Ana's Note: Comments that negatively audit the real life actions, words, or beliefs of Kristen Stewart, Robert Pattinson, and/or Stephenie Meyer are subject to deletion, if I so choose. This post is about a Twilight Theme, and not about bashing the fallible people connected to the Twilight franchise.
As many of you are no doubt aware, the tabloids exploded this week over the news that Robert Pattinson (the actor who plays Edward Cullen in Twilight) left his shared home with Kristen Stewart (the actress who plays Bella in Twilight) after a "cheating scandal". Kristen, who had been photographed in an intimate situation with the "Snow White and the Huntsman" director Rupert Sanders, released this statement to the press:
After the magazine hit newsstands Wednesday, Stewart admitted to cheating and issued a public apology. "I'm deeply sorry for the hurt and embarrassment I've caused to those close to me and everyone this has affected," she said in a statement to People. "This momentary indiscretion has jeopardized the most important thing in my life, the person I love and respect the most, Rob. I love him, I love him, I'm so sorry."
This post isn't about Kristen Stewart or Robert Pattinson, but for what it's worth, I feel sorry for them. I feel sorry for Pattinson, because I believe it can be very hurtful to be confronted with evidence of cheating. I feel sorry for Stewart, because I believe it can be very easy to make a mistake that changes your entire life for the worse. Who among us has not at least once in their life wished for a time machine to take back something? I know I have.
Hardcore Twilight fans, the ones who openly identify Pattinson as Edward and Stewart as Bella may well be crushed and saddened by this turn of events; I've seen the polls demanding that the star couple "make a baby" so that it will turn out to be a real life adorable Reneesmee. But, of course, these actors aren't their characters, nor should they be.
And yet, I find myself in the midst of this turning back to Twilight. Pattinson and Stewart have been together for all of three years; Edward and Bella's relationship encompasses 2005 to 2007. The relationship between Pattinson and Stewart has been irreparably damaged by a kissing-and-maybe-more incident between Steward and another man; the relationship between Edward and Bella is ultimately only strengthened after her canoodling with Jacob Black. I don't think these comparisons make Pattinson or Stewart look somehow "worse" than Edward and Bella. Rather, I think these contrasts highlight that Twilight is fiction, and perhaps one reason why its so compelling.
After this post, where I ended with urging people to tell their loved ones that their love is unconditional, I asked Husband if he loved me unconditionally. He gave me a funny look and said that no, he didn't. He pointed out that he could imagine some things that, were I to do them, he wouldn't love me anymore. I gave him an exasperated look and told him that "'unconditional love' doesn't mean 'unconditionally', alright?" He laughed and affirmed that, in that case, yes he loved me unconditionally. Whatever that means.
The love in Twilight really is unconditional. The imprinting that the werewolves are subject to, and the blood bond between Edward and Bella that is essentially imprinting but with different words, are all formed completely, totally, eternally without condition or possibility for removal. In Eclipse, Jacob Black describes imprinting as having the entire world revolve around your loved one:
“It’s so hard to describe. It’s not like love at first sight, really. It’s more like . . . gravity moves. When you see her, suddenly it’s not the earth holding you here anymore. She does. And nothing matters more than her. And you would do anything for her, be anything for her. . . . You become whatever she needs you to be, whether that’s a protector, or a lover, or a friend, or a brother.
“Quil will be the best, kindest big brother any kid ever had. There isn’t a toddler on the planet that will be more carefully looked after than that little girl will be. And then, when she’s older and needs a friend, he’ll be more understanding, trustworthy, and reliable than anyone else she knows. And then, when she’s grown up, they’ll be as happy as Emily and Sam.”
The Twilight wiki even goes on to invoke the word "unconditionally":
When a shape-shifter imprints on a specific person, he becomes unconditionally bound to her for the rest of his life. When it happens, the experience is described as being gravitationally pulled toward that person while a glowing heat fills him; the connections of everything else become severed, or simply secondary, and only the imprintee is left to matter, leaving the shape-shifter with a deep need to do anything to please and protect the person.
Deeply creepy, especially when you add children into the mix? Undoubtedly. But if you can remove the children and the issues of consent and choice (and I don't blame you if you can't, because whoa), there's a fantasy underlying all this and I think the fantasy is that of being loved unconditionally. Not in the way that Husband and I use the word, but in the truest, strictest sense: Edward will always love Bella, no matter what she does.
And I think that carries out through the series. (Mind you, I haven't read all the books, yet, so I'm digging into the So I've Heard bucket here.) Edward doesn't castigate Bella for having moments of genuine attraction to Jacob. He seems genuinely willing to step back and play second fiddle so that Bella can have a human life, with Edward loving her distantly from afar. And -- I think -- the possibility of polyamory comes up, when it becomes clear that Edward can't make love to Bella without hurting her. (Correct me if I'm wrong on this, but I seem to recall Edward suggesting it in his usual heavy-handed way.)
Not all lovers are going to be so flexible on these issues, to say the least. (Nor am I suggesting they should be. People are complicated and we're not all cut out for polyamory pansexual ElfQuest fun-times. Though I sometimes wish I was, Because ElfQuest.)
Bella isn't as flexible as Edward, and she certainly has moments of intense jealousy when confronted with attractive women vying for Edward's attention. But she loves Edward unconditionally in her own way, never minding too much his abusive behavior towards her, and being more than happy to excuse his years of vigilante serial killings in order to satiate his blood lust. As the series progresses, it becomes more and more clear that there really isn't a viable way for Edward to drive her off or cross a line that will irrevocably damage her love for him; I harbor a private suspicion that Edward could kill and eat his new in-laws and Bella would chalk it up to a tragic accident, best forgotten.
I'm not going to say that this fantasy of being unconditionally loved is unhealthy, but I do think that it's... unrealistic. As much as I say I unconditionally love my husband and parents, I am aware that there are lines that must not be crossed, both for them and for me. I think that's relatively normal, and not a particularly controversial position to hold.
But I understand the appeal of being truly unconditionally loved. Of someone for whom there is never a need to "start over", someone who cannot be driven away, someone for whom you never have to worry that you've crossed an un-take-back-able line. Bella will never have to long for a time machine to repair her relationship; Edward will never have to worry that he's lost the person who means the most to him. They have an eternity before them, yes, but they'll never get tired of one another's company, they'll never fall out of love, they'll never risk being hurt and alone.
It's a powerful fantasy. I almost, almost because boundaries exist for Good Reasons, wish that life worked like that. But I don't think it usually does.