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.