Third and lastly in my pop-culture series… (get ready to swoon, girls):
3. Twilight. (Ok, I know I’m going to catch heck from women readers for hating on this…)
SUMMARY: Awkward, clumsy, self-loathing teenage girl falls in love with beautiful, amazing, gorgeous, incredibly wonderful, beautiful vampire boy. Page after page of descriptions of his beautiful beauteousness ensue.
ANALYSIS: Finally! A non-passive male protagonist! On the one hand, Edward’s strength and perfection make a good Jesus-metaphor for those looking for hints of gospel truth in the pages of the Twilight series. But what I primarily noticed while reading it is that Edward’s blood-sucking tendencies are a perfect parallel for sexual addiction. No, seriously, think about it:
Edward has a taste for “blood”. He can’t help himself. he needs it to survive. Having a good heart, he vows not to act on this addiction. That is, until he meets Bella, who he finds utterly irresistible. He tries to resist her, but to no avail. He goes after her, all the while warning her, “Stay away from me; I’m bad for you… I’ll hurt you eventually. I can’t control myself.”
I found myself frustrated while reading Twilight, because Edward is portrayed as noble for warning her of his addiction, and even loathing himself for it (this gets him all kinds of sympathy, making him seem even more wonderfully perfect). But he was never man enough to take responsibility for the fact that he was a danger to her.
If we take a bit deeper look at this, I do really have a problem with it. This guy knows that he is bad for this woman. He is supposedly deeply concerned for her well-being. But he puts the onus on her to leave him, despite his pursuits. Talk about mixed messages: “I’m going to pursue you, but you should run away.” I know this wouldn’t make much of a love story, but a real good man would have said something like, “Bella, you may have noticed I’ve been avoiding you. The truth is, I’m an addict, and things being as they are, I’m in no place to start a relationship. I’m not mature enough to be a man or a husband right now, and all I know is lust.”
Alternatively, he could say (down the road), “Bella, I’ve really done a lot of internal work over the past few years. I’m not saying my addiction is completely gone – I don’t know if it will ever be gone. But I’ve done a lot of growing up, and I’m wrestling through each day with integrity, and I am confident that I’m now in a place where I can begin to care for you instead of being a danger to you. Can we go out?”
As for Bella… I actually don’t mind her. She’s obviously young, and doesn’t have a very strong sense of self. (But hey, she’s young, that’s ok.) Unfortunately, she looks to a boy to become her sense of self. Her dad’s a total no-show (she’s more of a parent to him), so it’s not a surprise she loses herself in a vampire she barely knows within three days of moving into town. I can’t really blame her.
FAVORITE SCENE: Vampire baseball. I mean, it’s no Quidditch, but it was pretty cool.
[Here’s my “vampire baseball” clip, along with some other footage from the movie you probably haven’t seen. This one’s for KarenO – because it includes disembodied reindeer heads, and violent puppetry, two things of which she is especially fond.]
GLIMMER OF TRUTH: Call me crazy, but every teenage girl on the face of the earth can’t be completely wrong. There just seems to be something in this story that resonates deeply with the hearts of women; maybe something that longs to be swept off its feet by a strong and dangerous man? I don’t think Stephenie Meyer knows much about emotionally healthy relationships, but she obviously hit some kind of nail right on the head with this book, because women everywhere are freaking out.
UNDERLYING MESSAGE: Women like bad boys. Men: If you have an addiction, don’t sweat it. If you have an addiction, learn to feel just bad enough about it that others will pity you for how hard it is to be you. But don’t feel bad enough about it to actually change, because then you won’t be a bad boy anymore.