A faith look at Twilight Saga movie series

Below is a transcript from a Georgene Rice KPDQ-FM interview with Beth Felker Jones, Assistant Professor of Theology at Wheaton College and author of “Touched by a Vampire: Discovering the Hidden Messages in the Twilight Saga”.

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Georgene: I know when the “Harry Potter” series came out there was a lot of discussion about whether or not it was appropriate for young children to see the film. And now the “Twilight Saga” has displaced “Harry Potter” as the series of books and, now, movies of the moment. Tell our listeners who are not at all familiar with the “Twilight Saga” a little about it and why it’s so popular.

Felker Jones: It’s certainly popular, especially with girls and women. It’s a romance and love story between a pair of “Romeo and Juliet” pair of star-crossed lovers. We have Bella, an ordinary heroine…and she falls madly in love with Edward, who just happens to be a spectacular vampire. So, it’s a love story fraught with danger and intense all the way through.

Georgene: So do you think it’s the romance aspect that makes it most appealing to, particularly, young girls and women?

Felker Jones: I do actually. I suspect it doesn’t have much to do with the vampire theme at all except that heightens the excitement of the story. I think it’s a romance story that offers a fantasy about finding true love, and who isn’t interested in finding true love?

Georgene: Why do so many people idolize this particular relationship? What are the features that are most appealing to those who find this series appealing?

Felker Jones: I think that it’s because of its really universal themes, which I try to explore in my book: the meaning of life, the meaning of love, finding fulfillment and purpose in life, family, sexuality—things that people care about. And they’re written in a fun and compelling way that let’s people enjoy the story.

Georgene: Well, one of the things that many Christian readers, and now movie-goers, have celebrated is the fact that Bella and Edward….save sex for marriage in the series. That’s an encouraging element of the series.

Felker Jones:
It is true that the characters save sex for marriage, and I’ve certainly heard people celebrate that. As I read the stories, I thought there were more questions that we as Christians would want to ask. So, yes, they wait, but why do they wait? I think that in the stories, they don’t have very compelling reasons for waiting, and they certainly aren’t the same reasons that we Christians have for understanding sexuality as a part of God’s good plan for marriage. And the stories are still very erotic. Despite the waiting, they’re waiting in tension every step of the way. And, especially for young readers, that’s not going to be a way of suppressing desire, but it’s likely to lead to more of those fantasies.

What are your thoughts generally about the series…..from a Christian perspective?

Felker Jones:
Well, as I started thinking about the Christian praise for the fact that the couple waits for marriage, I also realized that there were a lot of other themes there that I think are important…….I wanted to give folks a place in my book to work through some of those questions. To ask things that would help us be discerning, to provide a tool for parents or youth pastors if they want to think about their place and what their children aught to read, and to help young people think about these things themselves as well. I hope that my book can be good for both adults and for the younger readers of the series if they want to think about what those themes that are raised in the series have to do with their relationship with Christ.

What are some of the other themes that concern you in the “Twilight Saga”?

Felker Jones:
I’ve also started to become a little worried about the character of Bella….It seems like the character is willing to erase herself for the sake of love. She gives up all of her own hopes, dreams, plans, interests, even family and friends, for Edward’s sake. She doesn’t even mind putting herself in danger of dying at pretty much every moment because of her love for him. I’m concerned that this is a vision of love that can really be damaging for young women. I believe God has given us all talents that we’re meant to use and be good stewards of, and we’re not supposed to just wipe those away while we hang on to every word of “Prince Charming”, even if he’s a fabulous vampire. So, I raise those questions in the book. What does it look like to love somebody as a person in your own right and not just to erase yourself for another person’s sake?

Georgene: In the first chapter of “Touched by a Vampire”, you call the chapter “Forbidden Fruit”, and you go into detail about the allure of dangerous romance, which is also an element in this series. What do you mean by this, and why do you think it can be destructive to young people, and women in particular?

Felker Jones:
I think that the dangerous aspect of the romance is one of the things that draws people in. It’s exciting. We’re tired of blah, bland versions of love that don’t have any intensity to them, so that gives it intensity. But it can also lead us to think that danger is a sign of true and deep love, and I’m convinced that that is not at all what God intends for true love. In some points in the saga, the relationship between Edward and Bella even begins to mirror an abusive relationship. He doesn’t hurt her and has no desire to, but a lot of elements of their relationship are just the warning signs that folks who know about abusive and violent relationships would look for: he’s controlling, he watches her while she sleeps, he takes bits out of her car to keep her from going places. And if this is the kind of love that we’re glorifying as real and intense, I’m afraid that people who don’t have that much experience with what good love looks like might think that abuse is true love.

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