The Negative Reader

Drinking Tea and Trashing Books

Secondary characters are important. Secondary characters are often ones that the audience really tends to like and theorize about. A story with loads of secondary characters that can be tracked and have their own arcs is usually well loved and remembered and also tends to make a large fandom.

Not only that, but it’s more realistic to have lots of secondary characters who do their own thing, impacting the story in their own ways make the world more real than otherwise. A world where it seems that the only people who do anything or talk are the main characters is flat, dull and colorless.

There is no set of characters who are more important in this regard than the rest of the Cullen family. They are the most important of the secondary characters in the novel, and thus they should be the ones getting the most screen time.

Too bad that, while Meyer seems to dislike the idea of fleshing them out.

The Cullens

The Ideal

The Cullens were meant to be something of a perfect family, even if they weren’t related. Brought together under circumstances beyond their control, they were supposed to be united under the idea that eating people was fundamentally wrong, and, unlike other covens which stayed together out of necessity or just in pairs, they were supposed to actively like one another.

Each and every one of them was also supposed to give some indication on the kinds of people who didn’t like the Volturi, and how they were good people, all of them, and set down the building blocks for an active resistance against them.

The Reality

The Cullens are, for the most part, pretty flat characters, who seem mostly there so that we don’t have to think that Edward, Bella and Jacob all exist in a vacuum. Half of the time, they don’t even have speaking parts, Bella just tells us things that they do and that we’re supposed to like them.

In a lot of ways, they’re actually less defined than the humans that Bella goes to school with.

They’re Never Around

For me to care about a secondary character, I have to have enough time with them to care, and they must have something happening to them that makes them interesting. For instance, in the Harry Potter series, Sirius Black was my favorite character. Mostly because, in my thirteen-year-old mind, someone who would break out of prison to save someone was absolutely amazing. Even though he was actually a pretty minor character, I loved when I showed up on screen and read tons of ‘Sirius broke out when Harry was younger’ fanfics.

The reason was because while he was minor, every second that he was there counted. I wasn’t told things about him, I was able to see his character arc, even though he wasn’t there much. It made the character real and interesting.

The Cullen have very little actual time where they do much. Mostly their just standing around, being quiet while Edward and Bella talk. Unless one of them decides to randomly monologue about their pasts, and it’s a shame, since I feel that I could have gotten attached to some of them.

I could have even liked them. But honestly, they never seem to actually speak or interact, so I never got a feel for their personalities, for what they wanted or why they were there, or if they were going to change or grow, even off screen from what had happened in Bella’s story, and when it did show some chance, it happened so quickly that it seemed unrealistic.

Their Characters Change

One of the most frustrating things about the Cullens is the fact that, every so often, we get complete and total character changes for what seems like no reason whatsoever.

For instance, in the character of Rosalie, we first see her as the ‘Scary Sue’ who mostly exists to be mean to Bella, as well as to show how deep Edward is for not falling for her and her blondeness. Then, later on, she’s given some depth, in that she wants Bella to stay human because she understands better than Bella what being a vampire means. What a person is giving up.

Then, very suddenly, she is psychotically interested in babies. To the point of apparently wanting Bella to have her little hellspawn, die, and then Rosalie can raise it.

This sudden jerking around implies that, in reality, the characters don’t have a personality. They just sort of have personalities that Meyer needs at the moment, and then are changed for whatever is necessary. Rosalie is used to be the Scary Sue, to show Bella’s ‘drive’ to be a vampire and then to sort of…be a supporter of Bella having a baby (I’m not sure if Meyer caught her own implications).

The Cullens are less characters in their own right then they are plot pieces that can move certain scenes along, allowing Bella to react to things, and furthering her knowledge of the world.

They’re Not Good People

We’re supposed to support the Cullen family. They’re supposed to be our ‘good vampires’. While all the others have evil red eyes, other than the Alaskan tribe, they’re the good vampires who refuse to eat human blood. They should be people who we root for, right?

Too bad that they’re no better than the Volturi.

