The Many Faces of Edward Cullen

Edward Cullen is quite the versatile romantic hero.

If you start with the basic ingredients, one Edward Cullen, and make just a few changes to his appearance, he can serve many purposes.

If, for example, you were to remove his vampire teeth and instead place a knife in his hand, he instantly transforms from beautiful vampire hero to homicidal sociopath.

Remove his vampireness and return him to human form, and he becomes a bitter teenager with cannibalistic fantasies.

Take away his chiseled abs, put him in coke bottle glasses and high waisted pants, and he suddenly becomes a stalking high-school nerd.

Yes, the things one can do with the creeper, the stalker, the overprotective (did I mention creeper?) character that is Edward Cullen is quite astounding when you think about it. But there’s one box I just can’t quite make him fit; no matter how hard I try, I just can’t quite make Edward and Bella’s passion fit into the box of “healthy romantic relationship.”

Personally, if I were told by a boy that he found me so attractive he wanted to suck my blood, my first inclination would not be to find him alluring. My first inclination would be to knock his teeth out so he could only gum me. Then I would call the police.

If some guy hovered over me when I was sleeping because “I feel very. . .protective. . .of you,” I would be glad to demonstrate to him with the help of a restraining order that I can be just as protective of myself and my personal space. And my sleep.  Regardless of whether or not you’re dating the guy, it is invasive and inappropriate for him to be skulking uninvited around your room while you sleep. Period. Boundaries may change, but should not completely disappear in the context of romance.

Frankly, Edward’s behavior toward Bella is stalker-like, overprotective and about as healthy as a deep fried candy bar. Hence the main reason I’m on a fight-to-the-death crusade against the series. It scares me that we are completely unable to differentiate a healthy romantic relationship from a romantic relationship in which the two individuals fuse into one co-dependent identity. It scares me because girls are learning from these books that happiness can only really be found in the context of out-of-control passion, no matter how much of themselves they lose in the process. It scares me that in this series, the heroine is helpless and co-dependent and the hero is overprotective and violent. Granted, he never turns that violence toward Bella, but in the real world, dependent woman+overprotective violent man=abusive relationship. That may sound like splitting hairs, since Edward doesn’t ever hurt Bella, and technically his desire to suck her blood is merely meant to symbolize (if something that blatant can be called symbolism) sex, but I really have a problem with young or foolish girls reading these books and internalizing the idea that good relationships are those in which girls completely lose their identities to their dominant and dangerous boyfriend.

Obviously Twilight is only a symptom of the disease, because it wouldn’t be popular unless it struck some sort of chord within us. I get the allure. It’s a piece of emotional porn to get us through a world in which there isn’t enough George Clooney to go around and our real boyfriends, great though they may be, are as flawed as we are. In the Twilight relationship, Edward, who is meant to epitomize perfection, cares for Bella, who epitomizes a walking hormone, despite the fact that she’s really an emotionally disturbed, self-victimized, whining brat.  She doesn’t have to try to behave decently–even when she’s acting like a worthless excuse for a human being, in books. . .1-4, Edward cares about her, albeit smotheringly.

It seems oh so perfect. But literary porn, just like the pictorial stuff, is fake. It’s unrealistic, and as long as your expectations are pinned on it, it makes it that much harder for you to be able to connect with the actual people who are right in front of you. I’m not saying Twilight will automatically turn women into clingy and dependent creatures with no concept of emotional control or romantic boundaries. I’m not even saying that Edward and Bella constitute the worst relationship that ever was. I just wish that we would be more careful about what we espouse, especially in the realm of cheap thrills. What would happen if we took 30 seconds to think philosophically, to look at the “big picture” of the stuff we deem to be “just entertainment”?

You would probably all join me in the group of people labelled “nerdy killjoys.” But I have some T.S. Eliot and H.G. Wells and William Blake that I’ll let you borrow–there was life before Edward Cullen, and there can be life AE (After Edward). I promise–I may be a cruel twisted dream-crusher, but I’m not a liar.

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3 thoughts on “The Many Faces of Edward Cullen

  1. Gosh Lauren, I love how articulate, deep… and humorous you write! I think I need you to come narrarate my thoughts for me = ) This topic is about to come up in a series with our youth (the whole “Emotional Porn and Prince Charming” theme)and I may just read this off to them, if you would give me permission!!

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