Per request, I thought I’d end the weekend by putting down some of my thoughts about Twilight. I’ve seen the hype and hysteria in the several years since the release of the first book, and have been bewildered by it. The fervor surrounding the movies is even more astonishing.
In both 2008 and 2009, the top four slots on USA Today’s Best-Selling Books list were occupied by the four volume Twilight series.
The movie “New Moon”, based on the second book in the series, sold more tickets on its first day than any other American movie in history. According to MarketWatch.com, New Moon accounted for well over 50% of all movie sales during its opening weekend, and became the third-largest weekend gross in history.
Fandango reported that New Moon broke the record for number of sold-out theaters before it was even released.
According to a Fandango survey of more than 5,000 moviegoers, 85% claimed they planned on seeing the movie in theater more than once, and 95% of the respondents were female.
When the Twilight DVD was released, it sold over 3 million copies the first day.
Anyone who knows a teenage girl (or a woman who could be the parent of one), is by now well familiar with Twilight, as well as the accompanying dreamy vacant looks, the obsession over the merchandise, the swooning over Edward (actor Robert Pattinson) and Jacob (actor Taylor Lautner), and the rabid vengeance issued toward Twilight detractors. I have seen people stand in line for passing fads like Cabbage Patch, Beanie Babies, and Elmo – but these people do not wear t-shirts declaring they are on “Team Elmo”. There are countless Star Wars nerds who are well familiar with the movies after watching them countless times, yet they do not yearn for ‘The Force’ as something they can attain. Even more puzzling is the “Twilight Mom” movement. Attending movies in numbers that would rival many tea parties, women in their thirties and forties gather repeatedly to watch those hunky 17 year olds one more time. I have joked that I have considered forming a group of men to go see the Hannah Montana movie with me. We’ll wear t-shirts that say “Hannah Dads”, swoon over her beautiful body, and remark how amazing she is – all from a shared cell.
I understand fads happen. There are best-selling books and blockbuster movies all year long. This is nothing new. I wanted to get a better idea of what Twilight is all about, so I did some research and watched the first movie. Wow. If you are going to attempt either, let me first warn you of Stephenie Meyer’s vapid writing. This is not great literature. And if you want to see a movie with a great script, you would do better with Armageddon or The Santa Clause. Or Speed 2. But if you get beyond that, there are some really troubling messages in the Twilight saga.
Here is the basic plot of the first movie: Girl moves from mom’s house to live with dad. Girl meets guy who stares at her lecherously. Guy stalks girl. Girl falls in love with guy. Guy tries to break it off because he’s no good for her. Girl is even more attracted. Guy has a hard time controlling his bloodlust for girl. Girl becomes pursued by rival vampires. Guy saves girl.
That sums up the part that all the women are in love with. I’ll outline the parts I had a problem with.
There are two major themes in Twilight. One is wish fulfillment, and the other is the pursuit of the forbidden. They become evident in the movie’s messages.
Message 1: Girls need guys to define them
Bella is a very needy girl. She needs a boy in order to feel valued. There is no indication of self-worth. No validation of identity. No encouragement to explore your interests. She needs a boyfriend. More accurately, she needs to be needed by a boy.
This poor girl hasn’t a clue what love is. Once they are together, it is all about the passion and tension. There is no communication, no mutual respect, no common interests or sacrifice. She loses her identity and abandons her friends and family. In a healthy relationship, each brings the other into their life. In Twilight, Edward becomes Bella’s life.
When Bella first meets Edward he acts very creepy. The normal response would be to avoid the creepy guy. But Bella’s reaction is to become all the more intrigued. This is very disturbing! Rather than avoid the leering pale guy with mascara and lipstick, she is drawn to him. Neediness is not a quality we want to encourage in our daughters! What is troubling is that Bella is not alone in her infatuation. Legions of 13 year olds and their mothers swoon at this predator! It makes me wonder what is missing in their lives that they feel can only be fulfilled by a pale, lonely predator.
