have been happy in a relationship with a woman, I felt I was burdening her with something she shouldn’t have to deal with. I remember talking to the bishop in my singles ward with some of these concerns. At the time, I was beginning to date Jenni, who is now my wife. I wanted to know if I should come out to her now on one of our first dates, or whether I should wait until our relationship was developed more. I wanted to be upfront and honest. I wanted to give her the choice of dating me or not. But I also felt that if she knew right away, she would choose rather not. (You can read more of our story here. I chose kind of a funny compromise).
Twilight again felt real. I knew that despite such concerns, I could have a beautiful and happy relationship. We could have a happy ending.
Bella feels like she is resigning herself to a partially unfulfilled life with Jacob. In a rather depressing scene, Bella is finally coming to terms that Edward isn’t coming back. But she has a beautiful friendship with Jacob, and Jacob would really like it be something more. She compares herself to Juliet, ending up with Paris (Jacob) instead of Romeo (Jacob):
I thought, what Juleiet would have done if Romeo had left her, not because he was exiled, but because he had lost interest. When Rosalind hadn’t ignored him and he changed his mind. What if he, rather than marrying Juliet, he just disappeared.
I think I know what would have happened to Juliet.
She wouldn’t have simply gone back to her everyday life. She wouldn’t have forgotten him, I was sure of that. Even when she was old and gray, she would constantly have Romeos picture before her eyes. And in the end she would reconcile herself to it.
I asked myself, if she would have ended up marrying Paris for her parents’ sake to keep the peace. No, probably not, I thought. But in the story, you don’t know a lot about Paris. He was only a placeholder, a threat, someone to move the plot along.
But what if Paris were more than that? When he was Juliet’s friend? Her very best friend? When he was the only one to whom she could trust the terrible story about Romeo? The only one who understood her and gave her the feeling to be halfway human? When he was patient and friendly? Cared about her? When Juliet knew that she couldn’t live without him? When he would really love her and wanted her to be happy?
And… if she loved Paris too? Not like Romeo. Not even close, no. But so much, that she wanted him to be happy too?
Now, I want to be clear: I don’t feel this way. I know I have been pulling comparisons out of my past, but this one doesn’t work 100%. I do have a very fulfilling and happy marriage with my wife, and I don’t feel like I’m somehow missing out on a life I could have had. To the contrary, I feel so blessed to be living the life I have always wanted to live: to be with a partner who loves me and understands me. But back then, I felt like I understood what Bella was going through. I could understand why she felt that way (but gosh dag nabbit, why didn’t she give Jacob more of a chance?!).
Heck. I just used Twilight as an analogy for my life. That’s probably just as bad, if not worse, than using Romeo and Juliet! If you need to un-read what you just read, please do. But I’m going on to book number three!