Michael O’Brien: “Twilight of the West”

I have long awaited an analysis from Michael O’Brien on this topic.  His insightfulness – which I do not credit to the man himself, but to the time he has spent in prayer, receiving wisdom from the Lord – is always a gift to me.  His sight reaches further than my own.  I would like to encourage you to read the entire article here.  If you do not have the time to do that, I will provide a few excerpts here for you to ponder, but please go and read the whole thing if you can:

The theme of vampirism seems never to grow stale. In 2009 alone, seven films have been released, including New Moon, based on the second book of the Twilight series, with the third and fourth films soon to follow.

Vampire themes also figure in landmark end-of-the-world films such as The Last Man on Earth (1964), starring Vincent Price, Omega Man (1971), starring Charlton Heston, and I Am Legend (2007), starring Will Smith. Common to these later films is the deletion of any supernatural content and attributing the evils portrayed in them to purely physical causes. The zombie-vampires in I Am Legend, for example, are humans turned into monsters due to a plague unleashed accidentally by scientists seeking a cure for cancer. The evil is entirely natural in origins. In this film, as in most other grotesque manifestations of the horror genre, the monster has superhuman strength and eerie cognitive powers, is vicious, murderous, and hideously ugly.

But the monstrous is not always portrayed as this kind of tragic aberration. With increasing frequency the monster is presented as a new and advanced breed of human who evokes our sympathy—and even our identification with him. In the most alluring manifestations, he possesses superhuman strength and intelligence, he is more moral than his predecessors, and he is physically beautiful. In the earlier stages of vampire fantasy, the reader or viewer was shaken by terror and rewarded with the thrill of escape. In the present stage, we are stimulated by a combination of fascination with the mysterious paranormal and rewarded with the thrill of sensual desire.

A number of authors have pointed out in their studies of this genre that the thirst for the life-blood of others is a metaphor of lust. It is important to note in this regard that the vampire of legend only sometimes kills his victim; just as often, he infects the victim, turning him or her into a vampire. E. Michael Jones has written that at the root of the phenomenal rise of horror culture is suppressed conscience. Tracing the pattern from Mary Shelley’s novel Frankenstein (first published in 1818) through to Ridley Scott’s film Alien (1979) and its sequels, Jones argues that the denial of moral law produces metaphorical monsters that arise from the subconscious of creative people and spread into society through their cultural works. The monster in the Alien films, for example, is a ghastly abomination of the feminine, and salvation is possible only through expulsion of the offspring it implants and incubates in humans—a subconscious eruption of internal conflicts (and guilt) over abortion.

As Jones points out:

By following our illicit desires to their logical endpoint in death, we have created a nightmare culture, a horror-movie culture, one in which we are led back again and again to the source of our mysterious fears by forces over which we have no control. [3]

Even though modern man denies the authority of moral conscience, he cannot escape it. He is created in the image and likeness of God, and deep within the natural law of his being the truth continues to speak to him, even as he adamantly denies the existence of God (in the case of atheists) or minimizes divine authority (in the case of nominally religious people, the practical atheists). In order to live with the inner fragmentation, which is the inevitable effect of violated conscience, he is driven to relieve his pain through three diverse ways:

a)     He makes open war against conscience and all its moral restraints, and pursues with radical willfulness an aggressive consumption of sensual rewards—generally a plunge into various kinds of addictions and a life of sexual promiscuity;

b)    More passively, he simply ignores the inner voice of conscience and distracts himself from it by sensual and emotional rewards—generally the search for love without responsibility and a restless striving for worldly success;

c)     He tries to rationalize a self-made form of conscience for himself, based in values such as “tolerance” and “non-dogmatism.” Generally this produces a new kind of perverse moralism, a self-righteousness which is, paradoxically, quite intolerant of genuine righteousness. Its anti-dogmatism is its dogma. Here there is no absolute rejection of morality, but rather a rewriting of it according to subjective feelings.

None of the foregoing coping mechanisms need be conscious. Indeed they tend to be largely subconscious processes through which a person feels that he is finding his personal identity, is living out the principle of freedom, discovering his path in life, and getting from it a portion of happiness. Though he is afflicted from time to time by a sense of the inner void, he presumes that the remedy for these dark moments will be found by increasing the dose of the very drug that is killing him.

