Bella and Edward are not role models

Published: December 5, 2011

Edward, her much older vampire love interest, is obsessive. He stalks her and watches her sleep. And Bella loves him regardless!

In the United States, Pakistan, and pretty much all around the world, the Twilight series is a huge hit. In light of the release of Breaking Dawn, it’s important to analyse some detrimental aspects of this ‘love’ story.

Isabella Swan, the protagonist, is an awkward and insecure young adult. Even though she embodies characteristics that are in line with pre-adolescents and teenagers, here is my problem – her decisions make her unsuitable as a role model for teenage girls.

Edward, her much older vampire love interest, is obsessive. He stalks her and watches her sleep. And Bella loves him regardless! He is overprotective and, to a certain degree, controlling. He is the focal point and the only important person in her life. While dating him, Bella alienates herself from her friends, and when they break up she recedes within herself. She spends months as en empty-shell of a person and becomes reckless.

Without him, she has no meaning.

The fact that this character is idolized by young girls is actually quite unnerving. While Bella embodies some characteristics of a teenage girl, I know that in my own adolescence I was never defined by a single man. I had crushes, but never did I retreat within myself and lose all my friends. If anything, my friends were the motivating factors on my life– not a love interest.

And to think that through such books and their popularity, young girls think that the couples’ behaviour is the appropriate behaviour for two people in love – that an obsessive boy that stalks you is only displaying how passionate and in love he is with you –  is scary and wrong.

And then there’s the sex. In this film, Bella and Edward are finally married (at 18, for her) and have sex. She wakes up covered in bruises, the bed is broken, and she is in pain. She tries to hide this from Edward. He is sad and upset that he hurt her, but she defends him and understands that it happened only because he loves her and he is passionate about her.

Yes, this is a fictional story but what are we teaching our young girls when we say that what we see in Twilight is love and passion, and is okay? Unless parents sit down with daughters and explain to them that this is not real love and that this depiction is unhealthy and never what it’s supposed to be like, these girls will grow up with this emotionally abusive wet-blanket approach towards love and what it feels like. The might think that if their husbands hurt them, and are sad about it, it is all in love and passion and thus should be forgiven.

There are Edward-esque men out there; there are many emotionally abusive, physically controlling, dominating, obsessive, and overprotective men in the world. If  girls are told through these books and their popularity that this is normal, chances are once they’re older and do meet such a man, for them domestic violence will be akin to passion and his behaviour will be seen as his declaration of his deep-rooted love.

We live in a society where the biggest cause of injury to women is from abuse. The fact that Bella ends up as Edward’s happy wife validates everything destructive about their relationship. She abandons all her future plans and restructures her future around Edward. In fact, she actually gives up her life to be with him forever.

If at the end Bella didn’t end up with Edward, Meyer would have given their abusive love story the end that it deserved. Moreover, she would have given Bella some dignity – one where she grows out of her self-tormenting masochistic behaviour and realizes that perhaps her relationship with that old sparkly vampire wasn’t the best thing for her. Instead, Meyer gave her a happy-ending, one that all teenage girls and women hope for, but one that in a relationship like Edward and Bella’s, is virtually non-existent.

I would much rather have my hypothetical daughter’s idolize and adore Katniss Everdeen from The Hunger Games or Hermione Granger from Harry Potter– they are strong, empowered, and independent girls.

Even though these are ficticious characters, I would much rather have our youth look up to these girls than a insecure young woman in an abusive relationship because chances are, they’ll face an obsessive boy a lot sooner than they will a government-sanctioned-human-sacrifice-fighting-pit (ala The Hunger Games) and when they do, I want them to draw on the experiences of characters like Hermione and Katniss, not Isabella Swan.

Saira Khan

Saira Khan

A Pakistani-American who lives in Baltimore but loves Karachi. She is currently employed as a legal marketing editor and hopes to obtain a Masters in Journalism. Saira tweets @sairakh.

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.

  • Twilight is Toilet!

    I would highly praise the author of this blog to address this dilemma! the “Toilet” books and the movies are useless! (and yes i know the useless piece of trash is called Twilight but i choose to call it what it actually is! Stinky and useless!) Recommend

  • Afreen

    you have put it quite right. but parents have to teach their children not to be so delusional so as to idolize such characters. taking it with a pinch of salt, for entertainment’s sake is acceptableRecommend

  • hira

    very well written…its so true!Recommend

  • Saad Durrani

    Thank you so much!Recommend

  • AZ

    stop analyzing this to death.
    its not even a real story.
    It has such a huge fanbase BECAUSE of the fantasy in the story.

    And no one has exactly gone detrimental because of the Twilight series!

