Thursday, November 19, 2009

Edward, Bella, and the Romance of Romance

I’m going to decode the mystery of “Twilight’s” appeal for y’all, but in such a way that you can still feel good about liking it. It's the perfect solution to the thinking woman's conundrum that is "Twilight," and I'm taking my cue from the book itself.

First, let me just say that I don’t feel guilty about liking “Twilight” any more than I feel guilty about liking Cheetos. I understand why I like Cheetos just as I understand why I like "Twilight." One because they're cheesy -- Cheetos, I mean -- and two because it's cheesy. "Twilight" is fabulously unreal. Just like that Cheetos-orange food coloring.

Yes, you say. Of course I know that "Twilight" isn't real. It’s vampires and werewolves and all. No, that’s not what I’m talking about. I'm talking about romance here. Let’s take a look at the series of questions and answers below, shall we, and you’ll see what I mean:

• Isn't part of what appeals to Bella the secret, opulent world that Edward comes from? Do you think Bella would have fallen for Edward had she found him and his fellow vampires living in a tin shack in the woods, reviled and impoverished, making and selling moonshine to scrape together a few bucks? What if living with them meant living a hardscrabble life in exile rather than simply shopping for expensive cars in exile? I mean, I think we could all handle a little exile if we were wearing Chanel couture while enduring it. Don’t you think that the fact that Edward is incredibly wealthy and Bella would never again have to worry about making ends meet might have a teensy bit to do with her single-minded determination to become one of them?

• If Edward’s heart of gold was not wrapped in such an attractive package, would Bella have fallen for him so hard? Or let's say, even if he was just as beautiful but, like, had this really annoying sneeze or a stupid donkey-like laugh. As it is, he has no annoying personal habits of any kind. Zero. Bella never has to bite her tongue when he says something dumb in front of her friends. But then again Bella doesn't have any friends.

• And further to that point, if Bella had any personal ambitions or interests in, say, ANYTHING whatsoever – I don’t care what it was, politics, soccer, macramé, actual humans, ANYTHING -- would she have been so willing to jump into his world and forsake her own? What if she’d had to give up any chance of being a neurosurgeon like she always wanted? Oh, yes, I can’t forget her concerns about her parents. She worries about how Charlie will cope without her and how her mom would feel. Right, the father she used to see once a year who now needs her to cook him spaghetti and a mother who is out on the road with her loser Triple-A baseball player husband. Some real strong familial bonds there obviously. Plus – once again – no siblings, but then again, teen literature is populated with only children.

• If Edward and his vegetarian vampires had been forced by need to drink actual human blood and not the blood of animals, would she still have found them appealing? And what if her darling alabaster hunk had a moment of weakness and killed to survive as is the case in all other vampire mythology? In other words, what if to love him was to be an accessory to murder? She’d be no different than those women who help their pedophilic husbands keep girls out in the tool shed.

• Do you really believe that any human being should focus exclusively on the happiness of another person as a condition of the relationship’s success? Edward is a vampire; he has no need of sleep and is never tired. Because he is never tired he is never grouchy or cranky or distracted. Sure, he broods. But he broods about Bella so we’ll let that slide. He has to fill hours upon hours of the day and has no external demands on his time whatsoever. No job, no nothin’. What better way to fill the days than to dote on Bella? He’s already been through high school 17 times and has nothing to learn and therefore, no need to struggle with homework or studying. He is also 90-something years old and therefore wise and patient and has long-since mastered his "needs," both adolescent and vampiric. He’s a sexy grandpa, really. All he’s missing is a sweater vest.

• Because vampires, as they are explained, are changeless, Edward and Bella will forever live in the throes of their young passion. Didn’t you read that and think, really? Like in a thousand years, they’ll still be going at it like crazed weasels? How utterly tiresome to all those around them. Can you imagine how incredibly mortifying that will be for poor Nessie? Like, to have horny toad parents who can't keep their hands off each other? Gag! Although you’ll note that Carlisle and Esme do manage to keep a lid on their urges sufficiently to act as parental figures. So I guess it’s possible their love would evolve, although that might have only been for the sake of the narrative. You’ll note Reneesme is a good sleeper, too. Like THAT is realistic.

If you believe everything would have turned out just the same for them if any one of these details were even slightly more realistic, then you are a true believer, and I wish you well, although I fear you might have a few divorces under your belt by the time you’re forty. What we have here is the adolescent ideal of living a life without any real consequences. In “Twilight” world, it all works out perfectly and nobody gets hurt -- in contrast to tiresome reality where being a grown up is realizing that everything has a cost and sometimes people do get hurt but you do your best to minimize that. Plus, while vampires never change, people do and they can never predict in what ways that change will happen. This requires you, again and again, to take leaps of faith. And we all know what a drag that can be.

When all is said and done, Bella pays nothing for her choices and gets everything in return: beauty, eternal youth, wealth, power, and a happy little family. Edward is the sexy bad boy who’s also a good boy. Would that it were so, ladies, would that it were so. Although it may seem like it, I’m not trying to be a kill-joy here. I say, don’t feel guilty that “Twilight” appeals to you, be sorry that not a single aspect of Edward and Bella's romance is possible in real life.


When all is said and done, loving “Twilight” is an act of willful disregard for some of the more pesky facts of life. And I applaud that. We should hold onto our rebelliousness and keep the teen in us alive ... eternally.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got a big bowl of Cheetos to get through while I stand in line for the midnight showing of “New Moon.”