The Power of Twilight

Book Reviews, Culture, Ethics, Film, Philosophy — By on July 1, 2009 at 12:01 am

A few weeks ago, millions rejoiced as the first trailer for New Moon, the second book-turned-film in the Twilight saga, premiered at the MTV Movie Awards. These wildly successful books continue to draw a loyal following that rivals that of Harry Potter. This is remarkable when one considers how counter-cultural these books are, and how atypical they are of traditional vampire tales. Not unlike Harry Potter, these books represent a number of conservative and often Christian themes, especially when it comes to sex (warning: Spoilers ahead!).

Vampires have always represented the dark side of sexuality. Their unending lust for blood parallels the human lust for flesh that, if unchecked by the confines of marriage, can be radically self-destructive. In the Twilight books, specifically beginning in New Moon, Bella is eager to engage in the most intimate expression of love with her soul-mate, Edward. But Edward is a true gentlemen, raised in an age long past, and refuses to have sex with Bella until they are married. One of his primary motivations, aside from his traditional upbringing, is the fact that he has taken human life in the past. He now feels that chastity is his last virtue. This highlights the fact that sexual purity is not only a virtue, but a virtue on par with refraining from murder. Edward Cullen is one of only a few role models who takes sexual purity seriously, and who actually embodies it in an attractive manner.

This is not to say the books are without fault. Despite the fact that Edward spends three and a half books trying to convince Bella not to become a vampire, she is turned anyway. And both she and the reader are glad of it. We are meant to envy the power, beauty and perpetual youth of these creatures. From the very beginning of the saga it is clear that these are not the monsters of classic lore, but heroes (despite Edward’s protests to the contrary). These vampires lack nothing that would make them envy normal human beings. Bella herself becomes even more beautiful and graceful than she was as a human. She is not affected by the problems normally associated with “newborn” vampires. In the Twilight universe, it would be folly for Bella to remain human.

Is this a good thing? Our culture idealizes unrealistic standards of beauty. A vampire bite may not be quite the same as plastic surgery, but the message is the same. And the vampires’ ability to live forever as teenagers reinforces the idealization of youth. Age-wrought wisdom is rarely sought after in our culture.

Still, these problems may not be so great. For example, the fact that even the evil vampires are beautiful suggests that outward beauty isn’t everything. Additionally, as C.S. Lewis pointed out, the desire to be immortal may actually be a strong intuitive apologetic for Christianity. These books will inevitably create a desire to cheat death. But as Christians, we believe that we have defeated death through Christ’s death and resurrection. Finally, even though Edward and Bella will be teenagers forever, they will continue to grow and learn. While Edward is a perpetual teenager on the outside, he is almost a century old on the inside, and his character often demonstrates the maturity that comes with age (as with, for example, his strong sexual ethic that we have already mentioned).

The Twilight saga embeds these elements in a powerful, dramatic narrative that captures the imagination. It’s no wonder, then, that they would meet with such success in a culture so deeply rooted in Western Christianity. ‘



  • http://www.aarondtaylor.blogspot.com Aaron D. Taylor

    Thank you for this post. I had some of the same thoughts when I read Twilight. I thought the self-control that Edward Cullen displayed towards Bella was remarkable. It goes against the popular notion that teenagers can’t control themselves, so the best we can offer them is safe sex. Hopefully Edward Cullen’s example will cause teenagers to think twice about their cultural assumptions regarding their sexuality.

  • http://theconstellationhypothesis.blogspot.com Louis

    “Vampires have always represented the dark side of sexuality”

    Count Chocula, for instance

  • http://www.afcmin.org/ateam David Nilsen

    “Count Chocula, for instance”

    Haha, nice. I was thinking more along the lines of Bram Stoker’s original Dracula myth. :)

  • Benjamin

    Good article. I think you’ve probably given more thought to the Twilight series even than most of it’s fans have. However, despite the fact that I’ve neither read the books nor seen (most of) the movie, I feel it is my job to poke holes in everything you try to write and make you rethink or explain your reasoning, so here I go. :P

    Two things, both from the second paragraph. One, am I to assume that you’re saying human lust for flesh, once “checked” by marriage, is somehow rewritten or canceled? And how, once married, does it become less self destructive, rather than significantly moreso?

