Watching Twilight: Eclipse in the theater is like going to a sporting event. There are teams; there is cheering. But one team is always doomed to lose. What fantasy is being fed by this strange competition?
I will confess up front: I am Team Jacob, all the way. Have been since the first movie, when Jake was a skinny kid from the wrong side of the treeline. Though Twilight and New Moon showed main character Bella torn between vampy Edward and wolfy Jacob, Eclipse is all about how and why she rejects Jacob for the last time. When evil vamp Victoria raises an army of newborn vamps to slaughter Bella, the local wolf pack has to work with the vampire Cullen family to drive the menace out of Forks. And that drives Bella toward Jacob in a way she's never been before.
The reasons why she rejects him are key to understanding what Eclipse is really about.
Team You Are Not Allowed To Have An Interracial Relationship
Jacob represents humanity, warmth, frank eroticism . . . and an interracial relationship. Though Jacob's tribal identity has played a part in previous films, it's in Eclipse that we learn what that means. At one point, Jacob brings Bella to a tribal meeting where one of the pack leaders tells us a story that unfolds in flashback like a cross between Dances With Wolves and Dark Shadows. "When the cold ones came," he explains, they fought the native wolves. We see a white vampire in European garb slaughtering native wolves. Then when the wolves kill him, his wife comes to their village, destroying everyone in a blaze of fire and imperialist nastiness.
In case you had any doubts before, it's now abundantly clear that "the cold ones," the vampires, are the Europeans who destroyed the lives of innocent natives. Most of the vampires are blond to the point of absurdity (seriously - they couldn't afford decent wigs?). One of the Cullens fought for the South in the Civil War, and it doesn't get whiter than that.
But wait, you say - wasn't Victoria's (now dead) lieutenant Laurent a black guy? Yes he was, and in New Moon he and the white Victoria were a pair of mega-evil vampires who had to be stopped. Their relationship is what led to Bella being in terrible danger in the first place. First they wanted to eat Bella, but then the wolves killed Laurent and Edward murdered Victoria's white boyfriend James. Of course now Victoria wants to kill Bella even more.
Team You Must Be Controlled By An Older Man Who Hates Sex
When Bella rejects Jacob, she is solidifying a distaste these films have for interracial relationships (sexual or otherwise) that began with Laurent and Victoria. So what does Bella trade in her potential native boyfriend for? Edward is so white that he sparkles in sunlight, but she's not exactly making a KKK choice here. Actually what she wants is a daddy in a hot young boy's body.
Remember, Edward is old enough to be Bella's great-grandfather, and most of the time he treats Bella like his little girl. He watches over her when she sleeps, tells her who she should hang out with, and (at one point) grounds her from using her car because he's not happy with her intention to see Jacob. Compare that to her father's behavior. The movie begins with Bella having been grounded by her father, who also insists that she not see Edward so much (he's Team Jacob). So basically Edward's behavior seems to mirror her father's. In fact, it turns out that Bella's cop father is actually tracking the very same vampire that the Cullen family is tracking - Victoria's lieutenant in the newborn army.
One night before the Cullens and the pack are going to have their showdown with Victoria's army, they go out hunting and leave Edward and Bella alone in the house all night. Alice practically winks and leers when she tells Bella that she'll have Edward all alone in the house.
Pretty much as soon as they are together, Bella asks Edward if he'll have sex with her, and tries to get him to take off his clothes. He makes a "yuck" face and refuses, claiming he does want to but that he comes from an era when he would court her and ask her father's permission to marry her. Then he gets on one knee and proposes, giving her what my great-grandmother would have called a "dinner ring," a giant, Victorian-style sparkle monstrosity. She says yes, and they hug. Nobody gets laid. And now Bella has pledged her entire (eternal) future to Edward, who has already told her that he won't turn her into a vampire the way she wants unless she marries him.
Of course, if Edward is Bella's daddy, then it's probably a good thing that he's grossed out by having sex with her.
Team Don't Date The Guy Who Wants Sex As Much As You Do
In Eclipse, as in the previous two films, Bella is full of sexual desire - for Edward primarily, but also for Jacob, whose shirtless body is put on display for us pretty much every time he's on screen. There is a terrific moment in Eclipse where Jacob has to carry Bella through the forest, and he tells her he can feel how nervous he makes her - he knows she wants him. And she has to admit it's true. We know that if Bella were to choose Jacob there would be no icky faces when she tries to have sex. He doesn't reject her sexual desire - he welcomes it.
Rejecting Jacob is a way of rejecting the consummation of her desire. It's a rejection of the man who finds her unambiguously appealing, and isn't horrified by his own desires either. (Edward is always insisting that if he had sex with Bella it could kill her.) "Being with me would be as easy as breathing," Jacob tells Bella. But she doesn't want to breathe, or even be alive. She wants to remain frozen in unrequited desire, lusting after a man who finds lust disgusting.
Team Choose Not To Choose
To choose Edward, Bella also has to reject all the trappings of human life for reasons that seem inexplicable. Though the Cullen kids go to high school, for some reason we're given to understand that Bella's transformation into a vampire means she won't be able to go to college. And though the Cullens hang out with other people in Forks - even throwing a giant graduation party - Bella is going to have to leave her family behind forever when Edward turns her.
Her "choice" of Edward is a foreclosure of so many other choices that go beyond losing a chance to make it with wolf boy. And we're reminded of this constantly, as if the movie itself wants to alert us to how problematic Bella's choice really is. Her best human friend gives a speech at graduation that's about how being young means making lots of bad choices before figuring out who you want to be. Meanwhile, members of the Cullen family explain to Bella how they were dragged into vampirism against their wills, and how horrible it is to lead a life that is so devoid of choice and opportunity and hope.
Toward the end of the film, Bella finally admits that she's choosing Edward not just because she loves him, but also because she wants to be a vampire. She "feels different." She wants superpowers. But mostly she wants Edward - the boy who is her daddy, the sex object who rejects sex, the "cold one" whose brethren are masters of coercion.
Why does Team Jacob always have to lose? Because Eclipse is a movie about rejecting adulthood, not just as a person but also as a culture. It's about rejecting adult relationships between men and women, but also between people of different races and between people from the city (like Victoria's army) and people from Forks. It's about never crossing boundaries, never leaving home.
That's why I'm Team I Can't Wait To See What The Fuck Happens In The Next Movie. Because that's when the boundaries come down, big time. That's when you'll see what this fantasy called Twilight really means.
Many thanks to @GLValentine, @kmeisner and @Gwenda, whose Twitter discussions of Eclipse helped me think about all the Teams I wanted to be on.