By: Audrey Mirth
Art by Ellis Rougeou
Last month, Netflix released all five “Twilight” movies, reigniting a new generation of teenage “Twilight” stans and the notorious Team Edward vs. Team Jacob controversy. However, greater than this debate is the undeniable impact “Twilight” and other romance stories have had on members of the SMS community.
Upper School English teacher Ms. Love recounts the first time she read the novel and the impact it has had on her relationships:
“I bought the book in an Arkansas Walmart when I was thirteen. I fell in love with it and was obsessed. Around the time I was reading the series, I met the boy who I would end up marrying: he was very pale, had pointy teeth and was kind of wispy. I was convinced this guy was a vampire, and I was also pretending to be a vampire, as you do when you’re in middle school. I wore all black, went to Hot Topic to buy fake vampire teeth, and would put on Halloween face paint to make me even more pale.”
Popular literature, especially romance stories, have a strong power on our personal relationships from an early age. If something as simple as a teen romance novel can even influence who we marry, then clearly more attention should be paid to which tropes and stereotypes are blindly presented to a young audience, who are more likely to internalize and incorporate these character’s examples into their personality and decision-making.
For example, in the beginning of the saga, Bella desperately begs Edward to turn her into a vampire so that they can wholly be together. However, both Edward and Jake dismiss this request, despite Bella’s willingness, in saying that she does not understand all of the consequences of the transformation. This suggests that Bella has little agency over herself, which is not a characteristic of a healthy relationship.
In other instances, we see Bella sacrificing herself for the people she loves at every opportunity: Bella decides to move to a new town in order to allow her mom and her mom’s new husband to travel. Later in the saga, Bella literally decides to give up her soul, family and life to be with Edward, potentially impressing upon viewers that true love requires you to harm yourself. While being self-sacrificing is not inherently bad, is this the expectation that we should present as an ideal in seeking love - especially to young girls who are already asked to sacrifice for others?
Chloie Madden (10) says, “I kind of hate ‘Twilight’ so much that I love it. I found it very funny and entertaining. However, it definitely showed me that I don’t like controlling people and don’t want that in a relationship.”
The truth is that in literature, we do not have to forgive or forget characters for their harmful traits, but what we should be doing is discussing these tropes for what they are and the unintended consequences that they can have on us.
Though “Twilight” does entertain and delight audiences of all ages, Ms. Love says, “When we don’t have conversations that go along with them, there is a danger of unintended consequences. It’s ok to like something and criticize it at the same time. To support something, but also say ‘let’s talk about this.’”
And finally... GO TEAM JACOB!
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