The Twilight Saga – A Critique

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”*

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.

Daily News: Vatican vs. ‘Twilight’: NCRegister

I still haven’t found the original review from L’Osservatore Romano, but at least this translation of the relevant passage is easy to read.

Daily News: Vatican vs. ‘Twilight’: NCRegister

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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.

A Response to Deekin Chip

Dear Deekin Chip –

Sorry it has taken so long to get back to you.  I put my response to you on the back burner, knowing it would take some time – and then I forgot about it!  Fortunately, Thankful Mom in the comment section reminded me to get back to it.

The first thing I want to confirm is that I have read all 4 books and seen the movie.

All I have time for today is to address the question of Jacob – I say Jacob lusts, you say he doesn’t.

For the sake of representing you accurately, I will quote the text of your comment here:
Jacob doesn’t “lust” after Bella; in fact, his is a ridiculously puppy-dog infatuation until the changes come to him later in the series (won’t spoil the plot for anyone who hasn’t read past Twilight). But his devotion to her is absolute, and chaste, except for the rare occasion that he makes a (bad) decision out of emotion instead of logic. There is nothing sexual about Jacob’s attraction as depicted in the books (or in the movie, as far as I remember).

First – you have used some pretty strong language to support Jacob.  You say his devotion to Bella is absolute and chaste, except on rare occasions (which would mean that it is not quite absolute) – AND that there is “nothing sexual about Jacob’s attraction” depicted in the books.

I’ll present to readers here why I think your assessment is inaccurate.

How about in Breaking Dawn, p.181 – when Edward has proposed the idea of allowing Jacob to “share” Bella and impregnate her so that she does not have to carry Edward’s half-vampire children?  What is Jacob’s response?

“I didn’t want to consider, didn’t want to imagine, but the images came anyway.  I’d fantasized about Bella that way too many times, back when there was still a possibility of us, and then long after it was clear that the fantasies would only leave festering sores because there was no possibility, none at all.  I hadn’t been able to help myself then.  I couldn’t stop myself now.  Bella in my arms, Bella sighing my name…”

Or how about Jacob’s reaction when Bella’s clothes are ripped off for medical reasons during the horrific delivery of her child? (This pregnancy required Bella to drink human blood to keep the child alive – and the child subsequently ate her way out of Bella, killing her in the process – at which point Bella was “turned” into a vampire.)

How many times had I imagined her naked? Now I couldn’t look.  I was afraid to have these memories in my head.” (Breaking Dawn, p.349)

Jacob doesn’t want the grotesque-naked-Bella images (which are real, by the way) messing with his fantasy-naked-Bella images. I am making an assumption here from the words of Christ – “Whoever looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart” (Matthew 5:28) that these statements of Jacob are sufficient to show his lust, but I will take things a little further.

How about the “Tent Scene” raved about by girls on fan sites?  (The “Tent Scene” is in Chapter 22 of Eclipse. To give a little back story here – Edward the vampire is always cold.  Jacob the warewolf is always hot.  They are stuck out in a tent together with Bella, who is freezing… So, Jacob decides to get into her sleeping bag with her and zip it up… to keep her warm, of course.  To understand these excerpts, you need to know that Edward has the ability to read thoughts…)  Here are some excerpts:

p. 491 – “He crammed his body into the nonexistent space, forcing the zipper up behind himself.  And then I couldn’t object – I didn’t want to anymore.  He was so warm.  His arms constricted around me, holding me snugly against his bare chest.  The heat was irresistible, like air after being underwater for too long.  He cringed when I pressed my icy fingers eagerly against his skin.  ‘Jeez, your freezing, Bella,’ he complained.  ‘S-s-s-s-sorry,’ I stuttered.  ‘Try to relax,’ he suggested as another shiver rippled through me violently. ‘You’ll be warm in a minute.  Of course, you’d warm up faster if you took your clothes off.’  Edward growled sharply…”

p. 494 – “‘Perfect.  Now you can keep an eye on everything else, while I take care of your girlfriend for you’…
Please!’ Edward hissed.  ‘Do you mind!’
‘What?’ Jacob whispered back, his tone surprised.
‘Do you think you could
attempt to control your thoughts?’  Edward’s low whisper was furious.
‘No one said you had to listen,’ Jacob muttered, defiant, yet still embarrassed.  ‘Get out of my head.’
‘I wish I
could.  You have no idea how loud your little fantasies are.  It is like you are shouting them at me.’
‘I’ll try to keep it down,’ Jacob whispered sarcastically.”

