The premiere of the new film Breaking Dawn reminds us that the Twilight series has had a reverberating impact on Young Adult fiction, and has reshaped the parameters of the target age of the reading audience. The reaction from Christians to the series varies, and for good reason. Some Christians believe that the novels lead to things like devil worship and blood sacrifice ceremonies. While that is a bit farfetched, it’s true that if someone impressionable reads the series, it might lead to wrong beliefs about the supernatural. Other Christians see the monogamous relationship between Edward and Bella and appreciate that there are two young adults in a committed relationship who don’t engage in premarital sex.
Personally, I don’t appreciate the Twilight saga, but for extremely different reasons than those of many other Christians.
Mythologically speaking, vampirism is wrapped up in Christian symbolism. Essentially, vampires initially were believed to be demons possessing humans because their souls belonged to the devil. This is why traditional literary vampires are warded off by silver (symbolic of the 30 pieces of silver traded for Jesus), light (symbolic of Jesus, the light of the world), crosses, and so on. However, in Stephanie Meyer’s novels, the vampires look and behave nothing like they traditionally do in the works of authors from Bram Stoker to Anne Rice to L. J. Smith. Meyer’s vampires are “vegetarian,” so to speak; they want to blend into society, not destroy it; and they sparkle in the sunlight instead of turning into dust.
In reality, Meyers has created a version that takes very little from traditional and mythological vampirism, and that I believe reflects her Mormon faith. In the form of the Cullens, they are no longer dangerous creatures that are forever damned, but ones that live eternally and are not intentionally dangerous to humans. Mormon theology is particularly glaring in the last book, Breaking Dawn, in which Bella can only receive eternal life through Edward. Another underlying theme that comes up a few times is that motherhood is idolized by the females in the Cullen family. This theme implies that they are somehow “less” female for being unable to bear children.
So to me, what is most disturbing about the series in general is what it teaches girls about femininity at an impressionable age.
As we follow Bella and Edward’s relationship in the first book, it seems quite romantic that she is the only one for him. He is completely devoted to her and will protect her in any way possible. So far Edward looks pretty good, until you see his whole obsessive “stalker” side come out, where he will even sneak into her room at night and watch her sleep, without her father knowing. Yes, there is an element of romance because it is sweet because he wants to protect her. And yet, although nothing happens sexually between the couple, Edward’s behavior is more than a little creepy.
They also must be together almost at all times (at either his or her own insistence). Although such a desire is natural for anyone in a romantic relationship, it is the compulsion that they must be together that makes this relationship obsessive. In the second book, Edward feels it best to go away for Bella’s own safety. During this time Bella is intentionally reckless because dangerous behavior helps her to “see” Edward, and she almost drowns after throwing herself off a cliff. Edward has Bella so dependent on him that she cannot live without him; he has essentially become her god.
The repercussions I see are young women who feel they need to have a man to be “complete.” Bella was not a “whole woman” unless Edward was there, and while she had a friendship with resident hot werewolf Jacob, when Edward was around Bella gravitated back to Edward and would sacrifice her relationships with her parents and friends to be with him. This teaches that against the concerns of everyone around you, you should stay with your stalker-esque, obsessive, at times abusive boyfriend.
Twilight is not a series I would recommend that a female at an impressionable age read, unless a parent were there to refute the belief that she needs a boyfriend or child to be “complete.” All women should learn not only to depend on God to fulfill them, but to think for themselves and not obsessively rely on any other person to give them self-esteem or help them feel that they are loved.
Image copyright Summit Entertainment.
Esther J. Archer is a writer and seminary student in Tennessee.