Twilight: America’s Love Affair with Dysfunctional Love

When my daughter came home with the first book in the four-part Twilight saga by Stephenie Meyer, it was a week before the first movie in the series came out and she wanted us to read it — together! Well, what mom of a teen wouldn’t jump at such an invitation? (Spoiler Alert) Not having ever been an avid reader, I have to thank Stephenie for encouraging my daughter to tackle a 400-page book. With her leaving it for me during the day while she read till the wee hours of the morning at night, I revisited my love for romance and we both finished it by the time the movie came out. I was able to be transported back through that magical portal, which allows me to lose myself in a story and I did find myself sighing at the cute little first love moments between the lead characters. We celebrated by hitting the theaters at midnight, the day before the official release, to catch the movie.  Die-hard Twilight fans joined us, giggling and sighing in turns over Bella and Edward, Romeo and Juliet with a horrible twist.

You see, Bella (Isabella) Swan and Edward Cullen are endearing, it’s true, but there are some serious problems with their characteristics. Bella is 17 and a more co-dependent person I have never read about. Edward is a vampire, dead as a doornail but has been walking the earth for 108 years. He lives with his vampire family who have sworn off feeding on humans. They pretend to be human, though and he, being physically perpetually stuck at the age of 17, attends Forks High where he meets shy, awkward, plain Bella. And yes, this man who, for all intents and purposes, is 108 years old falls in love with 17-year-old, very naive and very immature, vapid, uninteresting, simple Bella. It gets worse.

The story is written in the first person and very quickly we learn that Bella’s mother is the kind of flighty, absentee parent that creates a reversal of the parent/child relationship. In short, Bella takes care of her mother. When Mom marries a minor league baseball player who, you guessed it, is younger than she is, Bella feels like an outsider and decides to stay with her Dad to give her mother time to travel and enjoy her new husband. Maybe she was feeling a little lost with no one to take care of.  Yet Dad is just as absentee as Mom, in that he is emotionally withdrawn, which is perfect, as Bella gets to take care of him, too, just as she’s been doing all her life. Bella’s father is few with words and even less with emotion and Bella acts like a pseudo-mate, cooking his meals and doing his laundry while he spends most of his time at work.

So we have the back drop of a co-dependent, adolescent girl looking desperately for love and approval, for someone to finally take care of her. Into this scene walks Edward. Because the story is written in the first person, we don’t really get to understand the attraction between Bella and Edward. She sees him as perfection itself, a person who she cannot fathom would ever be interested in her. In Twilight, Meyer uses the most superficial adjectives to describe Bella’s attraction to Edward, none of which has anything to do with his personality. Bella finds Edward:  hard, soft, white, perfect, cool, pale, beautiful, flawless, and godlike.

Why does Edward like Bella? Bella describes herself as awkward, plain and boring.  She spends the whole entire first book marveling at the fact that perfect Edward could actually be interested in her and she never quite believes it — for a large part of the story, neither did I.  I didn’t understand why he wanted her either!

The truth is, Bella’s perception of Edward is warped.  In reality,  he  is far from perfect. Initially, he treats her with barely concealed hatred and then swings over to interest. Bella is confused and so am I. Reading about his borderline abusive behavior, I know I wondered just why Bella thought he was perfect.   Meyer goes on and on about how sweet his breath smells, how perfect his cool skin is but why wasn’t Bella turned off by his on again/off again, one minute I like you the other I hate you, Dr. Jekyll/Mr. Hyde treatment of her? Didn’t Meyer understand that in real life, a person who treats you like that is abusive?

We learn in the first book that although Edward’s been living like a vampire member of A.A. (drinking only animal blood), Bella’s blood is just his type. He describes the scent of her blood as causing a burning, yearning sensation in his throat, a thirst that must be satisfied. Bella, he says, is his special brand of heroin and he lusts after her blood like an addict after a hit. This, it turns out is not that far from the truth.

Bella is completely dependent on Edward’s love of her, a love that she can never quite convince herself that she deserves. She worries about it, she wonders if it’s real; she tells herself it can’t be but she wants it. I think it’s pretty clear that part of her desire for him is because he is unattainable, at least in her mind. Edward presents the opportunity to get the love that Bella has always wanted from her parents but never received. Finally, someone is paying her attention. Finally, someone wants her. Bella is insecure and lacking in self-esteem.  She confesses to being unable to be without Edward and when he’s gone, she wonders what to do with herself until he gets back. Edward is Bella’s drug.

Meanwhile, Edward is trying to keep himself from murdering Bella, even as his attraction to her builds. Unable to fight his fascination, he begins, unbeknownst to her, watching Bella sleep at night; he climbs in through her window like a common criminal.  Like a stalker, he follows her around, as far as to another city and watches her house from the woods. He takes her engine out of her car so she can’t leave the house! He describes himself in Midnight Sun, (Stephanie’s Meyer’s unfinished manuscript of Edward’s perspective of Twilight) as no better than a peeping tom but he confesses, he can’t help it.  Bella is Edward’s drug. They are addicted to each other. They have a dysfunctional, obsessive, unhealthy relationship.

Not surprisingly, we learn in reading Midnight Sun that Edward hates himself. He thinks of himself as a monster and can’t believe that Bella would ever want him. He tells himself that he follows Bella to make sure she’s safe but the truth is, like Bella, Edward cannot bear the thought of losing her; of losing his drug.  In the manuscript,  Edward is truly tormented because even as he longs for her love, he tortures himself mentally with chastising guilt, perceiving himself to be the biggest danger to her well-being. He wants her but he hates himself for wanting her.

Bella sees Edward as perfect and unattainable; Edward sees Bella as perfect and unattainable.  Edward doesn’t want to let Bella out of his sight and Bella doesn’t ever want to be without Edward. They are both incredible shallow and superficial, and unable to see each other clearly, as the imperfect, flawed human beings that we all are. Is it no wonder in the beginning of New Moon, after a mishap involving blood and Edward’s brother (take a good guess), when Edward and his family disappear for “Bella’s” own good, Bella becomes virtually catatonic and suicidal?

Why wasn’t I surprised when we learn at the end of New Moon, that Edward, believing that Bella did end her life, seeks to end his own?

It’s oh-so-melodramatic and passionate and oh-so-very sick.

Bella through out the series has no outside interests or friends – she has made Edward her life. In fact, towards the end of Twilight she even begs him to end her life and make her a vampire too, something Edward refuses to do – for a while.

Wait a minute.  I forget to mention the worst part of the series. It isn’t fair to say Bella didn’t actually have any friends. In Twilight, she befriends Jacob Black, for the sole purpose of finding out Edward’s secret, that he is a vampire. Her exploitation of him doesn’t end there, though. Bella depends on Jake in New Moon to help her cope with her loss of Edward, shamelessly admitting that she cannot function on her own. Tragically, he predictably falls in love with her and though she knows she should free him to find happiness elsewhere, she says she cannot; that is until Edward returns, then she dumps him unceremoniously, without a second thought.