p.504 – “‘Sleep well, Jacob, ‘ Edward murmured.  ‘Enjoy the moment.’
It was quiet again, and the tent held still for a few minutes.  The wind seemed to have decided that it wasn’t going to flatten us after all, and was giving up the fight.  Edward groaned softly.  ‘I didn’t mean that quite so literally.’
‘Sorry,’ Jacob whispered.  ‘You could leave, you know – give us a little privacy.’…
Edward started humming to himself, louder than usual – trying to drown out Jacob’s thoughts, I assumed.”

Then, we have a later scene between Bella and Jacob, where Jacob is heading off to a fight, and Bella asks for a kiss (yes – she who claims to be hopelessly in love with Edward is playing Jacob at the same time).  WARNING – the following passage has the type of eroticism that I don’t think vulnerable persons should be exposed to.  Please skip it if you have any doubt in your mind as to whether you can read further without it causing you difficulties:

Eclipse, p.525 – “Jacob rocked back on his heels, and then lurched forward, closing the distance between us in three long strides.  I knew he would take advantage of the situation.  I expected it.  I held very still – my eyes closed, my fingers curled up into fists at my sides – as his hands caught my face and his lips found mine with an eagerness that was not far from violence.
I could feel his anger as his mouth discovered my passive resistance.  One hand moved to the nape of my neck, twisting into a fist around the roots of my hair.  The other hand grabbed roughly at my shoulder, shaking me, then dragging me to him.  His hand continued down my arm, finding my wrist and pulling my arm up around his neck.  I left it there, my hand still tightly balled up, unsure how far I could go in my desperation to keep him alive.  All the while his lips, disconcertingly soft and warm, tried to force a response out of mine.
As soon as he was sure I wouldn’t drop my arm, he freed my wrist, his hand feeling its way down to my waist.  His burning hand found the skin in the small of my back, and he yanked me forward, bowing my body against his.
His lips gave up on mine for a moment, but I knew he was nowhere close to finished.  His mouth followed the line of my jaw, and then explored the length of my neck.  He freed my hair, reaching for my other arm to draw it around his neck like the first.  Then both of his arms were constricted around my waist, and his lips found my ear.
‘You can do better than this, Bella,” he whispered huskily.  ‘You’re overthinking it.”…
p. 527 “My arms were already  around his neck, so I grabbed two fistfuls of his hair…struggling to pull my face away from his.  And Jacob misunderstood.  He was too strong to recognize that my hands, trying to yank his hair out by the roots, meant to cause him pain.
Instead of anger, he imagined passion. (Ed. note – Isn’t it interesting here that Jacob’s fantasizing plays a role in his misinterpretation of reality?)  He thought I was finally responding to him.  With a wild gasp, he brought his mouth back to mine, his fingers clutching frantically against the skin at my waist… But the utter defenselessness of his sudden joy cracked my determination, disabled it.  My brain disconnected from my body, and I was kissing him back.  Against all reason, my lips were moving with his in a strange, confusing way they’d never moved before – because I didn’t have to be careful with Jacob and he certainly wasn’t being careful with me. (Ed. note – this reference to being “careful” refers to Bella’s relationship with Edward.  They have to be “careful” in their passion – not because it would be immoral to use each other for pleasure – but because Edward has super-human vampire strength which could kill her if he got carried away.) My fingers tightened in his hair, but I was pulling him closer now….”

Bella does come to her senses and stop, and they share a final, less passionate kiss before Jacob leaves.

As I said above, that is all I have time for today.

