Edward and Bella: Love addicts

So, I finally did it. I watched Twilight. The women in my ‘hood have been frothing at the mouth over this series. For Christmas my cousin made me buy her daughter the Edward Cullen doll (the daughter was moderately pleased; the mother went nuts). Another friend of mine is flying out to Forks, Washington for a tour of the area. And some, who never read anything but a grocery list, are even reading the books. Out of curiosity (mostly to see if I too would froth), I decided to watch the film with my three most trusted critics: my sons and my bf.

Let’s face it. As far as movies go, Twilight isn’t bad—for kids, that is. But for grown ups? Come on. The teenage angst and melodrama is for twelve-year-olds, not adults. As D and I sat besides each other watching the initial dialog unfold between Bella and Edward, we were both noticeably agitated. Say what you need to say damnit. What’s with all the hesitation?! Whereas my young sons totally got it and weren’t bothered at all. Conversely, they would laugh at the overdramatization and kissy-face scenes.

Additionally, the theme was, what can I say, a little too common. Girl meets vampire. What’s the big deal? By the end of the film, we all agreed it was “cute” but were still left wondering what was the frenzied appeal. To go from “cute” to obsessed is a pretty far leap. So, by the second night, what the heck, we watched New Moon, the Saga (part two of the series).

It was then that I realized the deeper appeal, especially for married women my age. Bella’s pain, suffering and obsession for Edward once he leaves, screamed of the emotional weight married women carry within them, especially if they are unhappily married. The tale of Edward and Bella glamorizes suffering. It glamorizes lust for someone unattainable. And the message it sends is “It’s OK to react like a lunatic if the cause is love.”

Of course, I put the usual love addict spin on this movie. Both Bella and Edward are full blown love addicts; conversely neither are sex addicts, which would go against the grain of Christian chastity. God forbid anyone has any sex, especially a human and a vampire. But the love addiction and obsession of these two characters alone is disturbing. Not so much because one person created them this way for her novel, but because millions of women and girls identify with and glamorize the characters’ behavior, wishing for a similar situation in their own lives.

There’s a great article on decentfilms.com that sums up the film nicely:

Twilight is “a narrative that wallows in the intoxicating power of temptation and desire, that returns again and again to rhapsodizing about the beauty of forbidden fruit…”

The author also goes on to describe Edward Cullen’s appeal and Bella’s convoluted perception of his nature:

“the disordered and destructive side of Edward’s thirst is integral, not incidental, to his appeal: He isn’t just the bad boy, he’s the bad boy who can be saved if only the good girl loves and trusts him enough. He really is a romantic addict, dangerously seductive, proudly resentful, drawing Bella in with those most irresistible words: Stay away from me for your own good.”

This is the crux of their love addiction. Bella completely loses herself to Edward, her social life falls apart, she’s constantly sick and in withdrawal when he’s not around and she foregoes her relationship with both her mother and her father. There is one scene, in fact, when Bella puts a photograph of the two of them in her scrapbook, but she folds herself out of the picture so that only Edward is showing. It’s at this point where she completely loses her identity.

Edward somehow finds this appealing because he’s just as sick and twisted as Bella. Decentfilms.com does a great job describing Edward as he really is:

“He can be more like a creepy, controlling abuser than a loving and respectful beau:

He spies on Bella while she sleeps, eavesdrops on her conversations, reads her classmates’ minds, forges her signature, tries to dictate her choice of friends, encourages her to deceive her father, disables her truck, has his family hold her at his house against her will, and enters her house when no one’s there — all because, he explains, he wants her to be safe. He warns Bella how dangerous he is, but gets “furious” at anyone else who tries to warn or protect her. He even drags her to the prom against her expressed wishes. … It gets even worse after the wedding night in Breaking Dawn, when Bella finds herself trying to cover up a multitude of bruises left by the super-strong Edward. That scene, which Meyer treats with appalling lightness — “This is really nothing,” Bella tells her remorseful husband, insisting that the experience was “wonderful and perfect” — should send a chill down the spine of any parent with a daughter. (Gina R. Dalfonzo (National Review)”

The fact that Bella loses herself to this type of man and puts up with this type of behavior would be, in reality, the central point of her sickness– there is nothing that binds them together save their lust for each other, they have virtually no shared interests and in the big scheme of things the relationship is based simply on the struggle to remain together. Neither of portrayed as being “happy” characters. A relationship like this, in real life,  cannot function. Nor is it glamorous. And as love addicts already know, THIS IS NOT LOVE. So, it upsets me greatly that Hollywood, yet again, defines love in this way (emotion-based as opposed to reality or logic-based). I even blame Shakespeare for failing to portray Romeo and Juliet with more complexity rather than the two simple-minded kids he created who merely love each other because it’s forbidden. Where’s the substance to their relationship? Where is the time spent getting to know one another intimately? It’s not there. In movies, it usually never is.

In the conclusion of the decentfilms.com article, the author asks:

“Is it simply a failure of the most basic sort of equity feminism to take root? Is there something darker: an unhealthy fascination with unwholesome relationships and bad boys, perhaps mixed with a Nightingale/Stockholm–syndrome desire to “save” them?”

I believe I can answer that from the perspective of an LA: when we have nothing, or rather, when we think we have nothing, we look outside ourselves for answers. We look for an identity because we don’t believe we have one within us. And in our desire to save someone, we are merely hiding our true desire to be saved ourselves, to forget our problems, our responsibilities and to avoid growing up. Life is tough. Love is our defense mechanism.

Advice: for those of you susceptible to addiction to romance in movies, I would avoid this series like the plague!

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