The third book, Eclipse, explores a toxic relationship between the three, as Jake holds on for dear life and Bella attempts to have her cake and eat it, too; her friend, whom she says she loves, and the love of her life, who is her friend’s sworn enemy. Towards the end of the book she confesses she is in love with both of them but that’s not the truth. Bella has no idea what love is. The three of them create a triangular, usurious relationship that has no boundaries and where not one person takes good care of themselves.

Now all of this would have been wonderful if we could have seen the characters grow but they don’t. The series ends, with no surprise: Edward and Bella end up together, vowing undying love for each other but sadly, this is not reality. I’ve toyed with the idea of writing a blog borrowing the characters and projecting them into the future, in let’s say five years – when Bella gets tired of being treated like a child and finally wants the freedom to grow up and Edward’s self-loathing and jealousy starts to corrode the relationship – because that’s how dysfunctional relationships end.

I think it is quite depressing that Stephenie Meyer has written this story, geared towards teenage and adolescent girls, with such a weak heroine and such a toxic hero, but if I am honest, I must admit that the popularity of the books points to a sickness within society itself. All over we glorify and aggrandize dysfunctional, unhealthy love in our books and movies, on television, in our songs and in our lives. The type of love that we celebrate creates longing, wanting, despair, betrayal, hurt and often abandonment. We’d all like to believe that we can hate ourselves, hate our bodies, bemoan our weight, bombard ourselves with criticism and then lie and deny our faults, cover them up with euphemisms, excuses and denial and still find true love and completion in another person. We actually tell ourselves that what we find when we are so toxic and insecure is love.  It isn’t true. It’s not real love. The relationship a person creates when they are that dysfunctional is always painful and unfulfilling with a firm foundation in usury and infatuation.  When you’re that insecure you’re like a bucket with a hole in it. You cannot receive nor retain love and you cannot give what you don’t have.

Edward and Bella are mirror images of each other. They both suffer from unyieldingly low self-image and they are both extremely immature and unsure of themselves.  Edward has been alive for 108 years and not once, in the four books, does Bella ask him what he’s seen or learned, about his life experiences.  She has no idea who he is.  Edward has made Bella up in his head. He projects his fantasy of the perfect girl onto her and assumes, based on this projection, who she is. So strangely enough, what the book does illustrate clearly is that what we always find when we are dysfunctional is ourselves. I would have been happy with this turn of events if I thought for one minute that Stephenie Meyer did that on purpose, to teach her readers something, but that is so apparently untrue.

Instead, what Stephenie would have us believe is that you can dislike yourself and never put an ounce of effort into creating a life for yourself but still find true love with a wonderful person; she’d like us to believe that you can focus on the external and create a healthy, strong, “perfect” relationship based on physical attraction; she wants us to believe that you can  use people to make yourself feel better and not suffer the horrible repercussions that always result from such selfish behavior; she’d like us to believe that you can be that insensitive and everything will turn out great in the end; she’d like young girls to think a man who follows them around or creeps into their bedroom at night does so because he loves them and wants them to be safe; she wants us to accept that a woman having no goals and no desires outside of wanting to be with a man is actually okay and an indication of a strong personality.

Does Stephenie Meyer realize how dangerous it is to present this highly toxic relationship as an example of the functional, perfect, romantic relationship that we should all long for? Is there some reason why I left a theater showing thirteen sold-out screens of the midnight pre-showing of New Moon, and actually heard grown women fawning over this story?

Because I don’t get it.  The best books I think presents us with characters that remind us of ourselves and then rise above our faults. The Twilight series fails in that task in my opinion. Completely.

 

AUTHORS NOTE: In response to this article, I have received some comments that accuse me of condemning people who struggle with emotional disorders/mental disabilities to a life without love and  labeling them as unlovable.  I do not at all hold these sentiments/ideas or beliefs.  The end of my piece speaks to the unaddressed dysfunctional co-dependency I see in society, and in our literature and film/television mediums and the presentation of them as healthy, enviable relationships. This piece is not a veiled attacked on a group of people and was not meant to speak to anything but the undeveloped characters which Meyer’s describes in her book, the perfect love which she irresponsibly claims that they have and the ways in which America has bought into this fantasy.

43 thoughts on “Twilight: America’s Love Affair with Dysfunctional Love”

  1. I think this was a good article and I’d like to voice my support of the author regarding the controversy over her use of so-called “ableist” language. I think she makes her point most clearly in her final (as of today) reply to the very first thread of comments, but allow me to paraphrase and reiterate if I may…

    There’s a very important conceptual and semantic difference between “mental illness” and “dysfunction”. Not all people who are mentally ill are dysfunctional and not all dysfunctional people are mentally ill. In this article I think the author quite appropriately focuses on the per se detrimental aspects of dysfunction in romantic relationships.

    It is important to note that neither of the characters she is discussing actually have any manifest mental illness as last I checked the DSM didn’t cover vampirism. It may be possible to read some sort of mental illness into Bella’s character, but there’s so real reason to do so and frankly that would be unfairly stereotyping people with mental illness.

    The author is simply talking about attitudes and behaviors that tend to be detrimental to a person living a healthy, functional life. And those of us who DO wrestle with mental illness should understand better than those who do not how important it is to focus on practical decision-making: “will X allow me to remain safe/productive/able to participate in society as fully as I would like?” Anyone who is aware of their mental illness and committed to living with it as well as they can knows that the question of how to remain FUNCTIONAL throughout the ravages of the psychological and pharmalogical wars in their body is all-important.

    That NECESSARILY requires strong, healthy relationships. It requires surrounding yourself with people who truly love you and who have your best physical and emotional interests at heart. Who will act as a living diary for you when you lose the ability to maintain an accurate perspective on your changing moods and behaviors. Who will advise you wisely when you can’t trust your own advice. Who will encourage you to care for yourself when you stop caring and care twice as hard when you can’t. If we are being responsible, those of us who struggle with mental illness should be more vigilant than most in making sure that our relationships meet this ideal. There is nothing glamorous about what happens to us if they don’t.

    The author is absolutely right to discourage a culture that encourages people – and as soon as I say people I note that they are mostly portrayals of women – to wallow in dysfunction. Sure we all struggle with issues like low self-esteem and some of us struggle with more severely disabling thoughts and emotions…that is not the impediment to finding true love. If you read closely:

    We’d all like to believe that we can hate ourselves, hate our bodies, bemoan our weight, bombard ourselves with criticism, lie and deny our faults, cover them up with euphemisms, excuses and denial and still find true love and completion in another person. We actually tell ourselves that what we find when we are so toxic and insecure is love. It isn’t true. It’s not real love. The relationship a person creates when they are that dysfunctional is always painful and unfulfilling with a firm foundation in usury and infatuation. When you’re that insecure you’re like a bucket with a hole in it. You cannot receive nor retain love and you cannot give what you don’t have.

    Granted, maybe too strong a link is being made here between emotional insecurity and dysfunction. They are not always one-and-the-same. But when insecurity leads you to stop caring for your own well-being and asking the question: “will X allow me to remain safe/productive/able to participate in society as fully as I would like?” then NO you are probably NOT going to find a relationship that provides you the long term stability and support you need to live an optimally happy life and THAT IS WHAT THE FUCK LOVE IS. Not some bullshit puppy-eyed longing that always somehow ends up with you being damn near mauled to death.

