Why is the vampire Edward Cullen from Twilight desirable despite being an extreme psychopath?

A boyfriend to die for: Edward Cullen as compensated psychopath in Stephanie Meyer’s Twilight

From Journal of Communication Inquiry

This study looks at the male lead character Edward Cullen in the hugely popular Twilight novel and movie. It recognizes that this role is one of a “compensated psychopath” (CP)—an extreme psychopath who is able to pass for functional in society. The popularity of the role may be understood for the movie viewers in part as it is played by the heartthrob Robert Pattinson, but the idealization of Edward as a top boyfriend by the female lead character and also avid girls around the globe reading or watching, considering he is a dangerous vampire is largely uncriticized.

The article describes the romantic male vampire phenomenon in contemporary American culture and discusses the concept of the “compensated psychopath”. Discourse analysis is also used to identify coded terms and phrases that have connotative meaning, The importance of taking popular culture portrayals seriously is outlined arguing that it would be easy to dismiss Twilight as only harmless entertainment. Although Edward Cullen may be purely fictional, the power of story, of mass media, to influence viewers and readers, is well established in academic literature. The idealization of Edward is troubling as it flies under the radar of contemporary concern for girls’ psychic and physical well-being.



This article is an analysis of the teen-targeted vampire novel Twilight. The series and related merchandise have been a runaway financial success. Illustrative quotes from Twilight are presented according to Guggenbühl-Craig’s concept of the “compensated psychopath” (CP)—an individual who approaches the psychological extreme of psychopathy but is able to pass for functional in society. The author argues the lead male character Edward Cullen is a CP and that the representation is problematic. The book’s main female character, Bella Swan, becomes completely dependent on Edward, desires him in part because he seems unattainable, and is willing to die and live a life of predation in order to be with him. The largely uncriticized idealization of Edward as top boyfriend material flies under the radar of contemporary concern for girls’ psychic and physical well-being.


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Article details

Merskin, D. (2011). A Boyfriend to Die For: Edward Cullen as Compensated Psychopath in Stephanie Meyer’s Twilight Journal of Communication Inquiry DOI: 10.1177/0196859911402992

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