The Imaginary Heroine

searching for the plot

A New Dawn part 4: “My Boyfriend Sparkles” by Anne Ursu March 7, 2010

[Part of a series discussing the essays in A New Dawn edited by Ellen Hopkins. These posts may contain spoilers about all four Twilight novels and Midnight Sun.]

In this essay Ursu details how the Twilight Saga illustrates truths about first love. Bella’s feelings for Edward are typical of a teenager locked in the throws of their first romance. Each segment of the essay is titled with phrases pulled straight from the mouths and diaries of young lovers every where: “He’s Not Like Other Boys,” “When He Touches Me, It’s Electric,” and “I’ll Love Him Forever.”

A less conventional heading is “My Boyfriend Sparkles.”The books are fantasy, but the best fantasy tells us something about reality[,]” says Ursu. “The author Lloyd Alexander said “Fantasy is a good way to show the world as it is. Fantasy can show us the truth about human relationships and moral dilemmas because it works on our emotions on a deeper, symbolic level than realistic fiction.”” Hmm…sounds familiar.

Ursu takes this a step further and points out that the fantasy of Twilight also serves to obscure less acceptable elements of the story. “There are aspects to Bella and Edward’s relationship that, when translated into the real world become disturbing and dangerous.” Namely Edward’s supreme power over Bella (while she’s human, anyway) and Bella’s supplication before him. This lack of equality is certainly not a healthy ideal for teenagers to emulate. Stephenie Meyer seems to know this and allows Bella to become a super-powerful vampire in the final novel, creating balance not just in the Bella-Edward relationship, but in the Twilight universe as a whole, resulting in total resolution of all conflict by the final pages of Breaking Dawn.

Bella’s transformation and Happily (Raised to Infinity) Ever After ending can be interpreted several different ways, depending on what you believe Bella and Edward’s relationship is supposed to represent. If, as Ursu posits in this essay, it represents the deepest, most obsessive throws of first love, there are still differing conclusions that can be drawn as to what exactly their happy ending means.

One way to interpret Bella’s rise to power and ultimate triumph is that first love can bring two people together, but the relationship can only be whole and permanent if the partners are equals. As such, their love is a source of strength that enables them to reach personal actualization and face down any dangers they may encounter. Even if that danger happens to be an undead army lead by ancient Italian vampires with superpowers.

However, Twilight’s ending can also be interpreted as an encouragement to throw everything to the wind for love, which, although a staple of innumerable volumes of literature, poetry, music, and art, has its pitfalls when practiced in real life. On a personal note, as someone who moved half way across the country to a city where she had neither friends, family, nor job prospects because of love, these pitfalls can be pretty heartbreaking in their own right. This isn’t to say that it isn’t worth it, but simply that the transaction is not as painless as the Twilight Saga would have us believe. Bella gets to keep her human family, her vampire family, her child, Jacob and Edward as a reward for having enough faith to sacrifice even her life for love. In reality, the rewards are more bittersweet.

I believe it is with good reason that the author’s conclusions are a bit pessimistic about the implications one might draw from the Twilight Saga. The fantasy doesn’t stop at the vampires and werewolves, but goes right to the heart of the story. For Ursu, first love that lasts forever is about as realistic as a sparkly boyfriend.

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