    If anything I think people with mental illness should be feeling the thesis of this article because at the end of the day the relationship depicted in Twilight is a slap in the face to those of us who struggle so hard despite mental illness to make decisions that will allow us to live and love as completely as able people.

    Misery loves company is NOT an acceptable mantra for living a functional life…you’re supposed to be trying your damndest NOT to be miserable, no matter who you are. Giving up all concern for self-preservation and pinning your survival on some creepy loner who’s addicted to controlling vulnerable women is really not the way to go. I’m with Sabine.

    1. Miz Jenkins, thank you so much for your response. I think it adds a lot to this conversation.

      And that’s really how I look at blogging, as living, breathing, important dialogue. Not only do I write, but I am also always listening and learning. :).

    2. And if this was what the OP had actually written, surely the backlash would have been less strong.
      Only she didn’t. And she made problematic statements in the follow-up comments. Let’s not gloss over that. I’m quite sure no one here is advocating abusive relationships or relationships which will of necessity end in hurt.

      1. Hague, I may not have addressed the issue that caused you or others concern with as much eloquence and as succinctly as Miz Jenkins did however, I certainly did not say what you and others continue to accuse me of saying. There is an implied meaning that is/was being taken individually, from one single paragraph, and I have explained myself over and over.

        I really do not like the fact that words/meaning continue to be put into my mouth and my head I would like to ask that it please stop.

        1. Hi Sabine, I don’t want to weigh in on the subtance of the debate or cause you more stress, but having read all the comments I think some wires are getting crossed here.

          I get that the words many readers intepreted as offensive weren’t at all what you meant or intended. I think the other commenters understand that as well, since you have, as you say, explained it several times. But where people seem to be getting stuck is that rather than saying ‘I wasn’t clear and I apologise for using offensive language, this is what I really meant…’ – thereby taking responsibility for the offence caused – you said, essentially, that you were sorry people were offended (not the same thing) and that you don’t need to apologise further because you did not intend to offend (‘Had I held those feelings, I would apologize for hurting you. But I do not hold those feelings.’). The critical issue here is separating intent from execution. The fact that you didn’t intend to hurt anyone doesn’t mean that you’re not responsible for hurting them; I’m sure that if you accidentally stepped on someone’s foot, you’d apologise for injuring them, not say that you were sorry they ‘got injured’.

          I get the sense that you don’t feel your words were particularly offensive (quite asie from your meaning, which you have ofc said several times was different to how many people interpreted it). From your perspective that paragraph may not be offensive; these things are always subjective, and different readers will always interpret things differently. But I think enough readers here did find your words offensive that it would be appropriate to apologise in a way that does accept some responsibility onto yourself.

          I know it’s really rubbish and frustrating to feel like you’ve been misinterpreted. Much of my work is subject to pretty crushing peer review, and I often get angry that people haven’t understood me properly. But at least in my experience, 9 times out of 10 that’s because I wasn’t clear enough – especially if several people come to the same conclusion. For all I know, this may be the 1 time out of 10 that the author is ‘objectively’ right (if there is such a thing as objectivity!), but I’m always of the belief that it’s best just to accept responsibility for causing offence, however inadvertent. Then again I am usually told I’m too apologetic. :)

          I hope that all came across OK and didn’t cause you more stress. It’s just my take on the situation, you can ignore it or disagree if you like!

          1. HI Rah29. Thanks for replying. Thanks also for asking how I was receiving this. I do want to try to address your response. There are three issues here:
            1) What the readers who took issue with that one paragraph interpreted it to mean.
            2) What I did mean.
            3) What I actually wrote.

            One can be offended by No. 1, independent of Nos. 2 and 3.

            Interpreted: 2. To conceive the significance of; to construe: to understand in a particular way: EXAMPLES: to interpret a reply as favorable. He interpreted his smile to be an agreement; She interpreted the open door as an invitation.

            Anyone can attribute any meaning to anything, independent of what a person may have meant or said. Add in the limits and disadvantages of online communication and misinterpretations can run the gamut. Now I’ve said, no, that’s not what was said; here is what was said and here is what I meant. The response has been: No, you said it because you implied it.

            you said, essentially, that you were sorry people were offended (not the same thing) and that you don’t need to apologize further because you did not intend to offend

            Respectfully, I did not. I said I’m sorry that my words were received in a way that caused offense. I said, and I still maintain that I NEVER said what I was accused of at all and I believe my words are being distorted and received wrongly. I would like my words to be received on face value and not read into but that is not what is happening.

            (Taken from some of the comments:)

            I don’t think you realize how terrible this paragraph sounds . . . it certainly lends itself to a read that you mean All people . . .what these words actually say . . . implying that some people should not love and should not be loved because they are damaged . . . .denying them the support of a relationship, . . . .your language about mental illness or disability . . . .a condemnation or invalidation of relationships in which one or both partners struggle with mental illnesses or disabilities of any kind. . . .disabled people are not capable of love and, as broken human beings, they are not worthy of it either. . . invalidating the relationships and emotions of people with mental illnesses or disabilities”

            The words “mental illness”, “disabled”, “disabilities”, “broken human beings”, or “All” NEVER appear in my article. What’s more, I never said should be denied, “condemn”, “not worthy of” or “incapable”.
            I am being asked to substitute my own belief system and ideas for these subjective opinions; to see the words that they took issue with the same as they do; to attribute their meanings to my words, even if I don’t hold those sentiments; even if I disagree; even if I never said it.

            You may not have meant to say what we thought you said, but it was hurtful, nonetheless.

            It’s a straw man argument. The Straw Man fallacy is committed when a person simply ignores a person’s actual position and substitutes a distorted, exaggerated or misrepresented version of that position.

            I know it’s really rubbish and frustrating to feel like you’ve been misinterpreted.

            But in this case, I really have been, and words have been put in my mouth, in my head and in my heart. I’ve been given a position, told that I presented it, told I hold it, and then attacked for it, and then asked to apologize for presenting the position that I was given.

            From the comments:

            We don’t need to be reminded that the world thinks us unlovable,

            Who is “us”? Not Bella, not Edward, not people with issues who are in denial and have not acknowledged or made an effort to address their issues, but people who have mental illnesses and who are disabled. People who I never mentioned, not once, in the entire article.
            I interpret the responses to be in a nutshell: No, you did say it because I say you said it.

            I’m always of the belief that it’s best just to accept responsibility for causing offence, however inadvertent.

            You know what I believe about taking offense?

            Accusing others of giving offense is the best offense . Once accused, you are guilty no matter what.

  2. Wow, the comments yikes! Jeeze Louise I’ll never get why people need other people to agree with them! Bella really is dysfunctional and so is Edward. There is so much that is wrong with their relationship I’m not even . . . but so many people (young and old) love the story and think they are great, so what does that say about society?
    I personally can’t stand the whole Twilight series!!!!! I have a three year old cousin that can write better! Edward’s creepy and Bella’s an awful role model for young girls and I totally disagree with the idea that oh, most teens think they’re boring and ugly and that’s why they like the books. When Twilight came out I was like 15 and even though I read the book ’cause everyone else was reading, I still thought Bella was selfish, self-centered and completely boring. There’s lots of teens who don’t think they are ugly and boring and that no one will like them. I didn’t think that! I damn sure wasn’t desperate for the attention of the first guy who looked at me! Pullllllease, there’s nothing freakin’ romantic about a blood thirsty vampire who is dead!

