by Tracie Lamb
I knew I needed to read Stephenie Meyer’s Twilight saga when we were on vacation in Hawaii two years ago. As the sun shone down and the waves lapped the shore, my fifteen year old daughter and her friend spent much of their time reading although they are normally active and outdoorsy. I decided if they could avoid the temptations of paradise to read, I had to know why.[quote]
So I read the first three books with my daughter two years ago. Then I reread them last year to refresh my memory before I read the fourth book when it came out. Then my daughter and I went to see the movie—twice. When I wanted to see it again, my husband told me if I couldn’t find something better to do with my time, I should go back to work. (But the date for the upcoming movie sequel, New Moon, has been circled for months.)
I wanted to figure out why my daughters and I and millions of other females find the story so compelling, so I performed the unscientific but undoubtedly accurate Tingle Test (you know—butterflies in the stomach, a tingle at the base of the spine). Whenever I felt that “tingle,” I noted it. I discovered that though vampires and werewolves may abound in this saga, this is no horror story. It’s romance plain and simple.
Though I analyzed the story for my own curiosity, I realized my findings could be invaluable information for the opposite sex. Men and boys, pay attention. Meyer has captured in story form the answer to Freud’s question: What do women want?
Edward is mesmerized by Bella. He loves looking at her even though she is just an ordinary girl. Bella says, “I glanced up and he was staring at me” (Twilight, 46). “He continued to stare at me with obvious curiosity” (49). “Edward Cullen was . . . staring intently in my direction” (52). Bella and Edward go to a restaurant, and an attractive waitress flirts conspicuously with him. “She smiled invitingly at him again. ‘You have a nice evening.’ He didn’t look away from me as he thanked her” (177). Edward tells Bella, “You’re not like anyone I’ve ever known. You fascinate me” (245). Talk about fascinating womanhood—she doesn’t even need Saran Wrap.
Edward even watches Bella while she sleeps. When she asks him about it, he says, “I was curious about you” (292). She asks, “How often did you come here?” He answers, “I come here almost every night” and explains simply, “ You’re interesting when you sleep” (293). This is one of the it-could-be-creepy-but-it’s-not parts. When I reread the book more analytically, I realized that a guy sneaking into a girl’s room without her knowledge could seem a little stalker-like. But the first two times I read it, it just seemed flattering. He wants to spend all his time gazing at her. In the cold, hard light of day, it sounds weird, but I’m telling you, men—it’s a turn-on.
“Cherish is the word I use to describe. . .” If you can hum along to that song and remember how those words made you feel, you’re well on your way to understanding the draw of these books. Edward loves looking at Bella, but he’s also interested in what she has to say. My boyfriend in high school wanted to do one thing, and it wasn’t talking. Later in my life, as a single mom back on the dating circuit, I found that, unfortunately, men did want to talk—about themselves. I decided if any guy ever acted the least bit interested in hearing about me, I’d marry him. (And I did, but that’s another story.)
Edward wants to know everything about Bella. She says, “He looked fascinated by what I said, for some reason I couldn’t imagine” (48). “He seemed engrossed in our conversation” (50). He says, “I do want to know what you’re thinking—everything” (208). She says, “[H]e questioned me relentlessly about every insignificant detail of my existence” (229). “I couldn’t remember the last time I’d talked so much. . . . But the absolute absorption of his face, and his never-ending stream of questions, compelled me to continue” (229).
When he gets her alone, all to himself, what do they do? They talk! This is possibly the most romantic scene in the movie. Set in a lovely rain forest, they sit on the moss and talk. Mind-blowing erotic! At this point, a woman sitting a few rows ahead of us in the theater turned to the man with her and started making out. Men, you want an aphrodisiac? Here it is. Since the age of free love, I think romance has been underrated. This whole Sex in the City thing where people meet-greet-jump-in-bed is a man’s fantasy. Women have blown it by not insisting on the good stuff, the flowers, the cuddles, the talking! I’m not saying sex isn’t fun. I’m saying for women, romance is funner, and sex is even more fun for women with romance. Edward is the romance master, guys. Learn from him.
The day the movie came out on DVD, a friend I teach seminary with had a movie-watching party. She told me one of the group’s favorite lines was when Edward says to Bella, “I feel very protective of you.” Much of the storyline is centered on Edward’s strength and his protection of Bella. The first time she suspects he is more than just a pretty face is when he uses his bare hands to save her from being crushed by a car. Later he races in at the last moment to rescue her from a bunch of drunk jerks. When my older daughter and I watched Edward grab Bella and climb up a tree with her (You just need to see it. It’s too hard to explain), my daughter exclaimed, “He’s so strong!”
