A Bite Out of Your Fantasy
The cons of the Twilight Saga - By Hannah P.
I am not an expert on vampire and werewolf lore. I have never picked up Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein , one of the premiere monster novels of literature, or watched or read anything monstrous from either historical fiction or modern non-fiction. To be honest, I keep away from stories containing supernatural creatures like vampires and werewolves because I have always found them to be dark and scary. As a girl who reads Shakespeare for fun and watches Sense and Sensibility when feeling down, I’m really not the type who likes being “thrilled” or frightened. So how I ended up picking up Stephanie Meyers’ Twilight Saga and reading it is beyond my comprehension. I don’t remember how I first heard about the series, or what enticed me into borrowing the books from the library, but somehow I did. However, I do remember reading Twilight for the first time. I remember feeling the sense of being “thrilled,” a strange feeling for me and I wasn’t quite sure if I liked it or not. But I thought the story was interesting and so I began the second book… then the third… and then the fourth. After I was finished (and it took me about two weeks collectively to finish reading all four, not counting the time spent on the library waiting list), I moved onto the next series that grabbed my interest. I liked reading the Twilight books, but the story was so different and unnerving that I didn’t want to linger too long. Bella Swan and Edward Cullen’s love story was passionate and intense, like a raging fire at times, instead of the glowing embers that I was used to from books like Pride and Prejudice , or A Walk to Remember .
Before I launch into a commentary, let me first tell you that I am neutral when it comes to the series. I enjoy an occasional viewing of the films, but if one had to label me either a Twi-hard (as Twilight fans are called) or a Twi-hater, I couldn’t be placed in either group. I don’t love or hate this cultural phenomenon that has taken the female world by storm over the past few years. I’m rather lukewarm towards it, and can see both the positive and negative within this piece of pop-culture. But I’m writing about the cons of the Twilight Saga, so that must take center stage in this article. So, I will let my discernment have free rein, and bring into the light the reasons why Twilight isn’t the safest stomping ground for fantasy seekers.
When I examine Twilight as a collective whole (the entire story arc, including both the books and the movies), there are three main points I would like to address. The first revolves around the relationship between story’s main characters. Bella and Edward are understandable on the surface; Bella just wants to have control over her destiny, end up with the man of her dreams and keep the affection of her best friend, Jacob, at the same time. Edward just wants to protect his ladylove from the evils of other vampires and the local werewolves. For his part, Jacob, serves as the third point of a love triangle, local werewolf and Bella’s best friend, though he just wants to make Bella see that he’s the better match for her. It’s typical soap opera, teenage drama material. Unfortunately, it doesn’t grow much more despite the progression through four books. In each book (and movie) we are treated to a rehashing of the same, something that boils down to a simple mathematical formula:
Twilight : Bella + Edward = love, Edward – Bella = angst
New Moon : Bella + Edward = love, Bella – Edward = suicidal tendencies, Bella + Jacob = semblance of sanity, Bella + Edward (again) = love
Eclipse : Bella + Edward = love, Bella + Jacob = more angst, Bella + Edward + Jacob = sparkly, furry love triangle, Edward + Jacob = murderous, competitive thoughts
Breaking Dawn : Bella + Edward = love, Bella + Jacob = angst, Bella + Edward + vampire/human baby = near death experience + angst, Jacob + vampire/human baby = love
Conclusion: Twilight = teenage romance + angst
This isn’t a new phenomenon, young love has had precedence over the romance realm since before Romeo and Juliet, but Twilight has taken the same story to new heights in a negative way. In general, love stories find the lovers discovering they complete one another and make each other better. Edward and Bella do the same, but they take their reliance on each another to a point of dangerous codependence. The temporary breaking of their relationship in New Moon results in attempted suicide and depression. Both characters are very possessive about one another, and their relationship is all consuming. There is no room for other relationships or recreation, and spending time away from one another for even one night becomes a trial of momentous proportions. In the light of this, Jacob, Bella’s neglected werewolf friend, can’t serve as a legitimate third leg of a love triangle because he never had a chance to at Bella’s heart. Her heart is entirely Edward’s, and though Bella tries to keep Jacob in her life, the story’s reliance on the Edward/Bella side of things keeps Jacob from being anything but a third wheel in the romantic plot (although the werewolves do play a significant role in the folklore and action sections of the story).
