The Twilight Saga is a gateway drug… lowering inhibitions and desensitizing. It creates a fantasy world where girls experience Edward’s advances vicariously within their own imaginations. My review follows:
“The apple on the cover of Twilight represents ‘forbidden fruit.’ I used the scripture from Genesis (located just after the table of contents) because I loved the phrase ‘the fruit of the knowledge of good and evil.’ Isn’t this exactly what Bella ends up with? A working knowledge of what good is, and what evil is.”
– Stephenie Meyer, author of The Twilight Saga
“The prohibition against eating ‘of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil’ spells this out: ‘for in the day that you eat of it, you shall die’.”
– Catechism of the Catholic Church #396
What would you say if your high school aged daughter told you she was dating a vampire who had to fight the urge to kill her and suck her blood every time they were together? And you thought dating a football player was bad enough! If you were a sensible parent you would intervene and end the relationship, fearing that it might end in tragedy. In fact, you would have an obligation to protect your daughter from the danger she was unwilling to recognize. Your love for her would compel you. So, what would you say if I told you your high school age daughter really is dating a vampire, vicariously, by reading The Twilight Saga? Oh come on – you might think – it’s not the same thing at all. The story is just a fantasy. What’s the big deal? Nobody is really getting hurt here. Or are they?
Anyone who reads The Twilight Saga will notice that the story is full of disturbing things. The main character Bella is in a romantic relationship with a vampire, Edward, who does have to fight the urge to kill her and suck her blood every time they are together. She doesn’t tell people when they go out alone together, because she doesn’t want him to get in trouble if she never comes home. How romantic! When Edward leaves for a time, Bella begins indulging in reckless behavior which can cause her death. She does this because it enables her to imagine Edward’s voice reprimanding her, which makes her feel like he cares. She notices that she is becoming an adept liar due to the complicated nature of their relationship. Their physical involvement damages her body and covers her in bruises because he has super human strength. Carrying a half human/half vampire baby breaks her ribs and spine, covers her in yet more bruises and leads her to the frequent practice of drinking human blood out of a styrofoam cup to keep the unborn baby’s thirst satiated. Meanwhile, Bella’s beloved Edward tries to persuade her to abort the child and consent to be impregnated by their friend Jacob instead, since Jacob’s child would not cause her the same difficulties. Jacob’s response to this suggestion? “Impossible. Wrong. Sick. Borrowing Bella for the weekends and then returning her Monday morning like a rental movie? So messed up. So tempting. I didn’t want to consider, didn’t want to imagine but the images came anyway…” (Breaking Dawn, p.181) Jacob offers his services to Bella, to which she responds “‘There isn’t much you wouldn’t do for me, either, is there…I really don’t know why you bother. I don’t deserve either of you.’” (Breaking Dawn, p.196)
If there is anything striking in The Twilight Saga it is Bella’s seemingly total lack of a sense of her own dignity and worth. Ultimately, she is killed during the delivery of Edward’s child because the vampire baby eats its way out of her body. She is then reanimated by vampire venom which allows her to go on living – not as a human, but as a vampire. This requires the surrender of her human soul, which she willingly relinquishes because, as she says earlier to the already damned Edward “You can’t make me go somewhere you won’t be…That’s my definition of hell.” (Eclipse, p.455) And of course, it is Bella’s definition of hell that matters, right? She defines her own reality. She has decided that it is Edward who gives her life any sense of meaning or purpose even though their relationship has quite literally turned her into a monster. In spite of all this, the series ends with Chapter 39 of Breaking Dawn entitled “The Happily Ever After”. The only way we can be driven to accept the title of the ending is to confess with Bella in Twilight “I’ve always been good at repressing unpleasant things” (p.169).
And repressing unpleasant things is exactly what many are doing in response to The Twilight Saga. Some are praising the series. Phrases like “old fashioned morals” are being used to describe the content. Bella and Edward’s relationship has been called a chaste courtship because they do not consummate it until after they are married. We parents are meant to be happy about this, placated by the fact that our teen daughters will not be reading the most erotic scenes until the fourth book. Isn’t that laudable? But honestly, what effort is being made at living chastely in the first three volumes when the couple repeatedly place themselves in occasions of sin and then act on their impulses? Edward sneaks into the house without her father’s knowledge and lies in bed with her all night long – every night! Old fashioned? Chaste? The descriptions certainly aren’t. Meyer relates these at times in disturbing detail. While we’re pretending the couple’s behavior is chaste, we may as well pretend it is prudent, honest and obedient. There is a reason Bella’s father would not allow this behavior if he knew about it. Why should our daughters play along?
Edward is lauded by many for his self control because he seems to have a handle on his sexual desire and his blood lust, cutting things off at just the right moment. Repeatedly. This fact is meant to be proof of his love for Bella. Let’s grant for the sake of argument that it would even be possible to habitually dance on the edge of a cliff, teeter a bit, but regain balance just prior to falling off. Is this kind of control consistent with Edward’s character? He gives in to his desire to pursue a relationship with Bella saying “I decided as long as I was going to hell, I might as well do it thoroughly.” (Twilight, p.87) He then goes on to say “I got tired of trying to stay away from you. So I’m giving up… Yes – giving up trying to be good. I’m just going to do what I want now, and let the chips fall where they may… But I am warning you now that I am not a good friend for you.” (Twilight p.88) He constantly tells Bella how bad he is for her but keeps showing up anyway. If he tells her how bad he is before he gets physical with her, does it somehow make him noble? No. If he was truly a hero, there would be no Twilight Saga because he would have left her in peace. But he doesn’t suck Bella’s blood! Isn’t that great? No. He may not kill her with his fangs, but their relationship does cause her death – both physical and spiritual. But he tries to discourage her from becoming a vampire because she will lose her soul! Yes, and then he agrees to it as long as she will marry him first. He acknowledges “Bella’s life means nothing to her” (Breaking Dawn, p.181) and takes great advantage of that fact. This is not love and Edward is not a good friend for Bella. He is not a good friend for our daughters, either.
So, what about Bella? If the relationship between Bella and Edward is not one of love, then what is it? Her friend Jacob describes her as “a classic martyr. She’d totally been born in the wrong century. She should have lived back when she could have gotten herself fed to some lions for a good cause.” (Breaking Dawn, p.187) But what is a martyr? A martyr is a witness. And what witness does Bella give? Is she heroic? No. She is a girl who will do what it takes to get what she wants in spite of the cost. She uses and is used. Sometimes she suffers, sometimes she causes others to suffer. Either is of no consequence to her. That is not heroism, that is selfishness. Some people endure incredible personal suffering to get a face lift, but it doesn’t mean getting a face lift is heroic! Bella exercises her right to choose and does so badly, leaving a path of destruction in its wake. There is no “good cause” Bella sacrifices for – only her own will. As it says in the Catechism regarding Original Sin and the eating of the forbidden fruit: “In that sin man preferred himself to God and by that very act scorned him. He chose himself over and against God, against the requirements of his creaturely status and therefore against his own good…’” (CCC #398) She eats the forbidden fruit, but unlike Adam and Eve, her eyes are not opened and she does not feel shame. Her death is simply called “The Happily Ever After”. This is one fantasy our daughters can do without.
*For an example of a true gentleman, visit my new post “A YOUNG MAN OF HEROIC VIRTUE”*