The Daily Mail’s Allison Pearson and her daughter take a look at “Why millions of girls have fallen for the chaste Romance of ‘Twilight’ and its star, Robert Pattinson”
A well-mannered vampire is the latest heart-throb for Britain’s teenage girls. As his adventures hit the big screen, Mail columnist Allison Pearson (and her besotted daughter) get their teeth into him
I love Edward Cullen and Edward Cullen loves me and only me.’ That passionate declaration in smudged blue biro has been scrawled on the back of my daughter’s hand for six months now. Every time I tell her to wash it off, it appears again – as stubborn, as hopeful and as indelible as first love itself.
Evie lives and breathes Edward. She truly believes she has found her soulmate. She assures me that Edward is devastatingly gorgeous, witty, intelligent, adoring, very protective and has a cool car, golden eyes and the most exquisite, old-fashioned manners.
‘Basically, mum, I’m like totally obsessed with him.’
Robert Pattinson has cemented his position as the nation’s biggest hearthrob thanks to his portrayal of Edward in Twilight
‘Yes, darling, I’d noticed.’ At first, I couldn’t help thinking that my daughter’s crush had a few drawbacks. For starters, there was his anti-social bloodsucking habit. Edward is a vampire, although quite a nice, considerate, LibDem, vegetarian, caring, sharing sort of vampire, if you feel comfortable with a member of the Undead. Oh, and he has been 17 years of age since he died in 1918.
I also had my suspicions that my smitten girl might not be Edward’s only love interest. In fact, at a conservative estimate, Edward has 25 million girls in his thrall around the world. Like my 12-year-old, they, too, may be under the illusion that he is theirs and theirs alone.
So why did I end up giving my blessing to this all-consuming relationship with a boy who describes himself as ‘the world’s most dangerous predator’? Well, at least I know that he will never break my daughter’s heart. He is a fictional character, the hero of Stephenie Meyer’s bestselling Twilight saga, which follows the fortunes of star-crossed lovers, Edward and Bella.
Happily, my daughter and other Twerds (Twilight nerds) have switched off their Myspace and Facebook, stopped staring at the damned computer, for once, and become glued to – hallelujah! – a book.
Evie falls asleep with Twilight open on her chest and in the morning, props the 500-page tome up on the breakfast table, picks up a spoon to eat her cereal and continues reading.
I swear I could substitute the cat’s Whiskas for her Cheerios and she would not notice. Not since Sleeping Beauty lay awaiting her Prince’s kiss has young womanhood fallen under such a powerful spell.
Last week, as the day of the UK premiere of the Twilight movie dawned, excited girls started thronging in London’s Leicester Square at 4am, which really is spooky given that teenagers generally have the same response to early rising as vampires.
By 7pm that night, when Robert Pattinson and Kristen Stewart, who play Edward and Bella, walked down the specially themed black carpet, there were thousands of screaming tweenagers with pale skin, red lips and even lipstick dabbed on their necks to look like a gory kiss.
One girl, tears streaking her white make-up, waved a banner with a line from the film that seemed to speak for them all: ‘Edward/Robert, You Are My Life Now’.
‘This is the coolest night ever,’ shrieked my daughter, who had suddenly started to see the point of her annoying journalist mother.
Evie and I had gone to the premiere with her friend and fellow Twilight scholar, Lottie, her big sister, Lilah, and their mum, my friend, Lucy.
Twilight has generated all kinds of strong feelings, but perhaps the most surprising is that it has become a huge mother-daughter bonding thing. In the US, there is even a website called TwilightMoms.
Partly, I guess, it’s because we fondly remember our own exquisitely embarrassing yet heartfelt teenage crushes. Mine was David Cassidy; Lucy was in love with David Essex, and it turns out that we both sighed in our brushed-nylon nighties over Starsky and Hutch. But there is also a profound sense of relief that our daughters adore something we can so wholeheartedly approve of.
In an age which seems to conspire to take a child’s innocence away at the earliest possible opportunity, Twilight promotes the romantic message that saving yourself for someone who values and adores you is not only safe, it can also be sexy.
‘I can discuss sex with my daughter without being preachy, because we’re just talking about Twilight,’ wrote one mum.
It was five years ago, when an ordinary Mormon housewife and mum of three, who neither drinks nor smokes, and who had never even seen an R-rated (for late teens in the US) movie, had a dream.
Thirty-four-year-old Meyer imagined a girl and a beautiful vampire boy in a meadow. The courteous young man explained to the girl that he was wildly attracted to her scent and really wanted to drink her blood, but he couldn’t bring himself to kill her.
Speaking to me on the phone from her home in Arizona, Meyer said that the dangers of Bella and Edward’s relationship absolutely obsessed her. She knew that the vampire and the girl were desperately in love, but even a kiss could be fatal, if he got carried away.
When she woke up, Meyer still wasn’t sure if the vampire had restrained himself, so she started to write a novel to give her dream an ending. ‘I wanted to know, are they going to make this work or is Bella going to die? Everything about their relationship was heightened,’ says Meyer.
