Nightmares plagued my childhood. The Wizard of Oz terrified me. I could fathom no creature nastier than the Wicked Witch’s flying monkeys. And so I learned very early in life that what my mind consumed would ultimately embed itself deep within me.
All of which makes me one of Twilight’s most unlikely champions.
I usually don’t care for science fiction, romance, and certainly not horror novels. As a Christian, I don’t believe filling my mind and spirit with evil is ever a good idea.
So why do I consider Christian conservatives who berate the Twilight films as misinformed or hypocritical?
First, I need to clarify a few things.
Most important, I’m in no way defending the entire vampire genre or the trendy teenage fad spawned from it. Much of this material is little more than a celebration of death in a sexy package. This cocktail of evil and lust has the potential for wickedness.
Many of the Twilight critics mistakenly assume the films follow this trend. Among the most vocal is Mark Driscoll, who readily admits to never watching them. I have, and don’t see it that way in the least. On the contrary, these films have the potential to serve as a neutron bomb in the culture wars — and a valuable tool in the hands of parents.
Here’s what I saw in the movies:
a) All vampires in the Twilight films are described as “murderers,” “going to hell,” and “monsters.” At no time is the evil associated with these vampires touted as good or right.
b) The bad guys are the vampires that follow their natural instinct for blood. The “good” guys are the vampires who despise their bloodthirsty nature, understand their innate potential for evil, and continually battle self-loathing. I might add further that vampirism was not a conscious choice. They spend “eternity” (although they can be killed) trying to serve mankind rather than destroy it.
c) The “good” vampires — in spite of understanding that they are doomed — adhere to a strict code of family loyalty, sexual morality, and self-denial of the evil pleasures hardwired into them.
d) Evil is portrayed as it truly is. Not with horns and scales that anyone can recognize, but as it is in the real world: beautiful, seductive, and deadly.
e) Good is also portrayed as it is: self-sacrifice, fidelity, chastity, discipline, and loyalty.
What Stephenie Meyer has done — whether she set out to or not — is smuggle a Christian conservative message in the context of romance and fantasy to an audience of millions.
Yeah but…there are vampires in it.
Seriously? Let’s dig deeper.
Bella is portrayed as a typical foolish teenage girl. She assumes, as the culture suggests, that showing her love requires premarital sex. However, the target of her affection, Edward, does not see it that way. Which brings up two important topics of real life that social conservatives and Christians alike believe to be among the most devastating social issues: promiscuity and abortion.
My friend Jill Stanek, a nationally known pro-life advocate, speaker, and prolific blogger, explains it like this:
Another interesting storyline is there’s no sex until after marriage. Bella wants to, Edward refuses. This is often attributed to Edward’s fear he will lose control and physically hurt or kill Bella. But there’s another reason given in book 3.
Edward was born during virtuous times in the early 1900s, and he maintains those sexual standards 100 years later.
“[T] his is the one area in which I’m just as spotless as you are,” Edward says. ‘Can’t I leave one rule unbroken?’
And in a feminist way Edward identifies the “why buy the cow when you can get the milk for free” phenomenon. He wants to marry Bella, but Bella is afraid:
“So that’s it. You won’t sleep with me until we’re married.” …
“[Y]es, you’ve got it right.”
“I think you have an ulterior motive.”
His eyes widened innocently. “Another one?”
“You know this will speed things up,” I accused. He tried not to smile. ‘There is only one thing I want to speed up, and the rest can wait forever… but for that, it’s true, your impatient human hormones are my most powerful ally at this point.”
To skirt on the edge of blasphemy, with vampirism aside, I think Edward represents the yearning in every woman’s heart for the knight in shining armor that is only satisfied in the person of Jesus.
Jill is absolutely right.
The real draw to these films for women and girls is that love is portrayed as it was intended to be. In this culture, as evident in so many women’s lives, that is as much a fantasy relationship as the monsters themselves.
Vampires are not real. Foolish teenage girls who will throw away their lives for what they think is love are very real. Bella is every parent’s worst nightmare. She lives a potentially fatal secret life.
In the early films, like many young girls, Bella is her own worst enemy. She has a fantasy of what love and eternity entails: she will toss her life carelessly aside for a man.
Ask your teenager if she has a friend like that. I wouldn’t be surprised if she could name more than one.
It’s also a safe bet that if pushed she could name plenty of fang-free teenage boys who would destroy her for their own pleasure. Too many young girls fall prey to this clear and present danger.
Yeah but… there are vampires in it — they’re wicked.
Do you believe that evil portrayed in films has influence over the culture? If so, then so does truth and righteousness. You can’t have it both ways.
The fourth installment of the Twilight series currently playing in theatres is Breaking Dawn. The diehard fans have waited for this: the fantasy wedding. After waiting until marriage to consummate their love, Bella conceives.
Honestly, I had a hard time with that concept. It didn’t make sense. After all, Edward is dead. How can someone who is supposed to be dead give life? But then again, how can someone that is supposed to be dead live at all? It’s fantasy. As a fiction writer friend loves to point out, “In fiction, the author is the god that creates her own universe.” In Breaking Dawn, Meyer is making the rules.
Almost every current argument for abortion — including protecting the life of the mother — comes out here. Take out the vampires and the Left would ridicule it as a Crisis Pregnancy propaganda film. In fact, feminists and pro-abortion zealots have attacked Breaking Dawn. Apparently, they also see it as “shots fired” in the culture war in a zone once thought conquered: the minds of young girls.
As a young bride Bella finds herself carrying a baby constantly referred to as an “it” and “fetus.” Bella cradles her swollen belly and curls herself around it. She pleads for her husband and family to love it even though this “wasn’t supposed to happen.” She calls it a miracle. In the book she says:
This child, Edward’s child, was a whole different story. I wanted him like I wanted air to breathe. Not a choice – a necessity.
Many young women will find themselves one day carrying a child everyone else deems a mistake. Many voices will fill their ears with the tempting view that their child is nothing more than a problem to solve. Will these women follow Bella’s example and protect their unborn child? Perhaps. If this film is as persuasive as its opponents fear.
The underlying messages of the Twilight series are clear throughout. If he truly loves you, he will use self-restraint at all costs, and he will put your well-being above his own. He will not disgrace or dishonor you by using your body for his own selfish desires. Is this not the message we want our daughters to fully grasp?
Wouldn’t all Christian conservatives like to have a vast audience full of potential unwed mothers understand that an unborn child shouldn’t die before taking its first breath?
The argument that this film is wicked simply for its vampires crumbles to dust when exposed to sunlight.
This type of movie or book might not be your idea of entertainment. In all honesty, had I known what the movie was before seeing it, I probably wouldn’t have gone. These films are not something we all should add to our collections. They weren’t made for the likes of Boomer moms like me.
But it’s time we learn how to engage with the culture — so we can take it back.
Stephenie Meyer has done it. My hat is off to her. She has spoken into the hearts and minds of millions and injected a dose of truth into the fantasy lives of the Planned Parenthood generation. She has whispered in their ears that love is laying your life down for another, and every life is precious — even when it “wasn’t supposed” to be.
God used an ass to make His point. Stephenie Meyer used a vampire.
What will you use?