If You Were 13, Would You Love Edward Cullen, Too?

Illustration for article titled If You Were 13, Would You Love Edward Cullen, Too?

Wherever the New Moon promotional blitz goes, Twilight-related analysis pieces are sure to follow. In today's Guardian, several experts explain Edward Cullen's appeal to teenage girls, noting that he represents the "predatory yet alluring boy." But is that really true?


Well, yes, on some levels. Edward Cullen is both predatory and alluring; much is made of his beauty and his uniqueness, and the risks of dating a vampire who has to fight his own urges carries a sense of danger and excitement that might appeal to some readers. He is your standard tortured bad boy with a (questionable) heart of gold and, well, skin that happens to sparkle in the sun.

I've often taken shots at Edward Cullen, as I find the character, and the relationship he shares with Bella Swan, to be quite creepy; Cullen, to me, reads as extremely controlling and stalker-esque, and I find it hard to believe in their romance when there appears to be so much fear and intimidation involved. However, I often wonder how I would have viewed this book when I was younger, say 13 or so, before I'd ever been in a relationship of my own. As much as I hate to admit it, I think I might have loved Edward Cullen, as well, just as I loved Billy Corgan or Trent Reznor, for being dark but pretty and for seeming slightly dangerous but like they understood what I was thinking as the rest of the world didn't.

For all of his creepiness, Edward Cullen is really just the latest scream-worthy dude that's driving the kids crazy. My mother flipped out over George Harrison, much to my grandparents' dismay. My older sister had a picture of INXS on the wall and kissed it whenever she could. My parents used to shake their heads as I smeared my eyes in black kohl and walked around moping to Siamese Dream. Every one has their unrequited teenage crush; it just seems like teenagers are all zeroing in on the same kid at the same time.

Edward Cullen may come in a different, darker package, but he still represents your typical teenage Tiger Beat dream boat: he wants only you, girl, he'll always be true, girl, he'll totally wait till you're married, girl, there's nobody else in the world for him, girl, he may be bad, but he'll be good to you, girl, etc. He's the guy you can dream about making out with, because you know you'll never make out with him. He represents the kind of love that never comes with rejection, because you know he's not real and you could never have him anyway. He's a safe means of falling in love for those who desperately want to know what it feels like.

The troublesome aspect of the Edward Cullen adoration, of course, is that girls will grow up believing that a boy who sneaks in to your room to watch you sleep is a real catch, as opposed to a total psychopath, and that the disturbing aspects of the Cullen/Swan relationship will stick with teenage girls as a marker of what "real love" is supposed to be. However, I think at times we don't give teenage girls enough credit for growing up and out of these phases; one hopes that if the world presents them with the right education regarding healthy relationships, they'll eventually see that Edward and Bella aren't exactly the ideal, and perhaps their teenage crushes will turn into adult eye rolls.

Who you are and what you believe about love when you're 13 is rarely who you are and what you believe about love when you get older; there are difficult lessons to learn and crushes that will eventually fade away. If there's one answer to why teenage girls love Edward Cullen so much, I'd argue that it's because teenage girls love love so much, and all that comes with it, and Cullen just happens to be the hottest representative of romance in the 7th grade right now. He's an extremely flawed representative, there's no doubt about that, and I hope someone else comes along to knock him off soon, if only because I think teenage girls deserve a better imaginary boyfriend to share initial hearts with in their notebooks.


So what say you, commenters? Would you be into Edward Cullen if you were 13? And did you learn anything from your imaginary teenage crushes?

Why Have Teenage Girls Been Bitten By The Edward Cullen Bug To Devour The Twilight Novels [Guardian]



My first fictional crush was Aragorn, so I think I can safely say that I wouldn't have been into Edward Cullen. I probably would have read the books, like I read Piers Anthony back then, and found them just as unsatisfying and creepy, but wouldn't have been able to articulate exactly why until I was older.

I do think we underestimate teenagers. And I think part of the appeal of the Twilight relationship is more than just the "bad" boy who's really good thing. I think a huge part of the appeal is in the noticing of Bella, an otherwise unremarkable person. I think most girls, especially teenage ones, feel unremarkable and ignored and want someone, anyone, to notice them. To think they're special. To "rescue" them from feeling trapped in the cycle of teenage angst.

Adolescence is also when a lot of people first start having more existential, meaning of life and death, realizations/thoughts. If you experience a loss in adolescence you understand it in a way you really can't when you're younger. So stories that deal with the the "darker" side of life, in even a cursory way, like Twilight I think are more appealing. Vampires in just about any context appeal to that. Just like overwrought, creepy romance will.

I do think there's something disturbing about the stalking behaviors as proof of true love/passion, though. I'd like to think people grow out of it...but I'm not so sure. You see that trope in adult romance stories too.

I'm less disturbed by the content of Twilight than I am the way some folks think it's above critique. #love