“Welcome to the new majority. We’re right. You’re wrong. End of story.”
Andrew Wilkow –who my brother and I love listening to together –ends every radio broadcast the same way. He is definitely a man who is sure of himself and his position. Although you’ve got to love a conservative talk show host who has a Who is John Galt? mug and used to be a member of an 80s rock band, I’m not as confident as Wilkow, and don’t think I should be.I tend to be sensitive to criticism, because I realize that I’m not always right –and nothing bothers me more than the nagging feeling in the back of my mind that rears it’s ugly head whenever someone reminds me of that fact.
Such was the feeling that gnawed at me after I wrote my articles on Twilight several months ago, when New Moon was in the midst of taking the theaters by storm. Several people that I respected –and some that I don’t hold in especially high regard –had loved the books, and told me to take another look, and to keep going: I wasn’t being fair. Now, I had read Twilight and New Moon and viewed both of the films before I spoke with such finality, but I worried: had I been too harsh?
I worried so much that I picked up Eclipse.
And then my worries ended. Let’s face it: I was too kind.
Tucked within the pages of this 629-page New York Times, USA Today, and Wall Street Journal #1 bestseller is the story of the wild love affair between a one-hundred-year-old vampire frozen in time at the age of seventeen and his eighteen-year-old human girlfriend (who, finally, reluctantly, towards the last one hundred pages of the novel, becomes his fiancée, only because her boyfriend refuses to break his vow of abstinence before then). The problems I have with Twilight aren’t so much the result of the moral validity of soulless fictional characters (although there are problems to be had with that aspect) as the effect that this story will have on the hearts and minds of the real young women who are eagerly lapping them up.
Just as a crash course to get you up-to-date: in Twilight, girl meets boy -boy loves girl -girl loves boy -boy turns out to be vampire -girl isn’t phased. In New Moon, girl begs boy to become vampire -boy refuses and leaves -girl becomes a suicidal recluse -another boy loves girl –this boy’s a werewolf -girl still isn’t phased -through a series of events, vampire boy comes back -girl and vampire boy promise never to be parted again -werewolf boy is left out in the cold. Eclipse: girl loves vampire boy and wants to be vampire -werewolf loves girl and wants her to stay human -unrelated vampire war brewing -teenage hormones flying.
The Botkin sisters covered this topic excellently in their article, How Twilight is Revamping Romance, when they spoke about emotional pornography. What was slightly uncomfortable to read in Twilight and New Moon was downright embarrassing to peruse in Eclipse. As Bella and Edward shared breathless kiss after breathless kiss, steamy embrace after steamy embrace, promise of eternal affection after promise of eternal affection, I began to wonder if a real, live eighteen-year-old girl might read Eclipse and think that it was safe to spend the night in her boyfriend’s bed without her dad’s knowledge as long as her boyfriend was committed to abstinence? Would she think it was okay to try to get her boyfriend to break his old-fashioned pledge of abstinence as long as she knew that he was the only one she’d love for all eternity? Would she think it was all right to continuously lie to her parents since she knew what was best for them, because she’d kept a vault of secrets locked away from both of them? Would she be comfortable with her boyfriend taking the engine out of her car to keep her from going somewhere he didn’t want her to go -or hiring his sister to put her on lockdown when he’s away and can’t stalk her for himself? She wouldn’t think it was okay to be in love with her best friend as well as her boyfriend, because that’s one of the only things Bella Swan seems to regret: stringing Jacob Black (the werewolf) along when she knows all she wants is Edward (even though she later admits -after kissing Jacob -that she loves both men… she just loves Edward more -and Edward’s very understanding about that).
If she’s a Christian young lady, my hope would be that her answer to each of those questions would be a resounding no! But, if that’s the case, I have to wonder why so many Christian young women are entangled in the Twilight franchise? For those who would say that they’re strong enough to resist the lure of Bella and Edward’s inappropriate fixation, I ask the question: what’s the lure, then? If these things don’t grab your attention in Twilight, what else does? Why read it, if not for what The New York Times called an “archetypal tumult of star-crossed passions, in which the supernatural element serves as a heady spice.” I’ve learned to translate “Stephenie Meyer is such a good writer” into “I love her characters.”
Is it okay for eighteen-year-old girls who think they’re in love to try to seduce their boyfriends (those are Edward Cullen’s words, not mine, pg. 454)? Twilight is often lauded for it’s abstinence push, but Myer makes it clear that Edward’s “old-fashioned” ideals are stifling Bella, who tries, on several occasions, to convince him that his notions are out-dated. And though Edward’s motives seem to be pure, his reasoning for keeping Bella at bay seems a little skewed: he sites abstinence as a “rule” he was trained to keep, and says he’s trying to protect Bella’s soul by keeping it intact; surely the way we value purity should be linked to much more than legalism, right? Edward sets the stage for a beautiful proposal from “his time” (he would have courted Bella, asked her father for her hand in marriage, maybe even stolen a kiss or two, but would have saved himself for her on their wedding night), but it’s hard to discern whether Edward’s vow of abstinence has more to do with morals or nostalgia.
