The most common objection I face when critiquing the Twilight Saga is “it’s only fantasy!” In other words, any of the disturbing questions raised about the series are irrelevant and need not be addressed because the genre of “fantasy” makes them intrinsically harmless.
Is this true? Let’s look more closely at “fantasy”.
- The creative imagination; unrestrained fancy.
- An imagined event or sequence of mental images, such as a daydream, usually fulfilling a wish or psychological need.
If we look at the uses of the word “fantasy” given above, how would we apply them to The Twilight Saga? Well, it seems #1 could be applied to Meyer herself – the experience of writing the series. I would say that #2 is what fans often engage in when reading or thinking about the series. (For those who enjoy the series, I would ask if you think #2 applies.)
Now, have a look at this assessment
by Steven Earll, MA, MS. LPC, LAC in his article Signs of Trouble: Five Criteria for Addiction Assessment :
“All addictions and compulsions involve fantasy. If an addiction or a compulsion does not divert a person’s mind from reality, it’s not worth doing. For the addicted person—or the person starting down addiction’s path—life’s stresses often feel overwhelming or unbearable. Fantasy is a method of survival that allows mental escape from pressures.
Fantasy creates excitement and anticipation, which, in turn, often triggers an addiction episode. James 1:13-15 is an excellent description of addiction.
When tempted, no one should say “God is tempting me.” For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone; but each one is tempted when, by his own evil desire (fantasy), he is dragged away and enticed. Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death.
People are enticed by their own desires, or fantasies, which stimulate the need to act out the addictive behavior. When fantasy is nurtured, it takes on a life of its own. The fantasy about engaging in the addictive act and the emotional rewards resulting from the addiction behavior become a preoccupation. This preoccupation is so strong that many times it triggers physiological responses in the brain and body.
In other words, what people think about, their bodies treat as real. The addict begins to physically respond to the addiction when they fantasize about the physical act involved. A sex addict will experience excitement and arousal by thinking about a sexual encounter or anticipating looking at pornography. A drug addict can begin to feel the warmth and euphoria of intoxication by anticipating the drug use. Preoccupation about food can turn off the physical hunger response of an anorexic. The hardest part of recovery from an addiction is taming the mind and controlling the fantasy process. The power of fantasy is the enduring power of addiction.”
Fantasy is not intrinsically harmless. But The Twilight Saga – please – how bad can this be? Let’s recall our attention to comments by Robert Pattinson, star of the movie version of Twilight, regarding the reaction he is receiving:
“How is the Twilight fandom is different from the Harry Potter movies? I think you’ve mentioned that the sound of the screams is even different.
It’s different because I think it’s almost solely females of a certain age group, and they have a very specific tone. It’s much more to do with the sort of sexuality aspect of it. So many girls made this guy [their ideal], so when they see you it’s like all of their energy is projected onto you. It’s a really strange experience. I’ve never been in an experience where people just want to touch you — it’s like being in a boy band.
Is it weird to have girls that are so young have this incredibly sexualized thing around you?
It’s weird that you get 8-year-old girls coming up to you saying, “Can you just bite me? I want you to bite me.” It is really strange how young the girls are, considering the book is based on the virtues of chastity, but I think it has the opposite effect on its readers though. [Laughs] “
Is this really something to laugh about?
Well, we have this article by Rob Jackson, MS, LPC, LMHC, NCC which suggests not:
RJ: Did your parents give you any teaching about sexuality?
Anonymous: None at all. The subject was “taboo” and made them very nervous. I learned quickly that you didn’t ask questions about sex at our house. This lack of information coupled with my curiosity seemed to fuel in me a compulsive search for sexual information.
RJ: Where did you find information about sex?
Anonymous: At first I would look up the words “sex” or “reproduction” in every dictionary and encyclopedia I could get my hands on. Then, I discovered a stash of explicit romance novels at my grandmother’s house. Whenever I would spend the night over there, I’d stay up all night just overwhelmed at the feeling I got when I read those passages.
RJ: How old were you at the time you were reading the novels?
Anonymous: About nine or ten, I guess. Some of it I didn’t understand, but there was enough I did understand that I could kind of put the rest together in context. I had grown up seeing my parents and one grandmother watch soap operas religiously every day—I remember the days before I started school, our day’s schedule revolved around it—so the dramatic, romantic stories in the books already had a familiar appeal to me. I was an advanced reader, so I just took to them like a fish to water.
RJ: Did this material cause you to seek pornography in other forms or places?
Anonymous: By the time I was eleven or so, I started babysitting. Every single house I went into, I would search to see if there was any explicit material. Whether it was a medical dictionary at a doctor’s house or more romance novels, I would find them.
…RJ: Did you ever try to act out the things you were seeing?
Anonymous: When I was about eleven, I was approached by an older teenager in my youth group who was kind of a misfit and happened to be overweight and adopted like me. I realize now, as an adult, he was also addicted to pornography. He started telling me how beautiful I was and would offer to “teach” me about sex. I wanted more than anything to be adored like those women in the novels, and, even though I fought off his advances because I knew it was “wrong,” I kept wanting to be with him because I wanted to feel loved.
After several weeks, he forced himself on me even though I was crying and telling him to stop. Even then I continued to see him because I thought being loved was worth performing sexual acts for him. Of course some of the sexual behavior created pleasurable responses in me, so I almost felt betrayed by my own body because I didn’t want him to do these things to me, but I liked them.”
…And this is where “fantasy” becomes reality. Harmless?
For more worthwhile discussion in these issues see http://www.pureintimacy.org
“For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.” Luke 12:34
“What a pity to be killing time when time is a treasure from God!” - St. Josemaria Escriva, The Forge #706