    Two, as you refer to it as a Fact, do you honestly believe that sexual purity is a virtue on par with refraining from murder? This would seem to imply that making love to somebody you’re not married to is tantamount to taking somebody’s life, which I really can’t wrap my head around.

    Also, although it’s not really a problem with any reasoning in your article, I feel it needs to be said that THESE ARE THE GAYEST VAMPIRES EVER. … That is all. :D

  • Andrew

    I heard one commentator – probably Al Mohler – note a dangerous element of these books not listed in this article. He pointed out that the Twilight series encourage girls to trust guys with a history of violent tendencies. Can a girl fall in love with a “bad boy” and expect to be safe around him? In Twilight, yes. In reality, often not.

  • http://www.afcmin.org/ateam David Nilsen

    Hey Ben,

    1. Sexual desires are good and natural in themselves, but as a Christian I would say that their primary purpose is for procreation and they are meant to function within the confines of a single-partner marriage relationship. They are also designed to foster a strong and lasting intimacy between two people. This makes sexual desires outside of a marriage relationship dangerous and self-destructive. So I wouldn’t say that marriage somehow fundamentally changes or removes one’s sexual desires, it simply points them in the right direction.

    2. That’s a fantastic question, and I’m not fully sure what my answer is at this point. A pastor named John Piper once preached a sermon on sexual purity, and he brought up the same question. Basically the way he put it was, if you’re on your way to a UN peace summit (i.e. you’re working toward world peace, a very noble and selfless goal) who cares if you look at a Playboy on the flight, or if you’re sleeping with your girlfriend? That doesn’t seem like that big of a deal compared to fighting poverty, war, slavery, etc. But his point was that, according to the Bible, sexual purity is hugely importnat, at least as important as any other big virtue you can think of. He may be right, but I’m not sure I can articulate my own answer.

  • http://evangelicaloutpost.com/?fbconnect_action=myhome&userid=59 Lindsay Stallones

    As is probably not surprising, I have to disagree with your opinion of the ‘virtue’ of the Twilight books.

    Absence of sin isn’t virtue. While it’s commendable that the characters choose not to engage in sexual activity prior to marriage, the relationship between Bella and Edward is hardly chaste. As you noted, vampirism is a metaphor for sexuality. The way vampirism manifests itself in the story, especially through Edward (his ‘accidental’ injuries to Bella, the emotional power it holds over Bella that literally drives her to suicide in his absence, etc.) instructs the reader in the enticement of such consuming passion. Considering that preteen and teenaged girls are the saga’s primary readers, that concerns me.

    As you note, sex is powerful, and in our ‘whatever works for you’ culture, it’s nice indeed to see a story that takes its power seriously. But again – these characters aren’t restraining their passion, just the physical expression of it. If we hold Twilight up as a model of a healthy relationship for young girls today, we’ll be caring for the victims of abusive relationships tomorrow.

    Your description of the ‘faults’ in the worldview of the saga come nowhere near to scratching the surface of the vapid, dangerous worldview of these books. They are craftily written (with the use of a flat, ‘everyman’ female lead) to arouse the passions of women and girls who seek what a good friend of mine calls ‘girl porn.’ It may have the appearance of chastity, but just as pornography offers a false image of sexual relationships and impersonal, self-obsessed gratification, so books like Twilight (which is really just a mislabeled bodice-ripper) train women to have false, self-gratification-obsessed views of sexual relationships. And, terrifyingly, it seeks to convince us that if our Edward hurts us, emotionally or physically, he sure doesn’t mean it, and it’s really our fault for being so much weaker than him. We were the ones who dared to love a god, after all.

    Wow. I thought the last time I’d hear that pitched so convincingly was “Carousel.”

