More Twilight Reactions

I don’t normally spend so much time talking about one film. But it’s amazing how much of a pop culture phenomena the movie Twilight has emerged to become. As I reported in an earlier blog, the film opened at over 70 million, and teenage girls everywhere are falling in love with the “perfect” mate they find in the lead character Edward.

Polarized responses have been flooding in. “It’s not so bad.” “It’s ridiculous! Why would you even fathom watching it with your kids!” “It’s fantastic!”

In light of all the buzz, I wanted to post two fantastic responses I read recently. The first, a personal word from the blog of Christianity Today’s movie guru Jeff Overstreet. I think he really nailed the problem I have with the whole Twilight Saga. Here’s just a snippet:

The love story makes the relationship between Jack and Rose in Titanic seem like a mature, adult relationship. At least those characters had dialogue, when they weren’t just shouting “Jack!” “Rose!” “Jack!” “Rose!” “JACK!!” “ROSE!!”

In this film, there’s not much shouting. They just stare at one another with deeply constipated expressions. Somebody could have a lot of fun on YouTube with the long sequences of Edward and Bella gazing at one another, simply by overlaying the sounds of  noisy, unpleasant bodily functions…

The idea of romantic conversation or intriguing dialogue in Twilight is deeply insufficient as well. A single episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer or even Moonlight has better dialogue and stronger characters. Heck, Dr. Horrible’s Sing-a-long Blog is more substantially romantic than this.

Sure, the basic “Beauty and the Beast” elements are at work here. They will always work. I’m not going to deny that the Power of Myth is at work in this story. What disappoints me is how poorly it is developed, how many opportunities for thoughtful storytelling are bypassed for the sake of including long sequences that amount to “How far can we go without actually fornicating?” If you want a good vampire story involving a fascinating, monstrous vampire and an engaging heroine, check out Robin McKinley’s book Sunshine. Now THAT would make an interesting movie!

But don’t tell me that this is a love story. This is a lust story. You have to get to know someone to really be “in love” with them. Otherwise, it’s just hormones. Good luck with everything after.

Then I love this email from one mom to another- a friend (one of the moms) forwarded it to me. This really gives you a peek into the mind of teenage girls in regards to this film.

I don’t think I can explain my full opinion about Twilight without writing a whole dissertation. In a sentence, I think the books/movie are very mixed in terms of being good or bad. It is chaste in the sense that the characters don’t go far, but I’ll tell you also that it is VERY sensual and intense even. I knew (my daughter) was going to see it, probably this weekend, and I took the opportunity to see it with her. We talked about it. I liked the movie, but I like sappy tales of romance. (My daughter) is ga-ga over Edward, the lead role. It’s not hard to see why.

I can’t say I’d recommend it, but if my child were interested in it, I’d definitely see it. It’s not an Oscar worthy movie or anything. I can completely see why teen girls have gone crazy over it. Edward is perfect. Plain and simple. He denies himself for the girl, Bella. He is so taken with her that he watches her sleep. He is strong enough to save her from a car falling on her and other vampires trying to kill her. He sacrifices himself for her, even to the point of death if necessary. I could go on.

(My daughter) said, “I want an Edward.” I said, “Every woman wants an Edward. He’s perfect. I want an Edward. But, he doesn’t exist. Not in human form. Actually, Jesus is Edward. Jesus is the only one who can fulfill every longing, every need, etc.” She listened, but then she said, “Mom, can you just let me enjoy my teenaged moment, here?” I loved that. She was so real, so caught up in the romance. I’m not sure that’s good, but I’m not sure it’s all bad, either. We had such a great conversation about what she is looking for in a boyfriend/husband/mate. It was SO good in terms of what she was willing to talk about BECAUSE the movie opened that part of her up. I’m so glad it was ME who was there to answer questions and talk instead of her friends. Now, of course, she’ll be able to obsess over it all with her friends, but she’d have done that anyway.