    Don’t get me started on Stephanie Meyer, who really doesn’t even deserve the title “writer”. Listen to this woman:

    “Tw Staff: Reading Twilight it came to me the story of Westley and Buttercup. Is Bella and Edward’s love True Love like theirs?

    Stephenie: “Actually Bella and Edward’s love story is better than them. When I was in college, I wrote a lot of papers from a feminine perspective (it’s an easy way to write) on the Princess Bride. Buttercup is an idiot and it doesn’t bother anyone, all that matters is that she’s beautiful”
    “But the female characters are very weak in that story”- Steph on Twilight The Princess Bride

    “One of the great things about fantasy is that research rarely applies.”
    “The worst I can remember happened at my appearance in Toronto. A girl (who must have sat in line all day to get the seat she had) asked during the Q&A how I could write such an antifeminist main character and if I wasn’t ashamed of myself for letting young girls read my misogynist works. I don’t get that. I mean, I’ve gotten that question from reporters and seen it online various places, and I think I can defend myself ably. What I don’t get is why you would come out to a signing for an author you hated, let alone stand out in the cold all day to get in. People are odd.”

    How the hell else would her reader get an answer to that question? And she has never answered it that’s how much she appreciates people who come out to see her. Even Rob Patterson see’s right through this book. He also see’s through the fans, too just listen to him in interviews. This is what Rob has to say about Ms. Meyer:

    “when I read [Twilight], it seemed like I was convinced Stephenie was convinced she was Bella and it was like it was a book that wasn’t supposed to be published. It was like reading her sexual fantasy, especially when she said it was based on a dream and it was like, ‘Oh I’ve had this dream about this really sexy guy,’ and she just writes this book about it. Some things about Edward are so specific, I was just convinced – I was like, ‘This woman is mad. She’s completely mad and she’s in love with her own fictional creation.'”

    1. Wow, Stephanie Meyer said that? Does she know Princess Bride is supposed to be satire?

      I saw Robert once on Today or something. The crowd of fans were screaming for him and he looked at them like they were crazy. He said a little girl actually asked him to bite her and he didn’t say it like he liked the idea. Then he said the fans were like screaming, I love you so much and he was like but why?

      1. we get it, you didn’t like what the author wrote in that one paragraph and you didn’t believe agree or whatever with her explanation of what she meant in her article so now what, what are you looking for at this point?

  3. Oh, here go Hell come. I see this thread got heated very quickly.

    My $1.50: I don’t characterize Edward and Bella’s relationship with any sort of pop-psych terms, but I do agree that it is dangerously shallow, over-involved, and short-sighted, and I would characterize it as being emotionally and even (in some instances) physically abusive. It absolutely makes my skin crawl that this sort of fuckery is being presented as the ”ideal” relationship for two young people to have, and that Stephenie Meyer seems to have no concept whatsoever of how damaging this is to impressionable young girls.(I am not even going to TOUCH the topic of Twilight Moms. Hurgh.) And S. Meyer is making so much MONEY. The sound you hear is my gears grinding furiously.

    I agree with Sabine in that I think that what Bella and Edward share is not love, and that they don’t know how to love. I don’t think they know one another at all. I’d like to make the argument that Edward doesn’t deserve love because he’s an abusive douchecanoe, and that Bella doesn’t deserve love because her head is permanently up her ass and she seems to have no regard or respect for any person, ever, except for Edward – but I don’t like to couch it in terms of ”deserving” or ”not deserving”. How about ”Please don’t subject the rest of us to your disgusting self-absorbed twaddle”? Those two give me the dry heaves.

    1. Yes, absolutely. I read this post initially because I was all ready to engage in some serious conversation about abusive relationships and teenagers and the number of young people whose first sexual experiences are coerced. There IS a cultural phenomenon that idealizes the kinds of “romance” that turn into stalking and abuse very quickly, and Edward and Bella are indisputably a manifestation of that.

    2. It absolutely makes my skin crawl that this sort of fuckery is being presented as the ”ideal” relationship for two young people to have, and that Stephenie Meyer seems to have no concept whatsoever of how damaging this is to impressionable young girls . . . . I think that what Bella and Edward share is not love, and that they don’t know how to love. I don’t think they know one another at all.

      Thanks for weighing in on the topic. I mean, what can I say? I agree with your agreement :). I didn’t even bother to mention the idea that Stephanie proposes in her last book, where a grown man (Jacob) imprints on an unborn baby who will have no choice whatsoever in who she decides to “mate” with. This is supposed to be perfectly okay and not at all creepy because she’ll grow physically at an accelerated rate even though she’ll still emotionally/mentally be a child.

      1. Yes, I believe that in Real Life, that is called child grooming and pedophilia, and the authorities will come and TAKE YOU AWAY FOR IT.

        Also I was totally Team Jacob and thought he was marvelously sweet and reliable and hunky (until ”Eclipse” because apparently he was getting too well-liked in fandom and Stephenie Meyer turned him into an asshat). Oh, this whole time he was in love with the potential life hanging out in her ovaries? What the fuck! That is going beyond fetal personhood and the devaluing of women as nothing but wombs into just…the edges of the universe of fuckery!

        Bloody Mormon propaganda abstinence porn abuse-glorifying pile of garbage farts book. >:(

        1. I was going to mention the whole Mormon thing but considering how the comments were going I decide to keep my thoughts to myself but since you said it yeah, my thoughts exactly.

  4. I actually really identified with Bella and her feeling that Edward is her drug. Brought me straight back to my first boyfriend. The four blank pages signifying the empty months in New Moon were so my life at the end of our relationship. Unfortunately, I didn’t get the happy ending that Bella got, and that’s the problem with this story. Readers in a similar situation as Bella (minus the vamp thing) are led to believe that their manipulative boyfriends love them and are their knight in shining armor. They identify with everything that happens to Bella – the shouting, the near-stalking, the controlling – and then when Bella and Edward get married, they see hope, hope that their relationship with their Edward will work out – except nobody is Edward. He does not exist. I am pretty sure it’s fundamentally impossible for such a person to exist. But to the bleeding romantic heart of a sixteen-year-old? Anything is possible.

    The problem here is not Bella. The problem is the happy ending given to this obviously toxic relationship.

    1. I agree to a point. I thought the first book really evoked what its like to be in that early, all consuming relationship. I didn’t think the book was particularly good, but I could totally see what people were latching onto.

      The raised-eyebrow stuff really cranks up in the later novels.

    2. I actually really identified with Bella and her feeling that Edward is her drug. Brought me straight back to my first boyfriend. The four blank pages signifying the empty months in New Moon were so my life at the end of our relationship.

      I guess that’s my point though. There are many people, adults and teens, having these toxic relationships. And I really do think Bella had lots of problems. Just none that she was ready to acknowledge.

      To me, Bella and Edward’s relationship exemplifies abuse. One of the things you learn when you emerge from an abusive relationship is that there’s a reason you entered into it in the first place. It’s not just the man that’s abusive. There’s something that needs to be addressed in the woman, too.

