Truthfully, as Twilight comes to an end, I find that there isn’t really a whole lot left to portray the unhealthy nature of Edward and Bella’s relationship. As it stands, the danger she finds herself in as a result of James and therefore Edward’s connection to vampirism, while certainly able to be construed as unhealthy, doesn’t really fit in with reality enough for it to be a genuine concern. I’m sure comparisons could be made…maybe you’re dating someone in a dangerous gang, but it’s really ultimately not the same.
Here’s some interesting food for thought. Edward is constantly referenced as “[thinking] he [is] hazardous to [Bella’s] health,” based solely on his status as a vampire–which, while true is not really problematic in the sense that it doesn’t have a real life parallel that young girls need to look out for and might misunderstand about actually damaging people–and yet I find he is dangerous to her health more due to her own codependency issues. And that, ultimately, I can’t see as his fault. What is, however, his fault is how he also develops the same ridiculous codependency toward her.
These two characters are disturbingly dependent on one another. Bella repeatedly shows how lost and incapable of anything more than basic survival once Edward leaves and he even makes it expressly clear that he intends to kill himself upon her death. This own determination that he has regarding his ability to live without her is ultimately what makes it so easy for him to believe that she has killed herself rather than live without him. Not only is this idea thoroughly unrealistic as far as real relationships goes and therefore purports this unfortunate idea that the only person you need is the person you are dating and that you will have nothing once they are gone.
I was, regrettably, one of the young girls who believed in this unhealthy notion. It took me many years and multiple damaging relationships before I realized how horrible and dangerous a relationship like that was. I did not always know what codependency was nor how it could be harmful and I would wager that many of the young girls who’ve read these books didn’t either. It’s not entirely hard to see how this can be misconstrued as romantic because who, when they’re young, doesn’t look forward to that one person who will love them more than they love everyone else?
This notion of “I’d rather die than be without you” is so troublesome and problematic in its representation of a relationship and more often than not it is portrayed as romantic, largely because this is something that the people in a relationship want to feel for each other. But if you think about how truly dangerous this idea is in general or how it feels when you might not want a person to love you, you realize how deeply this fits into an abusive or unhealthy relationship.
New Moon also unwittingly promotes unhealthy responses to a breakup from the complete shut down behavior of isolationism to adrenaline junkie-like behavior of seeking danger. There should really be no question as to the fact that Bella’s behavior of putting herself in dangerous situations in order to “hear [Edward’s] voice” is deeply problematic both in the regular sense of her seeking out danger in order to feel normal, or not depressed, and in the fact that she is having hallucinations.
Now, some suspension of belief can be held here, I guess, for the fact that this book is supernatural…but the fact of the matter is that Bella should have been seeing a therapist or getting some form of medical help for her seriously detrimentally unhealthy condition. Her self-destructive behavior on account of her codependency toward Edward and subsequently his self-destructive behavior on account of his codependency toward her are deeply troubling and dangerous things to promote in a young adult novel.
I’m almost certain that Stephenie Meyer had no concept of this, did not understand the dangerous notions that she was pushing on impressionable young minds. I would like to hope that she has some form of regret for the ideas that these books gave these girls, girls like me who had adverse effects as a result of this sort of influence. I recall really loving these books as a young girl. And it brings about a truly dejecting realization that a number of my previous relationships and even my current one were damaging or had problematic aspects, some influenced by my own behavior. The length of time I held onto this idea that I only needed that one person and they would be all I need allowed for quite a lot of unhealthy behavior on my end. And both Bella and Edward support this ludicrous claim.
So, ultimately, these books aren’t exactly as problematic as some. And they aren’t directly obvious in their damaging natures. But that, ultimately, is the most dangerous part of it. There are far too many people who will read it, ignorant to the issues within, and not recognize those problems in their real lives. It’s been an interesting re-read, for sure, but I cannot begin to describe how upsetting it is for me to realize how many problems this series may have caused.