I could go on and on. I loved the movie. The books are even better. However, it’s definitely not something I’d just openly recommend. Very mixed. Certainly, many teens and people would find it sappy and stupid and worse. It is. But, it certainly taps into the longing and romance and idealized perfection we, and teen girls, seek. Good stuff for discussion.

That is my very brief (believe it or not) take on the whole Twilight phenomenon.

I thought both of these provided some great insight.

You can read the barrage of comments on my original blog on the subject here.

About Jonathan McKee

president of The Source for Youth Ministry, is the author of over twenty books including the brand new If I Had a Parenting Do Over, 52 Ways to Connect with Your Smartphone Obsessed Kid; Sex Matters; The Amazon Best Seller - The Guy's Guide to God, Girls and the Phone in Your Pocket; and youth ministry books like Ministry By Teenagers; Connect; and the 10-Minute Talks series. He has over 20 years youth ministry experience and speaks to parents and leaders worldwide, all while providing free resources for youth workers and parents on his websites, TheSource4YM.com and TheSource4Parents.com. You can follow Jonathan on his blog, getting a regular dose of youth culture and parenting help. Jonathan, his wife Lori, and their three kids live in California.
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13 Responses to More Twilight Reactions

  1. jon says:

    I am so glad you saw that Overstreet blog. My bro-in-law put me on to it and i sent him to your blog because they complimented one another so well.
    The comment about the “teen moment” was funny and at first made me think maybe i was making too much of this movie, but I don’t think that is the way most teens are honestly thinking in the heat of the moment especially. I was watching Entertainment Tonight (uhh for the pop culture insight, actually i was flipping, i promise) and Cam Gigandet, the bad vampire, said he was walking down the street and a teen girl begged him to bite her in the neck. that is unhealthy, and not just because i’m a prude. teen girls must know that they are valuable for so much more than a happy meal for some cute demon of the night.

  2. Amber says:

    I think Twilight is a really good book I read it in 3 1/2 weeks and read new moon and eclipse in 4 days and breaking dawn in 3 1/2 days

  3. Becki Hamel says:

    So….I’m a youth minister that has read all of the Twilight books and seen the movie several times. I’m also the mom of four daughters and I have been a teenage girl so I think I may have a pretty good idea of how a girl thinks. I agree with what the mom to the friend said in an email. I read the books because my youth were reading them. I also see movies that my youth see because I want to be able to carry on conversations with them and know where they are coming from in their thinking.
    Now, that being said…we just finished a DiscipleNow Weekend with our youth. I took the theme from Twilight except changed it up. Our theme was Follower (in Twilight font) based on Matt. 28:19. We took what Bella said and changed it for our DNW. About three things I am certain…1st Jesus is my Savior, 2nd He craves a relationship with me and 3rd I unconditionally and irrevocably love Him. Jesus, does He Dazzle you? Of course all of our small group Bible studies and worship services were about following Christ and realize how much He wants to be with us in all things. There is more but space does not allow. I found it ironic that our DNW was scheduled the very weekend that Twilight came out on DVD. Our DNW was a great success. The shirts will be a tool for witnessing. Some of my senior high students said that kids would think they are followers of twilight (because of the font style) but then they can explain that they are followers of Christ and go from there.

  4. Hannah Smith says:

    My friends all told me to go see it but i thought it was going to be really bad.
    finally i went.
    after that movie i was ofically obsesed with it.
    i went back to the movies and seen it anutha 2 times.
    i brought all the books and are waiting to buy the movie when it comes out in a few weeks.
    everyone who doesnt like the movies or books are either officially wierd or insane.
    i am thirteen and in love.
    i cant wait for the next movie to come out.
    if it is posible i am twilights BIGGEST fan and would love to be in the next movies or meet the characters…..
    so i hope everyone enjoy it as much as i did.

