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The Twilight Saga Edward and Bella
The Twilight Saga Edward and Bella
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Wellness > Sex + Relationships

Twilight’s Edward and Bella: analysing their lack of personal boundaries and toxic manipulation tactics

The opinions expressed in this article are the writer’s own and do not reflect the views of Her Campus.
This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at Exeter chapter.

It’s October now and that can mean only one thing, at least for me. No, I’m not talking pumpkin spice or oversized sweaters, Gilmore Girls or Red (Taylor’s Version). No, I’m talking about the annual (though I did watch it in June this year, I have to admit) rewatch of the Twilight Saga. 

I mean this annual rewatch has basically cemented itself in my annual calendar. I’m talking rivalling Elf at Christmas and Back To The Future in the New Year kind of cemented. And as we progress into the month of October, there’s something about the season which feels synonymous with the very blue filter of the first movie, “Bella! Where the hell have you been, Loca?” and whatever the lyrics to the song Robert Pattinson sings in the background of the restaurant scene are.

Given how fundamental a Twilight re-watch feels to me during this season, and I reckon I am not alone here, I feel like it always brings to light the toxic relationship dynamic Bella and Edward engage in. 

Growing up with the films, I’ve always been more inclined to say I’m Team Edward over Jacob (though now I’d say I’m firmly Team Carlisle, he’s a certified DILF) but it takes maturing to realise that neither are particularly great options. So in this article, I’d like to dive into the ways in which Twilight demonstrates how detrimental having a lack of boundaries in a relationship can be and how, ultimately, this is not the kind of relationship we should idealise or desire.

Edward dictating Bella’s personal relationships

Protectiveness is one of Edward’s defining characteristics. This is frequently highlighted throughout the books and the movies. In fact it’s not just highly mentioned, but it’s romanticised. It’s implied that Edward’s protectiveness is one of his most desirable qualities to Bella. 

Though an element of protectiveness can be sweet in relationships, excessive protectiveness, like the sort Edward exhibits, risks being detrimental to the other’s personal relationships. Too much ‘protection’ is exemplary of controlling behaviour and emotional manipulation, which is far from healthy. 

Edward is heavily involved in Bella’s decision-making in respect to her relationship with her family members and friends. But even when he’s not been consulted, he still takes an even more prominent role in ‘protecting’ her behind her back. What this actually is him shaping her personal relationships and dictating the direction of them without her consent. 

A healthy relationship respects the value of other relationships to the other and if any concerns arise due to the nature of some of the familial or platonic relationships, a healthy partner would express their concerns verbally but respect and hear the other’s opinion and choices. There would be no decisions made to ‘protect’ the other behind their back and there would be an absence of needing to be constantly updated and in control. 

Absence of consent to physical proximity, i.e. Edward watching Bella sleep

Edward watching Bella sleep is widely recognised as being problematic, at least by contemporary media. Though this has become extensively meme-ified and people generally find the whole concept funny, it’s actually not very funny at all. 

Edward ultimately breaks into Bella’s house while she’s asleep to watch her dream. This is a particularly problematic trope and is highly romanticised by Bella. But watching this back it just seems creepy. I empathise with Edward in the sense that he wants to appreciate Bella’s beauty but surely this can be done while she’s awake, like I mean the way he does when both of them are in the lavender meadow and are conscious – that’s much more healthy and consensual. 

What Edward demonstrates by doing this is that he doesn’t truly respect Bella’s consent to physical proximity and ultimately he disrespects her personal space. He doesn’t respect the fact that Bella has the right to privacy and personal space, especially because he was doing so even before they’d properly established a relationship. 

Even when you are seeing someone or in a relationship with them, you still have the right to privacy and the right to establish personal boundaries, especially those concerning physical proximity. You should never feel as though your beauty or the fact that someone is attracted to you comes at the expense of your personal space. You’re entitled to have time to yourself and shouldn’t feel as though you owe it to your partner to constantly be open to their gaze or that they’re just allowed to enter your space whenever, especially if you have not consented to this. 

A healthy relationship thrives when individuals are allowed to be that, individuals. You don’t need to be around your partner 24/7 to have a strong connection or to remain attractive to them. In fact, a healthy relationship consists of both spending quality time together and alone. Someone who loves you will allow you to have personal space and won’t infringe on your right to consent. 

Intimidation and the weaponisation of physical differences 

I think this is really important and is often overlooked. Whilst Edward’s physique may not be as intimidating as his own brother Emmett’s or as intimidating as Jacob’s, the films and books emphasise that he’s unnaturally strong, particularly when comparing him to Bella, and, as an associated characteristic with being a vampire, extremely dangerous. 

All of the above feels toxically so. Edward makes his strength and masculinity toxic by making a point of how dangerous, strong and impulsive he is. He even reveals his murderous side and makes a point of highlighting how fundamental this has been to his identity and how fundamentally he functions as less of a person, but more as a predator. 

Bella sees Edward as misunderstood and justifies a lot of his actions, i.e. murdering people, by claiming that he’s just wearing “a mask”. I think what this does is send the wrong message. There’s nothing romantic about someone being proudly brutal, violent and toxically strong. And this is especially so when they are so disproportionately strong compared to their partner and make a point of highlighting that. 

The truth is, Edward uses their physical differences and his supernatural qualities as almost like a weapon and to intimidate, even when he does so almost satirically. This is an incredibly unhealthy dynamic and the fact Edward’s more than willing to continuously point this out creates an element of fear, which for any kind of relationship, but especially a romantic one, is incredibly unhealthy. 

Manipulating Bella to get her to comply with staying human 

The toxic nature of their relationship continues beyond the first book and film. Whilst Bella learns how to adapt, though this is a turbulent and often physically and emotionally dangerous journey, to the supernatural lifestyle of her significant other, the relationship remains far from healthy. 

Edward still takes an active role in decisions Bella makes and instead of taking a healthy role, he still makes decisions on her behalf and behind her back. He also disrespects the decisions she makes for herself, consulting other people and enlisting them to dissuade her from them instead of voicing his concerns but ultimately letting her make up her own mind. 

When Bella decides she wants to be a vampire, Edward takes steps to prevent her from doing so. He repeatedly sets conditions which Bella has to meet in order for this to become a reality and the truly manipulative side to this is that he keeps moving the goalpost to make this less possible and more difficult to reach every time. Instead of genuinely expressing his concerns as his sister Rosalie does and explaining his perspective but acknowledging her right to decide, Edward just keeps making empty promises and enlists others to back him up in his objections to Bella’s decisions. 

This only gets worse when Bella falls pregnant, while still human, with Edward’s half-vampire baby. Though the pregnancy is a dangerous one and you can see why Edward’s concerned, he again doesn’t just voice his concern on the matter but attempts to influence Bella’s decisions by involving Jacob, who’s initially repulsed by the idea, without Bella’s consent. 

Instead of being a well-intentioned but concerned partner, Edward’s motivations are usually selfish and are often more to do with control than they are with Bella’s wellbeing and wishes. Edward repeatedly takes it upon himself to sabotage Bella’s decisions if they don’t line up with his beliefs and own desires. His actions often are manipulative and are not actually concerned with Bella’s wellbeing, wants and needs at all.

Hi, my name's Anna and I'm a third year BA Philosophy and Theology student at the University of Exeter. I'm interested in writing pieces on current affairs and sex and relationships (and Harry Styles because I'm such a huge fan, haha).