One memorable moment of my college years is the Saturday afternoon I spent watching the first Twilight film with my boyfriend and his mother. Interestingly enough, they were both huge fans of the books and were eager to share the film with me. I was, much to their Twilight-loving hearts’ dismay, completely indifferent.
I absolutely love the cinema, whether it’s comedic, philosophical, historical. It is a treat to sit down and view a film that has been carefully crafted, well-written, and well cast. I knew that Twilight was becoming increasingly popular as I sat down to watch the movie. I hadn’t been interested in the book when I first picked it up off a bookstore clearance shelf (this was prior to its fame) but I thought maybe there could be something I had overlooked about the plot as I understood it. So I wrapped myself up in a blanket and joined him on the couch to watch.
I do not want to wound the pride of Twilight fans who are reading this…but I got bored within about 20 minutes. I actually curled up and started to nap (I do not, as a rule, sleep during movies). He got mad so I sat up and tried my hardest to be intrigued but I could not get into the movie.
Long story short, I left to finish my nap elsewhere and was reamed out for not appreciating the film after I woke up.
Be aware, I am not trying to make enemies here. It’s likely that Twilight fans would want to nap through some of my favorite films. Example: I seem to be one of the rare young women who enjoyed Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy for the brilliant execution of a fascinating plot (the casting was a delightful bonus, I admit).
I’m giving you this rather random history because this post was inspired by the Twilight saga. I thought I should be honest up front and say that I have seen roughly 45 minutes of the first movie and that is as far as my personal knowledge of Twilight goes.
I have seen the previews for the other movies, of course. I’ve heard all sorts of reviews on the books, positive and negative. Content to be a muggle fascinated by the world of Harry Potter, I’ve not paid much attention to the Twilight hype.
All this to say, a Google search from a few days ago caused me to study the story line of the famous vampire tale a little more carefully. I noticed that searching “dating violence” or “abusive relationships” (for the purpose of a blog post) resulted in quite a few pictures/articles featuring Edward and Bella. Because the Twilight books and movies have created so much excitement in the world of teenage girls, this sparked my curiosity.
I think it’s fair to say that our society has been desensitized to a number of things which would have shocked, say, my grandparents’ generation (they were my age during WWII). Sex is literally everywhere in the media. You can hardly find a movie or television show that doesn’t have a blatantly sexual component. Whether we realize it or not, that ultimately alters our worldview. Violence is also prevalent, from video games to movies. It no longer shocks the cinema audience when a man’s head is blown off because we’ve seen that special effect done 20 times before. For those of us who have not witnessed real, warlike violence, we’re desensitized to its true nature by the films we watch.
Hollywood is a reflection of the culture and the culture is a reflection of what Hollywood produces. It’s cyclical. People want to see blood and so we get a movie like The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (creating an irrational fear of electronic tools for anyone who watched this film at midnight during an 8th grade sleepover). People want to see horrific crimes and so we have films like The Girl Next Door. And who didn’t love Tim Burton’s Sleepy Hollow (guilty) with its occasionally comical portrayal of decapitation (still, don’t watch it alone at night)?
So, is there a connection between dating violence and what teenagers read and watch? I would say absolutely. If their views of sex and violence are shaped by what they read, hear, and see, why shouldn’t their idea of a healthy relationship also be shaped by the media?
Twilight is not the only culprit here. I could pull all sorts of DVDs off my shelf as examples of unhealthy and unrealistic relationship behavior. Frankly, most of us want a happy ending if there’s a love story involved. No matter how unrealistic that ending may be. Just give us that kiss!
However, what many of the younger Team Edward fans are not realizing is how their obsession with a sparkling vampire has influenced their view of healthy dating relationships. They want to be the Bella who finds her Edward. Bella, who rarely cracks a smile and is turned on by dangerous men and Edward, who is praised for his possessive, stalker tendencies. Whether you think it’s a beautiful love story or not, the two of them have a situation ripe for domestic violence. Here’s the difference between the characters and their fans: Edward and Bella are fictional; the girls who exhibit Bella-like tendencies are very real and they are susceptible to very real abuse.
Wear your Team Edward shirt proudly! But understand that the real guys you date should not be treating you like they were part of the Cullen family.