  • http://www.afcmin.org/ateam David Nilsen

    Andrew,

    I hadn’t thought of that, but the analogy seems a bit too stretched to me. Edward isn’t just a normal person with a bad temper, he’s a vampire who is designed to kill and drink blood, which makes his struggle against his own nature all the more admirable. I actually saw Edward as a type of all of us fallen creatures who must struggle against our own sinful natures. Edward is much less dangerous than the average “vampire” because he knows his own nature and wants to overcome it.

  • ACgleason

    Hey David,
    I actually think this series has much more to do with Meyer’s mormonism than anything else.

  • http://www.afcmin.org/ateam David Nilsen

    Lindsay,

    “…these characters aren’t restraining their passion, just the physical expression of it.”

    This seems to be your main hang-up, so perhaps you could elaborate. What specifically do you mean when you say that they are not restraining their passions?

    As to the point about encouraging abusive relationships, I still don’t understand this criticism. As I pointed out to Andrew, Edward never hurts Bella because he looses his temper, he hurts her in the course of normal, everyday activities because his skin is diamond-hard. And his desire to drink her blood comes from the fact that, well, he’s a vampire! This criticism strikes me as being akin to the criticism that Harry Potter is bad because it will encourage kids to practice actual witchcraft.

    Still, I won’t deny that you might have a point when you describe these books as “girl porn.” They definitely make the erotic (although marital) relationship between a man and woman the most important and defining aspect of life. This is obviously dangerous. But this theme is present in almost every recent film and book you can think of, and my only point is that the good aspects of Twilight outweigh the bad, not that Twilight is perfect.

    I should also point out (before these comments get too out of hand) that this is not a prescriptive essay. I’m not arguing that anyone should or needs to read Twilight, I’m only commenting on why, like Harry Potter, these books are so popular in a culture like ours.

  • http://www.evangelicaloutpost.com Lindsay Stallones

    David,

    Have you never known anyone involved in an abusive relationship, especially a woman involved in a physically abusive relationship with a man? The chilling thing about Twilight is that it mirrors the excuses the victim makes for the abuser. He never ‘means’ it, it just ‘happens.’ It’s a classic pattern so well-known it’s become cliche on stage and screen. The fact that Edward is a vampire is only a convenient literary device. Whether Stephanie Meyer intended that or not is dubious, though Mormonism smacks of chauvinism at its core, so it’s not surprising it would be embedded in her worldview under the guise of chastity.

    In Harry Potter, witchcraft is a literary device that opens the reader to ideas of a world beyond the mundane and offers Rowling a chance to present a larger worldview, a more complete one. Ultimately, it serves as a metaphor for spiritual truths.

    In Twilight, vampirism is an expression of raw sexuality hidden in the cloak of technical chastity. And don’t get me started on the stupidity of diamond skin. Meyer didn’t understand the richness of the mythology she appropriated, and she hacked it to insignificant pieces, destroying its power in a way that even Joss Whedon couldn’t manage in the midst of his rather obvious animosity towards Christianity. But that’s because Joss Whedon is a great storyteller. Meyer isn’t.

    As for chastity – I’d point you to the Church Fathers for instruction on its spiritual (rather than mere physical) components. The Lord instructs us that if a man lusts in his heart after a woman he has committed adultery. Doesn’t that seem to indicate that there might be more to infidelity than the act? And doesn’t that imply that there’s more to sex than sexual intercourse? If not, we might as well do what the secular West does with sex and treat it as yet another mundane biological function.

    I think you’re wrong. I don’t think it’s any last vestige of western Christianity that makes Twilight appealing. Harry Potter showed that the West thirsts for spiritual truth. It’s largely responsible for the series’s popularity.

    Our society’s bankrupt relationships and foolish grasping for shallow knights in armor is responsible for Twilight’s. The story has no substance, the mythology it creates no depth, the characters no magnetism beyond sexual attraction (and yes, that can be purely emotional – hence “girl porn”). It is a false picture of what becomes a dangerous reality, and it draws us in through our own selfish desires to be adored beyond reason.

    It doesn’t reflect Christ’s love for us. It reflects Milton’s Satan’s will to be worshiped. Just like with Pullman’s His Dark Materials trilogy, it reflects our depravity, not our hidden virtue. We shouldn’t try to explain it into our own worldview – we should reject it soundly to help guide future generations into healthy relationships. Otherwise we’ll just raise predators and their victims.

