Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Beyond Team Edward and Team Jacob (or, Why I'm Team Mike Newton)

by Ben Howard

After my Twilight-watching experience the most common question I’ve encountered is a fairly typical one: Team Edward or Team Jacob? While I do have a preference between the two (Jacob by a mile), I reject the very premise of the question. The question assumes that Bella has to choose one of the two tortured love-struck mythical creatures, but I say “Nay!” I reject these two monstrous suitors for I am thoroughly on Team Mike Newton.

If you’ve never been introduced to the world of Twilight, Mike Newton is one of Bella’s friends from high school. In fact, he’s barely in any of the movies. His tour de force comes in New Moon when he asks Bella out to see the movie Facepunch (Twilight is subtle). Bella brings Jacob along to the movie. Mike becomes sick because of the violence in said film, and Bella pretty much dismisses Mike from the picture. Oh Mike, we hardly knew thee!
I’m joking a little bit, of course, but the juxtaposition of the Team Jacob/Team Edward debate with my affinity for Mike Newton does bring up an interesting point about Bella and in a sense about all of us.

Mike Newton’s fatal flaw is that he isn’t interesting, or at least, he isn’t spectacularly interesting. He’s routine and functional. He’s normal. Jacob and Edward on the other hand are full of spectacle. They are mythical beasts of yore!

And Bella goes for the spectacle. Most of us would if place in a similar situation. It makes us feel special and exciting, like our lives are more important, like we are more important than everyone else around us. That’s the great draw of action movies. One man. All alone. Saving the world.

We all put ourselves in the position of the hero or the heroine. We all want to be the special person who has all the special skills necessary to save the world. Or, if you want it to be a romantic context, we want to be the person who sweeps the girl off her feet, or the girl who is so wonderful that a guy can’t help but sweep her off her feet.

That’s why we like movies. It showcases a life of excitement and wonder that, to be completely honest, we probably aren’t going to experience.

In all of the dreams that I remember, I’m a superhero. Well, not quite a superhero, but at least an action hero. One time I saved a whole convention center full of people from a diabolical sand monster. I think I drove over him in a Jeep.

On another occasion, I stopped a band of thieves from stealing my friend’s canoe. It was an important canoe for some reason and I used it to transport them to the science fair just in time for them to win first prize. My subconscious can get a little bizarre.

I think this hero-centric storytelling can have an adverse effect on the way we interpret the world. We vote and think one politician will be our savior. We root for athletes because we think their individual presence will lift a team. In basketball circles there is a derisive term used for when a player holds the ball so that he can hit a game winning shot, it’s called playing Hero Ball. It typically doesn’t turn out well.

I see this in the way a lot of people interpret the Bible as well. We read the stories and then we see ourselves in the heroes and the main characters. What if that isn’t the point? What if we’re supposed to see ourselves in the crowds? Or in the people of Israel? What lessons do we miss when we play biblical Hero Ball?

It’s not bad to be normal, and normal doesn’t necessarily entail being boring either. We live such an amped up existence that sometimes I think we become numb to the beauty and delicacy that can be found in the simplicity of life.

For example, I’ve heard that it’s difficult for people who have eaten junk food all of their life to appreciate fine cuisine because their palates are predisposed to high salt, high sugar foods. They’ve been so overwhelmed by the intensity of salt and sugar that it’s hard to something more delicate will often taste bland.

That’s why I can’t be Team Edward or Team Jacob. I have to be Team Mike Newton. I want to embrace the fact that “normal” doesn’t mean bad, that most of us will live “normal” full of brilliance and beauty and wonder if we only know how to look for it.


You can follow Ben on Twitter @BenHoward87 or email him at benjamin.howard87 [at]

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