Monday, January 24, 2011

The Twilight Problem

Everyone's entitled to like or dislike Twilight. Maybe you think Bella should have ended up with Mike. Maybe you don't like the excessive description of the weather, the adjective overload, or how Bella describes Edward exactly the same way every time she sees him. Maybe you think their physical relationship should be more realistic. Maybe you happen to know that Nurse Cullen was a serial killer in the 70's and 80's, and that gives you a disturbing perspective on these things. Heck, maybe you're pro-choice and you think Bella should have had an abortion (it would have saved her kid from growing up with a name like Renesmee).

But those are dislikes. They're issues with the writing style, the world of Twilight, and the plot. I enjoyed Twilight the first time I read it, despite disliking some things. You can get past a dislike. It's much harder to get past a disagree.

I disagree with the principles in Twilight. Specifically, the kind of love the book seems to promote. Before you jump to conclusions, I don't think Bella and Edward should have had sex before they were married or anything like that -- my disagreement is much more basic. This saga is supposed to be the great popular love story of this generation (gag). But what does it say about love?

Bella sees Edward and is instantly attracted to him, and vice versa. I can deal with that -- love at first sight. It happens. They stay together despite the problems posed by a human-vampire relationship. Seems a bit masochistic of them -- but if they want to risk tragic deaths for love, fine by me. Bella wants to be a vampire so she can stay with Edward forever. All right -- undying love is taken a bit more literally than usual in this book, but I can stomach it.

It's New Moon where the problem begins. Bella dreams that she's old and hideous while Edward remains young and beautiful, and wakes up screaming. When Edward leaves her, she sinks into depression, faced with her own mortality (and human ugliness) as much as the pain of a break-up. 

That made me wonder: why does she really want him? Sure, they're in love -- but they've known each other a few months while Edward's lived for a hundred years, and Bella is a normal girl who (despite what Edward and everyone else keeps telling her) constantly mopes about her looks. Either she's seeking attention or she really believes she's plain and boring. She has horrible self-esteem -- and having a devoted boyfriend is a way to feel better about herself. A future as a sexy, eternally young vampiress with a sexy, eternally young vampire boyfriend is a plus too.

Reality check please. I know so many people who do this. They need attention, affirmation, and affection because of insecurity -- so they find it in relationships, expecting the other person to fix everything. They don't know how to be themselves because they fear being themselves -- or rather, they fear being by themselves. Many romances deal with this kind of insecurity, but most don't end up endorsing it. For instance, Eat Pray Love is about exactly this kind of woman in this kind of a relationship.

Then there's the Jacob Problem. Uh-oh. Bella and Edward's relationship can't get any more intense -- so after book one, the only way to keep interest is to introduce a rival. Jacob Black is Bella's best friend who helps her during her depression and eventually becomes a love interest. 

As a werewolf, he is also immortal -- he won't age as long as he keeps shape-shifting. BUT (key point coming up here) when a werewolf "imprints" on the person he's meant to be with, he will stop shape-shifting and grow old with them. 

Growing old together, making sacrifices, learning to value the little time you have with your loved one -- isn't that what makes true love, well, true?

So which does our shallow heroine "beautiful swan" choose? Someone willing to sacrifice immortality and special abilities to be with her? Or the life of an eternally-young, always-beautiful vampire?

She chooses Edward, of course. Edward, with a body like a Greek god, whose protective qualities from the first book get more and more intense until he's more like a father than a boyfriend (add that to the fact that he's 109). Edward, with whom she argues constantly about what she's allowed to do. They never really built up friendship and respect before diving into their romantic relationship.

Just to clarify: this is not about being "Team Jacob." This is about being "Come on, seriously?!" Throughout the books and movies, Bella is obsessed with her appearance, age, and the possibility of immortality. What are you saying, Stephanie Meyer? Is love only for the young and beautiful? Do old couples and "ugly" people not feel love -- or do they just not deserve love?

In my opinion, time means more when you don't have forever.

