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Is This Normal? The 'Twilight' Saga

Edward and Bella are back, and they provide an opportunity to talk to your 'tween or teen about healthy relationships.

  • Has your teenage daughter been wearing her “Team Edward” shirt every day for the past week?
  • Has your teenage daughter been wearing her “Team Jacob” shirt every day for the past week?
  • Has your teenage daughter been wearing her “Team Finish School, Go to College, and Quit Basing Your Life Around Men” shirt every day for the past week?

The latest Twilight movie, Breaking Dawn, is holding adolescents by their respective new moons. 

Does the Twilight saga chronicle a timeless story of young loves from two different worlds who manage hardships and inter-species / intra-species conflict to fulfill their destiny?  Or does the Twilight saga put feminism back 150 years?  The story of Edward and Bella has been told before, and it’s not healthy. 

Their relationship begins with Edward rescuing Bella from cars in parking lots, from tripping over logs in the woods, and from confronting her parents’ dysfunctions.  The rescuing theme in fairy tales is common.  A man usually does the rescuing, and a woman usually needs the rescuing. 

A woman is portrayed as incapable of solving her own problems or managing tough situations by herself.  She endures loneliness, abuse, and danger with passivity and acceptance.  Think about Cinderella and Snow White.  Their lives aren’t secure until the princes come to save them.  There is no attempt on the part of Cinderella, Snow White, or Bella to improve their lives by themselves. 

Edward’s rescuing of Bella develops not into love but into an addiction.  Edward, in the first Twilight movie, refers to Bella as his “own personal brand of heroin.”  This is allegedly a compliment, but this assessment of his feelings for Bella is accurate.  There are many scenes in the Twilight movies where Edward and Bella are looking into the other’s eyes in a lush meadow or where Edward is impressing Bella with his vampire powers.  There aren’t many scenes where Edward and Bella are laughing.  There’s no dimension to their relationship.  There’s only a compulsive satisfaction of being together.

In addition to an addiction, Bella is an obsession for Edward. Without permission, Edward enters Bella’s bedroom at night and watches her sleep.  This is obsessive behavior, and it’s assuming.  Edward assumes that his behavior, however it violates Bella’s privacy, will be interpreted as an act of passion.  Sadly, Bella interprets his voyeurism as just that.  Obsession and passion are two different entities.  Obsession is a preoccupation that interferes with normal functioning in work, school, and home.  Passion is an interest that inspires engagement and enhances normal functioning. 

Edward and Bella’s relationship also echoes themes in Beauty and The Beast.  The Beast and Edward are reclusive, require that Belle and Bella leave their families and commit to relationships that may prove physically dangerous.  Both Belle and Bella commit to their inter-species loves without much hesitation or without thinking of their own safety.  Beauty’s challenge is that if she just loves him enough, he will change.  Bella’s challenge is sadder.  Because she loves him enough, she is willing to change for him.  This isn’t love in either story.  It’s codependence. 

Rescuing, obsession, voyeurism, and codependence don’t make healthy relationships; they make fairy tales.  This is worth repeating.  Cinderella, Snow White, Belle, and Bella are in relationships that don’t work in real life.  Once in a committed relationship, dysfunctional traits like rescuing and obsession become more prominent.  They’re the only traits the relationship has to function.    

These traits can’t manage the successes, the challenges, or the growth of daily life.  So, what does the parent of a teenager or a teenager do with the Twilight saga?

  • Talk about how the Twilight saga portrays love and the roles of men and women.  Is this kind of love really desirable? 
  • Talk about Bella being 18 years old, married, pregnant, and without any personal resources like an education or a career.  Is this romantic?
  • Talk about the similarities between Twilight and popular fairy tales.
  • Compare Bella to other literary heroines: Hermione from The Harry Potter Series; Liesel from The Book Thief; Beatrice from Much Ado About Nothing; Jane from Jane Eyre.  Which characters are more compelling and why?  Which characters would make good friends?  Which characters are funny?

Using film and literary works as a form of escapism is normal.  Emulating their dysfunctional relationship traits in real life is tragic.  Talking about what makes successful relationships work is good health.

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

Ann O'Neill, LLPC December 03, 2011 at 04:08 AM
Crushes on vampires are normal. Relationships with vampires aren't. I would add that taking relationship cues from a fictional vampire is not healthy or evidence of high functioning behavior. And I love admitting to refuse you admit to anything! Thanks for posting!
Katy December 08, 2011 at 02:41 AM
I loved Beauty and the Beast as a kid, but now acknowledge that basing a cartoon musical on a girl with Stockholm Syndrome is probably a bad idea. There has not been enough criticism of the "Twilight Saga." I can't believe the books and movies are so outrageously popular. They're an embarrassment to capable, thinking women everywhere.
Ann O'Neill, LLPC December 08, 2011 at 02:45 PM
Cheers, Katy! What really troubles me is that many capable, thinking women believe these fairy tales and end up in my office wondering what they've done wrong. Despite their love for their partners, they can't change them into "princes." Despite having excellent personal resources, some women expect others to meet their needs for them. Despite being abused in a relationship, some women feel it's their fault for the abuse and will defend their abuser. Great comments. Thank you.
Diane Andersen December 16, 2011 at 01:04 PM
As the mother of three sons, I happily have not had to follow the Twilight Saga and ensuing Team Wars. As I woman, it appears I should be. And I should be concerned. I saw a few scenes from one of the films recently. There was Bella, freezing to death in a tent on a mountain where Edward has taken her to "protect" her from enemy vampires. At least I think that was the gig. Because of Edward's foolhardiness, a second young man had to be brought in - this one the warm-blooded Jacob. Apparently, it takes not one, but two, otherworldly princes to save our Bella? And this is modern love to our teenagers? I turned it off, but assume that Bella survived her ordeal when I read a recent review of the latest installment to learn that Bella becomes pregnant and nearly dies giving birth to a cross-specied (bi-specied?) baby. Thanks Ann, for pointing out the lunacy of seeing these characters and their story as any kind of fairy tale and for the excellent list of talking points with teens. I plan to run through a few of the questions with my sons and get their feedback. Great, insightful post Ann!
Pippalotta December 16, 2011 at 01:31 PM
Bella probably had to be in a freezing tent in a mountain so she would have THOs for the male viewers. Just reinforcing your point, Diane. (sorry to lower the tone of your blog, Ann)

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