  • http://www.afcmin.org/ateam David Nilsen

    Lindsay,

    The problem is that, within the universe Meyer has created, it *genuinely* isn’t Edward’s fault when he hurts Bella. He’s not just making excuses to hide abuse. So again, making the parallel you’re attempting to make strikes me as no different from blaming Potter for kids who start reading about Wicca because “Harry does magic.”

    You also misunderstood my question regarding the characters’ sexual purity (or lack thereof). I wasn’t asking you to explain a Christian understanding of chastity, I wanted you to give me some specific examples of how the characters (specifically Edward) don’t actually restrain any of their passions (emotional or otherwise).

    Judging by what you’ve said, your problem with the books seems to be more aesthetic than substantial in this case, which is fine. I’m inclined to agree that she completely ruined vampire mythology and that she doesn’t tell as good or compelling a story as Rowling, but neither of those things are at issue. I’m also inclined to agree that she doesn’t present the most Christian picture of romantic relationships, but I never said she did. All I said was that Edward Cullen was a “leading man” who not only understands himself to be flawed (and even evil) at his core and fights pretty hard to restrain his own “fallen” nature, but who explicitly sets up sexual purity as an important virtue to be cherished. That’s simply not a character that teen girls are going to see on Gossip Girl, and so given a choice I’d rather a young woman read Twilight than watch a TV show like that (which, I admit, may be a sad choice to have to make. Of course I would rather she did neither and read Jane Austin instead, but again none of this has to do with the point of my essay). In fact, even if you were completely right that Edward and Bella’s “chastity” ultimately boils down to nothing more than “let’s not physically have intercourse until we’re married”, my point is still made. Even a message as simple, base and imperfect as *that* is something that young people need to hear, and they need it embodied in an attractive and appealing narrative (which, given its popularity, Twilight obviously is).

  • http://www.evangelicaloutpost.com Lindsay Stallones

    My argument against the danger of Twilight has nothing to do with its lack of literary merit. That just makes it doubly bad – contributing to bad worldviews and making its readers dumb. :)

    You’re still misunderstanding the importance of the relationship portrayed in Twilight. It doesn’t matter what rules Meyer set up for her universe – portraying an infatuated, ignored teen who is adored by a devastatingly handsome, powerful man who unintentionally hurts her physically and emotionally is dangerous in the way she’s chosen to do it.

    If you want a truer analogy than the one you propose, let’s look at the relationships portrayed in the Harry Potter universe versus the ones in the Twilight saga. Despite the fantastical worlds created around the characters, the Harry Potter crew must still act according to the rules of healthy relationships. No use of magic to enthrall people (and when it is used, it’s always disastrous), no carelessness with magical powers when interacting together – the rules remain the same because the relationships transcend the genre, and Rowling’s smart enough to realize that.

    In Meyer’s books, it’s the pain that makes it kind of exciting. Bella really loves Edward because she understands he doesn’t mean it. This tittilation, this worship of the obsessive, transcends Meyer’s weak myth as well and ends up advocating unhealthy relationships.

    Let’s move beyond the physical. What about the fact that Edward spends the entire series mocking Bella for being so ‘young and stupid’? That’s a form of emotional abuse, so effective that Bella becomes completely dependent on him. When he leaves her, she tries to kill herself. How is this healthy?! How is this a model we want young women (or young men!) to emulate?!

    As for the chastity thing – Edward allows Bella to be consumed in her passion for him, to the point that she becomes suicidal without his presence. He dehumanizes her – his love doesn’t empower, it makes her subservient to him. She becomes his lover, at his mercy, and her entire existence is wrapped up in him. Her worth, her emotions, her desires, her dreams – everything is wrapped up in his actions towards her. What has she held back before they have intercourse?

