Twilight would have been a much more interesting movie had it centered on Charlie Swan (Billy Burke). After all, his story would make for the darkest of Oscar indie bait: An aging father is forced to balance his career in a misty town with his desire to reconnect with his moody daughter. (Hey, it worked for The Wrestler.)
But his story is also more complex than any supernatural selection Bella (Kristen Stewart) has to make over the course of the five Twilight films. Besides Bella’s screen time-challenged buds and the faceless high school extras in Forks, Wash., Charlie is the only character in the Twilight franchise who has no idea he lives in a world full of vampires and werewolves with a taste for his daughter.
That’s exactly why all of Twilight‘s genuinely good moments center on Charlie’s relationship with his teenage daughter. The dynamic between the two is as fascinating as it is horrific. Charlie knows within weeks of Bella returning to Forks that his daughter is leading a secret life — one that involves a frightening trip to the hospital — but he allows her to flirt with danger in order to keep her, all while noticing little more about Edward Cullen (Rob Pattinson) than a hard jawline. Bella, sympathetic to her father’s hopes while still shunning his attempts at reconnection, lies to her father for years about Forks’ supernatural undercurrent, adding insult to injury by preferring the company of the Cullens’ cohesive family unit over the Swans’ broken home. Love, heartbreak, betrayal — Charlie feels more in the course of the first film than Bella, Edward, and Jacob (Taylor Lautner) combined in all five.
Consider their conversation (one of the few in which Charlie and Bella actually talk) in the first Twilight film, after Bella stages a fight with Edward in order to protect Charlie from the hunting James (Cam Gigandet):
Charlie: Did he hurt you?
Charlie: Break up with you or something?
Bella: No, I — I broke up with him.
Charlie: I thought you liked him?
Bella: Yeah, that’s why — that’s why I have to leave. I don’t want this. I have to go home.
Charlie: You’re not going to drive home right now … Look, Bella, I know I’m not that much fun to be around, but I can change that. We can do more stuff together.
Bella: Like what? Like watch baseball on the flat screen? Eat at the diner every night? Steak and cobbler. Dad, that’s you, that’s not me.
Charlie: Bella, come on. I — I just got you back.
The moment was tragic, and helped a minor character shine brighter than any vampire in daylight. Charlie is one of the franchise’s sole good guys — the one who is the most human and humane. Starry-eyed teenagers might drool over Twilight‘s supernatural sexiness, but anyone with a mortal soul should see that Charlie is the franchise’s most appealingly complicated hero. A hero that not only survives Bella’s nightmarish teenage years, but one who forgives years of vampire-related deceit. And that’s what makes him bloody worthy of the title “World’s Greatest Dad.”
[Image Credit: Summit Entertainment]