Wednesday, November 25, 2009

How Twilight Is Re-Vamping Romance

A Horror Story About a Horror Story

Once upon a dark and stormy year, tens of millions of women and girls, of all ages, all nations, all religions, fell under the spell of one 17-year-old boy…

who was not even human…

and was not even real.

This imaginary man-god from the underworld became the new standard by which millions of real husbands, boyfriends and suitors were weighed in the balance and found wanting. To millions of women, reality began to pale in comparison to his dark and fantastical world – the only world where they could be with Their Edward.

“i dont really understand why but it makes me so sad when i think of edward, almost like i know he will never exsits expect in fictionly stories. i wish i would already find him and be eternaly happy just holding his hand :/”[1]

Stephanie Meyer’s Twilight may be fiction, but this story is real. Edward Cullen is no more than an idea, but ideas have consequences, and Edward-obsession is creeping into real history.

This week Twilight proved its mighty cultural force when the second film in the series, New Moon, broke all-time opening-day box office records, beating out Titanic and Dark Knight. [2] Since the release of the first Twilight book in 2005, 85 million subsequent books in the series have been sold. Twilight’s cultural conquest is phenomenal. But how did this averagely-written, clich├ęd storyline capture so many hearts, minds and imaginations (not to mention over one billion dollars in book, DVD and ticket sales)?

“I am obsessed, it seems to have taken over my life, everytime I think about putting the books up for good and reading something new, I nearly have an anxiety attack!”

We have a few theories. Though Stephanie Meyer is not a brilliant author, she knows how to make an illicit romance with a vampire look like a clean, pro-abstinence story of unconditional love and good vs. evil (and convince even Christians.) [3]

We believe her greatest genius, though, is her keen intuition into the sin nature and fleshly desires of women. Being, ourselves, young women in her target demographic, we know Twilight presents a very attractive alternate universe to tempt any girl’s flesh: a self-centered, autonomous life, a self-gratifying romance, and no real-world responsibilities or consequences. Best of all, the perfection of the hero has no human limitations. Move over, Mr. Darcy – with your every earthly quality, you’re still only human. Mr. Cullen is superhumanly handsome, brilliant, strong, rich, romantic, and most of all, superhumanly capable of unconditional love. He even has the “bad-boy” appeal of being a blood-lusting creature of the underworld, but with the impeccable Victorian manners and sensitive feminine feelings of the “good boy.” Half-demon, half-angel; there’s something for everyone in Edward Cullen.

Of course, intrinsic to Edward’s irresistible allure is the sheer, titillating “forbidden” factor. Twilight’s now-iconic cover art portrays the hands of a young girl holding an apple, an allusion to Eve’s contemplating the forbidden fruit – a metaphor for Bella’s temptation for an unthinkable relationship with a vampire. The message of the cover is perfectly apropos; the choice presented, however, is before more than just Bella, Twilight’s protagonist. Will we fall into our own love affair with Edward Cullen? Will we succumb to the charms of fantasy men in fantasy worlds?

Emotional Pornography

“He grinned his crooked smile at me, stopping my breath and my heart. I couldn’t imagine how an angel could be any more glorious. There was nothing about him that could be improved upon.” (Bella Swan, Twilight, Chapter 12, p.241)

For this discussion, we would like to set aside the dark paranormal element of Twilight, though that is a concern on its own. We believe what ultimately draws women into this series and other romance novels in millions-strong droves is the same thing that lures men into an estimated $3-4 billion-a-year pornography industry.

Journalist Alisa Harris explains: “It’s called emotional porn. When men glut their physical lust with pictures of airbrushed girls pumped full of silicone, they become dissatisfied with real women’s bodies. When women plug their emotional caverns with chick flicks and chick lit, they become dissatisfied with the real men they know because they can’t measure up to the guys from The Notebook or Pride and Prejudice or Walk to Remember.” (Alisa Harris, “Beating Darcy Down”, Kritik Magazine)

Pornography is not simply about pictures. At its core, pornography starts with:

1. A desire to use people as self-gratification machines
2. A preference for man-made reality and man-made people over the real thing.

These hold as much temptation for women as for men, though romance novels often feed their fire better than pictures. (It has been found, however, that pictures of Robert Pattinson don’t put a damper on anything.) [4]

R.J. Rushdoony asks, “Why should an unreal female be exciting, and a far better and real woman not be so? The key is the essence of imagination: the fantasy woman is totally the creation and creature of man, whereas the real woman is God’s creation and creature. It is essential to imagination to create a man-made world and a man-ordained decree of predestination. It is the essence of sin to demand such a world.” [5]

Why should Edward, Mr. Darcy and other romantic heroes be more interesting than “far better and real” men? Because these men are the creations of women, tailor-made just the way we want them… rather than the way God made them.

Read the rest here.

Suggested Resources
Elsie Dinsmore series
The King's Daughter Set
The Beautiful Girlhood Library
Always Ready
The Building On A Rock Series
Family Driven Faith: Doing What It Takes to Raise Sons & Daughters Who Walk with God


Anonymous said...

Uh, who said Mr. Darcy was perfect? He had his issues....and I am sure Jane Austen would agree.

Anonymous said...

My comment may be a little late, but this article is brilliant. Absolutely brilliant.

-Christine from Arizona

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