    Sure that’s romantic… for a Bronte novel, maybe, and I’m talking Emily, not Charlotte. Bella and Edward are a watered down Heathcliff and Catherine – but without the truth of the story. Unlike Heathcliff and Catherine, Bella and Edward don’t destroy those around them and themselves, but it’s because Meyer’s worldview is too twisted to see the logical end of the story she’s created. And she’s a compelling enough writer to convince teenaged girls that her version of that destructive passion is the one that can exist in the real world.

    And that’s why I think you’re completely wrong to argue that simply encouraging young people to postpone the physical act of sex is enough. Is it powerful? Of course. It’s a physical act that directly affects the soul. But the soul can be unchaste without ever touching a physical body, and Twilight teaches that’s just fine. And it’s not.

    By arousing those passions the way Twilight does, we’re fighting a losing battle if we also want kids to wait to have sex. Telling the kids to divorce the intense emotion from the physical act is creating a false reality for them, and it can lead them into confusion about what chastity really is – and lead them to whip themselves into emotional frenzies that might lead them into the act anyway.

  • http://www.afcmin.org/ateam David Nilsen

    But I could say much of the same about Jane Eyre and Mr. Rochester. They both become emotionally involved in each other in a way that is unhealthy for people who cannot follow through and get married. What makes Jane virtuous is not that she doesn’t have any passions, but that she leaves Rochester when she finds out he’s still married and doesn’t give in to those passions by performing the physical act that accompanies them. There’s nothing wrong with the fact that she became so emotionally invested in him before they were married, unless you’re advocating a return to arranged marriages.

    Is Bella too weak-willed? Does she define too much of her own identity in relation to Edward? Sure, but no more so than any other romance story available to teen girls today. And the difference between Edward and name-your-favorite-male-teen-drama-star is that he refuses to allow her emotional investment to be carried through into its physical manifestation until they are married.

  • http://www.evangelicaloutpost.com Lindsay Stallones

    I’m so glad you brought up Jane and Rochester! They’re another great example of what Twilight could have been.

    Jane does get enormously attached to Rochester – but once she realizes that she’s considering ignoring his living first wife in order to gain her happiness, she flees. She exhibits the strength of character necessary to pull out of the dark obsession and retreats, puts her faith in God to recenter herself, then returns after going through enormous character growth with her cousins. Only after fleeing Rochester’s darkness and demanding he change can she return and becomes, as Bronte writes, a wife so dedicated that never was a wife “more bone of his bone and flesh of his flesh.”

    The trouble with Twilight is it glorifies the obsessiveness Jane was wise to reject.

    In its dedication to technical chastity, is Twilight better than Gossip Girl, or any number of other entertainment geared toward teen girls? Yes and no – there’s plenty of great stuff out there for teens that isn’t obsessed with sex, literally or metaphorically.

    But even if Twilight’s better than Gossip Girl in its message about purity, is that reason enough to commend it to our younger generation despite its dangers? Isn’t that rather like saying, “Well, that bowl has rat poison AND arsenic. This one only has rat poison, so why don’t you taste that instead?”

    I don’t think we’d do that with food. Why are we willing to do it with literature?

  • http://www.afcmin.org/ateam David Nilsen

    I suppose I would only slightly disagree with the analogy in that I think Twilight has rat poison mixed with neccesary vitamins and minerals, while Gossip Girl is only rat poison. And of course if you’re going to be taking rat poison either way…

    But you’ve at least given me a lot to think about in terms of how strongly I would recommend these books to people in the future. And I’ll certainly give more thought to the whole “it encourages abusive relationships” thing.

    It’s interesting that Meyer actually intentionally patterned each book on some literary classic, and Eclipse is meant to mirror Wuthering Heights. Maybe Meyer just missed the point of Bronte’s book?

    Still, I only wanted to point out some of the more noble things about the Twilight books that *might* have contributed to their success in a semi-Christian culture like ours. You might be right that there is a lot more to be worried about in them than I had originally thought, but I’m not cynical enough to think that it’s only erotic and/or totally vicious impulses in people that have motivated their success. There’s lots of pornographic literature that people could be reading if that was all they wanted.