‘Every time Edward touches Bella’s hand it’s an extraordinary event.’ Twilight contains no sex scenes, but it positively seethes with an unconsummated desire that can make even a middle-aged mum come over all hot and bothered. Imagine what it does for girls who are going through that Cape Canaveral of the hormones they call puberty. No wonder so many millions have been bitten by the vampire bug.
It’s not surprising that a Mormon would write such a morally conservative tale. Meyer says she didn’t want Edward and Bella to have sex before marriage. What is amazing is how the books have tapped into a yearning in 21st-century girls for true love and a perfect, chivalrous male, even if they run the risk of ending up as a starter on his menu.
I can’t help thinking that if boys could be persuaded to go and see the Twilight film, then the men of the future would finally have an answer to that eternal riddle: What do women want?
The big question was, which actor could possibly hope to embody the immortal virtues and stomach-flipping beauty of Edward Cullen? When young Brit Robert Pattinson landed the role, irate Twilight fans set up an online petition, which was signed by 75,000 fans, who complained that, among other things, he was not American and was too ugly.
They seem to have changed their tune. Since becoming Edward, Robert has appeared before screaming crowds across the US and caused a riot in a San Francisco shopping mall. Not since Leonardo diCaprio swept Kate Winslet away in Titanic, has a novice actor been launched so dramatically as an international dreamboat.
I decided to take the resident Twilight expert along to interview Robert/Edward. Our mother-daughter bonding was in need of some help after a row over whether she was allowed to wear heels to the premiere.
And, no, the fact that we now take the same shoe size does not mean she can borrow the Jimmy Choos it has taken me a lifetime to be able to afford.
Evie and her friend, Lottie, were sitting in the hotel, awaiting the call to see Edward/Robert, when Evie hissed, ‘Aren’t you even a bit excited, Mummy? We’re about to meet a god.’ I admitted that I was not quite as excited as when I got to interview another Robert. Redford. ‘Robert Redford? Is he, like, famous?’
Oh Lord, there are times as a mother when you feel several hundred years old. Just then, Robert popped out of his suite, said hi to us, and my daughter did something I have never seen her do before. She blushed to the roots of her being.
It took her a few minutes to recover the power of speech and pose our first question. ‘Edward Cullen is, like, so wonderful and perfect. Was it hard for you to live up to him?’ Robert smiled, shook his head and said, ‘Trying to play the perfect guy is just impossible. You end up being really cheesy. I tried to focus on his bad points to make him more real.’
In person, Robert, 22, is far slighter than Edward is on screen, though he has lovely amused eyes set in a heart-shaped face. His hair, which Evie judges to be incredibly cool, looks to me like a decomposing bird’s nest. But I like the way he speaks so beautifully. Even though he didn’t attend drama school, his mother and father believed that speaking well helped you to get on in the world. ‘Diction!,’ he booms like Laurence Olivier.
Robert attended the private Harrodian school in west London, though he insists he is not posh. He started taking acting bit parts when he was 15 to help pay the school fees. His dad sold cars and his mum was a booker for a modelling agency. ‘I thought drama was stupid,’ he laughs, though he admits he did join a drama club, because that was where the pretty girls went.
His big break came when he landed the part of Cedric Diggory in Harry Potter. Although his time on screen was comparatively brief, I remember thinking that here was the most ravishing young British male in cinema since Jude Law first blazed his blue eyes in the film Wilde.
As with Edward, there is something of the gentleman about Robert. When I ask if he thinks girls are drawn to Edward because he is old-fashioned, he furrows his thick brows and says, ‘I guess old-fashionedness now just equates with people being considerate. It’s weird that it’s considered an old-fashioned virtue.’ Sir, I salute you!
He is still new to the Hollywood game, and sends himself up in a way that PR people may soon teach him not to. When Evie asks if he was upset about the petition saying he was wrong for Edward Cullen, he laughs, ‘I agreed with it! When I read the script I was like, “Oh, no”, because he is supposed to be the perfect being, and I was really fat last year.’
He knows that the hysteria is to do with the character, not him, and has a delightfully wry take on all the adulation. ‘Basically, I’ve been going to mobbings permanently. I’ve got to go to the city and get screamed at. It’s to do with Edward. I don’t try and claim it for myself.’ He does find the requests to bite girls’ necks a little freaky. ‘I have to tell them, “Look I can’t, I’m afraid, because it will hurt.”‘
He denies the rumoured romance with his co-star, Kristen Stewart. ‘Phew,’ says Evie loudly. That’s tactful of him. Several million girls, including my daughter, would happily murder that poor actress if it were true. The fans don’t have anything against Kristen, they just want to be Bella themselves. Because Edward belongs to them, you understand, and them alone.
It is said that Robert’s contract stipulates that he is not allowed to go out in the sun lest he spoil that perfect pale vampire complexion. (He is already signed up for New Moon, the second Twilight movie.) I predict, however, a shining place in the sun for this talented actor. There is surely a future as a man beyond the pretty boy.
It turns out that my daughter also has plans for him. Before we go, Evie asks Edward/ Robert to sign her much-loved copy of Twilight. ‘What shall I put,’ he asks sweetly.
‘Can you write, ‘Please marry me?’
That’s my girl.