✶ Summary ✶
The Twilight series begins as Bella Swan moves to Forks, Washington, to live with her father after her mother remarries. On her first day of school, she meets mysterious Edward Cullen. He is one of a group of five inhumanely beautiful people. Bella is instantly hypnotized by Edward, but he reacts negatively to her and tries to avoid her. She keeps pursuing him as he does her, and she finds out that Edward and his family are vampires. He tells her to stay away from him, that he doesn’t hurt people, but he’s worried he can’t control himself around her. She does not care. They date. She almost dies because of another group of vampires. She wants to become a vampire. Edward says no. In the second book, Edward breaks up with Bella to protect her, which sends her spiraling into a pit of depression. She is reckless and alone, as she abandoned her friends in the previous book for him. She starts hanging out with family friend, Jacob Black, who Edward had forbidden her to see. She then finds out he’s a werewolf, and she sorta has feelings for him but is still in love with Edward. When Edward thinks she died, he tries to kill himself via breaking vampire rules. Bella saves him, but now the vampires in charge, the Volturi, know she exists and say she must be turned or else they’re breaking rules by letting a human know vampires exist. Edward tells Bella he will turn her but only if she marries him. In the third book, the group of vampires from the first book is back and ready to kill Bella again. Now down to one, the bad vampire, Victoria, begins to form an army. But a big plot of the book is the love triangle between Bella, Edward, and Jacob. Edward doesn’t want Bella seeing Jacob. Jacob thinks he’s the better choice for Bella. She needs both of them to protect her. Jacob forcefully kisses Bella, and she punches him, breaking her hand. Edward is still pressuring Bella to marry him. She finally says yes but only if they can have sex while she’s still a human. Right before the battle with the vampire army, Jacob finds out Bella is engaged to Edward (because she was hiding it from him). He tells Bella he’s going to kill himself in battle, but Bella kisses him to stop him. While kissing him, she realizes she does love him. But she’s still going to marry Edward. The battle happens, Bella lives. Jacob does get wounded, and Bella goes to visit him. He tells her he’ll let her go, but he will always be waiting for her. The fourth book opens close to Bella and Edward’s wedding. No one, friends or family, understands why they’re getting married right after high school. But they get married. They go on their honeymoon and have sex, while Bella is still human. Edward breaks the bed and covers her in bruises. Bella realizes she’s pregnant. Who knew that could happen. They return to Forks. Edward wants her to get rid of “the thing”. Bella is protective of her baby. Even though it’s growing at an unnatural rate and slowly killing her. Jacob comes over, and Edward wants Jacob to offer to give her a baby with him if she’ll abort this baby. Bella says no. When it’s time to give birth, she almost dies, but Edward is able to turn her into a vampire at the last minute. Now they have a baby that grows very quickly and is half vampire, half human. Someone thinks she’s a child vampire so the Volturi comes to punish the Cullens for this illegal act. They convince them otherwise. She was born, not turned, after all. No laws broken. Happily ever after. But not, because this series is so problematic.
✶ Toxicity ✶
So what’s toxic about this series? So many things. This series normalizes abuse. It takes behaviors that most people would consider wrong and makes them seem romantic. And yes, a lot of these things can be explained by the fact that it’s fantasy. The characters behave in certain ways because they are “monsters” and are in a monster’s world, but the teens reading these books aren’t going to differentiate between what’s fictionalized and what an actual healthy relationship should be like. Which is what makes this series so dangerous for teens.
Let’s start with Bella. She displays three characteristics common in victims of abuse. She has low self-esteem, which gives men power over her. Edward is interested in her, and she’ll let him treat her however he wants because at least he’s giving her attention. She is attracted to forbidden men, “bad boys.” Edward is rude and threatening from the start, but she’s interested in him anyway, more so after she learns he’s a vampire. Third, Bella is excited by violence, aggression, and danger. She doesn’t show interest in Jacob until she sees his violent werewolf side. Bella is submissive. She sacrifices literally everything, all for what she calls love. Bella uses Jacob’s love for her; she manipulates him with it. Bella continuously throws herself at Edward despite him telling her no to sex. Bella only agrees to marry him so she can be a vampire and also so she can have sex as a human. Bella isolates herself, lies to her parents, ditches her friends. Her life revolves around Edward to the point where she is literally depressed and suicidal when he breaks up with her. Bella forgives Edward no matter what he does and always justifies his actions.
Now let’s talk about Edward. He is 104 years old pursuing a 17 year old. Bella is young, naive, and she doesn’t know what she wants. Not really. He takes advantage of that. Yeah, he talks about how she’s young and will want a human future one day, but it doesn’t actually change any of his behaviors. Edward gaslights Bella from the very beginning. He lies about his identity. He’s avoidant. He makes fun of Bella when she raises valid issues, and he tries to convince her she’s crazy when she’s actually right. He acts like every abusive thing is Bella’s fault because he’s doing it because of his love and need to protect her. Edward stalks Bella. He sneaks into her bedroom at night and watches her sleep, even before they were dating. He followed her into the city when she was hanging out with her friends. And she doesn’t even question it because he saved her from a gang rape so she was just glad about this behavior. Edward is an abuser and displays many stereotypical characteristics abusers have. Edward controls Bella, he isolates her from others and shields her from interactions. He forbids her from seeing Jacob. He shows high levels of jealousy and possessiveness. He threatens to kill himself if anything happens to her, and does attempt this! He’s violent with her. He throws her through a glass table to “protect” her but, really, it was over the top and not necessary. He tries to force Bella to abort their baby and offers up another man to make a baby with. Bella has to have a vampire bodyguard to ensure he doesn’t try to physically abort the baby.
Twilight is the example of toxic codependency. They both depend on each other so much and feel like they can’t live without the other. Which is not a healthy way to be in a relationship. This is the first example of a romantic relationship a lot of teens are exposed to. Twilight was the first YA movie series I watched and read, starting when I was only 11 years old. This is a terrible example for teens to be given. Teens are too young to understand that this behavior is toxic and not an example of a healthy relationship.
✶ Quotes ✶
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