  • Joelle Riezebos

    Both of you have explored a lot of concepts that I had not considered when reading the Twilight books, specifically the abusive relationship and the obsessive attachment aspects of Bella and Edward’s story.

    As a high school teacher in an large, urban, public school, I encountered the Twilight phenomenon early as students were attempting to hide that they were reading teh massive books in class. I became curious as to what this teen craze was all about, especially when the movie was released and girls were wandering the halls in Twilight apparrel and breathing the name “Robert Pattinson” with lovesick smiles. I borrowed the books from my students and was generally pleased with what I found for a vampire story, namely the desire for sexual purity coming from Edward. In a world where some of my students are parents by the age of 17 and others are in the hallways with maternity clothes on, this is something in which I rejoiced. Maybe, just maybe, even one girl will think harder about the joy of abstaining from sex until marriage from the romantic notion she got from reading Twilight, even if it is sort of a shallow reason, if it saves her from some heartache and becoming a mother too young, wonderful!

    Sex is an all too real part of teenagers in America’s lives, mostly because of what they access on MTV and FOX and countless other networks. Compared to everything else my teenage students take in, the Twilight series is a breath of fresh air for restraining sex and making it more than just a fun past time or something that people who like each other do.

    As for the obsession aspect, (I had to jump in when you mentioned Jane Eyre because that is my absolute favorite book (and being an English major, I have many)), I wanted to include another classic in the discussion: Romeo and Juliet. These two star-crossed lovers’ obsessions with each other turned into something almost glorified since the families are able to reconcile after the tragedy of their suicides. So the idea of the loss of love causing deep and driving emotional stress is nothing new that Bella and Edward both experience. However, I think that New Moon shows that Bella’s behavior after losing Edward momentarily is not a behavior to follow. She is shunned by her “friends” and practically loses them. She also causes Edward to want to kill himself since he believes she is dead (Romeo and Juliet again). She does suffer repercussions of her obsessive nature later when the more stereotypical evil vampires enter the scene and threaten to destroy her. If she hadn’t been obsessive, Edward wouldn’t have tried to kill himself, and then the bad guys wouldn’t have gotten involved and almost killed her. So even though Bella and Edward do end up together, I don’t see that her obsessive behavior is encouraged for other teenagers to practice in their relationships. Meyer is much less encouraging of double suicides than our own classic Shakespeare (except he had a wonderful way with words, and she is normal).

    And I am still considering the validity of the abusive relationship.

    One other question I have is about Meyer introducing the concept of the vampire’s soul or lack thereof. She spends some lengthy passages dealing with Edward’s desire for a soul and wanting to be more than what he believes he is destined for…hell. Also the fact that Carlisle’s father was a preacher, which may have helped Carlisle turn from all instinct and destructive desire into something more. I was unsure what to take away from those passages…so any ideas?

  • http://www.evangelicaloutpost.com Lindsay Stallones

    Hooray! Borderline agreement! :)

    I don’t think it’s only erotic or vicious impulses that make people love these books, either. I think it’s a confusion of a good desire. We desire all-powerful love because that is what we came from in Eden and that’s what we return to in Christ. But our fall cut us off from that perfect love, and it became self-focused – hence wanting to be Bella.

    I agree they’re powerful, and not entirely bad – no lie is believable without something of truth to it. But in our rat poison analogy, I don’t think the choice is between two things containing rat poison. I think we should encourage people to avoid it, because there’s so much better food out there.

  • http://evangelicaloutpost.com/?fbconnect_action=myhome&userid=7 David Nilsen

    Joelle,

    Thanks for the comments. I think you’ve hit on a very important point, and one that I was trying to make myself, but you did it in a much more articulate way (and included personal experience, which always helps!).

    “If she hadn’t been obsessive, Edward wouldn’t have tried to kill himself, and then the bad guys wouldn’t have gotten involved and almost killed her. So even though Bella and Edward do end up together, I don’t see that her obsessive behavior is encouraged for other teenagers to practice in their relationships.”