While the Cullens don’t eat people, they just smugly lord how great they are, and they wouldn’t lift a finger to so much as suggest that maybe the Volturi shouldn’t eat you. Other than maybe politely asking that they don’t eat you directly around them. They’ll even lend their cars to the Volturi so that they can do so.

In reality, the Cullens care about no one but themselves, and often they’re shown to have no particular loyalty to one another. During Edward’s Midnight Sun, all we tend to see is how much the ‘children’ of the family utterly despise one another, and any action that is familial is completely there so that they can appear to be a family.

At least the Volturi was united to one another in a mutual love of power. These people seem to just like feeling superior to everyone (including one another) together.

The Cullens, rather than being more human than the Volturi, seem to think that they are completely above humanity and its rules, and considers what they are doing to be a sort of diet. Rather like veganism. They see themselves as a different species, and thus human morality and laws really don’t apply to them or other vampires. Bella recounts in Breaking Dawn how hard the non human diet is for vampires, and even Stephenie Meyer weighs in on this during her Personal Correspondence 12.

(Look through that thing when you’ve got a chance. It’s a doozy.)

As far as the Cullen family are concerned, avoiding to murder humans is no different than avoiding eating meat, and as such they will not stand in the way of anyone else’s dietary preferences. They’re objection to the Volturi is that the Volturi do not allow them to do whatever they want, such as eating babies.

This doesn’t even begin to discuss some of the other elements of the Cullen’s general cruelty.

For instance, all of them are immortal. They have all received degrees, and apparently are able to act as adults for a time. They also do not need to eat, and have more money than they know what to do with. Rather than using that to do good for anyone or anything, they sit on it, spent it like drunken sailors, and generally lord how rich they are around everyone.

This is for the same reason that they do not care that the Volturi eat people. They feel that they are above humanity. Therefore, why should they feel any desire to help or do anything else for people. And that, leads to the core problem with the Cullens as a whole.

They’re Unsympathetic

This, when looked at, makes the Cullens into honestly quite unsympathetic characters. At some level, as people, our interest and sympathy for characters relies on similarities to us. Now, I’m not talking about surface things. I’ve related as much to male characters as female characters, or, for example, Asian characters as much as white American characters.

These characters will have things about them that I can reach for. Harry Potter might be a male wizard in England, but I’m able to relate to much of what he goes through, and, even when I get annoyed with him as a character, there are also things about him that can be understandable.

However, the Cullens are so inhuman that there is nothing for us to reach for. I cannot relate to their struggles because they are so removed from mine. They are not struggling against an authority figure that is wrong or constrained by some outdated idea that is wrong. They are not attempting to help anyone but themselves or learning about any problems with the world.

They are monsters who wish to stay monsters and resent any attempt to control them. Added this to the fact that they have so little presence, and that Meyer mostly uses them as ways to create situations for Bella makes it very hard to have any kind of feelings for them as characters other than a kind of dislike.

They are liked by readers for the same reason that Bella and Edward are. They are so thinly imagined that the reader is capable of projecting their ideas of the characters on to them. That is why, when you read fanfiction, you’ll have or see very different interpretations of the characters, and all of them are valid since there is so little actually on the character.

Fixing It

Take some of the focus off of Bella and Edward. Allow there to be some issues going on in the background that are not completely around them.

Allow actual tensions to exist between Rosalie and Bella, not because Rosalie is a terrible person, but because Rosalie can’t understand why anyone would willingly want to be around monsters like them. Allow there to be tensions between the others and Carlisle, and for Carlisle to wrestle with self doubt in what he’s done in his life.

Allow things to slowly resolve themselves throughout the book, much like Neville Longbottom goes from almost a comic relief character to being able to lead an underground movement

This happens on the side, but you can see the reasons and the seeds for it happening.

Doing this will not take from the characterizations of Edward and Bella, rather, it will add to it, making the world richer, fuller and more real than it ever has been before. Secondary characters make a world real, and they give people other things to focus on.

But most of all, make them people who are relatable.

Of course, fixing the Cullens would require a fix of one of the biggest problems with the series, and the likely focus of the next part of this: Meyer’s general hatred of the human race.

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