The Twilight series, it would appear, follows the third coping mechanism mentioned above in c), the one which appeals to the broadest possible audience. The books have won numerous awards, notably the British Book Award for “Children’s Book of the Year” and the 2009 “Kids’ Choice Award for Favorite Book,” and to date have sold more than 85 million copies and been translated into 38 languages. This, despite the fact they are poorly written teen romances, pulp fiction with a twist of supernatural horror combined with racing hormones and high school boy-girl relationships. As with the Harry Potter series, blood is a crucial theme, connected with life itself and inextricably bound to the theme of immortality. But where the Potter series is only secondarily romantic, in the Twilight series romance is primary, with vampirism as the thrill that gives it spice.

Another important quote:

One might ask how such a thinly plotted bloody mess has managed to obtain such an enormous worldwide following. Part of the answer lies in the power of romantic fantasy at any stage in history. In the modern age, however, romantic fantasy in both text form and visual form is charged with powerful stimulation of the senses. In the Twilight series the main characters are highly attractive young people. For example, Bella describes Edward as “excruciatingly lovely and forever seventeen.” In the two films released to date, Edward is acted by the “narcotically beautiful” Robert Pattinson, as one feminine commentator put it. Jacob Black’s handsome face is matched by shirtless exposure of his muscled torso, as is the case with others in his werewolf pack. Bella, acted by Kristen Stewart, is very pretty (though not quite as much as her vampire friends). The Volturi look like exotic, exceedingly pale fashion models.

Physical beauty is the glue that holds the whole banal tale together. If one were to dim down the prettiness and subtract the horror from these four novels and their films, there would be little left. They would become no more than mind-numbing Harlequin Romances for very immature teenage girls. The sexual attraction and the appeal to romantic feelings, combined with the allure of mystery, all obscure the real horror of the tale, which is the degradation of the image and likeness of God in man, and the false proposal that consuming the lifeblood of another human being bestows life all around.

Additional analysis:

E. Michael Jones argues that novels about vampire infection appeared precisely at the time in history (the 1800s) when the dreaded disease syphilis was spreading in the wake of the initial post-Enlightenment stage of the sexual revolution. Now in the age of antibiotics, the most horrifying, disfiguring symptoms of the infection can be controlled, if caught early enough, thus “liberating” the promiscuous from the immediate consequences of their immoral acts. In little over a century, untrammeled serial sex has become pandemic, without the grave consequences that once would have inhibited its progress. Similarly, in little more than a century, the universal archetypes of evil have been defused. No longer considered to be demonic, they have retained only their mystique of exotically attractive danger. Corruption of the creative imagination always has its roots in the corruption of the moral order—the order within the individual and within his surrounding culture. But corruption of creative imagination can also have its origins in forces beyond the purely social. In this regard, there is a disturbing inference in Meyer’s account of the original inspiration for Twilight:

I woke up (on that June 2nd) from a very vivid dream. In my dream, two people were having an intense conversation in a meadow in the woods. One of these people was just your average girl. The other person was fantastically beautiful, sparkly, and a vampire. They were discussing the difficulties inherent in the facts that A) they were falling in love with each other while B) the vampire was particularly attracted to the scent of her blood, and was having a difficult time restraining himself from killing her immediately. … Though I had a million things to do (i.e. making breakfast for hungry children, dressing and changing the diapers of said children, finding the swimsuits that no one ever puts away in the right place, etc.), I stayed in bed, thinking about the dream. I was so intrigued by the nameless couple’s story that I hated the idea of forgetting it; it was the kind of dream that makes you want to call your friend and bore her with a detailed description. (Also, the vampire was just so darned good-looking, that I didn’t want to lose the mental image.)

Meyer goes on to describe what happened during the writing of the book:

All this time, Bella and Edward were, quite literally, voices in my head. They simply wouldn’t shut up. I’d stay up as late as I could stand trying to get all the stuff in my mind typed out, and then crawl, exhausted, into bed (my baby still wasn’t sleeping through the night, yet) only to have another conversation start in my head. I hated to lose anything by forgetting, so I’d get up and head back down to the computer. Eventually, I got a pen and notebook for beside my bed to jot notes down so I could get some freakin’ sleep. It was always an exciting challenge in the morning to try to decipher the stuff I’d scrawled across the page in the dark. [7]

Of course, one might attribute the foregoing to the inflamed imagination of a sleep-deprived mother, following up on a powerful dream that had no source other than the natural subconscious. However, Steve Wohlberg, in his 2009 article in the SPC Journal, raises another possibility, describing what later occurred in the realm of Meyer’s imagination after the publication of Twilight. He begins with a reflection on the similarities in the original inspirations of the Harry Potter series and the Twilight series:

… [The] Twilight saga received its initial spark when Stephenie Meyer had an unusual dream on June 1, 2003. Eerily, the Harry Potter phenomenon began with a similar “revelation” given to Joanne Kathleen Rowling in 1990 while she was traveling by train outside London. “The character of Harry Potter just popped into my head, fully formed,” Rowling reflected in 2001. “Looking back, it was all quite spooky!” She also stated to inquiring media that the Potter books “almost wrote themselves.” “My best ideas often come at midnight,” Rowling declared.