  5. http://youtu.be/RZwM3GvaTRM

    I will seriously use this as an excuse to post the Buffy vs Edward video.

    But seriously:

    Does Stephenie Meyer realize how dangerous it is to present this highly toxic relationship as an example of the functional, perfect, romantic relationship that we should all long for?

    No, because she doesn’t recognize it as a toxic relationship. Its a Mary Sue fiction piece that’s made her a lot of money. Since she’s Bella — and I think someone would have to do some hefty arguing to change my opinion on this point — she has a vested interest in viewing Edward as exactly how she presents him, the dark and wounded romantic lead.

    Its not random that Bella is a big fan of Wuthering Heights.

    1. You know, I saw her in an interview, and she did appear to espouse ideas that made me believe, Wow, that’s Bella and I did get the Wuthering Heights reference. Thanks for the video, it’s hilariously on point!

  6. We’d all like to believe that we can hate ourselves, hate our bodies, bemoan our weight, bombard ourselves with criticism, lie and deny our faults, cover them up with euphemisms, excuses and denial and still find true love and completion in another person. We actually tell ourselves that what we find when we are so toxic and insecure is love. It isn’t true. It’s not real love. The relationship a person creates when they are that dysfunctional is always painful and unfulfilling with a firm foundation in usury and infatuation. When you’re that insecure you’re like a bucket with a hole in it. You cannot receive nor retain love and you cannot give what you don’t have.

    I understand the point you’re trying to make, knowing the book, but I don’t think you realize how terrible this paragraph sounds for people who live with issues like depression, body dysmorphia, or eating disorders, among other things. We don’t need to be reminded that the world thinks us unlovable, and many of our experiences show it to be untrue.

    I don’t want to be confrontational, but that was hurtful.

    1. I agree that that particular passage is wildly problematic, whether you take it as part of the analysis of Twilight or not.

      I firmly believe that most of us are damaged in some way, and though I agree that looking for a complete fix in another person is not a panacea, I disagree that looking another person’s (or people’s) support and love is toxic and wrong.We’re all just trying to get by, and implying that some people should not love and should not be loved because they are damaged by someone’s vague standards is just not on.

      There are many valid criticisms to be made of the Twilight series without this stuff.

    2. I also think you’re overstating Bella’s dysfunction. Yes, the problems in Bella and Edward’s relationship are clear, but she’s a teenager. Many teenagers have confidence problems and think that they’re boring. Most of us have really sucky first boyfriends. I think painting Bella as some kind of damaged unlovable loser when she is reflective of the majority of teenage girls is not doing teenage girls any favours. The problematic character in the book is Edward, not Bella.

      The reason that Bella is dull and boring is so that the average teenage reader can related to her and fantasize that some totally awesome vampire dude will fall in love with her. It’s about reader projection, pure and simple.

      1. You have an excellent point — Bella seemed to me to be a fairly honest representation of a teenaged girl in the first book. Well, up to a point. The whole Angel In the Household projection stuff was a bit off.

        The reason that Bella is dull and boring is so that the average teenage reader

        Well, here’s the thing. She’s not really dull and boring and plain — that’s how she describes herself, but obviously other people don’t see her that way. We can tell that in the way her friends talk about her, in the number of male suitors she fends off, how Edward and his entire family keep talking about how lovely she is. That’s what I think people identify with — this idea that you feel yourself to be plain and dull, but you are really the most special person around. I think that’s part of the fantasy.

      2. I’m going to be goofy and quote Criminal Minds: “All teenagers profile like sociopaths.” In a way it’s unfortunate that Twilight became so broadly popular because I think that a narrative about all-consuming, pure romance does have value to a niche market who has a grasp of the silliness and melodrama of such a thing.

        Bella thinking herself plain and boring is teen wish fulfillment. The idea is that she doesn’t realize how pretty and interesting she is. I’d say that most women of all ages would enjoy having someone see something beautiful in us that we hadn’t known was there.

    3. I understand the point you’re trying to make, knowing the book, but I don’t think you realize how terrible this paragraph sounds for people who live with issues like depression, body dysmorphia, or eating disorders, among other things. We don’t need to be reminded that the world thinks us unlovable, and many of our experiences show it to be untrue.

      I don’t want to be confrontational, but that was hurtful.

      You found that paragraph hurtful? I’m truly sorry that you received it that way. However, I honestly feel that we cannot change what we don’t acknowledge.

      I have lots of issues, so does everyone on this planet. The message is not: The world thinks you’re unlovable, although I can see how if you suffer from the disorders you mentioned, low self-esteem/depression, etc. you’d receive it that way.

      The message is to first receive love, true love — the love that is described in Twilight, one must love themselves, and loving ourselves takes being honest and admitting that we have problems. The main point of the paragraph was the denial. Some of the books I love have highly damaged characters, and sometimes they don’t get better but they come to a point when they admit that they have issues.

      I firmly believe that most of us are damaged in some way, and though I agree that looking for a complete fix in another person is not a panacea . . . We’re all just trying to get by, and implying that some people should not love and should not be loved because they are damaged by someone’s vague standards is just not on.

      There are many valid criticisms to be made of the Twilight series without this stuff.

      Believe me I get that this is not an idea that’s going to be welcomed in popular circles, because I really do think we’ve normalized dysfunction in America. But the idea isn’t a blaming/shaming: You’re damaged and cannot be loved or should not love. Looking for other people to fix us just doesn’t work.

      When you try to love people who are dysfunctional, they can’t receive it. And when people who are damaged get into relationships, usually they hurt others. It’s just a fact. Hard to face, but it’s the truth.

      Many teenagers have confidence problems and think that they’re boring. Most of us have really sucky first boyfriends. I think painting Bella as some kind of damaged unlovable loser when she is reflective of the majority of teenage girls is not doing teenage girls any favours..

      To me, this sounds like the old appeal to the common factor argument. Many teenagers have confidence problems and think that they are boring means that it should be like that? The fact is it SHOULDN’T be like that.
      I don’t like Bella, the character, that’s clear, but I’m not saying she’s an unlovable loser, I’m saying she could have been written a whole lot better and every single teenager out there who relates to her can be better too but the books don’t show us that.

      To me the book is just co-signing codependency, amongst other things.

      1. When you try to love people who are dysfunctional, they can’t receive it. And when people who are damaged get into relationships, usually they hurt others. It’s just a fact. Hard to face, but it’s the truth.

        Again, I can see where you’re coming from in the context of the book, but in real life? We disagree on such a fundamental level here that I’m not even going to go further into this, because things would not end well. Your truth most certainly is not mine.

        1. Since even the most decent, well-balanced kind and whole person will most definitely hurt someone in a relationship, I don’t see the basis for the argument.

          We all hurt each other, that’s just the nature of relationships, but when we have serious problems that we are not addressing of course we’ll be more hurtful. I’d love to hear your reasoning to disagree but if you don’t feel you can express it, that’s okay, too.

