Why The Whole Edward/Jacob Twilight Discussion Is STILL Worth Having

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There are many issues in our time that divide our nation and communities, splitting us into bitter factions seemingly to be constantly at war. The potential for involvement in actual war, the future of health care, and the presidential election all come to mind. Also? Twilight.

All jokes aside, with the final film in the series hitting theaters tomorrow at midnight, we thought we'd indulge ourselves with a little in-depth discussion of the age-old question: Team Edward or Team Jacob? While it's easy to laugh at the whole thing (and believe us, we do), the truth is that the two male characters represent two very differing ideals in both the films and in the novel. The entire saga is packed with symbolism and (not-so) hidden meanings about sex, love, and morality — and Edward and Jacob are no exception. So, we called upon two of our editors to duke it out, no-holds barred, and ahead, they do their best to convince you of the merits of their larger arguments about what healthy relationships should look like.

Read ahead and then report back: Which side are you on? Fight for your team (or deride the whole thing) in the comments.

Photo: Courtesy of Summit Entertainment.
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Neha Gandhi, deputy editor and Team Jacob supporter

Nikki Reed once told me she was the only Twilight cast member who was Team Jacob, and I don't think it's a coincidence that she's the most thoughtful and emotionally well-rounded part of that cast. And that she's had her ups and downs in relationships and has now found a happy, healthy one — and is quietly making a Hollywood marriage work sans paparazzi stalking.

Obviously, now that we're picking up halfway through the last book, over in movie-land, I recognize that the jig is up. But I still have some retroactive advice for Bella — and relationship-related thoughts. In my mind, it's pretty clear that Nikki's right and Jacob is the better, healthier choice for the much-reviled heroine, but in case you need more convincing, behold, a numbered list:

1. She wouldn't have had to give up her humanity. Let's start with the obvious, here. The circumstances under which she transforms notwithstanding, if Bella had given Jacob a shot, she'd still be alive. She'd be able to hold on to her humanity and grow old, experiencing all that life has to offer. I know. Duh.

2. She doesn't have to change for him. Call this an extension of the last point. On a literal level, having to turn into a vampire and give up your life and family in order to be with a guy is way too high a price to pay (and not to harp on this or anything, but it sends the wrong message to young readers). But digging just a smidge deeper, I hate the idea that Edward shames her in the moments where she tries to seduce him, suggesting there's something wrong with her and her needs. And I hate the way his old-fashioned needs mean she completely has to bend and get married at the ripe old age of 18, even though she's not interested in the concept of marriage. Good relationships are about compromise, not control. And Jacob always meets Bella in the middle— whether she wants to learn to ride bikes or distract herself post-breakup, he's supportive of her needs.

3. Love shouldn't feel so volatile, uncommunicative, or dangerous. A solid relationship is just that: solid. Like we said, Jacob is supportive. He talks her through her issues, he stands by her, and when he has to, he puts his hurt and his needs aside, to take care of her. He doesn't run away to "protect" her, leaving her heartbroken and in a self-destructive place (don't even get us started on that), and he never exposes her to life-threatening situations or presents a menace of accidentally hurting her in the course of affection or intimacy. Those things are not okay, and Edward, on some level, represents all of them.

4. Friendship is the sturdiest foundation for love. Sure, not all friendship turns into great love, but Bella admits that she has feelings for Jacob, but just feels like she has more of a gravitational pull toward Edward. We're just going to put it out there: That gravitational pull is what lust and infatuation feel like when you're 18. Wait a little bit, for the love of God. Friendship mingled with attraction usually ends up trumping the gravitational pull.

5. He represents warmth and life and family. With Jacob, Bella gets to keep her parents. She doesn't have to turn her back on everything in her world, sequestering herself with the man in her life, and his family, cutting herself off completely from the sources of support and inspiration that make her who she is. With Edward, all she has is her relationship. With Jacob, she gets to have herself, and build a relationship on top of that. And ultimately, that's the most convincing point. You don't give yourself up in a great relationship. You find yourself and give OF yourself, meeting someone in the middle, and, in turn, let them enrich your life, too. So...really, it's a no brainer. Team Jacob all the way. Not that I care or anything.