Now – let the readers decide:  does Jacob lust, or doesn’t he?  This is a vital question.  We need to be able to recognize lust.  Why?  Because sexual fantasizing is grave matter – meaning that if it is undertaken with full knowledge and full consent, it is mortally sinful.   Actions like Jacob’s in the “Tent Scene” (and elsewhere…) could send a person to hell for eternity if they occur with full knowledge and consent and the perpetrator dies prior to repentance.   An eternity in hell for that?  Are you serious?  Yes.  Why?  Because these actions are not loving – they are seriously selfish.  Think about it – Bella is freezing to death, and this supposedly noble young man exploits her vulnerability completely by indulging in sexual fantasies all night while she is close to him.  This is not loving. Using another – and in this case using another at a time of extreme vulnerability – for selfish pleasure is an abuse of human dignity. The degree of selfishness here would kill the life of Christ in the soul.  This is not absolute or chaste devotion akin to the love of Christ.

These matters should not be treated lightly.  What do you think?

Pope John Paul II and Joanna Krupa’s nonsense….

I’ve seen a lots of people try to justify inappropriate behavior – but this is one of the worst I have ever seen. Joanna Krupa – a Polish “supermodel” – is trying to use Pope John Paul II to justify her involvement in pornography!  This is very dangerous because misrepresenting the Church’s teaching on morals can lead many people astray.  Fox News uses the following headline:

“Krupa’s Pics Pope-Approved?

Polish swimsuit star Joanna Krupa says Polish pope approved toplessness”

Here is an excerpt from the Fox News article:

“It should come as no surprise that Joanna Krupa is comfortable removing her clothes.

The Polish-born beauty is one of the most Googled gals on the internet, has been named the “Sexiest Swimsuit Model in the World” by Playboy, and graced the cover of almost every men’s magazine on the planet, from Maxim to Esquire to GQ.

But did you know the first Polish pope was involved in her frequent disrobing?  (Ed. note – That statement is outrageous.  This is is meant to be – wink wink –  salacious.  It is irresponsible journalism.)

“I think worrying about going topless in a photo shoot or film is really ridiculous,” Krupa told FOXNews.com in an exclusive interview. “And the fact is Pope John Paul said, since we were born naked, it is art, and it’s just showing a beautiful body that God created.”  (The FACT is that Pope John Paul II has never said that.  Shouldn’t a responsible journalist check into what the Pope has actually said?  Follow the link at the bottom of this post to Steve Kellmeyer’s article, “The Naked Truth” to see what the Pope actually teaches in the Theology of the Body.)

“I was born in Europe, and Europeans have a more casual, natural way of dealing with nudity,” Krupa adds. “Interestingly enough, these days, you see nudity and toplessness in almost every critically acclaimed movie, and whenever I pick up a French Vogue, I see bare breasts, and French Vogue still sets the standards.”

And even though Krupa is in an industry where so many sleep their way to-the-top, she says she has never once sacrificed her moral integrity to land a job.  (Ms. Krupa has a lack of self-awareness.)

“I can tell you that I am very proud that everything I have achieved to date has happened due to the hard work of my team and myself,” she said. “I was never tempted to give in because I have always been in committed relationships (?), and take the word ‘committed’ very seriously.” (Which is why she uses the plural term “relationships”?)

What has Pope John Paul II REALLY said regarding this kind of exploitation of women?

Here’s an excerpt from #14 of his Apostolic Letter Mulieris Dignitatem (On the Dignity and Vocation of Women) available online here.

“After original sin, contrary forces are at work in man and woman as a result of the threefold concupiscence, the “stimulus of sin”. They act from deep within the human being. Thus Jesus will say in the Sermon on the Mount:“Every one who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart” (Mt 5:28). These words, addressed directly to man, show the fundamental truth of his responsibility vis-a-vis woman: her dignity, her motherhood, her vocation. But indirectly these words concern the woman. Christ did everything possible to ensure that – in the context of the customs and social relationships of that time – women would find in his teaching and actions their own subjectivity and dignity. On the basis of the eternal “unity of the two”, this dignity directly depends on woman herself, as a subject responsible for herself, and at the same time it is “given as a task” to man. Christ logically appeals to man’s responsibility. In the present meditation on women’s dignity and vocation, it is necessary that we refer to the context which we find in the Gospel. The dignity and the vocation of women – as well as those of men – find their eternal source in the heart of God. And in the temporal conditions of human existence, they are closely connected with the “unity of the two”. Consequently each man must look within himself to see whether she who was entrusted to him as a sister in humanity, as a spouse, has not become in his heart an object of adultery; to see whether she who, in different ways, is the cosubject of his existence in the world, has not become for him an “object”: an object of pleasure, of exploitation.”