All of his strength—throwing trees around and stuff—would be impressive to guys but wouldn’t do anything for women except that it is all directed at protecting Bella. It is all for her. Which demonstrates the last and most significant element of Edward as babe magnet:
When I read the books initially, I told my daughter that I could buy the vampire character, and I was willing to suspend disbelief about the werewolves. The part I had trouble believing was the absolute devotion Edward exhibited toward Bella. I may have trouble believing it, but that doesn’t mean I don’t want it!
Cue music: “Hopelessly, devoted to you.” My seminary friend says, “Edward’s character is the ultimate devoted partner. His connection to Bella is unquestioned.” He tells her, “You are my life now” (314). That’s a melt-in-your-shoes-and-drip-down-the-sidewalk line. Other good ones: “I’ll always want you—forever” (318). “You are the most important thing to me now. The most important thing to me ever” (273). And he doesn’t just say it. He backs up his words by what he does, by denying himself for her good. When Bella asks him how he was able to keep from sucking her blood, he says, “I’m not sure. It was impossible to stop. . . But I did. I must love you” (460).
Edward is focused on Bella’s eternal welfare, not on his temporary physical desire. Sound familiar, Sunday School teachers? This self-control is Meyer’s most Mormon theme. Some of Edward’s lines could come straight out of advice in For the Strength of Youth: “Bella, I think you should go inside now” (225). “Mind over matter. If it gets to be too much, I’m fairly sure I’ll be able to leave” (302). “Let’s get out of here before I do something really stupid” (363). In the very romantic scene in the forest, they aren’t even touching. They aren’t even touching! If it weren’t too embarrassing for the staid, practical seminary teacher that I am, I would admit to squealing along with my daughters at that part.
As my seminary friend says, “Edward is probably the most selfless leading man we have ever seen in the movies. Most leading men we see today are on a quest to satisfy a hunger . . . . Edward is our first leading man to control it.”
Another of my friends says that it is the vampire threat of danger that creates the erotic appeal in the story. “If Edward had all the adoring, protective and attentive qualities but was just a really sweet, average-looking all-American boy, he’d probably be as equally lovable, but not nearly as irresistible!” She may be right. But what makes my heart thump is his desire for Bella yet his self-control for her good. In the movie, Edward says, “I’ve never wanted a human’s blood so much in my life. . . .Your scent is like a drug to me. You’re like my own personal brand of heroin.” And his very best line of all, “You don’t know how long I’ve waited for you.” After the, well, I’ve lost count how many times I’ve watched that scene, it stills makes me feel like swooning. So while I agree with my friend that the vampire archetype is alluring, I still think Edward’s devotion is the element that takes this beyond just a popular vampire story and makes it the cultural phenomenon it has become.
So, men, I know you’re thinking, “But Edward is so handsome!” It would help to be a drop-dead gorgeous hunk, but, let’s face it, most of you aren’t. The good news is—you don’t have to be. When a man looks at a woman, he sees the woman. When a woman looks at a man, she sees herself reflected in his eyes. The important thing is not how you look to her but how you look at her and how you look out for her. It’s how you make her feel: fascinating, cherished, protected. Trust me. Trust Edward. This is what she wants. Give it to her and you’ll both thank us.
Please don’t believe this drivel. This is not what women really want. Women may think they want this, but trust me, if they had it in real life, they would feel stifled, demeaned, and violated. Pretend for one second that Edward looks like Glenn Beck. Now re-read this post. Really? You want that? I have had the distinct displeasure of having an actual stalker and it wasn’t far off from Edward’s behavior toward Bella. I would think most women want a man who has his own life and interests and dreams-not just the utter obsession of her.
“When a woman looks at a man, she sees herself reflected in his eyes.”
This is a damaging take on things. This is not how women should operate and, unfortuately, Stephenie Meyers perpetuates this thinking. Women should see themselves as valuable in thier own right, not because some boy thinks they are pretty and interesting.
This isn’t what women want. It’s what teenagers want. For a teenager, the first experience of love is very intense, and all-engrossing. Remember being completely unable to focus in class? I sure do. Now that I’m 40, I can see the ‘story value’ in a devoted, obsessed, muscular, somewhat menacing teenage boy, but this is entertainment, not real life. Grown women want grown men, not boys.