And Bella shows some definite character flaws in her view of marriage: she doesn’t want to marry too young because she’s afraid of what people might think (eighteen year old girls married in her town are usually “knocked up,” in her words, and abstinence is abnormal).
So she has the bravery to become a vampire for eternity… but not to walk down the aisle before giving herself to the man she loves. Because one is morally acceptable to her… and the other is socially repugnant. Am I the only one sensing a disconnect?
One thing Bella will do is sacrifice –she’ll give her life for her friends. What makes that prospect a little harrowing for this reader is that Bella has no understanding of eternity. She’s willing to give her soul (literally) to the boy she’s in love with… and we Christians with our ransomed souls delight in watching her do it.
Meyer’s penchant for creating incredibly sensual scenarios should make other writers sit up and take notice. She crafts a storyline that puts Bella, Edward, and Jacob –a love triangle of sorts –in the same small tent on a frigid winter’s eve in the mountains (they have to stay in the tent together, you see, because a vampire war is going to wage in about twenty-four hours, and Bella needs to be safe out of harm’s way). Bella is freezing to death, and because of her frail human shell, Edward is forced to allow Jacob (who spends the book running around in cutoffs and nothing else, flexing his outrageous muscles and flirting with his uber attractive Native American facial features) to climb into the sleeping back next to Bella so that his abnormally high werewolf body temperature will warm her. So it’s cool to snuggle with your best friend who’s in love with you as long as it’s a life-or-death issue, right?
Poor Edward. He can read minds, and Jacob’s daydreams were a little too uncomfortable for his taste. Awkward.
The film is interesting in that it glosses over a lot of the issues that cropped up in the book. For instance, Edward’s stalker tendencies are whittled down to a minimum -and Jacob talks about the fact that werewolves “imprint” on their lifelong love the moment they lay eyes on her, but the movie doesn’t share the fact that one of his wolf buddies has imprinted on a two-year-old; also, Bella gives a speech in the movie about how her wanting to become a vampire isn’t “all about Edward,” it’s got a lot do with who she wants to be as a person… which sounds a little better than the obsessive attitude she had in the book -only, I can’t seem to remember that speech in Eclipse. Film is usually a more powerful tool than the written words these days, however; and while reading Meyer’s fantasy may get teenage imaginations headed on the wrong track, seeing the incredibly attractive cast, hearing the breathy dialogue, and turning our minds on auto as we digest the message for an uninterrupted two and a half hours might have a more dangerous effect than reading the books.
As a writer, I know I have a responsibility not to put my characters in morally questionable situations. I wouldn’t have to figure out what the right course of action is for an immortal vampire who’s in love with a mortal is, because I wouldn’t cast those characters; I wouldn’t have to solve the issue of a love triangle between a werewolf, the aforementioned human and vampire because I wouldn’t pen it; and I wouldn’t have to warm an eighteen-year-old woman next to an adrenaline ridden, hormonal sixteen-year-old wolf-boy because… well, I wouldn’t write about it. And while one could say that it’s all fine and good that I not do what I find morally reprehensible, and live and let live as far as the Twilight saga is concerned, I write out of a growing personal concern for so many young women that I see falling in love with Meyer’s fantasy world.
God’s Word tells us to flee sexual immorality (1 Corinthians 6:18). As we flee it in the physical sense, so we ought also be careful what we’re feeding our minds, and what we’re turning our hearts towards. As Christian young women who have been called to take every thought captive (2 Corinthians 10:4-5), I worry about how many of our thoughts are being held captive by the soap opera that is the Twilight saga. Meyer’s books, stacked on top of one another, are twice as thick as Wayne Grudem’s Systematic Theology (although, granted, the type-face is much larger) –how would our time be better spent?
I am a fun-loving, literature-loving girl. There are few things more relaxing to me than winding down at the end of the day with a good book in my hands. But I have yet to be convinced that Twilight is a “good book” –as someone who’s waded through all four books and both of the movies so far, redeeming qualities are scarce. I’m not going so far as to say, “I’m right, you’re wrong, end of story…” but I am willing to say that 1 Corinthians 6:12 comes to mind. I close with the same question I was asking upon opening Eclipse: what is edifying about the world Meyer has created in the 2400 most widely read pages in America right now? And how much time have we wasted reading them?
Breaking Dawn will have a scene with Bella Swan, standing in her white dress, a radiant bride walking towards a groom who is wholly devoted to her, both of them anxiously anticipating the untasted joys of their wedding night… it’s something so many of us young women look forward to, is it not? During this waiting time, are there more constructive things we can be doing than living vicariously through Bella Swan, for better or for worst?
Eclipse came out on June 30. Interestingly enough, that’s also my parents’ wedding anniversary. Hey, I’m a warm-blooded American girl -I like romance just as much as the next young woman, and I’m just as susceptible to butterflies winging around in my stomach at the thought of “twue love” –however, I think that a committed relationship between two God-fearing people is so much more to pray and hope for than a breathless romance between two hormonal teens destined to spend eternity together as vampires.
But then, that could just be me.