Monday, May 28, 2012

True Love or Obsessive Love?

Google obsessive love and up pops Twilight.  This shouldn't be too surprising because the very strange romance of Bella Swan and Edward Cullen has entranced readers since it was first published in 2005. Seven years later the phenomena continues in film form with the last movie, Breaking Dawn Part Two, coming out later this year.

Of course, Twilight hasn't been without its critics.  Though many readers are emotionally invested in the  story of Bella and Edward, the vampire she falls for, there were plenty of other readers who were deeply bothered by Edward's behavior toward Bella. He basically stalks her, sneaking into her room while she sleeps to watch her dreams. Later when they are a couple, he tries very hard to control her.  If Edward was a normal human boy, his actions would be the red flags of a very dangerous person.  But since he's a vampire, most people excuse his behavior because he's not a normal human boy.

Yet, the obsessive controlling behavior that Edward Cullen expresses toward his ladylove has slowly become the norm in a lot of YA paranormal fiction. Stalkerish, controlling boys that are obscenely hot and smoldering with lust toward the heroine have increasingly invaded YA. Not only in paranormal YA where we can excuse odd behavior because the boy is a vampire/werewolf/wendigo/fairy/elf/ghost/ghoul/alien/merman, but also in regular contemporary YA. Suddenly, the bad boys are the rage with their threat of violence, "serial killer eyes," and obsessive love.

I wrote about Insta-Love last week (before I got sick with a cold and took a blog break) and how oftentimes only the boy is aware that the couple is "fated" and basically stalks, harasses the girl into submission.  The loss of choice is disturbing. The girl (and the couple really) have no choice in their love match because they are destined to be together because of some supernatural element.  If the girl falls for another boy (the love triangle trope), the reader knows this love is doomed because it's not the fiery obsession she shares with the main male lead.

I was cruising the Internet tonight and came across this article in the Daily Mail by James Kerr and Matthew Johnstone.  They have a book out called "The Alphabet of the Human Heart" and a website at The article highlights The Obsessive Love Wheel created by Dr. John D. Moore.

Here are the points from the article The A-Z of love: O is for obsession.  The highlights are my own.


Instantaneous and overwhelming, this feels like love, but is it’s opposite. It’s called being ‘hooked on their look’ and is too intense, too fast.
The fear. Uncertainty and insecurity. Paranoia about infidelity — and accusations. Controlling behaviour — emotional blackmail, rage, isolation, verbal and physical. If it feels ‘all wrong’, it probably is. Run!
Stalking begins: ‘drive-bys’, random pocket searches, emails scoured for imaginary clues. You receive repetitive, often angry phone calls. If you haven’t left, leave now, because the next stage is:
The obsessive feels rage, anger, and plots revenge. For some, there remains an inability to let go, leading to continued stalking and increasing danger. Take action — call the police if you have to

The points I highlighted are things I've been noticing in a few of the books I've read and in the reviews of book bloggers. The above is almost an outline for YA romances.

  • Instant Love (in the case of the male)
  • The "lover" begins to control the girl through emotional blackmail, sometimes resorting to moments of rage. 
  • The "lover" watches the girl constantly
  • The "lover" possibly kidnaps the girl or refuses to let her not be with him
The phrase "I cannot live without you" is tossed around quite a bit.

Of course, all this can be excused away by dangerous creatures lurking in the shadows, past lives, destined futures, etc... but as it becomes more common what does this subconsciously say to younger readers?

As a writer, I have struggled with the popularity of the stalkers in paranormal stories. The outpouring of love toward Vlad in the Vampire Bride series always upsets me. He is the villain. He is cruel. He is violent. And he is without remorse for all his terrible actions. Yet I have received emails from his ardent fans hoping that the heroine of the series somehow ends up with him in the end.  This is after he has killed her family, killed her, made her a vampire, raped and beat her, and has threatened the lives of those she loves to get her to obey him.  Vlad doesn't love Glynis. He's obsessed with her.  And Glynis will never willingly be with such a monster.

So what is the answer to the dilemma? How do we come to terms with fictional male "heroes" that in the real world would be classified as dangerous stalkers?  Women have always been attracted to the bad boys. The idea of being able to change them through love is a fantasy that has always been in books and films since their inception.  But at what point do we back away from "heroes" that meet all the red flags of an abuser? And what does it say about writers and readers who embrace "heroes" that embody the real life profile of abusive men?

I'm not for censorship, but I am for dialogue on difficult topics. 

What are your thoughts?

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