    Bring this topic up when you find a real vampire walking around. This is not even an issue. Pfft.Recommend

  • Someone

    Finally someone talks logic about the popular crap.Recommend

  •!/iQuotePakistan toobahatif

    lol This seems like coming from someone who hasn’t read the book…
    If you have read the book you might actually know that Meyer actually presented her as an independent and decision taking women in the last part breaking Dawn that is after she was turned into a vampire..
    And about domestic violence being related to the part COME ON thats seriously lame.. dude.. the whole point was not bout hurting her… What part of “Edward has non human supernatural” capabilities” is that you don’t get..
    the article’s tittle was good I was expecting a good argument but the content literally disappointed me..
    you gotta read the book before you criticize Ma’am!Recommend

  • Nayab

    I haven’t read the books so I may be horribly biased when I say how bad the twilight series is. I’ve had the displeasure of often stopping in between channels to see one of these movies on star movies or something. I remember particularly one scene where she makes out with the vampire, and 2 minutes later very close to the vampire, she kisses the werewolf. I could feel my IQ droppingRecommend

  • Haniya

    Fiction is not to be taken too seriously. Enjoy the read and move on. Why delve into it unnecessarily??Recommend

  • Natasha S.

    Agree with Hania. Recommend

  • TP

    I have read the books, and i agree with this article 100%.Recommend

  • skhansen

    I disagree with the notion that books are supposed to teach kids/teens “lessons” and have a “moral”. Many books include moral issues (like HP and THG) which makes them more compelling stories, but it’s not the purpose of fiction to lecture teens. Sometimes books are meant inspire kids to think for themselves and sometimes books are pure entertainment. Twilight is meant to be entertaining and nothing else. It’s not a cook book for relationships, it’s a silly vampire romance. Bella doesn’t have to be a good role model, she just has to be slightly interesting.Recommend

  • Madi

    The main thing my dear is that young girls do confuse fantasy with their real life and idealize these characters. Obviously, being a 23 year old mature girl I would take this as mere piece of fiction but young teenage girls do associate themselves with them which is so a very good idea.Recommend

  • Taimur


  • freeha

    @author Even is it a topic to write on and an issue to talk about? oh come on Its just a fiction.Topic of the article attracts me and i was expecting something logical and gud but dude sorry to say ur illogical views really disappointed me.U discussed about domestic violence that women are facing in our society, DUDE the women who are facing domestic violence in our society does not belong to the class who watch these kind of movies. Recommend

  • Faizan Elahi ( BestBloggingTools)

    Twilight is rubbish. Its target audience is only teenage girls.Recommend

  • Sajid

    Twilight is for loosers. I feel sorry for anybody who ever read that piece of trash.Recommend

  • Nosheen Tariq

    This article written by Saira Khan is very true and is one way of thinking about the consequences of releasing films like Twilight……For me it’s just another typical American film like all others which have all such things which Saira has mentioned in her article so it ain’t a big deal…If it’s like this than we shouldn’t watch most of the Hollywood films cuz they all hve such type of features.Recommend

  • Faraz Talat

    Not every fiction book is intended to provide a moral lesson, nor is every protagonist expected to serve as a role-model. If people do start to look upon them as role-models, that’s not the author’s headache.

    Soon enough, we’ll be hearing a diatribe about how Walter White from Breaking Bad series is a terrible role model for cancer patients. It’s just an entertaining story, dammit! They’re not trying to teach ethics!Recommend

  • Isabella Swan

    Edward is a sexy beastRecommend

  • Sana

    Fiction shouldnt be taken so seriously . Its just a fantasy . The writer of the article seems such a psycho who use to criticize everything . I mean comparing a vampire to a normal bf or a husband cmon … Or get a grave lady … Its just like our childhood fairytales which we used to enjoy … If this story is wrong then cinderela n all other stories should nt exist … This article is jjust a psycho path view n a piece of crap … Huh Recommend

  • FAZ

    I think the “majority” of the girls are unfortunately inspired by star plus pathetic dramas rather than twilight. If the author would have bothered to come out of the high class minority to a more common people like societies she wouldn’t have started this useless blog.

