Beyond his decadent declarations of love, there isn’t anything remotely appealing about Bella’s love interest. Much of the descriptions of Edward are about the way he looks, the story emphasizes his beauty and desirability–he glistens in the sunlight. Edward’s perfection is only skin deep, he spends much of the time isolated through despair and self-loathing. Though Edward sees himself as a monster, he draws her closer by acknowledging his own danger.
Ever since the first instance between Bella and the van, he’s particularly aware of everything she is doing. He appears to supplement his own self-hate with stalking: watching her sleep, eavesdropping on her conversation, reading her classmates’ minds and dictating her choice of friends. At one point he encourages her to lie to her father then disables her truck, all the while having her held at his house–and here’s the kicker–for her own safety. After constantly telling her to stay away from him because she may be hurt, he does everything he can possibly do to keep her near him.
Ordinarily, attraction between two individuals develops because there’s an exchange of some kind. Jerry Maguire famously said “you complete me” and based on that premise, it’s unclear what Bella’s attraction to Edward actually is. Ignoring the aforementioned personality flaws, she continuously runs into trouble and he keeps saving her–albeit using his stalking methods. Yet Bella seems unaware and falls helplessly in love, like a gazelle would fall in love with its hunter.
It is also unclear what Edward’s attraction is to Bella exactly is, if not to feed on her. She’s not exceptional in any way, because readers are given little insight to her motivations. It’s difficult to believe that what is revealed about Bella is so special that he hasn’t encountered someone like her in his 104 years of existence. Therefore, the attraction must be her scent and the fact that he can’t read her thoughts. As a substitute for character, Bella’s appeal is based on magic. She was born different than anyone else he’s been in contact with. The proper analogy, in the non-fantasy world, would be an endless love based on the way someone smells without the aid of perfume and/or the color of their skin. The superficial premise, from which both of these deep loves hinges upon, is childish and should be unbelievable to young adults. And I don’t mean unbelievable in some great and profound way, it’s absurd and appalling.
As vampires, the Cullen family goes against common lore. Along with extending these accusations to recent material, I’d like to call attention to classic depictions of vampires. Nosferatu, Dracula and The Count are the original vampire stereotype that should be noted and referred to when discussing vampires. There’s nothing particularly innovative about drinking animal blood, it’s been done before, and calling them vegetarian is ridiculous (synthetically engineering a plasma supplement, as in the Sookie Stackhouse/True Blood series isn’t new either). True Blood gets some things right, like not being able to enter a home without an invite, but Meyer’s vampires avoiding the sun because it makes them stand out comes off as a cheap argument to blend into the crowd. (I’ll refrain from being too overtly offensive but I will say I wouldn’t put on a gorilla suit to hang out with the other apes.) I’m just scratching the surface since Vampires have been around since the Ancient Greeks and Romans but I would suggest anyone planning on writing a vampire story to, at the very least, read up on its history.
I am willing to suspend my disbelief and excuse Meyer’s broken “rules” of vampire lore, if the characters are worth it. I can accept their deep love for one another if it’s grounded in understood attributes. In reality, we choose our significant others so there must be a difference between one and the other–there needs to be a difference between Bella and all the humans Edward has come across during his “life.” Bella is also making a choice in choosing Edward over all the other human boys fawning over her. If it makes no difference, I’m in the dark as to how any one can fall endlessly in love with someone when it didn’t matter who was chosen. There had better be a good reason why someone chooses to say “I do,” just like there better be a good reason why a predator is falling in love with its prey–after all, humans are cattle to the vampires.
And the opposite must also be true, a human must have better reasons than “he looks good, and smells good too” if an adult story is to be told. If the argument remains as previously stated, Edward loves Bella because he can’t read her thoughts and likes her scent or Bella loves Edward because he looks good, smells good and stalks her just in case she might need saving, then King was right and Meyer has done little to prepare her readers for an adult romance.
Twilight provides none of those qualities. The characters are bland and over-used archetypes, like punch-lines of a common joke. The story isn’t particularly special and doesn’t have any interesting twist and the experience probably isn’t like anything you’ll feel after junior year of high school–that’s assuming you’ve grown to a young adult. The series is cliche and chalk-full of overblown dramatics. There’s nothing worth taking from Twilight and applying in real life, and what’s there will only make things more difficult when it comes to adult interactions. Hopefully, the defending arguments will lead to something along the lines of “vampire is a metaphor for differences,” and to that I say it’s been done before: Bram Stroker’s over-sexualized Dracula was partly used as a metaphor for syphilis and vampires were people with venereal diseases. Put Twilight down, it’s not worth the 400+ pages it’s printed on and there are better stories available that have something worth taking from.
I realize it may be slim pickings at PG-13 and the Young Adult sections, so I’ve made a point to give you some suggestions. Hopefully, you’ve heard of Buffy: The Vampire Slayer. The creator, Joss Whedon, originally created Buffy Summers to offset the cliche of “the little blonde girl that gets killed in every horror movie.” In terms of text, I’m told L.J. Smith’s Night World series is volumes above Twilight‘s lack of detail and nondescript storytelling. Both series have humans falling in love with vampires, but they’re based on good reasons. (But if you want to get a hold of something really vampiric, try Interview with the Vampire. Not for adolescents, but the book and/or the movie are great vampire stories.)
In some sense, I hope the draw to Edward isn’t because of our society’s apparent lack of chivalry. I’m aware that most guys don’t walk on the street-side of the sidewalk and don’t open doors for women, but that isn’t the general rule for the entire male population. Sadly, we are the last of a dying breed, but it’s important to respect one another as human beings and to hold women in the same regard as men would hold themselves. Without equal contributions from both, there is no civilization.
On a final note, it’s an intriguing coincidence that we have these two calendar days–Friday the 13th and February the 14th falling back to back: I hope the essence of these dates (and romantic-fantasy) is found in your real life: a little danger yesterday and a little love today. Happy Valentine’s Day!