      2. No, you know what, I’m not completely done.
        1) Saying you’re sorry someone received something in some way is not an apology, so you might as well not write it at all. It adds nothing to the very real hurt Anna brought up and instead implies that she read of feels something that should not be there.
        2)You say that you cannot change what you don’t acknowledge. Who ever said that damaged folks don’t acknowledge their damage are working their hardest to fix it? Denying them the support of a relationship, which is your “truth” is callous and wrong. Just because they find support in love and find support in giving love, which in the end helps them, personally, mentally, physically, and/or spiritually as well, is not something to be judged by a person with abstract and strict notions of what a relationship and the people in it should be.
        3) You can love yourself while also acknowledging your damage. You can love yourself while not being completely FUCK YEAH about your body. You can love yourself even when you’re crying for days and not leaving the house because you’re in the throes of depression. It’s completely possible. How do I know? Lived experience. And you can also love others while these things are happening, and you can share all your love with them, even though for you personally it may be hard to give at that moment.
        4) There are many, many more points, but I’m just going to stop now, because this shit tires me. Just note that there is a big difference between being in a relationship while damaged, looking for support in that relationship, and looking for a fix. Those differences should be acknowledge, and in a better way than you have done.

        I know I’m coming off harsh, and I do apologize for doing so in this space, but I know for a fact that what you have been writing here is hurting real life people in profound ways. I also know that they won’t respond, because this stuff is shit they hear all the time, and this space is supposed to be better than that.

        1. I can see that this article has really called up a lot of feelings in you, which I always count as a great thing. Feelings are meant to be felt so that they can point to issues that we can resolve, that’s what I believe. So I always write to inspire feelings and thoughts, even if people disagree with me. And I’m okay with people disagreeing with me.
          So I’ll just try to respond to your questions/concerns as best as I can.

          1) Saying you’re sorry someone received something in some way is not an apology,

          I am sorry that Anne received the paragraph in the way she did. It is not at all in the spirit that I wrote it. I explained again, what I was trying to say, but I am not responsible for Anne’s feelings — I can’t “make” Anne feel any way. These are just words on a computer screen. All I can do is try to explain my intention as best as I can.

          Who ever said that damaged folks don’t acknowledge their damage are working their hardest to fix it?

          I certainly didn’t. I’m only talking about the people, like Bella and Edward, who do not. I see that in society a lot, in our movies and our books and our t.v. programs, so I mentioned what I saw as a pattern.

          You can love yourself while also acknowledging your damage.

          Of course you can, I certainly do. But I didn’t see that in Bella or Edward. They made decisions that clearly showed that they did not care about themselves. My reference to the pattern I saw in society is the idea that we can find the complete, abiding, perfect love that Stephanie speaks about in the book. I don’t believe that we can or do when we’re a Bella or an Edward, IMO.

          1. Sabine, it’s not necessarily your fault that I was hurt by the initial paragraph, but it IS your fault that I’ve been hurt by your response to it, and your unwillingness to admit that you’ve made a mistake AFTER you’ve been informed that what YOU SAID was hurtful. Don’t make it passive by saying I was hurt by words on the internet. Those are words and sentiments that you said, that reinforce some very negative lived experiences for a great many people.

            Persephone does not claim to be a feminist space, but it does claim to be a woman-friendly one, and as one of your fellow writers here, I do my best to be respectful of my readers. You have failed to do that in this comment thread, first by offering an “apology” that shifted the blame for the hurt back onto me, and then by defending your right to be hurtful.

            We can all learn to be more considerate of others, and that means learning from our mistakes.

            1. I DID apologize, but it seems that I am disbelieved, and I can’t be responsible for the disbelief with which my apology has been received. I do not believe I made a mistake. I am being called to task for sentiments that I do not have. I am being asked to apologize for expressing ideas that I do not hold and did not express, IMO. Of course, I could be wrong. I could be politically correct and give you or others the answer that you are looking for, but I don’t do that. I try to stay true to my feelings/my beliefs.

              IMO, when a person reads a piece on line, their reaction has a lot to do with the beliefs they hold, the issues they grapple with and the feelings they have inside. When I am upset or have a strong reaction to what I read, I step back and ask myself: Why am I feeling this way? What does this piece trigger inside of me?

              I apologized that you received my words as an attack on people with issues.

              I tried to explain, even though I also explain it in my piece, that I was NOT talking about all people with issues, but only people who do not acknowledge, take responsibility for their issues, and this is important, who also think that they can have the TYPE of relationship that Meyer describes in her book.

              This conversation is a little strange to me, because IMO, we are all dysfunctional in our own way. The only thing we can try to do is face it and address it. My words about two characters in a book have been PERSONALIZED.

              My words have been taken to describe ALL people who have issues and to have condemned them to a life without ALL types of love, when I NEVER said that.

              You were hurt by words on the internet, because that is all you have. You don’t really know me. You have not looked into my eyes or sat that down and spoke to me. You cannot hear the inflection in my voice or feel the sincerity of my words. You don’t know the spirit with which this was written. You are not inside of me and cannot feel my heart. I cannot be responsible for your feelings.

              The only thing I can do in any situation, real or on line, is try to articulate my thoughts and ideas as clearly as I can, but in this medium, I am limited. If you have any questions you’d like to ask me about my general ideas about love and people with issues, please ask me. I have lots of issues, body image being one of my biggest ones.

              It seems to me that you have made up your mind about me and what I think/believe/feel based only on a paragraph and a few lines in response.

              But I am MORE than just my ideas or these words that you see on this screen. I am NOT just only my ideas.

              I sincerely hope that you can hear me. Thanks.

          2. I can see that this article has really called up a lot of feelings in you, which I always count as a great thing. Feelings are meant to be felt so that they can point to issues that we can resolve, that’s what I believe. So I always write to inspire feelings and thoughts, even if people disagree with me. And I’m okay with people disagreeing with me.

            Do you know the difference between “inspiring feelings” and triggering people? Your ableist nonsensical argument is triggering for some people. And your dismissive tone of “You found that paragraph hurtful? I’m truly sorry that you received it that way” only highlights the fact that you are not taking responsibility for your words.

            In this piece you are ableist and dismissive of people’s complains. You have been callous and hurtful. You are not showing any accountability for your words and, instead, you think your arguments are “valuable” and conductive to “personal growth”. I am afraid if you cannot see how all of this is cold hearted and just insulting for a whole bunch of people, you really are beyond the point of engaging in any kind of constructive discussion.

            You used a pop culture subject (Twilight) to actually push an ideology that is pervasive amongst certain kind of mass media: disabled people are not capable of love and, as broken human beings, they are not worthy of it either. Think for a second where you have heard this argument before and the kind of people who usually push for it. Now, think again how this is exactly the kind of politics you are proposing.

            1. Well done. This discourse is a wonderful example of how not to behave when one gets called out for using hurtful words and ideology.

              I am comfortable calling Edward and Bella’s relationship unhealthy. I am uncomfortable extending that into, as the author of this piece did, a condemnation or invalidation of relationships in which one or both partners struggle with mental illnesses or disabilities of any kind.

              There are plenty of arguments to make for Twilight as an unhealthy book for teens, without invalidating the relationships and emotions of people with mental illnesses or disabilities . Poor form on the author’s part to not only write the invalidation and condemnation in the first place, but to also refuse to apologize for hurtful language and ideology.