I loved this article and I am 48. I have my own career and raised a large family. What I want is someone, all to myself, who adores me. Who wants to have fun before we have sex.
This author is so right on about the sex-in-the-city line. I have said for years hollywood’s version of intimacy is from a man’s point of view. I hate it. I don’t want to scratch an itch with another man, I want real intimacy. Glenn Beck would even make my list!
More importantly I know we are wired differently. We do not approach sex the same way. Each gender has to set aside their hunger to see the other’s need and only then can both be satisfied. Boo hoo if liberal women only want to use a man instead of creating “one” with the two of you.
Kudos to the author!
Stephanie Meyers knows what she is doing. How can we blame her for wanting to make a buck off of such an easy target (teenagers)? Amanda is right, this is “the first experience of love,” and teenagers eat it up!
There are however, two very serious problems with the response to this series: 1) How many so-called “women” are dreaming of an Edward- they should be looking at their real life relationship with a man, assuming they have one, to see what is lacking instead of dreaming of… a vampire. 2) Teenagers are reading this and they are imagining this is how true love should be- they are copying the young character’s behaviors and following emotions rather than logic.
Mothers should be teaching their daughters through example and frank, open discussions what love truly is, so they know enough to differentiate between “entertainment,” and “real life.”
This is an offensive article, and I am surprised Sunstone published it. Edward is NOT what any self-respecting woman would want. Period.
Stephanie Meyers (and her fans) make a big mistake in equating this kind of “love” with Mormon values. By linking “possitive” values such as abstinence and fidelity with an explicitly dangerous and codependent relationship, Meyers sets up an extreme view of things, and romanticizes it. I would argue that the dangerous obsession of a man, and a woman’s debilitated self esteem and belief that her value is only as seen by a man, and not by herself, creates a dynamic that is more dangerous than teenage promiscuity.
We need to be teaching our daughters about TRUE value and self-worth. Good values in relationships will follow that, once they see the gold in themselves. We need to see FAR FEWER girls and women in relationships with men who exhibit ANY of the behaviors so blatantly illustrated (and romanticized) by Edward’s character.
Uhm, this is not what a secure, self-actualized woman wants. It might be what she FANTASIZES about, but no one sane woman wants a stalking, abusive jerk who obcesses over her day and night and controls her every move.
Meyer represents the sheltered views of those women who do not grow up with male companionship. Its an idealized world she has created where love is pain and relationships are creepy and obsessive.
Meyer represents the culture she comes from aptly.
I love it when women reject other women who have no problem being dependent on a man. We are wired to be dependent on each other. There is no weakness in that.
We are also wired to be romantic before we connect up with our spouse. Men are wired to be romantic after. Why can’t we see it for what it is and stop fighting our natural divine tendencies and make the most of it? Yea, I like romance…every time.
I agree with you that it is problematic that Hollywood inappropriately glamorizes sex, perhaps appealing to “a man’s point of view,” as you posit. But romanticizing love and sex from the opposite extreme is just as problematic. How productive is it to fight fire with fire?
Also, I think it’s important to point out something you may have misconstrued–codependent relationships, as Laura brought up, are an altogether different thing than dependence in relationships. Codependence is an unhealthy reliance on relationships to define one’s self (you can go here for a more in-depth look at the condition: http://www.nmha.org/go/codependency). I don’t think anyone here was rejecting anyone else for being dependent on a man.
And just to point out, because I think it’s important not to just let these kinds of irrelevant and offensive comments just slide, I take issue with your statement, “Boo hoo if liberal women only want to use a man instead of creating “one” with the two of you.” I don’t understand why (a) you needed to take a jab at “liberal women,” and (b) where this idea of using men instead of being with them came from.
1) What leads you to believe your unscientific tingle test is so accurate, and what does this even mean?
2) What leads you to believe your findings could be valuable to anyone else, especially the opposite sex?
3) What leads us to believe that Edward is truly mesmerized by Bella, or that Edward is focused on Bella’s eternal welfare? I always wonder how many other women has Edward seduced in this manner through the years, and what the results of those relationships were? Are we to believe that Edward is not just “gaming” Bella? If so, then why?