Jesus said – any man who looks lustfully at a woman has committed adultery with her in his heart.  This is treating a woman as an object of pleasure and exploitation. A woman is a subject responsible for herself – if she places herself in the position of an object of adultery, she is responsible for that.

Anyone who has any familiarity with the Theology of the Body whatsoever would know, without question, that Pope John Paul II would never, ever advocate pornography!   For an excellent analysis of this and a much fuller explanation of the teachings of Pope John Paul II on nudity, see the following by Steve Kellmeyer:
The Naked Truth.

UPDATE – It gets worse…. read on.

A new PETA advertisement featuring model Joanna Krupa wearing nothing but a crucifix and a seductive smile is “totally inappropriate” and exploitative of Christian symbols, critics say.

Krupa, a Playboy cover girl and a “Dancing With the Stars” regular, is seen topless and bottomless in the latest spot by the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, which urges people to adopt pets from rescue shelters instead of buying them from puppy mills.

The Polish-born beauty appears in the ad with angel wings behind her and a digital halo over her head. Her private parts are covered — barely — by a large, well-placed metallic crucifix.

“It’s totally inappropriate,” said Deal Hudson, publisher of InsideCatholic.com, an online magazine. “It’s another instance of disrespect toward Christianity and another example of the kind of abuse that would never occur with any other major religion, because the outcry would be so immediate and so loud that the people behind it would immediately retreat.”

Krupa’s reaction?

“As a practicing Catholic, I am shocked that the Catholic League is speaking out against my PETA ads. I’m doing what the Catholic Church should be doing, working to stop senseless suffering of animals, the most defenseless of God’s creation.”

OK – so how does posing with nothing but a Crucifix to cover your private parts stop the suffering of animals? Couldn’t she just work at a shelter or something?

Selfishness vs. Love

Today, my son wanted to watch “A Muppet Christmas Christmas Carol”.
True – it is almost April – but it is also two days since the Solemnity of the Annunciation, when we celebrate the Word becoming flesh in the womb of the Blessed Virgin Mary.  That means it is only 9 months ’til Christmas!
Also – it is a Friday in Lent.  A penitential day.  A day to reflect on our own sins.  It is actually a great day to watch “A Muppet Christmas Carol”!  Ebeneezer Scrooge undergoes a process of conversion which prompts us to think about ourselves.

Currently, readers of the blog are engaged in a pretty intense debate in the comment section of the page devoted to alerting readers to the dangers of indulging in fantasy.  (See here.)  I’d like to move this discussion over to a new post, and I want to direct the attention of the participants to a specific topic – that being, selfishness vs. love.

Anyone who knows A Christmas Carol (and the Muppet version is my favorite) knows that Ebeneezer Scrooge is a very unattractive character at the beginning of the story.  He is, truly, the epitome of a selfish man.  You may say that he views those around him as parasites – and therefore treats them accordingly.  Ebeneezer is not a happy man, though, in spite of a life dedicated to taking care of #1.  Part of living in community is recognizing that we all need one another.  Individualism is not a virtue.  Ebeneezer cannot see that at the beginning of the story.

During the night, he is visited by the souls of a couple of his damned friends, but also by three different spirits – the ghosts of Christmas past, present and future.  It is interesting to notice that the ghosts do not sit down and argue with Ebeneezer.  They show him reality.  Is this emotional manipulation?  Of course not.  Emotion is a necessary part of human existence.  It can enable us to experience sorrow, but it also enables us to experience joy.  Putting a brick wall up around our heart (our emotional center) may protect us from certain sorrows, but it also makes us incapable of joy.  It is like eliminating the nerves that enable us to distinguish between hot and cold.  You can’t just feel hot things and not cold things.  If you lose your ability to distinguish, you can’t feel either.

So – Ebeneezer is shown the ramifications of his decisions.  Selfish decisions.  They have cut him off from the rest of the community.  He is particularly moved by his encounter with the Cratchett family.  Tiny Tim – a little crippled boy (or frog, if you are watching the Muppet version) could be considered a parasitic individual.  He takes and takes… can’t even walk home on his own.  What is it that makes Tiny Tim a person?  Does he have human dignity because his parents (Kermit and Miss Piggy) want him?  What is it about seeing Tiny Tim interact with his family that has such a profound effect on Ebeneezer?  Could it be precisely the fact that the Cratchett family love Tiny Tim?  That they see a dignity in him that is utterly beyond their ability to ascribe to him based on their wants?  That Tiny Tim is intrinsically worthy of love?