Photo: Courtesy of Summit Entertainment.
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Leila Brillson, global news editor and fierce proponent of Team Edward

Let's get one thing out of the way: I am not an incredible fan of Twilight. On a personal level, the entire franchise, and the seemingly archaic messages it sends, makes me feel uncomfortable — which is what makes it so fascinating to me. When something ceases to become a trend and enters into "phenomenon" territory, it makes my cultural zeitgeist Spidey senses tingle. I want to understand it, to inspect it, to consider it...especially if it seems problematic. So, in terms of critical fodder, Twilight has proven quite the veritable wellspring.

As such, I'm interested in the entire trajectory of Bella: The "lion and the lamb" Bella, the "gone fetal with depression" Bella, and the "OM NOM NOM my belly" Bella. The whole range from the timid-and-blank character to the more realized, blood-sucking but also strangely maternal one.

Thus, it is only possible to be Team Edward. Because, brass tacks, despite what society, her father, her friends, her ovaries, any sort of fight/flight instinct tell her, she seems to aptly ignore ignore it all, clearly knowing what she wants. There is a resolve and a commitment there that deserves to be honored. From the first moment of encountering him, she knows she wants him, to be with him, and most importantly, to be like him. Team Jacobers might think that this is ultimately adolescent — and I may be giving Stephenie Meyer more credit than she deserves — but this commitment to her own desire shows real agency.

Edward appeals to our deepest desires: One of the things that works on a very base level in Meyer's series is her use of archetypes: With Jacob, you have a barefooted, forest-dwelling wolf-creature who seems to be allergic to shirts, but more importantly, represents the natural/native path. Edward, on the other hand, has a house lined with diplomas, desperately encourages Bella to go to college, and is generally living in this alabaster Eurocentric — as repped by the Old World and ruled by Dakota Fanning and her gang of velvet-swathed baddies — existence. As a simple diametric, Jacob is naturalism in the Rousseau sense of the world, and in being with him, she only has the opportunity to be a "wolf girl" (which is, as Meyer shows, totally problematic and possibly dangerous). While Edward represents something more. Something bigger. Something outside of Forks.

Of course, this isn't to suggest that the natural element represented by the Blacks is "bad" or "unattractive" (though, it is interesting the Cullens get a crisp Anglo name while Jacob is just "Black"), but to Bella, the Cullens and their close family unit offer confirmation that, yes, she is indeed an outsider but she belongs with Edward as family in that CB2-filled forest condo. And that acceptance of self is what teen girls everywhere crave. It is not that Edward is the realistic or even the healthy choice, but he is the one who speaks to women on a most primal level.

Jacob is just too many feelings: The incomparable Natasha Vargas-Cooper (in her incredible conversation with Mary H.K. Choi at The Awl), remarked that, "I feel like girls who are Team Jacob do not understand that Bella is Fire and Jacob is Fire. Too much fire! Too many feelings!" Perhaps most importantly, what is the most fascinating about this series is the overt, honest, and totally palpable angst, brooding, and longing we experience on every page and in every frame. That super-saturated blue filter. All the lip-biting. The dreamy gazes and extra close-up-close-ups. We squirm a little and sigh along with Bella, because there is just so much electric desire between her and Edward, and that type of complexity doesn't work with the fire-on-fire Bella-Jacob pairing. With his heart on his sleeve, he just doesn't provide enough torturous want for Bella. For the sake of dramatic composition — plus the collective teeth-clenching of women everywhere, the melancholy-tinged world of Forks just wouldn't work with Jacob.

Edward provides a new model for womanhood: True, it is possible to read that Meyer is suggesting that, when you find a man who loves you, you give up everything for him — your family, your friends, even your blood-pumping life. But here is another reading: With Edward, Bella chooses an alternative from the traditional and societal norms of the female narrative. She forgoes motherhood (or so she thinks, but we're getting there), she ceases aging, she skips menopause. She is forever stuck in that sweet-spot between the virgin/mother split.

And yet, being with Edward (being the kind and considerate blood-sucker he is) allows for her to retain that physical perfection (as a vampire) but still become a mom — a choice she makes for herself, without his encouragement.

Also, like, Edward is hot: So, real talk: finding your "soulmate" and having the opportunity to be with them forever, in a perfect, youthful form, is mighty tempting. It is impossible to deny Kristen-Stewart-as-Bella's near-tremble every time she is near him. And that, to me, sells the series.

Also, he doesn't sleep, which is optimal for housework.

Also, he plays the piano.

Last note: He probably wouldn't shed weird wolf hair everywhere. And that, my friends, is worth an eternity.

Photo: Courtesy of Summit Entertainment.