A Sparkling Vampire Ruined My Love Life
When I was 11 I fell in love for the first time. He was funny and cute, dorky in the most endearing way, loyal to a fault, a bit of a spaz, very, very fictional, and went by the name of Ron Weasley. Real boys had cooties, so, in fifth grade, most of us preferred the fictional ones. Harry Potter and his best friend Ron Weasley, Troy Bolton from High School Musical (man, was Zac Efron a cutie)... Above all else, we loved Edward Cullen and Jacob Black, the love interests of Stephanie Meyer’s Twilight saga. For a bunch of fifth graders who had never even held hands romantically, we were pretty invested in which boy we thought was better for the protagonist, Bella (and by extension which boy we wanted); the question: “team Edward or team Jacob?” literally broke up friendships.
As unpopular as the opinion was, I hated Edward Cullen. I was always Team Jacob. Maybe it had something to do with the fact that Edward sparkles, because that always felt weird to me. Probably though, it had much more to do with Edward being a horrible, terrible, no good, very bad boyfriend to Bella. In retrospect, Edward wasn’t just an asshole to Bella, he was flat out abusive.
TeenSafe (a program of Jewish Family & Children’s Service) helps Jewish teens identify and prevent abusive teen dating relationships. They categorize the types of abuse as cultural/ identity, physical, educational/financial, verbal/emotional, and sexual. After participating in this program I’ve gotten really good at being able to identify characteristics of abusive relationships, and I can apply what I’ve learned to Edward and Bella’s relationship.
Does Edward control Bella’s interests, clothing, and friends? He checks her phone calls, stalks her to see who she hangs out with, and especially doesn’t let her hang out with her friend Jacob. Physical abuse? Well, he throws her through a glass table! Threats? He threatens to kill her. He threatens to kill himself. Insults? He says to Bella, “Ordinary people seem to make it through the day without so many catastrophes,” and “Bella, it’s not my fault if you are exceptionally unobservant.” I could go on, but I think you all get the idea. The relationship between Bella and Edward clearly has many classic characteristics of abusive relationships, and I think it’s more than fair to say that this is an abusive relationship.
I reached out to Amanda Derby, TeenSafe Coordinator, to get her thoughts on this relationship. She worries that “for a younger audience, who are not viewing [Twilight] through a critical lens, it will seem as though these [abusive] things are normal, or even something to aspire for.” She stressed that “many traits could be healthy or unhealthy, depending on their severity and intensity, but things such as excessive clinginess, isolation, or jealousy, should not be seen as loving or caring or normal.” In essence, our popular culture largely dictates to teens what romantic relationships should be and look like, and Twilight is an example of how relationship portrayals that romanticize abuse can be harmful to real live people.
Again, Twilight is just one example. We see this phenomenon throughout our popular culture. It’s in the song “Jealous” by Nick Jonas with lines like “it’s my right to be hellish/ I still get jealous” that justifies his jealousy because he doesn’t like that his girlfriend shows off her body. It’s in Fifty Shades of Grey where the foundation of the franchise’s main relationship is emotional and sexual abuse, covered up as kink.
When I got to middle school, I didn’t realize that it wasn’t normal to be scared to hang out with my friends because the boy I liked felt threatened when I did. Nor was it normal for him to tell me I wouldn’t have any friends if we “broke up” from our sixth grade, hand-holding relationship. Nor was it normal for him to tell me I was lucky to have him because not many guys would settle for a girl with my “thunder thighs.” But how was I supposed to know, when Edward Cullen could tell Bella “your hair looks like a haystack” and was still everyone’s romantic dream man, that boys shouldn’t be saying things like that to me?
This piece was written as part of JWA’s Rising Voices Fellowship.
How to cite this page
Harder, Natalie. "A Sparkling Vampire Ruined My Love Life." 26 March 2018. Jewish Women's Archive. (Viewed on June 25, 2019) <https://jwa.org/blog/risingvoices/sparkling-vampire-ruined-my-love-life>.