Perhaps Ebeneezer has never encountered something like that up close before.  If he had, perhaps he had written it off as emotional manipulation or sentamentalism.  Maybe it took an examination of his own life, and the context of his own failures and hurts, to put things sufficiently on the line for Ebeneezer to have his eyes opened.  The world did not change on the night Ebeneezer had this experience.  Ebeneezer changed.  He had been blind, but he – through the aid of others – discovered his sight. 

So – this brings us to love vs. selfishness.  

Love will sacrifice for the sake of the beloved.  In some cases, the only loving thing to do is to walk away from a relationship if it will harm the beloved.  This is why I have argued all along that Edward does not love Bella.  He fundamental decision is to use her for personal satisfaction in spite of where he can see it leading (ultimately Bella becoming a vampire, the hideous pregnancy, etc.).  Theirs is a relationship of obsession.

I think a lot of people reading the series do not see this because they may be experiencing similar challenges themselves – having emotional needs that they are trying to meet through fantasy (which is where the other post comes in).  The Twilight Saga is harmful to a person in that situation.

So – let’s have a discussion of love vs. selfishness.

What is love?  How do we define it?  How do we live it?

March 25, 2009 – Feast of the Annunciation – God becomes an embryo

On March 25th, we celebrate an incredible feast – a Solemnity, in fact – the Annunciation.  At Mary’s “Yes”, all of creation will never be the same.  God becomes man.  Not a full grown, strong, independent, self-reliant fellow… but, a vulnerable embryo, entrusted to this young woman to nurture and protect.  What does this say about the love of God for us?  What does this say about human dignity? Can anyone tell me, from the other posts on this site, how this conflicts with the values presented in Twilight?  (I’m referring to anti-human statements and Meyer’s attitude toward weakness and vulnerability.)

Fr. Z has this to say:
This is the very Feast of the Incarnation.

Today we celebrate that moment when our Lord elevated our humanity by taking our human nature into an indestructible bond with His Divinity.  In the Incarnation God opened for us the path to “divinization”, His sharing of something of His own divine glory with us in the eternal happiness of heaven.

In the sin of our First Parents, offending God and loosing so many of our gifts, the whole human race sinned.  In justice a human being had to correct the offense, but such a correction was entirely impossible for a mere mortal human.  Such a correction required the intervention of one who was both man and God.

He’s only getting started.  Please read the rest here.

Also, check out what Pope Benedict has to say in this article from Zenit
POPE: WOMEN CRUCIAL TO UPHOLDING HUMAN RIGHTS
…The Pontiff called the congress “an exemplary response” to Pope John Paul II’s “call for a ‘new feminism’ with the power to transform culture, imbuing it with a decisive respect for life.”

Faced to the many ways in which life is compromised, especially in “its most vulnerable stages,” he said, there must be a “positive and proactive response.”

He continued: “The recognition and appreciation of God’s plan for women in the transmission of life and”
“The nurturing of children is a constructive step in this direction,” he added.

“Beyond this, and given the distinctive influence of women in society, they must be encouraged to embrace the opportunity to uphold the dignity of life through their involvement in education and their participation in political and civic life.”

The Holy Father asserted that “because they have been gifted by the Creator with a unique ‘capacity for the other,’ women have a crucial part to play in the promotion of human rights, for without their voice the social fabric of society would be weakened.” 

Ladies – we really need to check out what the Church is teaching here.  The Holy Father is telling you that you have the power to transform culture by your decisions in favor of the most vulnerable.  This means cultivating love instead of selfishness.  Avoid wasting time on fantasy!  There is a real world in need of your loving presence.  Spend your time wisely, forming yourself in virtue.  If young women (and older ones, too) are, en masse, wasting their time fantasizing about fictitious vampires and warewolves – their voices are lost.  The social fabric of society will be weakened.  Stay alert and be sober.  You are crucial to ensuring a “positive and proactive” response to the threats to human life so starkly facing us today.