Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Normal Guy vs. Edward Cullen

In which I continue my conversation about my love/hate relationship with Twilight. I have more "love" to give, but I thought today we'd touch on the "hate" or more aptly, "these characters aren't real".

"A Normal Guy would wait for you to make him breakfast. Edward Cullen would make you breakfast everyday. " - I found that on another blog. Can't remember where or when, but it got me thinking.

Edward Cullen is a character we can all love. He has some very redeeming qualities. First, he's a gentleman. He was born in 1901 and had that "old school" sense of manners and politeness, especially when it comes to how you treat a woman. He is charming. He opens doors. He's always polite. He offers his coat when you're cold. He has patience.

Most of all, we love Edward Cullen because he loves her. Not in the way most "Normal Guys" love their girlfriend's/wives/fiancees. He LOVES her, with everything that he has, with no chance of failing, no smidge of regret or worry, no sense of what he could find better or easier to love. He unfailingly devotes every second of his being to her happiness and her salvation, even going as far in one of the books to leave her for what he has rationalized is her best interest in staying alive and having a "normal" life. He is ultimately concerned with her soul, and repeatedly refuses to "change her" because he doesn't want her to lose that and be damned (as he believes he is).

You are probably thinking, "Sheesh. You said you'd touch on the "hate", sounds like you love this character too." You are right. I do love this character. What's not to love?

And herein lies the problem.

Edward Cullen is inhumanly perfect. He has no human limitations to him that a normal guy has. He doesn't sleep. He doesn't eat. He doesn't get tired. He has an endless supply of money, and doesn't have to work (his sister can see the future and his family plays the stock market, rather well, not to mention his "dad" is a doctor and makes reasonably good money too). He has endless patience, never ending energy. He is inhumanly strong and fast. He is the ultimate protector, provider, and loving husband.

The fact that there are no human limitations to what he can do sets up the "Normal Guy" for failure. A normal guy has to work overtime to make Christmas gifts happen. Edward Cullen is infinitely rich. A normal guy has to sleep and will get tired no matter how much fun he is having. Edward Cullen can keep doing whatever you want - forever. A normal guy has his own needs and wants. Edward Cullen wants whatever will make YOU happy (or in the book's case, Bella....but the books are written in first person from Bella's perspective, so it is easy to think of Bella as yourself). A normal guy may actually have to back down from a fight (not MY normal guy, hee hee). Edward Cullen is impossibly strong and fast. Normal guys fart. Not Edward.

Do you see what I am getting at? This dude is not real. I mean, I *know* he's not real, duh, it's a book. But he leaves the mind up to wander about the "perfect man" that simply does not exist in this world created for us by God. Humans have human limitations.

My husband is going to be too tired to "mow the lawn" (if you know what I mean *wink*) some nights no matter how much I want to or feel that I need him. My husband is occasionally going to want to do some of his own stuff, stuff I may not be interested in like playing video games, yard work, or cutting wood. (Although, I could watch him cut wood ALL DAY LONG.) He might want to go fishing, even when it's hot and muggy out.

He isn't going to think that everything I do is totally awesome. For example, he thinks the knitting is fine, but really, he could care less. He is glad I have something that makes me happy and excited, but he is not going to sit and listen to me talk about stitch counts, fiber make-up, or the benefits of wool vs. fake stuff.

As wonderful as he thinks midwifery is, he doesn't want to hear about the placenta I delivered at the last birth.

He is going to want food. And if I don't feed him, he is going to get cranky.

He has to work. If he doesn't work, we don't have the things we need, like food, clothing, and shelter. This means he is going to have to leave me at some point during the day to earn a paycheck. I am going to have to be alone, without his presence. I am going to have to handle our children by myself and figure out how to manage. He is going to interact with other humans that are not me. And he is probably going to like it *gasp*. (Because who wouldn't like a little break from babytown to have some adult conversations every now and then?)

