By Hilary Caton
The saga tells a story of how a simple 17 year-old girl falls in love with the impossible: a vampire. And so begins the tale of Bella Swan and Edward Cullen, two teenagers (at least Edward still looks like a teen) who fall hard and fast in love with one another. The relationship is seen as your typical teeny bopper romance, where the idea of love at first sight manifests the moment Bella sees Edwards pale skin and devastating beauty, and when Edward gets a whiff of her irresistible scent.
Millions of teenage girls gobble this stuff up like cookie dough at a sleepover, without fully realizing the relationship the two heroines have together is an abusive one. It’s also straddles the line between devotion and stalking.
“It’s an unachievable romance,” said Nikki Thompson a first year journalism student.
“It makes young girls think that really creepy things and be controlled is romantic and okay.”
The four books in the series provides teens with a blueprint for most, if not all, abusive relationship patterns.
In the first novel Twilight, Edward doesn’t waste time isolating Bella from the friends she’s made in Forks. The minute they begin to establish their connection, which in reality is based on curiosity and lust, Bella completely forgets that she even made friends. And immediately becomes inseparable from Edward and is constantly consumed by his presence. Creating a female character that has no life outside of her boyfriend is an unhealthy model for teenage girls for balancing your relationships and friendships.
In all four novels Edward is a jealous and controlling boyfriend, and Bella rarely makes decisions for herself even though she is perfectly capable. Edwards controlling ways are masked by Stephanie Meyer’s attempts to portray Edward as old-fashioned, since he is in fact 109 years old. But what Meyer’s fails to realize is that times have changed, a woman can think for herself, and doesn’t need a man to “know what’s best” for her.
Readers often see Edward constantly go against Bella’s wishes. In the first book Bella did not want to go to prom, but Edward deceives her into thinking she got dressed up to be turned into a vampire. When in reality he still took her to the prom, insisting that it is a human experience she shouldn’t miss. In New Moon Bella doesn’t want to celebrate her birthday at all, nor does she want a celebration and what does Edward do? He throws her a party anyway. Both instances show complete disregard for his partner’s wishes, in order to establish control and dominance in the relationship. And Bella always goes along with it, never seeming to get upset at the fact that Edward makes all the decisions in their relationship.
Edward also demonstrates his controlling tendencies by following her when she’s out with friends, the pair are often inseparable, and he tells her that no one could love her as much as he does and as a result she begins to feel unworthy of anyone else’s love.
Edward is often portrayed as a jealous boyfriend when it comes to the friendship Bella and Jacob have together. He becomes even more jealous when he learns that Jacob is also in love with Bella. Don’t get me wrong, I love a good love triangle especially, when sworn enemies are involved but Meyer’s takes it too far when she allows Edward to forbid Bella from seeing her best friend. He even goes so far as to disable her truck so that she can’t drive to go see him. Call me a realist, but this has controlling boyfriend written all over it and if Meyers had given Bella any sense (which alas, she did not) Bella would begin to question the kind of man she has fallen for. But in the age old saying “love is blind” it is true in this case.
In New Moon, the second instalment in the series, Meyer’s takes the abuse to an emotional level by using the technique of abandonment, which is often used as a control tactic by the abuser. Bella then spends three months in isolated depression, suffering from terrible nightmares when she sleeps that have her screaming like a murder victim. She also doesn’t make the effort to create a life outside of Edward until three months have passed when she begins to hang out with her childhood friend Jacob Black. He becomes her only resemblance to a normal relationship, which is later tested by the controlling boyfriend himself. When she finally snaps out of her zombie-like trance, the awakening came with a landslide of evident suicidal tendencies. From putting herself in dangerous life threatening situations with complete strangers, to self-inflicting injuries with the help of a motorcycle to what appears to be a suicidal jump from a cliff. “This is the only way I can see him” is Bella’s reasoning behind her reckless behaviour, taking the saying the saying “I can’t live without you” to a whole other level.
In the final instalment, Breaking Dawn, there are traces of physical abuse when Edward an Bella attempt to have a honeymoon. Meyer’s describes the bruises left behind from the night before, stating
“She ends up with a few strained muscles, bumps, bruises and what he is sure must be a cracked rib, but she’s grinning as he examines her afterwards, wearing them all like proud battle scars.”
If this isn’t a way to normalize and even romanticise physical abuse I don’t know what is. The entire series rides on the romanticism of abuse, by masking the relationship between the two teens as an uncontrollable utter devotion to one another. Their love is an example of love that goes beyond reasoning and logical sense and if this is what real love is like women should think twice, before they jump on the Team Edward bandwagon and start looking for their own Edward Cullen in a dark corner of a bar somewhere.