    This is a very good point. It may be that Meyer is not actually trying to encourage teen girls to be like Bella at all, at least until she becomes a vampire and all her faults suddenly vanish. :)

    Lindsay,

    One other thought I had is that you could be completely right when you point out that Edward and Bella’s relationship is “unhealthy.” It IS unhealthy while he is a vampire and she remains human. That’s why she HAS to become a vampire in order for their relationship to work. And once she does become a vampire, she’s even stronger than Edward, which would completely do away with the “abusive” aspects of their relationship. I’m not sure what conclusions to draw from these observations yet, but it does seem to have important bearing on our discussion.

  • http://www.evangelicaloutpost.com Lindsay Stallones

    Hmm… that’s a good question. Though I don’t think we credit someone for not hurting another person if he can’t hurt that person.

    Also there seems to be something… well, odd, about the fact that becoming a vampire is what makes Bella strong. Every other vampire story uses vampirism differently than she does, and Meyer’s ‘mythology’ doesn’t quite stand on its own legs. It’s rather hard to explain a good analogy from it. The best I can come up with is that when Bella surrenders to her obsessive passions, she gains strength enough to defend herself and be her own person – again, not a good message.

    Which is too bad, really. Joss Whedon did some amazing things with vampirism in his Buffy series. Even Underworld had a lot of fun with it while maintaining a relatively coherent myth. I’d like to know what Meyer meant to write.

  • Dennis Payton

    Having not read the books and being intrigued when a co-worker (an English major) came into work talking about the parallels to Austin, Bronte and other classic writers, I had been contemplating reading them lately. This conversation has only further provoked that intrigue, but also offered some choice observations.

    So to sum up what I understood David to say:
    1. Having a pop-culture fixture emphasize physical abstinence is comparatively better than other pop-culture options available.
    2. Bella’s desire to become a vampire is to compensate for her own perceived flaws as well as to become Edwards “equal” and this translates to instructing readers to compensate for their flaws by whatever means is available.

    To sum up Lindsay:
    1. “Absence of sin isn’t virtue” specifically regarding intercourse and chastity. (My heart cheered when I read that.)
    2. Edward and Bella’s relationship is abusive, pretext of vampire or not. The emotional and physical model should not be presented to this audience as acceptable nor desirable.

    From the entire conversation I gather that the vampire myth that Meyer utilizes is weak and fails to contain the evil that she releases in her stories, nor is it strong enough to push character or reader towards virtue. I gather that there is little to be gained from reading these books myself.

    However, I believe that that the analogy of rat poison and arsenic might too extreme. My mother is a special education teacher and she and I talk regularly on ways to entice her students to read, period. So considering David’s comparison is between reading and watching a TV show, I would say that the analogue to the book is much more like offering a reader a deep-fried Twinkie or Big Mac Super-sized meal. Surely Twilight will not kill you in the short term, but it should never be considered “healthy.” This is extended to the obsessive devotion that some fans seem to have to the series as well. The results of an obsession to Big Mac’s is equally unappealing to this audience.

    What then are we to do collectively as Christians? Acknowledge that occasionally people eat Big Mac’s, but encourage those we can to have healthier diets.

  • http://www.kenpierpont.com Ken Pierpont

    Your review makes me doubt the other things you say here. It displays a disturbing lack of discernment.

  • http://evangelicaloutpost.com/?fbconnect_action=myhome&userid=7 David Nilsen

    Ken,

    I’ve certainly changed my position somewhat since writing this post. I don’t embrace or encourage reading the Twilight books as enthusiastically as I seemed to in my post, but neither do I reject them whole-sale as being of no redeeming value whatsoever (especially in light of John Granger’s recent comments, as well as his new book: Spotlight: A Close-Up Look at the Artistry and Meaning of Stephenie Meyer’s Twilight Saga).

    Still, I’m a philosopher and theologian (and still a student, at that!), not a poet or literary critic, so I don’t really make any claims to authority here. I could be completely wrong in my attempt to find some good in these books, but that should hardly reflect on my other posts (unless, of course, they are of a similar nature). Out of curiosity, when you say “Your review makes me doubt the other things you say here” are referring to something specific I’ve said, or merely being rhetorical?