What does it feel like to be a teen girl obsessively into a guy? It feels like reading Twilight: wild swings between fervent passion and endless tedium. When I picked up Twilight for the first time as an inexperienced high school senior with a massive crush, I expected to read only enough to make fun of it. Instead I found the first book that accurately depicted the way my adolescent longing felt. Bella says of her vampire love interest, Edward Cullen, “There was nothing about him that could be improved upon.” Reading this as a 17-year-old, I was like, "Ah, much like my crush [name redacted]." My body was flooded with hormones, I was deep in the trenches of idealizing Some Guy, and I was Team Edward.
This spring, thanks to COVID-19, I once again found myself living with my parents, at least three years away from being kissed, and reading the Twilight series. This time it was harder to get swept away. I saw Edward’s red flags. (For starters, Twilight is essentially a story about a 100-plus-year-old man making out with a high school junior, and while this is basically the story of each of Leonardo DiCaprio’s relationships, I still cannot support it.) I realized that if made to choose, any right-thinking person would want Bella to end up with Jacob Black. It took a lot of personal growth over the past 12 years to precipitate my momentous change of heart, but the biggest factor in my defection to Team Jacob is that, since reading Twilight for the first time, I have — and this is a huge personal brag for me — actually had sex.
"Edward Cullen is the patriarchy. [He] was 19 years old when women got the vote, and he probably still doesn’t feel great about it."
Jacob isn’t just a hot muscle dude. He’s a hot muscle dude who openly expresses a desire to be physical with Bella, who is very horny and constantly being shamed for it by Edward. Jacob also makes Bella laugh and supports her through a major depressive episode. He at one point tells her it’s possible to love more than one person at a time, and unfortunately for me, the fact that Jacob is apparently poly is just one more reason why I am Team Jacob. Since Bella and Edward’s relationship is fated, the only time Bella actually makes a romantic choice is with Jacob. With Jacob, we get to see Bella actually fall in love, instead of watch her obsess over a hot guy who is mean to her. (It’s almost enough to forgive the truly insane fact that Jacob ends up “imprinting” on Bella’s infant daughter, Renesmee.)
It’s the fatedness — that Bella never really had any choice but to fall in love with Edward — that’s soured me most on their relationship. Edward’s control over Bella extends to every facet of her life. He’s the only thing standing between her and death from getting hit by a truck, getting her blood sucked by an evil vampire, or starvation from forgetting to eat. Edward also gets to decide how far they go physically, because if she pushes him too far he could “lose control” and “hurt her.” AKA, “sex her to death.” He even strong-arms Bella into marrying him before having sex with her and turning her into a vampire. Of course Edward Cullen is the type of person who thinks an 18-year-old girl should get married after never going further than first base. Because Edward Cullen is the patriarchy. Edward Cullen was 19 years old when women got the vote, and he probably still doesn’t feel great about it.
As a 29-year-old crone I am less willing to forgive the fact that Twilight is secretly about Saving Yourself For Marriage. The whole point of vampires is that they’re a metaphor for how much Lord Byron loved to f*ck. And yet, Edward refuses to f*ck? (At some point I wrote in the margins during my re-read, “Twilight is a metaphor for that thing where you put your d*ck inside someone and don’t pump, and this is a loophole on God.”) Jacob is all body heat and overt desire and walking around shirtless. So give the people what they want and let him f*ck, I say!
It’s a moot point, obviously: the Twilight series is over, life goes on, and Bella will never end up with Jacob. The question now becomes, as a card-carrying Team Jacob member, will I read Midnight Sun — the new book that retells Twilight from Edward’s perspective? Who knows. I am a moron. I probably will. But when I do I hope it will be wildly different from the version that was leaked in 2008, and will instead interrogate the story of Twilight with what we have learned over the past 12 years. Maybe Midnight Sun will look at how the Cullens are a prime example of how white families amass generational wealth. (Though I wonder if I, too, could amass great wealth if I drank blood instead of spending $700 a day on Thai food.) Maybe Midnight Sun will be a feminist meditation on how the biggest threat to straight women (Bella) is actually men (vampire love interest who wants to kill her). Or maybe — unlikeliest of all — Midnight Sun will just give Edward a personality.