As with Rowling, so with Meyer. When those mesmerizing tales first burst into the brains of these two women, neither was an established writer. Both were novices. They weren’t rich either. Now they are millionaires many times over. Their experiences are similar, with common threads. Both of their novels are permeated with occultism. Based on this, it’s appropriate to wonder, is there a supernatural source behind these revelations? If so, what is it?

Stephenie Meyer herself provides an amazing clue to the answer. After her unexpected rise to stardom, she later confessed,

“I actually did have a dream after Twilight was finished of Edward coming to visit me—only I had gotten it wrong and he did drink blood like every other vampire and you couldn’t live on animals the way I’d written it. We had this conversation and he was terrifying.” [8]

Who was this “Edward”? Was it the author’s subconscious telling her that she was attempting to tame what cannot be tamed? Or was it an evil spirit manifesting through the image, urging her to give her readers less moralism and more blood? However one interprets it, the question remains: Why did she not realize that the second dream was warning her about something? In her interviews she merely reported it without offering an assessment of what it might mean, then continued to write more of the same. Why did she respond to the first dream and not to the second? Was it because the first was extremely pleasurable and the second disturbing to the point of terror? Was it because pleasure had become her good and unhappy feelings a thing to be dismissed as bad? Conscience cannot be entirely eradicated in human nature, and when it raises its painful, unwelcome truths, the individual (or the culture in which he lives) must either pay attention to it or counteract it with a strategy of denial. Attention is redirected away from the truth about his condition, focusing on overcoming symptoms and ignoring the root cause of the symptoms.

And finally, the conclusion:

In the Twilight series, vampirism  is not identified as the root cause of all the carnage; instead the evil is attributed to the way a person lives out his vampirism. Though Bella is at first shocked by the truth about the family’s old ways (murder, dismemberment, sucking the blood from victims), she is nevertheless overwhelmed by her “feelings” for Edward, and her yearning to believe that he is truly capable of noble self-sacrifice. So much so that her natural feminine instinct for submission to the masculine suitor increases to the degree that she desires to offer her life to her conqueror. She trusts that he will not kill her; she wants him to drink her essence and infect her. This will give her a magnificent unending romance and an historical role in creating with her lover a new kind of human being. They will have superhuman powers. They will be moral vampires—and they will be immortal.

Here, then, is the embedded spiritual narrative (probably invisible to the author and her audience alike): You shall be as gods. You will overcome death on your own terms. You will be master over death. Good and evil are not necessarily what Western civilization has, until now, called good and evil. You will define the meaning of symbols and morals and human identity. And all of this is subsumed in the ultimate message: The image and likeness of God in you can be the image and likeness of a god whose characteristics are satanic, as long as you are a “basically good person.”

In this way, coasting on a tsunami of intoxicating visuals and emotions, the image of supernatural evil is transformed into an image of supernatural good.

PLEASE, go and read more of this important article from Michael O’Brien here – then, email the link to friends or if they don’t have email, print it and pass it along to as many people as you think might read it.  There are major societal/cultural implications here and people need to understand.  I praise God that Mr. O’Brien can present these implications with such clarity.

Twilight Saga “moral vacuum with a deviant message”

From MSN:

Vatican no fan of ‘deviant’ Twilight

“The Vatican has spoken out against the new Twilight movie that is sweeping the globe, slamming it as a deviant moral vacuum.  Twilight Saga: New Moon, starring Robert Pattinson and Kristen Stewart, has had sensational box office takings since opening in France and Spain ahead of its US release on Friday.
Monsignor Franco Perazzolo, of the Pontifical Council of Culture, said: “Men and women are transformed with horrible masks and it is once again that age-old trick or ideal formula of using extremes to make an impact at the box office.”
Vampires are not traditionally the creatures of God, and their popularity among the young disturbs the Catholic Church. Perazzolo continued: “This film is nothing more than a moral vacuum with a deviant message and as such should be of concern.”

For the rest of this article, click here.
I would like to post the original review by Msgr. Perazzolo when I can get it.

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