            2. I apologized that my words have triggered you. Yes, I do know what it means to be triggered. When I am triggered, I step back and I try to find out why. I don’t attack the person who has triggered me, because I understand I am responsible for my feelings and my growth. This is how I deal with my issues. I understand not everyone has the same view point or deals with it in this way.

              You used a pop culture subject (Twilight) to actually push an ideology that is pervasive amongst certain kind of mass media: disabled people are not capable of love and, as broken human beings, they are not worthy of it either.

              I absolutely, unequivocally NEVER said that. Whats more, I do not for one minute believe that. I will use my own self for example. My mother is damaged in a way that I have come to realize cannot be repaired. She is hurtful, blaming and highly narcissistic. She cannot love me in the way that I need to be loved. She cannot receive the love that I give her. However, she does love me the best that she can and I try to love her in a way that is safe for me. Of course learning from her example, I have a hard time in regard to relationships. I have had to learn to be better at both loving and receiving love.

              What we do not have is the ultimately fulfilling, loving relationship that a mother can have with her child and visa versa. If I wrote a book describing the relationship we have and labeling it as the ultimate mother/daughter bond, the be all end all of mother/daughter relationships, I would be wrong and irresponsible IMO.

              I hope you can hear these words and understand my POV. Thank you.

              1. Sabine, can I suggest that you follow your own advice here and take a step back to think about the reactions you are receiving to this article? Often what we say does not always match up with what we meant. If you (or I or anyone else) is receiving a particularly strong reaction to something we have written, we should consider if we presented our ideas poorly. As writers, we are so close to our words that we often assume that other people will read them in the same mindset we wrote them in, or get hurt and don’t understand where criticisms are coming from, because to us, our thought process is crystal clear.

                There have been valid criticisms of the way you expressed some of your ideas. It’s not a ‘pc’ thing. Its a progressive thing, a stance that many of the writers on this site share. I don’t see Anna’s discussion of your language about mental illness or disability as very far removed from many of your own posts, in which you also call for a progressive or different way of looking at issues like the politics of black women’s hair.

                1. I’m happy to have a discussion where a person says, for example, I did not like that you said this. Here is why. Did you mean it the way that I thought you did?

                  This makes me feel safe to express my feelings/ideas and thoughts.

                  For example, Anna said she understood the point I was making but found the paragraph she quoted hurtful.

                  I would like to ask Anna, if she can, to tell me what point she thought I was making.

                  In addition, if you or anyone else wants to point me to the exact verbiage that they found triggering/hurtful, and tell me specifically why I am open and actually would like to read that.


                  Full disclosure:
                  I am not married to my ideas/thoughts. I’m always listening to what people say, and I may have an idea tomorrow and change it based on what I come to learn about myself and based on my own expanding knowledge (and lots of things, really). When I get angry/hurt by what a person has written/said, I always look within to find out why.

                  Here in this conversation I am not hurt but honestly, I do personally get triggered when people tell me what I think and what I meant. This is something my own mother did to me. She could not tolerate any opinions that differed from her own. If you expressed an idea that she even thought for one moment she didn’t agree with, she’d attack you. She didn’t ask clarifying questions. She told you what you meant and what you were thinking and any explanation that you offered to clarify your thoughts were rejected on face value. In the relationship between my mother and I, she needed me to be wrong because often the ideas I expressed shined a light on things about herself that she did not want to acknowledge. I am speaking specifically about my mother here. I feel the need to say this, because now I’m afraid that someone is going to say that I am accusing everyone who disagrees with me of having something in them that they do not want to acknowledge.

                  1. I think that the point you’re making is that abusive people shouldn’t be in relationships. I’m ok with that. Where I’m no longer ok is where you appear to be equating “abusive” with thoughts and feelings that people with mental disorders experience every day. These feelings don’t equate to abuse, and when all members of a relationship have the ability to express their needs and have those needs met, it IS real, genuine love, regardless of what kinds of mental states come into play.

                    Now. I have tried to be patient, and have done my best to be honest and non-accusatory, though if I have failed at that I apologize. I understand where your history may make you more defensive to being misinterpreted.

                    HOWEVER. If I, for example, said something racist, or sexist, or homophobic, or otherwise harmful to any category with which you associate yourself, it would be inappropriate for me to then defend myself with “but I didn’t KNOW! I didn’t MEAN to hurt you,” it wouldn’t be ok. My lack of intent would not undo the harm I had done to you.

                    You’ve written about black women’s hair, for example. If I were to ask to touch a black woman’s hair, and when she rightfully responded angrily, I were to say “but I didn’t KNOW it was inappropriate to ask to touch your hair!” she would be legitimately upset. It wouldn’t really matter that I didn’t MEAN to be racist, because she doesn’t know that and probably would be just as hurt by what I had done as if I HAD intended to be hurtful.

                    It’s no more her job to respond to every act of racism with grace and dignity than it is mine to respond to every act of harm to my identity with the same. I do generally try to keep people in good faith, and believe that, especially in spaces like this, everyone is trying to learn to do better.

                    I hope you can understand how hurtful it was to read that passage, regardless of your intentions. You may not have meant to say what we thought you said, but it was hurtful, nonetheless. In saying “I’m sorry you were hurt” instead of “I’m sorry I was, however unintentionally, hurtful” passes the blame for the harm back onto me, which adds to the frustration.

                    I’ve done my share of saying things that got me called out, and some of them seemed unfair. But ultimately, your words as they are written in this piece hurt me, and hurt others like me.

                    I have tried to hear you. I hope you are affording me the same courtesy.

                  2. I certainly can’t speak to what Anna found objectionable. In fact I scanned right past it in the post but as soon as she cited that paragraph, I could see where it could be found objectionable.

                    We’d all like to believe that we can hate ourselves, hate our bodies, bemoan our weight, bombard ourselves with criticism, lie and deny our faults, cover them up with euphemisms, excuses and denial and still find true love and completion in another person. We actually tell ourselves that what we find when we are so toxic and insecure is love. It isn’t true. It’s not real love. The relationship a person creates when they are that dysfunctional is always painful and unfulfilling with a firm foundation in usury and infatuation. When you’re that insecure you’re like a bucket with a hole in it. You cannot receive nor retain love and you cannot give what you don’t have.

                    You’ve moved past talking about Bella and Edward here because you opened that paragraph up with discussing Meyers responsibility to real life people who are reading these books and taking moral lessons away from them. So when you go on to make the above statement, it certainly lends itself to a read that you mean All people in Real Life can’t be ‘damaged’ and give or deserve love. The paragraph on its own reads as a very absolutist statement about relationships.

                    I’ve read your comments here so I understand that you didn’t necessarily mean it this way and I don’t expect or want you to defend that bit of your article again. I am just asking you to look at this discussion with some distance and to reread your apology to Anna, which while I’m sure is entirely sincere, is written in a way to be a non-apology.

                    Personally, I feel that once we have hit submit on any of our writing it must stand on its own. Readers should not have to ask questions or seek to clarify our points — that’s what the writing does. We have put a bit of ourselves out there. It has to stand on its own. It is unfair of us as writers to expect our readers to know — or even need to know- anything about us beyond our essays. The onus isn’t on them to ask questions, it is on us to be clear. Not everyone feels that way about their writing, or their writing in a semi-informal atmosphere like a blog — that is just my personal feelings, and how I’ve been viewing this discussion.