Bottom line: As much as I like the series, I have to remember it is fiction - created by a human. Not real. Not created by God. Fascinating, yes. Real, no.

As an adult, I think I have an OK time realizing this and keeping the fiction as entertainment. I think entertainment is good and healthy. I like plenty of other fiction stories too, like Harry Potter and Santa Claus, or Barbie Rapunzel (yes, I like that one!), or my kids' books.

What I think bothers me is that I know there are people out there who are going to have a hard time finding a "Normal Guy" to live up to their expectations after reading about Edward Cullen. I especially would worry about preteens and teenagers (and even some adults). These books are very fun to read (and I would recommend them highly!). But if you can't separate fiction from reality, you are in for a sad time.

Real men don't and won't treat you like Edward Cullen. They won't cater to your every whim, every desire. Real men will love you like humans love. They have faults (just like YOU) and their own needs and desires to be met also. You will have to find a balance and wake up everyday and choose to love them. They will be able to make you happy, but not the kind of unconditional, unending happiness that is for fiction novels. The only unconditional, unending happiness you will find in this world will not come from a human man - it will come from the love of God.

Real men are not gods, and they will not treat you like such. (And really, you don't want to be treated like such, trust me.) The "honeymoon" phase will end with every human relationship at some point and you are going to have to make due with what is left. It is enough, and will work. But not like in the fiction stories. It will take work, and sacrifice, and the rewards will be great. But you are going to have to put some effort in too. Edward Cullen would never make you do that.


Anonymous said...

I know too many teen age girls who thought they were marrying a perfect man, only to divorce him a couple of years later when he revealed himself to be "normal". Hence my "hate" (your word) for such literature! :)
Your thoughts are very insightful on this series. I have not been the slightest bit tempted to read or view any of it, but I still find your angle very interesting. :)

Anonymous said...

I mean girls that as teen agers read/viewed such men and when they grew up.... sorry. :)

Katherine said...

I heartily agree and respectfully disagree.

I agree it can easily put up this perfect "man" image that simply cannot be lived up to and hence give false expectations and unrealistic hopes.

I disagree that it makes me "hate" the character or the work. Honestly, Edward made me think of Christ and His love for us. He is, as you say, "inhumanly perfect" - He doesn't have needs apart from our consent to love him. He watches over us when we sleep and is always there, listening, watching, caring, protecting, loving us. He is infinitely strong, fast, wealthy - the "ultimate protector, provider, and loving" person.

Ann Rice, long-time writer of vampire stories but recent re-convert back to Catholicism, observed that she thought the obsession with the Twilight Saga was really a sign of our starvation for the divine. I agree. And you point out very nicely that Edward has a lot more in common with a deity than a human man. So, as a role model for then groom of a wedding, I agree it is problematic, but as a literary image of God's love for us, I respectfully disagree that I cannot hate Edward but see in Him a symbolic character of just a drop of His love for us. This really struck me in Eclipse, near the end, when Bella is, understandably, upset about her situation and what she did for Jacob and she (and I) thought Edward would be so hurt and angry and upset and Edward says to her, "you are only human." His mercy and understanding only made me think of Christ. How many men (or women!) would respond that way!?!

MamaMidwife said...

Katherine -

I *love* your take on this!!! Yes! Yes! Yes! I hadn't quite thought of it as the image of Christ's love for us, but that is a wonderul analogy.

I don't really "hate" the character or the books for that matter. "Love/Hate" relationship has a better ring to it than "Love/Slightly Dislike" relationship.

I actually really love this aspect of the book that I "hate" so much. It's one of the things that keeps me rereading the series (ok, I've only reread it once). The endless discussion with friends over all the different complexities of this series makes it all the more wonderful.

Thank you sooo much for your comment. :)

Katherine said...

I'd love to reread it but my husband got upset when I became completely absorbed by it when I read it the first time. LOL. I've never had so many complaint about my reading a book! Hopefully one day I'll get to reread it again. God Bless!