Message 2: Guys get girls by stalking them
Edward Cullen is a predator. There is no other way to say it. He is over six times Bella’s age. At school, in the parking lot, and elsewhere he is always lurking in the background. For months he breaks into her house to watch her sleep at night. And this wins her over! Then he begins sleeping with her, in her bed, while dad snores away down the hall. He isolates her from her family and friends who have warned her that he seems creepy.
Which part of this is appealing? Yikes! Isn’t this the same stuff that’s in every women’s magazine to help them identify a controlling and abusive man? Obviously, this appeals to a needy girl. I can’t imagine any girl or woman with any self-esteem giving this lowlife a second look. C’mon ladies! Set a higher standard! Show the younger girls that it’s ok to be too good for just any old guy. Make guys prove themselves. What happened to courting?! Show them that not only do you have standards, but you also require that guys meet a minimum set of criteria as well. Otherwise, you might as well thumb through the state’s sexual predators list to fill your date book.
Message 3: Temptation
“Your scent, it’s like a drug to me. You’re like my own personal brand of heroin.” – Edward Cullen
Edward has a huge problem. He’s a vampire. He’s immortal. He thirsts for human blood. He nourishes himself on animal blood, but this does not satisfy him. So, where does he live? Off in the remote wilderness where he can prey on animals? Of course not! He lives in Oregon, and attends high school, where there are thousands of human necks in easy reach! This is not your traditional method of avoiding temptation.
He has a bigger problem. He wants Bella more than anything he has ever wanted. The first time he sees her, he becomes obviously quite aroused. Because it is so difficult to be around her, he not only leaves the classroom, but he requests to be transferred to different class. When that is denied, he takes a few days off school, then returns. He later says he has a very difficult time controlling himself around her. In Twilight, the vampiric desire for blood is interchangeable with the desire for sex. They always go together. At one point he is sucking blood from Bella to save her from another vampire and has difficulty stopping. At another, while making out with her in bed, he says very seriously that they must be careful. “I can never lose control with you. Ever.” This is great news. His urges are becoming stronger, so he has escalated his tone. That will fix things.
Good grief! Is this for real? Multiple cues show that he wants her badly, but knows this desire is wrong and should not be acted upon. He wants to drain her blood and ravage her. Yet, rather than avoid this temptation, he claims that he can control it and pursues her all the more.
Would you want your daughter with a guy that has to devote all of his energy in order to not rape her or eat her?
Should we flee other temptations, alcohol and pornography for instance or should we flirt with them?
Is our will really this strong? How about that of your teenage daughter? Or the MUCH older guy that she is enamored with? Thank you, Twilight.
Message 4: Anything you do with a guy is ok, as long as you don’t have sex
Author and Mormon Stephenie Meyers is very clear that premarital sex is bad. It’s right up there with alcohol, coffee, and carbonated beverages. Mormons have always been known for their great standards – take polygamy for instance.
Yet Bella’s mom, who has no window into her life other than the occasional phone call, offers this priceless nugget in one of their brief conversations: “Come on, we gotta talk boys! Are you being safe?” There’s a role model all of our daughters should have.
Night after night, Edward enters Bella’s bedroom through the window. In one scene they are shown making out quite passionately – on her bed. When he fears he will “lose control”, he literally flies backwards off of her, thus revealing the fact that she is wearing only a t-shirt and panties to bed.
107 year old guy, in her room, in her bed, dad is asleep down the hall, she is wearing almost nothing… This is the version of sexual purity that Mormons and even Christians are applauding? Yikes. But, as Stephenie Meyers would like me to point out, there is no smoking, drinking, or profanity in the series. She reminds us in every interview. Thank you Stephenie.
Message 5: Physical attraction is what determines compatibility
Physical attraction is #1 in the movie. There is no #2. Bella makes countless comments regarding Edward’s attractiveness. There is no mention of his character, sense of humor, intelligence, skills, or responsibility. She never says “he gets me”. He sacrifices nothing for her – unless you count setting aside his desire to ravage her body then turn her into a soulless killer like himself.
Interestingly, Edward does not make similar comments about Bella’s beauty – or anything else about her. He is interested in her because he can’t have her. He wants to consume her.