                    1. Thank you Anna and Slay for responding. OT: many people might not believe in astrology, but I’m an avid believer. Anyway my personal horoscope reads, in part:

                      “Communications today will be especially difficult. Even when you and another person are trying to be very clear, you may have misunderstandings. This is a poor influence for any important discussions about business or personal matters. Even if you are sure that you are speaking clearly and honestly, make sure that others are treating you the same way. “

                      So any way, I just remembered that! So let me say again, I am so sorry that my words are being found triggering and hurtful. Now I am going to try once more to convey my thoughts and thank you for giving me that opportunity.

                      Anna: I think that the point you’re making is that abusive people shouldn’t be in relationships.

                      No, I am not. I am making the point that when a person who has issues does not address them and then gets into relationships they no. 1, always attract themselves, no. 2, the relationship won’t be the perfect love that Stephanie describes — it will be fraught with problems.

                      HOWEVER. If I, for example, said something racist, or sexist, or homophobic, or otherwise harmful to any category with which you associate yourself, it would be inappropriate for me to then defend myself with “but I didn’t KNOW! I didn’t MEAN to hurt you,” it wouldn’t be ok. My lack of intent would not undo the harm I had done to you.

                      I absolutely agree, and I personally HATE when people use the I didn’t know excuse. I am not doing that. I am telling you that I am not saying the things that you think I am saying. I am telling you that you are misunderstanding me.

                      Anna: I hope you can understand how hurtful it was to read that passage, regardless of your intentions. You may not have meant to say what we thought you said, but it was hurtful, nonetheless.

                      I understand that you read my words and gleaned a meaning from them that I do not hold. I understand that the meaning that you gleaned hurt your feelings. Had I held those feelings, I would apologize for hurting you. But I do not hold those feelings. I not only did not mean to say what you viewed me saying in the paragraph that you quoted, I did not say it. I did not say that people who hate their bodies (like I do) or bemoan their weight (like I do) don’t deserve love and cannot receive it. I said people who have serious issues, and I mentioned a few, and are in denial about them, who refuse to acknowledge it cannot receive love. I said they cannot have the perfect love the Stephanie expresses while they are in that denial.

                      I think it would be more appropriate to say that they have a lot of trouble receiving love, so I will apologize for not including the words “have a lot of trouble” and instead using “cannot” — but I will still say that I do believe people in denial about their very serious issues, like Bella and Edward, cannot obtain the perfect love Stephanie Meyer’s describes in her book. I am hearing you Anna. I hope you are also hearing me.

                      Slay: So when you go on to make the above statement, it certainly lends itself to a read that you mean All people in Real Life can’t be ‘damaged’ and give or deserve love. The paragraph on its own reads as a very absolutist statement about relationships.

                      I understand what you are saying; I can see how the sentence reads as absolute. You’re right about that. I can certainly see how a person would make that assumption. However I did not say: “All people in Real Life can’t be ‘damaged’ and give or deserve love.” I think it would be crazy for me to say that, because we are all damaged in one way or the other. I did not mean that.

                      Slay: Personally, I feel that once we have hit submit on any of our writing it must stand on its own. Readers should not have to ask questions or seek to clarify our points — that’s what the writing does. We have put a bit of ourselves out there. It has to stand on its own. It is unfair of us as writers to expect our readers to know — or even need to know- anything about us beyond our essays. The onus isn’t on them to ask questions, it is on us to be clear. Not everyone feels that way about their writing, or their writing in a semi-informal atmosphere like a blog — that is just my personal feelings, and how I’ve been viewing this discussion.

                      I disagree. Writing, good writing, should IMO inspire thoughts, ideas and opinions. Good writing, IMO, has a person thinking about the writing long after they’ve read it. If a person has an opportunity to discuss the feelings, ideas and thoughts that the writing has called up with the author, I think it’s a beautiful thing.

                      I don’t look as my writing as an opportunity to pontificate on a soap box. I don’t see it as a closed conversation where I espouse my views and do not engage my audience. I can’t otherwise, understand the point of comments and the ability for me to respond to them, if it is not to encourage the exchange of ideas, thoughts and questions.

                      I view blogging as an opportunity to express thoughts and engage and inspire conversation. There is no onus, implied or stated, for any one who reads what I have written to ask me clarifying questions. However, I encourage and would like anyone who draws a conclusion or makes an assumption about what I mean in a piece, especially about an unrelated subject (in this case, can mentally ill/emotional disturbed people receive love) to ask me rather than accuse me.

                      This article was about society’s reaction to Twilight, a book I think that espouses the idea that dysfunctional relationships are healthy, but now I’m repeating myself.

                  3. Sabine, if I may, as someone who isn’t directly involved in this conversation, just ask you to step back and take a look at these lines that Anna quoted from your story:

                    We actually tell ourselves that what we find when we are so toxic and insecure is love. It isn’t true. It’s not real love. The relationship a person creates when they are that dysfunctional is always painful and unfulfilling with a firm foundation in usury and infatuation. When you’re that insecure you’re like a bucket with a hole in it. You cannot receive nor retain love and you cannot give what you don’t have.

                    Though you say that your intention is otherwise, what these words actually say is that a person who is insecure or dysfunctional is incapable of having a real relationship or finding non-toxic love. I’m not contesting what you mean, I’m just stating what these words actually say. Anna is saying that she reads this as saying that you believe that she and other people with similar struggles will never find true love and that they are deluding themselves if they think that their existing relationships are real and supportive. Please don’t take this as a criticism — just re-read the passage and see if that is the message that these words would give to a reader. Because even if your intentions are different, as readers all we have to go by are the actual words that hit the screen.

                    1. Though you say that your intention is otherwise, what these words actually say is that a person who is insecure or dysfunctional is incapable of having a real relationship or finding non-toxic love. I’m not contesting what you mean, I’m just stating what these words actually say.

                      You quoted the paragraph and are reading it and interpreting it while excluding and not taking into account the paragraph that appears before it.

                      “When we are so toxic” and “The relationship a person creates when they are that dysfunctional” refers to people who are in denial, period; people who refuse to acknowledge that they have issues.

                      I definitely understand and agree that the only thing a reader has to go by is the words on the screen, and I am okay with receiving criticism.

                      I think that the paragraph is being interpreted individually, separate and apart from the whole entire article, without looking at or taking into account the definitions I am attributing, in this article, to “toxic”, “dysfucntional” and “unhealthy”.

                      In short, Bella and Edward are toxic, unhealthy and dysfunctional, IMO, NOT because they have issues, NOT because they are insecure or have low self esteem — we are all, every single one of us, insecure about something. They are toxic and so is their relationship, IMO, because they are in complete denial about it. Had Meyer had the ability or inclination, she could have dealt with their issues, and then we would have understood WHY they are insecure and have low self esteem, they would have come to understand why they have low self esteem and are insecure, which is I believe a beautiful and worthy endeavor. They would have KNOWN that they were insecure, and probably still have been that way, but being open and honest about it, then true love is possible.

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