4) I always get a kick out of an article whose purpose is to describe what women think, presumably because of men’s misunderstanding, when in the same article we are treated to the clairvoyance of someone knowing exactly what men think. I don’t believe you know what men are thinking, though I have no doubt you expect everyone to believe you do, simply because you state it. I for one do not consider Edward (at least in the movies) handsome, or a drop-dead hunk. I do, however, consider myself quite handsome and physically strong (I pick my wife up routinely, and have been known to physically push her out of harm’s way), and at 44 years of age provide very well for my family, to the best of my ability protect them against all harm (emotional, spiritual, and physical), put up with very little b.s., while still retaining a full head of thick dark hair, dress very well, have abs that need no airbrushing, having served an honorable mission in a country arguably more civilized than my own (a debt of gratitude to all those in England who taught this once vulgar American how to dress and conduct himself in public), and am often told by my wife that I am hunky.
5) Sounds like you have some baggage to me. You didn’t really write all this stuff to pass on some ancient wisdom of women to all us ignorant men, did you? Sounds like what you really want is a real man in your life. I wish you the best of luck in finding one. My wife would read this article and say, “Yes, I agree, and I have all this…so what’s the big deal?” She has read all the books, and seen all the movies, compares and contrasts what she has read to what she has, and chooses me every time. In this I am not surprised.
I also read the series in anticipation of my daughter reading it. It looked like just a big Hollywood moneymaker to me. The surprise came, then, at how taken in I was. I, too, analyzed why that was.
I compared it to me trying to keep a perspective on what I allow my kids to watch on TV. Mentally, I stick the shows next to Andy Griffith and most every time I am then clear on the lines that are crossed in sexual jokes or innuendos, sarcasm, rudeness, violence and anger.
Twilight is a big change from the ever-increasing allowance of promiscuity in our culture. The sensuality comes not from sex scenes as in most movies but in his wanting to protect her. How many times in movies’ romantic scenes do you ever hear either character delay the sex for anything other than to run to the drug store to purchase condoms?!
Yes, you still have the “Team Edward/Team Jacob/who’s the hottest” discussion, but from what I have seen, it has opened up discussions on the foundations of sex, respect, relationships that are often very hard to have with teenagers.
Is it a guidebook for relationships? No, this is a novel from a fantasy world.
But this quote summed up what the book was for me. It is what Edward said when trying to explain to Bella why his ‘family’ resisted their thirst for human blood.
“Just because we’ve been… dealt a certain hand… it doesn’t mean that we can’t choose to rise above — to conquer the boundaries of a destiny that none of us wanted. To try to retain whatever essential humanity we can.”
I have found myself in a myriad of situations in the last 10 yrs that have made my head spin,the worst of which is a very sick spouse who has begged for the mercy of euthanasia (No, I didn’t give in). I have had to ponder the very basics of life and what I was going to let my focus be. In a world that preaches self preservation, I found that Twilight was a fresh change in its focus away from that. (That’s much more evident in the books than the movies)
It may not make sense to a lot of people, but to each his own. It’s been fun reading your comments. Great website.
I think the critics of this article are making a fatal mistake in limiting female to desire to what they think it should be. Desire is not rational. The author however seems to understand this distinction and admits that what she and other women desire is not necessarily what they should expect from men – in fact it would be damaging to real relationships to do so. The critics are at least right about these effects.
Similarly, as a man I may desire, in a libidinal way, shallow relationships with multiple sexual partners, even though what I really want, in a rational sense, is a rich monogamous relationship with my wife.
The critics of this article are correct, insofar as there is no single female desire. However, while everyones’ desires are different and female desire is multi-faceted, this article is helpful in that it reminded me of some of things that my wife desires and has helped me be a little more romantic of late. So thank you Tracie for this article.
*female desire to what they think it should be.
I tried to stay away from Twlight and I did until I was flying to Washington. My curosity on why so many people of both sexes were reading this boook and why so many people were visiting Forks, WA! From the time I started to read on the plane I was hooked…and I love this article. I am 41, single and yes a hopeless romantic. Sad you think? No, just a nice to know that there’s a character out there that can whoo a heart and keep me enthralled.
Have read Men are from Mars etc, but the differences between the sexes still elude me. I really think we are 2 different species!Perhaps this site would be of use to your visitors…? Thanks.
Just loved the article and I am sure I’ll try to learn the tips. :] Something that annoys me about Edward and Bella’s relationship is how uninteresting she seems to be! Could it be an attempt to protray today’s teens? How can girls reading the book like her?
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