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When Reality Isn't Enough

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Meet Belle and Eduardo, two people living in the dreariest place imaginable to the human mind (insert the name of a city that almost never sees sunshine and happens to have a lot of dirt and trees). Belle is an emotionally unstable teenage girl who prefers the company of books to human beings and is naturally suspicious of, and secretly in love with, a boy who looks too good for a high school junior and has it all. Eduardo is a relatively normal teenage boy with a brooding and insanely attractive demeanor that makes every girl in school want to jump him (except for, of course, that one exception), as well as an affinity for hunting animals. As we come to discover, it’s not with guns or traps, but with his razor-sharp teeth! Eduardo is a bloodsucking vampire, and naturally Belle is drawn to the boy who can snap her neck with a quick twist of the wrist. As a teenager, I completely understand why Belle can’t help but want him. The bad boys always get the girl any way.

Authors in today’s society can comprehend that these are the kinds of stories we want to read, especially as young and impressionable adolescent girls. We want to read about scenarios and experiences that would never happen to a living creature in a million years so we can set impossible standards for the men we want in our lives. By creating characters such as Stephanie Meyers’ Bella and Edward of the Twilight series, my love life seems almost hopeless in comparison. I am never going to find an Edward just strolling down the street (because he’s a vampire and would sparkle in the sunlight, which is a big no-no) to whisk me away to his home in the woods to impress me with food he can cook but can’t eat. In reality, high school for us regular humans is basically “singles awareness day” repeated over the course of four years. There are always couples, sure, but let’s be honest, it’s high school. What do we really know? It doesn’t really seem to faze us that Bella and Edward have it all figured out.

Meyers, in particular, tries to give us a kind of image where romance blossoms in high school with the first person you get a crush on, even if he happens to be a supernatural creature that almost kills you just because you smell too good. Bella does a wonderful job in picking her men, as this not only makes her want to get closer to Edward, it makes her want to meet other vampires that may not be as friendly to humans as he is (if you can even call it friendly). We get the sense that the feelings you get when you’re in your first relationship can seemingly cloud your judgment to do things that you probably wouldn’t do were you single and mentally sane. For Bella, that includes exploring the Seattle alleyways at night with some random men she doesn’t know, alone, as well as risking her life to save a vampire from being killed by another vampire. Most people who read the Twilight series don’t really mind the first scenario, as Edward mysteriously arrives in his Volvo sedan to scare away Bella’s stalkers and save the day. Dangerous situation avoided! However, the second event makes me want to chuck my book at the wall at how improbable it sounds.

The idea that passion makes us do crazy and stupid things seems to be a prevalent theme in supernatural love stories, especially the Twilight series. Because the romance is so heart-wrenching and believable (Bella knows that she loves Edward after having all of four conversations with him), we attempt to justify the characters’ actions in maintaining their love for each other as they encounter dangerous situations together. We want to see them survive and come out of the other end of the tunnel, love boat still intact. Girls especially, because of what men call “feelings”, support this kind of unnatural relationship because they have been given a specimen of man that cannot, in any way, ever exist. Who wants to read a book where the hot lead character dies and can’t parade around in his hotness anymore? I don’t. And yet, when we see someone this flawless, and understand that he can’t leap from the pages into our own lives, we translate his qualities into our own standards of what we want in men. When I finished the first book of the Twilight series, I wouldn’t bother looking at any man who wasn’t deathly pale with rippling muscles and golden eyes that turned red when he was hungry. Eventually, I realized how ridiculous it was, and started accepting tan men as potential suitors as well. I had broadened my horizons, but because of Edward, I started to nitpick for men with his exact characteristics and personality. I have probably scared away more men than I can count. But only for love!

In a way, when we finally understand that we want what we can never have, we find comfort in the fact that someone like Edward fell in love with a klutz like Bella. We get even more excited when we find out from the books that she’s not really even that pretty (although the screenwriters of the movies took a bit of liberty with that detail) and has problems that any girl has: she cries when she gets frustrated, she can’t tan, and finds it hard to make new friends – yet somehow, to all her classmates she’s like the sun that never shines in Forks, something they want to hold on to and keep for themselves. The teenaged girls who read these books feel a connection to this character as she is a sort of literary reflection of them. Bella gives them hope. Her story asserts that there is love for everyone, even for the girls with the confidence issues and for those who struggle through high school and still manage to graduate with their natural hair. But, is it healthy to put so much stock into what is going on in this girl’s life?

Why do we model ourselves based upon stories that are too fantastic to believe, yet ultimately still manage to get us to believe them anyway? Parents would say it’s a result of a lack of self-confidence in teenagers to accept the reality they’re given; another person’s reality is better than our own. I can understand this being the case for many people who enjoy reading as a means of escape from their lives that are dull in comparison. When targeting a young audience, and with it consisting of mostly susceptible teenage girls, there should be more caution in what kind of material is put out there. It’s expected of advertisements selling beauty products and clothes to use persuasive elements that encourage girls to buy things they may not truly need; no one expects a book series to do something along the same lines. We need to be careful about what teenage girls read and how they perceive it. I dread the day when someone actually believes that vampires are real and starts to hunt down their own Edward.





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