Only the Amish (and possibly the President) are unaware of the heated battle between Edward Cullen and Jacob Black for Bella Swan’s heart. Since the release of Stephenie Meyer’s Twilight saga and subsequent movies, these stories have gathered nothing short of a cult following. The Twi-hards have possibly the broadest age range of any female fan base, past or present, and they reach into the millions. Rarely can a soccer mom, her 10 year-old daughter and the teenage babysitter share equally in the excitement of a movie outing.
The infatuation with this love triangle is not solely based on good looks and good plot (can I get a witness?). The obsession flows from the new flavor of love presented by vampire-boyfriend Edward: unwavering commitment, unexpected purity and unconditional protection, all for mortal-girlfriend Bella. This sort of courtship was order of the day years ago, but its manifestation in a modern tale is foreign. With the likes of Rihanna’s “Rude Boy” governing the airwaves, this noble love seems impossible and unheard of and it is driving women wild.
With the release of the third movie, “Eclipse,” the world learned (whether trying or not) that while initially Bella was a vampire-wannabe-hopelessly-devoted-til-her-impending-death to Edward, she is officially torn between him and Jacob. Now we all must choose a team (who should win Bella). In their own words and ways, both boys claim that they possess an undying love for her that will not be deterred by the other. When hanging around Twi-hards, you might hear phrases like, “Isn’t it so amazing that he would do anything for her?” or “I wish I could find a love like that!” You may even see cyberspace cat-fights over who should emerge victorious. In this whirlwind of passion and torment, I have to ask: Who is rooting for Bella? If the answer is “no one”, then our next question should be, “why not?” Why aren’t we hearing comments from guys like, “I wish I could find a girl like Bella”?
The story is so dominated by the dark character of Edward and now his rivalry with Jacob that Bella, our point-of-view character, can quietly slip into the background. She unknowingly has become the pawn of our story in that we only care anything for her because we care tremendously about what Edward and Jacob will do next. She could be Dora the Explorer, Lady Gaga or Martha Stewart; it is Edward’s love, not the object of his love, which is driving this story. If his love is so epic, does it not follow that the object of his love should be somewhat comparable? When closely examined, it’s hard to figure out exactly why Edward and Jacob are so taken with Bella.
First, who is she? A troubled soul with divorced parents who rarely smiles and has no hobbies (other than keeping Edward and Jacob guessing); she cares little for school or any other pursuits. Bella has a charitable relationship with her dad, in that she mostly feels sorry for him and keeps things peaceable, but not with genuine love and effort. She is not above disrespecting him or his wishes and puts her desires above his rules. Bella rarely initiates self-less action for the good of others. After many invitations from her peers, Bella does not pursue friendships (other than her suitors), leaving her self-centered.
Second, what does she want? Maybe to be a vampire or someone’s soul-mate. Bella is wishy-washy at best; where she once touted Edward was all she was living for, she now cannot decide if she really wants him or not. She promised to do anything for him, but when he asks her to respect relationship boundaries, Bella scoffs at them and pursues Jacob with guiltless zeal. In an Edward-loving (or lusting) moment, she begs him to stop being a gentleman, claiming his standards of physical purity are “ancient.” Only a few days later, she initiates a kiss with Jacob “just to see if there’s anything there.” Instead of love, Bella seems wants what satisfies her in that particular moment.
When the dramatic scenes, intense music and close-up shots of her porcelain face are stripped away, what’s left of Bella? High emotions, little virtue and no knowledge of real love. While there may be glimpses of love in what Edward represents, Bella does not offer girls of any age much to aspire to. Scripture’s standard for the virtuous woman is clear and far more attractive than what we are given in Twilight. Proverbs 31 teaches that the virtuous woman has purpose beyond herself(13-19, 27), cares deeply for others (20-21), has exemplary character and beauty (25-26, 30-31) and maintains a godly relationship with the only man in her life, her husband (10-12, 28-29). Sadly, Bella reflects none of these things. Even further, what does that say about those pursuing her? They too are fallible, foolish and need some serious girl advice.
While there’s nothing wrong with following the story of Bella, Edward and Jacob, failing to square its messages through the lens of God’s Word can produce unhealthy expectations, futile pursuits and unbiblical practice in pursuing womanhood and relationships as our Creator intended. These characters do not know the One who made love a reality (and He doesn’t even bite).