11 comments:

  1. So, you should have known that I'd post on this ;) You make very valid points. However, I choose to look at the saga's view on "true love" differently. I like to view Jacob and Edward as parallel characters. They have a lot in common with each other, but the thing that sets Edward apart from Jacob is that he left Bella. Now, this sounds bad, but when you break it down, Edward cared way more about Bella's happiness than Jacob did. Edward (although wrongly) felt that Bella would be happier without him, so he left, despite the heartbreak it put him through. Jacob, although he knew that Bella loved Edward, wouldn't stop trying to get her to change her mind, even though it was obvious that that upset her. So Edward is shown to be the "better" choice because he values Bella's happiness over his own. Sorry, didn't mean to write so much :P Oh, and one last thing, if you're saying that Bella chose Edward because he's better looking than Jacob, than she is an idiot. Jacob is sexy! lol

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  2. OMG Kirsten, I should have known you'd write a rebuttal...lol.

    So you say that Edward just wanted Bella to be happy, so he left her, and Jacob wouldn't leave her alone about choosing between him and Edward? Well, let's examine Edward's strategies. Does he ever ASK Bella what she wants, who she loves, what she thinks would be best for her? No. He leaves her--not to make her happy, but because he thinks he knows what's best for her. He has this almost holier-than-thou attitude: you can't be friends with Jacob b/c he's dangerous, leaving would be better for you, you can't have my baby, we should get married, etc. Jacob talks to her frankly and doesn't resort to measures like taking out her car engine to keep her away from Edward or having his sister kidnap her and hold her at his house while he goes hunting.

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  3. I think you hit the nail right on the head; Bella is really afraid of aging and fears becoming unattractive to someone like Edward, and that's why she chooses him over Jacob- and that's why so many teenage girls are identifying with her. I think you just wrote a great Team Jacob post!

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  4. I wasn't being Team Jacob, i just think that what Jacob is promising is more truly romantic. Who said she has to choose when she's 18 anyway? The world of fiction is ridiculous. Anyway Kirsten, if this tumblr link/photo from "Reasoning with Vampires" doesn't convince you that Twilight (and Edward) is cliche, trashy, and creepy, I don't know what will...

    http://s3.amazonaws.com/data.tumblr.com/tumblr_lfcns678KL1qd0quuo1_1280.png?AWSAccessKeyId=0RYTHV9YYQ4W5Q3HQMG2&Expires=1296020374&Signature=F%2B0I6zAf8vb%2FfZoWFa%2B5tMdK2tw%3D

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  5. hahaha okay, that is pretty creepy. I guess I like the basic principle of loving someone so much that you are willing to leave them if it's what's best for them, no matter how much it hurts you. But, I will admit, this saga does do a really bad job of showing that. And Edward is really controlling and whatnot. I surrender, lol.

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  6. I meeeeannn, if Twilight was less cliche, I MIGHT be able to forgive their borderline abusive relationship. But, well, it's not...and Bella's just too scared of Edward leaving again to stand up for herself. :P

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  7. Laura, Love this! "Growing old together, making sacrifices, learning to value the little time you have with your loved one--isn't that what makes true love, well, true?" And this: "In my opinion, time means more when you don't have forever."

    I was just talking to @dochousel (UF philosophy professor) on Twitter about how all the immortality stuff cheapens human experience. I think your points here illustrate her attitude perfectly. Great post!

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  8. Thank you! I'm glad you liked it...I honestly believe the main reason she likes Edward is because he's a vampire and can offer her something forbidden (immortality). And beauty, of course. Literally the first thing she thinks/says after being changed into a vampire is "I'm beautiful!" Bella's vanity is a disgustingly huge part of those novels...I might burn them but then I'd be contributing to global warming lol

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  9. I want to read twilight for one reason - it appeals to so many people.

    I've heard that it's a horribly written book (I don't know if that's true or not) - But I do know a lot of horribly written books never get read.

    This one did - So there has to be something special about it.

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  10. Two words: sex appeal. And probably some good marketing, haha. And the Harry Potter vacuum. I mean, I liked Twilight the first time I read it--before it became really popular--but then I shrugged and put it down. When I read it after it became extremely popular--trying to see what all the hype was about--I didn't think it was THAT good.

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