    Anyways the fact is every gal is looking for a prince charming who owns a 600 carore ka business. They dont find it naturally, and then make their own life and the poor guy who they end up with, a hell on earth! Recommend

  • Sarah B. Haider

    @Twilight is Toilet!: Love your screen name, haha!Recommend

  • just saying

    I completely agree with the writer. I went to a cinema last week and lots of youngsters were there to watch Breaking Dawn. The average age of the viewers there was probably 14-15 years and the movie was completely inappropriate for that age group. Not to mention how people blindly idolize these characters…e.g. our local Edward and Bella

  • Zoya

    yay ! Hermoine granger was my role model =D and an awesome one too =) Recommend

  • Get a Grip

    It’s a movie…novel…IT’S FICTION. Are Prince William and Kate a prime example that, if, you wait around long enough…your prince will come? COME ON NOW. Recommend

  • Susan

    You’re COMPLETELY out in left field with trying to compare the sex scene in Breaking Dawn to domestic violence. I fail to even begin to see the logic of how you’ve reached this conclusion and I’ve volunteered in a women’s shelter for the past eight years now and seen all manner of REAL ABUSE. It’s VERY clear you’ve done little to no research behind the storyline or read any of the books.Recommend

  • ammara

    seriously, this is so true, what i actually say to all teenage girl this is all said in this blog. Recommend

  • maria

    brilliant piece……..cant agree moreRecommend

  • Kevin

    The stemming point of anyone’s relationship to a particular “pop culture” phenom is usually an unhealthy idolization. Contrary to your opinion, I feel as if, with most fictional stories, the strong fan base comes from an individual’s relation to the characters, as in, Bella represents a group of girls who are trapped in a skewed way of thinking about love. She is in no way an idol, but a mere reflection of the modern teenage girl blinded by the lure of true and everlasting love and that is why Twilight has become popular, because it relates to a younger generation and their fascination with fairy tales in the reality/make-belief dichotomy. I appreciate your analysis but I do believe you are stretching the idealistic boundaries of “pop culture” and fiction.Recommend

  • Tight Chuddi

    Are vampires allowed in Islam? If not, why is this movie showed in Pakistan? Wonder what mard-e-momin has to say about this.Recommend

  • Anam

    Oh my goodness, lady. Seriously? Has a fictional story become so important to you that you feel the right to address female issues regarding marriage and choice in spouse based on it? Wow. Please google the term FICTION and then make your petty judgements. The characters were never meant to be role models as the author repeatedly highlights all the flaws they have. Yes, Bella is a misfit and indeed, Edward has never felt this way about anyone thus, the strong attachment. Being fiction, (i hope you’ve looked it up by now) the characters and the story line is exaggerated. What are you going to do about it?

    I would personally hate to read books based on perfect characters with absolute morals and zero flaws. What would one gain from that? You sound like our grand mothers when they would say “beta, only be friends with the smart girls and not the rest.”

    Pointless article.Recommend

  • Suua P.

    Yeah! I Love Katniss Everdeen! She would totally whop Bella Swan’s rear bee-hind! Katniss Everdeen is totally stronger!Recommend

  • Leila Rage

    Yeah Twilight is nothing great, but then the readers are supposed to have their OWN normal working brains to realise what they should or should not idolise.

    People commit murder everyday all over the world. Does that mean that people like you and me naturally idolise murder and crime? NO!! Because we have BRAINS that know the difference between what is good and what isnt.Recommend

  • NaiveCitizen

    Now analyze Romeo and Juliet…they were really psychotic, they killed themselves for each other, remember?

    Whats wrong with all the journalistics these days, everyone analyzing the Bella-Edward story from psychlogical viewpoint. Come on, give twilight readers some credit. We are not stupid, it is a very sweet and romatic love story. If Bella and Edward werent behaving like crazy, how would that be a LOVE story. Since when are stories supposed to be about psychologically sound, rational, ready to be rolemodel people. Come on it is FICTION.
    If some women were to choose the relationship of fictional characters as role model instead of some really strong person she knows in real life, then thats too bad her, and she deservers her misry.

    Btw: I love watching my husband when he is asleep. It makes my heart go dhak dhak.Recommend

  • Shermeen Akif

    @author, Since when girls started believing guys as Vamps??
    Or guys started watching up girls asleep in their homes??or sucked any blood??lol

    This is TWILIGHT..!! i would rather consider teaching those “sensitive teen girls” the art of reading fiction or tell them its just novel-kinda love..GOSH .. what wud be their state after discovering “wuthering heights” ..??

    Saira, i respect ur thought, but the solution is unreal.. u can’t stop selling wines..BUT u can bring awareness :) regards..Recommend

  • ahsan

    most pathetic movie i have ever seen …. i really like Bella ……she is damn …….Recommend

  • Huma Khalid

    Why you people got to have a problem with everything !?!?! Recommend

  • powerball

    I have read the twilight books and I totally agree!! Bella is not a role model. She is insecure and dependent on this guy. She falls totally in love and that is the ONLY thing that defines her life! Young girls need to learn to be independent and self confident.. These books and Bella’s character, specifically, is total garbage! Recommend

  • dr ubaid

    .who is idealizing them.let a fiction be a fiction.i think no one told u tht movies are not real they r just movies……..Recommend

