Sullen teens, werewolves and vampires with creepy eyes, oh my! The premise doesn’t exactly scream relationship gold, but there are some things to be learned about love from this series. Necessary spoilers follow.
Some traditional themes emerge throughout. Bella is attracted to the classic bad boy/the beast Edward. Kind of smacks of Disney’s Beauty and the Beast. Why are we so often attracted to “bad boys/bad girls”? Excitement, breaking rules, taking chances? What does this say about us and what we’ve been taught about attraction? It is also very unsettling that Edward/the beast must restrain his natural instincts to hurt/possess/consume the woman he loves. What does this say about love? Especially when a common desire in loving relationships is to feel secure and protected. Now imagine you have to continually be on guard and protect yourself from your partner so your partner doesn’t destroy you. Is that really what you want? This does not seem to be the makings of a storybook romance, but is not uncommon in real life either. I know he’s bad for me, but I love him anyway. Usually with less than ideal outcomes. There are also parallels with Romeo and Juliet; long feuding families, forbidden love and Edward wants to kill himself when he thinks Bella is dead. Edward’s life is so enmeshed with Bella’s that he would kill himself rather than live without her? Some may swoon at this, the depth of his love is so great, isn’t it romantic?! Personally, I find it distressingly co-dependent. Where is Edward’s resilience? And does he give any thought at all about if this is what Bella would want? Personally, I’d be horrified if a boyfriend wanted to kill himself without me (if I wasn’t already dead). Suck it up and grieve buddy, you might come out the other side stronger and better.
Lots of icky control stuff. Bella throws herself at Jacob (hello manipulation) and even literally off a cliff trying to get Edward’s attention. To get him to come and save her – gross! Have a little more self-respect; don’t be the weak female who needs saving by the big strong guy. Or use and abuse the nice guy to get the bad boy. Edward is hot and cold; a great line from Bella “Your mood swings give me whiplash”. Hello again, manipulation. And what about how he just appears in her room and watches her sleep – yikes! Creep-o-rama. And a total vomit fest – Bella must give up everything, her life as she knows it, her family and even her humanity for the guy. Yuck. Why do we keep swallowing this tripe – that you need to give up important parts of yourself in order to have love? This is utter bullshit. You can have it all.
There are some more promising messages here as well. Bella can see beyond Edward’s beastliness and recognizes it as a mask. We all wear masks at times. Why? I suspect not many of us do so to hide that we are vampires or werewolves, but rather to protect our secret selves, our soft underbellies. To shield ourselves from judgment and protect our vulnerabilities. Finding someone who can and wants to see beyond our mask and loves us anyway is fulfilling. You know I am a vampire and I do terrible things on occasion, but you love me, accept me and recognize my value anyway. This makes us feel secure in the relationship and perhaps boosts our self-confidence a bit. Relationships are safe places for us to remove our masks without fear of judgment. And Bella is smart and confident and not cowed by Edward, which he finds attractive even if also thinks she is out of his league. Confidence and knowing yourself is portrayed as sexy. This also taps into a particular human fantasy of wanting to be different or special, cool enough to attract the hot guy that nobody else can get. Not sure that is totally healthy, but wanting to be loved and admired by your partner for who you are is totally ok. And even though it is painful for him, Edward respects Bella’s friendship with Jacob and embraces it at the end. A real partner doesn’t seek to control us by dictating who we can/cannot hang out with and respects those we identify as important in our lives.