Message 6: Girls want the bad boy
Bella is completely taken with this horrible man. As if this weren’t bad enough, he actually warns her about this repeatedly, and she doesn’t care! If you’re not convinced by the above, here are a few quotes from the movie:
Isabella Swan: About three things I was absolutely positive. First, Edward was a vampire. Second, there was a part of him, and I didn’t know how dominant that part might be, that thirsted for my blood. And third, I was unconditionally and irrevocably in love with him.
Edward Cullen: Bella… I’m a killer.
Isabella Swan: I don’t believe that.
Edward Cullen: That’s because you believe only the lies… the camouflage. I’m the world’s most dangerous predator, Bella. Every thing about me invites you in. My voice, my face, even my smell. As if I would need any of that… as if you could out run me… as if you could fight me off. I’m designed to kill.
Isabella Swan: I don’t care.
Edward Cullen: I’ve killed people before.
Isabella Swan: It does not matter.
Edward Cullen: I wanted to kill you at first. I’ve never wanted a human’s blood so much, before.
Isabella Swan: I trust you.
Edward Cullen: Don’t.
Isabella Swan: Will you tell me the truth?
Edward Cullen: No, probably not.
Edward Cullen: But what if I’m not the hero? What if I am the bad guy?
Isabella Swan: You’re not.
Edward Cullen: It means if you’re smart… you’ll stay away from me.
Isabella Swan: Okay, let’s say for argument’s sake that I’m not smart.
Edward Cullen: I don’t have the strength to stay away from you anymore.
Isabella Swan: Then don’t.
Odds & Ends:
Bella’s parents are completely absent from her life. They are oblivious to all of this. Maybe dad should have spent less time cleaning his gun and more time brandishing it.
Edward’s “family” consists of a number of other apparently high-school aged kids. They are paired in obvious romantic relationships, yet live in the same house and call each other brothers and sisters. Her friends remark: “Dr. Cullen’s like this foster dad slash match maker.” And “Maybe he’ll adopt me!” Is this creepy to anyone else?
The first time that the Cullens are introduced in the movie, it interrupts a discussion among Bella and her friends about male endowment. Classy.
So, the 4-volume Twilight saga in a snapshot is this:
Book 1 – “Twilight” recap:
Bella moves from mom’s house to live with dad. Bella meets Edward who stares at her lecherously. Edward stalks Bella. Edward loves Bella, but knows that having sex with her will likely kill her. Bella falls in love with Edward. Edward tries to break it off because he’s no good for her. Bella is even more attracted. Edward has a hard time controlling his bloodlust for Bella. Bella becomes pursued by rival vampires. Edward saves Bella.
Book 2 – “New Moon”:
Edward loves Bella, but knows that having sex with her will likely kill her. Edward’s brother Jasper tries to kill Bella. Edward decides to end the relationship and the Cullens move away. Bella is heartbroken and depressed for months. Bella pursues thrillseeking activities because they remind her of Edward. Bella renews friendship with Jacob (a werewolf). Edward tried to kill himself. Bella and Edward are reunited and Bella agrees to marry him, with the promise that he will change her to a vampire after the honeymoon.
Book 3 – “Eclipse”:
Edward loves Bella, but knows that having sex with her will likely kill her. Lots of fighting with a new rival vampire clan. Bella realizes that she is in love with both Jacob and Edward. She ultimately chooses Edward, and Jacob turns into a wolf and runs away.
Book 4 – “Breaking Dawn”:
Edward loves Bella, but knows that having sex with her will likely kill her. Edward and Bella are married. Every time they have sex, Bella wakes up bloodied and battered because of Edward’s supernatural strength. But Bella keeps going back for more because she really loves him. Bella discovers she is pregnant. Knowing that the child will be half vampire / half human, Edward urges an abortion. Bella refuses. Jacob’s werewolf family decide to kill Bella and the child. Jacob refuses. Bella has a horrific pregnancy and is nearly killed in childbirth. Apparently, the gruesome details include her spine and ribs being cracked. In order to calm the child, Bella drinks human blood to calm it down. Edward turns Bella into a vampire to save her from dying.
This is the romantic story that has enthralled the females of our nation. God help us.