Stalking in Pop Culture

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We have all been there.  We have all, at some point or another, been infatuated with something that we now regret taking such a strong interest in.  I am not ashamed to admit that I used to be absolutely obsessed with the Twilight series.  As embarrassing as this is, I was a member of Team Edward.  I thought Edward Cullen was the ideal boyfriend.  Not only is he tall, attractive, intelligent, and cultured, but he only has eyes for his girlfriend, Bella.  In fact, he cares for her so much that he follows her around and sneaks into her bedroom at night to watch over her and make sure that she is always safe.  What’s not to love, right?

Now, I won’t go into the details of how I finally became disenchanted with Twilight and its anti-feminist main characters, because that saga could take days to recount.  Instead, I want to talk specifically about Edward, and how he displays some alarming traits that unfortunately have become normalized.  In honor of January being National Stalking Awareness Month, I want to shed some light on how Edward Cullen’s stalking-esque behavior is now seen as nonthreatening and even romantic by millions of Twihards across the globe.

Yes, I said stalking.  Edward Cullen is, in fact, a stalker.  He displays many of the general characteristics of a stalker:

He is manipulative.  (He tries to control where Bella goes and who she goes with, so as to keep her “safe”).

He falls “instantly” in love.  (He decides that he likes Bella before he has even held a conversation with her).

He is jealous.  (He hates the fact that Bella has a close friendship with another man, Jacob).

He is socially awkward and uncomfortable.  (He rarely speaks to anyone at school, preferring to sit along in silence most of the time).

When did these traits become romantic?!  When did it become okay for someone you barely even know to follow you around school and sneak into your bedroom at night without your permission or knowledge?!  That’s not sweet—that’s creepy.  When someone tries to control where you are and who you are with at all times, that’s not a sign of his or her affection for you.  Vampire or not, those qualities translate to stalking.

Twilight is not the only pop culture piece to portray stalking as something normal and to be admired, however.  The sad truth is that stalking has been glorified in our society for a while now.  Remember Benjamin Braddock from The Graduate?  He follows Elaine to Berkeley, where he begins to bother her while she’s on campus, only to eventually follow her to her wedding.  And how about Christian Grey from Fifty Shades of Grey?  He tracks Ana on her cell phone.

There are musical references to stalking, as well.  The classic example is from Every Breath You Take by The Police: “Every bond you break, every step you take, I’ll be watching you”.  Other references can be found in Lady Gaga’s Paparazzi and Clay Aiken’s Invisible.

I’m not quite sure who’s to blame here.  I have trouble believing that Stephenie Meyer purposely made Edward Cullen a stalker, and The Graduate is a film classic, despite Benjamin Braddock’s creepiness.  There is clearly a lack of knowledge, though, about stalking and how serious of a crime it is.  It often seems to be overlooked in lieu of other crimes of violence against women, such as sexual assault and domestic/dating violence, but it is just as serious and can be just as dangerous.  Taking famous characters from pop culture and considering them under a different light could be the first step in shedding light on this issue.

*If you suspect that you or someone you know if a victim of stalking, call the Ohio University Survivor Advocacy Program at (740) 597-SAFE (7233), or visit their office located at 44 University Terrace (McKee House).

Post written by
Lindsey Spanner, Student Outreach Coordinator

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About Ohio U Women's Center

The Ohio University Women’s Center serves and responds to the needs of OU women students, faculty, and staff, as well as members of the community. Founded in 2007, the center is dedicated to creating an inclusive and welcoming campus climate for all members of the community through programs, resources, referrals, advocacy, and education. Located in Baker University Center 403.
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