10 signs of an abusive relationship – a Twilight reading

A few of the possibly more critical and aware fans around have pointed out how many key signs of abusive relationships can be seen in Edward’s treatment of his human girlfriend Bella in Twilight, so I thought I’d have a look at the UK’s advice on recognising abuse and see what I could find in the quadrilogy of books.

Below is a nationally recognised list of 10 warning signs for abusive relationships from Women’s Aid, a national UK charity that works to stop domestic and sexual abuse. How many traits of Edwards can we see here?

When you’re done having a look through, take a look at some fan reactions here.

1. Destructive criticism and verbal abuse: shouting/mocking/accusing/name calling/verbally threatening…
‘Ordinary people seem to make it through the day without so many catastrophes.’

‘Bella, it’s not my fault if you are exceptionally unobservant.’

‘Don’t be offended, but you seem to be one of those people who just attract accidents like a magnet. So try not to fall into the ocean or get run over or anything, all right?’

‘Must I always be the responsible one?’

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Interview with the vampires

Who better to talk about the fans of fanged fiction than the stars on the receiving end of those piercing screams? I caught up with Breaking Dawn – Part 2 vampires Judi Shekoni, Amadou Ly, Patrick Brennan, and Rami Malek at Massive Events‘ last ever Twilight convention, Eternal Twilight 9.

Eternal Twilight convention - Massive EventsWhat is it about vampires? Why do they keep sucking us in?
Judi: I don’t think it’s recent, I just think suddenly people have been giving something to the appetite. People have always had a fascination with vampires. I know I had Interview with the Vampire with Brad Pitt and Tom Cruise. I mean, that movie… ohmygod!

Amadou: I love the fact that the fans are able to relate to the struggles that the characters are trying to overcome, whether it’s Bella having to choose which love life she’ll spend the rest of her life with, or her decision to become a vampire. People identify with struggles.

Judi: I think the appeal of the vampires themselves is that they transcend laws – they can do anything, and they’re not put in a box. They are monsters, they are dangerous, but there’s an underlying freedom and lack of rules that vampires have that I think is enigmatic and draws people in. And vampire powers are not so crazy, everything’s just a bit more than being a human being, so they’re everything a human being secretly wants to be.

Patrick: Yeh, as I get older and I see my face getting older and the lines coming in, this whole idea of staying young and beautiful and in love and all that stuff, for me I guess that’s the appeal. It’s freaky watching yourself age.

Rami: I think it elicits something in our imagination that’s very devilish and dark and something that everyone can kind of… sink their teeth into… *laughs*

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The need for abuse education

Academics and representatives from women’s charities that I’ve interviewed on this topic have all had one common opinion: more education is needed in schools to teach young people about relationships and abuse.

Think about it… When did you learn that certain behaviours in relationships are not ok? Was it while you were in a relationship? During a break up? Or in hindsight? For many people, learning what is right and wrong in a relationship is something that you learn during a relationship. We learn from our mistakes, or at least we hope to. But should we be left to have to make those mistakes in the first place?

What if someone had told you that if they trust you they should never have to read your e-mails? That looking through your texts is a gross invasion of privacy that you have a right to? That they shouldn’t ever ask you to stop seeing a friend because they’re jealous or ‘just don’t like them’? Or that stopping you from going to the cinema tonight is just not on?

Listed below are some teen fan responses to the discussion of abuse in Twilight, and these worryingly misguided opinions highlight precisely why people are calling for more education about abuse in schools:

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Overprotective? You could say that… Take a look at these snippets of dialogue (taken out of context, I’ll grant you that) from the Twilight saga. Is this a fervent display of romance and care, or a controlling and jealous boyfriend? Is it sexy to be spoken to like this?

“‘Edward, let’s just talk this through.’
‘You don’t understand.’
‘There are options.’
Edward turned on her in fury, his voice a blistering snarl. ‘There-is–no–other-option!'”

“Didn’t he know me at all? He wasn’t expecting the force of my reaction, that was clear. He pressed his lips together and his eyes narrowed. ‘Don’t be difficult, Bella.'”

“He lowered the automatic window and leaned toward me across the seat. ‘Get in, Bella.’ I didn’t answer. I was mentally calculating my chances of reaching the truck before he could catch me. I had to admit, they weren’t good. ‘I’ll just drag you back,’ he threatened, guessing my plan.”

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Excuses, excuses, excuses…

Is it your vampire boyfriend’s fault if he assaults you when he’s not in the ‘right frame of mind’? If it’s just his natural instinct as a vampire?
Prior to this extract from Dead as a Doornail (2005), book five from Charlaine Harris’ Sookie Stackhouse series (aka True Blood), vampire Bill has been tortured and starved before being thrown into the trunk of a car with his human lover, Sookie, where he assaults her and drinks her almost to death. A jealous shape-shifter orchestrated the incident to purposefully harm Sookie, but take a look at this defence speech from Sookie afterwards…

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Do we want to be pale, cold, and bony?

“In a time when it is so easy for young girls to be persuaded by the media, are vampires the wrong image to achieve?”

This is the pitch for a story offered to a journalist at the peak of fanged fandom in 2009.

Can an obsession with pastey, bony, undead monsters make teens want to take diet pills and wear Halloween-white makeup? Are the vampires on our screens adding to the size-0 culture we see in every magazine and newspaper? I don’t think so, and neither does the journalist who was handed this press release.

If we’re going to start talking about body image issues and combating stereotypes, lets look at some of the role models on show.

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A twisted tale

“The newspaper headline screams: “Eighteen-Year-Old Slain by Husband after Giving Birth.” As you continue reading, you learn that the young woman was brainwashed by a strange blood-drinking cult who call themselves a “family,” though none of the members were actually related. The young woman’s husband was much older than she and had a history of violence. In fact, you learn that her husband used to stalk her prior to her marriage, watching her secretly from the woods near her home and climbing into an unsecured window at night to watch her sleep without her knowledge. Once the young woman, then seventeen, was initiated into a relationship with the man and his “family,” she was encouraged to marry right after her high school graduation. The young woman reportedly had bruises all over her body after returning from her honeymoon, where she also reportedly became pregnant. Her husband was not happy about the pregnancy and wanted her to have an abortion. She refused, eventually leading to him ripping the child from her womb, then, draining her of her blood until she finally stopped breathing.

Sounds torturous and sick, doesn’t it? But in fact, this is the basis of a tween-teen literary phenomenon called the Twilight saga…”

– ‘The “Real” Danger: Fact vs Fiction for the Girl audience’, by Rebecca Housel (aka ‘The Pop Culture Professor‘), in Twilight and Philosophy, p.178.

Watch this space for more from The Pop Culture Professor here soon.

Twilight - Edward and BellaWhat do you think? Right on the jugular or just a bad tasting bite?