The Cullen Paradox

[written by author, Louise Morgan]

Edward Cullen has no bed.

Edward Cullen's room, 'Twilight'

It’s a small thing – a plot point, really – and yet if anything sums up the vampires of Twilight, that’s it.

These are nu-vampires. The Lost Boys ride motorbikes, Edward Cullen drives a Volvo; the vampires of Near Dark spend their time in sleazy bars and motels while the Cullens play baseball. So, somehow, regardless of the number of times Edward Cullen warns Bella he could kill her (and that he’s actually having a bit of bother in stopping himself) you can never quite bring yourself to believe him. Mostly because he drives a Volvo.

The thing is, vampires like David and Severen never needed to tell you that they’re dangerous. It’s apparent with every move, every look; to paraphrase Drusilla, they reek of death. In a good way, of course. The Twilight vampires, by comparison, are strangely anaemic.

Let’s get back to Edward’s bed, so to speak. It’s a throwaway point in the film, used to emphasise his otherworldliness: what could be more alien than a man who never sleeps? But it’s not just that, is it? Like the “vegetarianism” of the Cullens, it’s a signal that the two appetites we most associate with vampires – blood and sex – don’t come into play here. Edward, despite his protests, is safe. He behaves as a gentleman who wants to protect Bella from harm, from the world… from himself; whether she likes it or not. Interestingly, the “bad” vampires of Twilight are the only ones who express any real sexuality at all: tracker James is described as Victoria’s “mate” – as though they are feral in all respects, not merely because they feed on humans.

The Cullens, then, are quite the opposite: Carlisle is a doctor – that most respected of small-town professions. They have a large, airy house and project the image of a close-knit family. And they go to school. Remember the wall of graduation caps in the Cullens’ house: when did the Lost Boys’ motto of “sleep all day, party all night” become “never sleep, get good grades”? No wonder Edward is so reluctant to consider Bella becoming a vampire: for all his talk of becoming a monster, he’s clearly more worried about condemning her to an eternity of double maths.

Graduation caps in the Cullen house, 'Twilight'

Like Edward’s missing bed, this lies at the heart of the Cullen paradox: here are a group of vampires who seem to go against everything we associate with that word: no blood, no sex… and far from being the outsiders we expect, they set up home, build lives and cling to them for as long as they can (“The younger we start out in a new place, the longer we can stay there”). No wonder we find them so frustrating.

But are we all treating Twilight too harshly? After all, this is essentially a teen (or “young adult”) phenomenon that has crossed over into the mainstream: can we really expect to judge it by the same criteria as films like Near Dark or The Lost Boys? In the case of the former, perhaps not: but for The Lost Boys – aimed at teens, featuring teenage characters, it seems entirely reasonable… and yet in a side-by-side comparison Twilight comes up wanting. Its vampires are unsatisfying, missing that spark – that mesmerising, seductive something. They’re interesting, but to me, they’re not really vampires: at least, not ones I could easily recognise. I’m not sure they even have fangs.

Regardless of what you or I might think of Stephenie Meyer and her creation, Twilight has sold over 2 million copies… and it’s fairly safe to assume that the Cullens are here to stay. A whole new generation has been introduced to the concept of vampires through these books and films; with new ideas, new rules and new mythologies. Whether they can ever grow to love them remains to be seen.

About Mark S. Deniz

English teacher, writer, editor, publisher, reviewer and blogger. Founder of publishing company, Morrigan Books and imprint, Gilgamesh Press and editor-in-chief for review site, Beyond Fiction. Also cycles, plays floorball, listens to lots and lots of music, reads a ton of books and tries to fit in some TV, film and writing too. View all posts by Mark S. Deniz

4 responses to “The Cullen Paradox

  • Joleene Naylor

    Wonderful post!

    I’ve read the series, and watched the movies, and throughout both I like the werewolves better, which almost hurts to say. I agree with your points here: Meyer has vampires, but they aren’t believably dangerous. in fact, they’re not even believably passionate. Their family feels cold, Edwards obsessive, deep love of Bella feels stilted and shallow – they just have no passion at all. Even Victoria’s hatred feels cold, just like Meyer’s vampires. She so often makes allusions to them being like diamonds, and she has managed to give that impression completely. They’re cold and boring but, for some reason I can’t fathom, worth a lot of money.

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  • LouMorgan

    Thanks Joleene – glad you enjoyed it.

    I entirely agree with you on Meyer’s vampires: they’re almost impossible to engage with, and I’ve often wondered why, exactly, she picked vampires in the first place. I know there’s the story that she dreamed about a girl and a vampire in a meadow, but – as you say – she seems to be able to do more interesting things with the werewolves. I wonder what Twilight would have been if she’d skipped the vamps altogether and instead focused on a werewolf-human relationship?

    • Joleene Naylor

      I think it would have been far more interesting and that the characters would have been happier, too. But, then where would all the “Team Edward” vs “Team Jacob” merchandising be?😉

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