  • Stranger

    Any1 notice how only girls are saying this is bull?Recommend

  • sidjeen

    i think this series is good for girls in our society it teaches them that even when they have a choice to choose between two handsome boys in reality both of them are monsters.Recommend

  • Formanite

    Well i think to some extent it is the case but how about the dramas that are shown on private tv channles.Dont they show even worst. and i will agree with that fiction has to be unreal somehow but we certainly cant just blame twilight series. It was different for that it got popularity.Unfortunately our media is also not bothered about that.Recommend

  • Nexus

    Totally baseless book and movie. I second ur article.Recommend

  • x

    to all the critics, the point being that young girls, teenagers, do get influenced by what they see.. and have you ever heard of subliminal conditioning, this is what such movies do!its not as if a girl will go to look for an actual vampire, its just that such behaviour, seems macho and protective and manifestations of love in their minds.. edward is idolized, bella is seen as the perfect girl and their love stories draws awwws from teenage girls.. hence, in their subconscious it is embedded as a love story and edwards behavious seen as ok so even in real life situations, girs are conditioned to view such behaviour as romantic and perceive violence and over protectiveness as a way of showing love. Recommend

  • Sparkle*

    I kinda like people who are against twilight series. Despite of what’s written in this article, I love you Saira for even thinking about writing it. Thank you. Thumbs up! lol :DRecommend

  • Sparkle*

    Oh and BTW no hard feelings to the fans. Non-fans have the right to express their views too you know. Toodles.Recommend

  • eva626

    great post…

    it should be rated at a higher rating..really not for tweensRecommend

  • Vegetable

    OMG! i loved this write up! its exactly how i feel. i would rather prefer that my girls get obsessed with the character of hermione granger instead of bella. at least hermione is smart and independent. she can make her own life decisions and is not an emotional wreck. well written! Recommend

  • A

    I think you misinterpreted the whole thing. He’s a vampire(FICTION) in the movie, that’s why she had bruises on her while they had sex. I don’t think a normal passionate young man would have caused to have such bruises……

    I think the movie also teachers young gals that they need to stop unncessarily chasing boys– the right boy — the one she is destined to be with — will be passionate about her and accept her for who she is — no matter what….. I can’t count the number of young gals who spend months of emotional and physical energy trying to get guys who aren’t as passionate about them.

    Plus, fiction should not be taken too seriously – I think educated gals in the 21st century have that much sense to distinigush between what’s wrong and right, and know when they are untreated fairly and abused by a man.Recommend

  • Karim Javed

    I just watched first part of this movie and it was total waste of time. They just ruin my hour it was horrible watching vampire love story. Someone please tell the writer that your story sucks all time.Recommend

  • Edward Cullin

    Cmon you guys…mind your own lives and let us be…she is not insecure…its just that she is constipated all the times so people actually think she is complicated and shy and quiet….but she was rather good in the sack…i love you bellaRecommend

  • Ali Wazir

    I read this somewhere:

    Bella is the worst thing to happen to feminism since the sandwich…Recommend

  • Amna

    Your reason for writing is spot on but you’ve written it in a weird way. Bella and Edward are FICTION and are not meant to be role models. Yes girls all over the world are in love with the book/movie but when people write about stuff the way you have written, its an insult to girls everywhere.
    You’re just pointing out that girls have no brains of there own and will blindly follow what such FICTIONAL characters do . That they have no ability to distinguish a caring man from an abusive one.That if Bella is an idiot then all girls would be. That’s just offensive.
    And FYI I think Hermione Granger is one of the best characters in one of the best Fictional stories ever written but do remember that even she went all crazy jealous when Ron started dating Lavender Brown :pRecommend

  • Scr

    Potter FTW~!!!Recommend

  • Britistani

    Twilight is anti-feminist, anti-abortion and frankly anti-human. I wouldn’t even use it as a toilet paper. :pRecommend

  • Arif Ayaz


  • Samreen

    Amazing article..i completely second the author!!Recommend

  • Ali

    KIDS read twilight. they are not mature enough and sensible enough to take good decisions on their own. such crappy books make an impact on how their thinking and dreams are shaped, they fantasize, and try to look for the qualities that are present in their FICTITIOUS idols like bella and edward in their real relationships… thats when “entertainment” factor looses its essence and value. it becomes total crapRecommend

  • Sanabil

    I really liked your blog. i myself was, if not huge but a fan of twilight but realized that fiction is also bearable until its making sense.
    your stance about how you would like your daughter to idolize hermione granger is what i most liked.
    very well written.Recommend

  • RAW is WAR

    so pakistan is also bitten hy the Vampire bug?Recommend