The second point is on Twilight’s view on the age-old vampire and werewolf mythology. For anyone who knows about what vampires and werewolves traditionally look like, this series’ take on the “bloodsucking demons that burn up in the sun” and “men who turn into wolves under a full moon” is relatively toned down. Vampires are still bloodsucking, but they aren’t demons condemned to a hell on earth, they are instead granite-skinned immortals that can decide whether their lives have a positive or negative influence on humanity. Werewolves are still men that turn into wolves, but silver bullets and full moons have no effect on them. For the unlucky few who have the “gene” (yes, in the books being a werewolf is genetic), it starts as an illness that progresses to supreme irritability, then to wolfishness coupled with supreme irritability.
But even though the demonic origins and lunar dependability of the originals have been eliminated, that doesn’t mean that all the problems have disappeared. The main issue is that vampires are traditionally cursed individuals, forever separated from God and forced to live off of the lifeblood of others. Bella falls in love with such a bloodsucking immortal, and the only way for her to stay with him forever is to give up her humanity. Although Edward and his family choose to preserve human life by living off of the blood of animals (rendering them “vegetarians” because they disdain the traditional vampire diet of human blood), they still have to adhere to the customary vampire mold. By choosing the life of a vampire, Bella chooses to live the life of the cursed. This is why Edward at first refuses to turn his ladylove into a vampire; he believes vampires have no souls. When you become a vampire, Edward believes, you trade an eternity in Heaven for an eternity on earth. Regardless, Bella aggressively pursues earthly immortality and even flatly states that there is no “heaven without Edward.” Her priorities are clearly spelled out in this statement, displaying one of Twilight’s biggest flaws: the idea that earthly love is the only thing worth having.
This brings me to the third point, and probably the most important turn-off to the Twilight series, its take on sexual morality. Although the series has been touted as a herald of abstinence because the main characters are not intimate until they marry, Twilight is certainly not a beacon of purity for young adults. It’s true that Bella and Edward don’t engage in any immoral activity until marriage, but they get very, very close on several occasions. Bella is sexually aggressive, trying to seduce Edward in Eclipse and laughing at his “ancient” notions on sexual purity. Edward holds to admirable convictions regarding sex, nostalgically wishing he could have had a traditional chaste courtship with Bella, and staying firm about abstinence until marriage. However, he doesn’t seem to have many other barriers up about their physical relationship because the couple frequently sleeps in the same bed (chaste encounters yes, but it is still inappropriate to sleep together before marriage) and engage in passionate make-out sessions that border foreplay. This passionate physical relationship doesn’t officially cross the line until Breaking Dawn when the couple is married, but their inappropriate behavior beforehand shows their true heart condition and reinforces the main negative elements about this series, extreme codependence, misplaced priorities and lustfulness hidden behind a veil of self-restraint. According to the Bible, purity is more than just avoiding sex. It is also a state of mind, a guarding of both the head and heart from impure thoughts. True abstinence is a combination of both the physical and emotional, and while Edward and Bella practice physical abstinence, their emotional side is far from pure.
Taken at face value, Twilight isn’t as harmful as some other vampire stories circulating in the mainstream nowadays (e.g. Vampire Diaries, True Blood), or as “adult” in content. But that doesn’t make Twilight a safe alternative. Young girls and older women alike have come to see Twilight as a romantic ideal. In Twilight , Heaven is where your heart is, and love will solve every problem with time. This is a dangerous notion, for women especially, who believe that “Prince Charming” is their ticket for a ride into the sunset of eternal happiness. Twilight fails to mention the reality of human sin and responsibility, or a future of clashing viewpoints, fighting children, aging, peeling paint and dirty dishes. True, Twilight is a fantasy and shouldn’t be taken as a picture of a potential reality, but I pity the girls who have and will take Edward and Bella’s picture perfect ending as their own ideal. Eternal happiness isn’t something that can be found on earth, especially when a lifelong union is comprised of two imperfect, opinionated people. Due to this, and Edward and Bella’s murky moral and sexual ethics, their relationship isn’t a model to be emulated. When looking at Twilight you should ask yourself: are intense physical relationships okay before marriage? Is sleeping in the same bed together before marriage okay? Is obsessive codependence something to long for? Is a soulless life without Heaven to look forward to something desirable? What if Twilight isn’t providing good examples for people who are looking for more than just a temporary escape from reality? Could Twilight be a negative influence? Sometimes the answer isn’t clear; sometimes it’s clear-cut black and white. But either way, people who choose to indulge in this series need to have a firm grounding in Biblical truths; otherwise Twilight could be a road sign pointing in the wrong direction.
(Originally published in Feminista - www.charitysplace.com - )