  5. lisa says:

    ı think movie is fantastic fortunately stephenie meyer wrote this book ı m fan of her she is very intelligent moreover the cast is very important and very successful ı m very impressed and robert is owesome i m fall in love with him he is so hot and handsome movie is amazing

  6. I find it interesting… some comments just seem to further prove the points made in this blog. 🙂

  7. MJ says:

    I am a Christian mother of two small ones. I mainly watched the movie after hearing that it was mostly a love story, as well as being light on the gore, sex, bad language, etc. I loved it, and would even like to read/see a movie about a 40-something-Edward-type, LOL.

  8. Christi says:

    Just say no to Twilight. My daughter (14) and I saw it at home after much begging from her, I relented, we watched it together. I am amazed at all the hype about the sexuality, much of what was shown you see in commercials these days. I was most affected by the spiritual darkness of the movie. It wasn’t subtle either. The vampires seemed demonic and they were portrayed as “good” because they don’t eat humans. The killing of the “bad guy” made me think of satanic rituals. The most alarming part was when they are in the gazebo and she begs him to make her one of them. Okay, what are we teaching our girls?? We are continuing to desentitize our kids to the evil that exists in our world. Go to any bookstore and look at the teen/young adult book section; wizards, witches, you name it. Even Wiccan are portrayed as good witches! Have we as parents become desensitized as well? Yes! We are so focused on our kids not having sex, we are willing to accept darkness instead. My daughter is committed to waiting for marriage and she knows the risks in dating and getting too close. Frankly I am more concerned with satan grabbing hold than some teenage boy. She knows how to defend herself and hopefully make the right choices. Can she defend herself against the darkness of the world? I pray she can. My discernment is greater than hers at this point. Of course she didn’t see the evil in the movie. She’s not supposed to, part of the plan. Don’t forget for a minute that Satan hates your daughter and will use anything to destroy her life. My daughter has been asking to have the top of her ear pierced, to which I have said no. Well, we talked about the movie at length and I explained to her aabout “choosing her battles”. She decided to have her ears pierced and agreed that she doesn’t really “have to” read these books just because all of her friends are. I have never prayed as much as I do in the last few years now that I have had teenagers. God is the only one who will partner with you in parenting, and he is faithful to give you wisdom that no book on the planet will give you. Parents, don’t give in to “other parent peer pressure”, your daughter will appreciate your conservative rules when she comes into adulthood, she doesn’t need another friend she need a mother.

  9. Jan says:

    I had no idea this series was intended for teens until after I read it. I’m 28, married, with an adopted daughter age 11. The books were spreading like wildfire among my Christian mom-friends, and I was not about to let my daughter read it. Romantic love and obsession were not age appropriate. I think all of us married women were enthralled because the books reminded us of how exciting and all-consuming it feels to fall in love. Plus the kissing was super-hot. It was such an indulgence, I think we all still feel 17 inside and it’s easy to put yourself in Bella’s head. But I found myself liking and dis-liking some unexpected things:

    LIKED – “vegetarian” vampires and their take on spirituality/damnation… the thirst for blood and denial of it embodied all of our carnal desires and the struggle to abstain. We can all identify with that! I also loved how the saga wrapped up… I was on Team Jacob but figured she’d end up with Edward, so although it was weird how that all worked out it was surprisingly okay. Reading about vampires didn’t conflict with my conservative views or interfere with my faith in God. It was not a vampire story, it was a love story and simply an entertaining diversion that reminded me of how much I love my husband. Edward was TOO perfect, no thank you!

    DIS-LIKED – Bella’s lack of any religious inclinations whatsoever… being written by a Mormon I guess I expected something in that vein, but it would have felt out-of-place. So Bella sits in church and obsesses over Edward’s every glance and gesture from the previous week? Weird. Or later, it would have put a damper on her outings with Jacob. Okay, so whatever.

    Now a big fat HOWEVER… once I realized this series was aimed at teens, I saw it in a different light. I didn’t want my daughter reading it and thinking this was how love should or would be for her, so consuming and with the PERFECT guy and lots of hot passion for eternity. I would be furious if she thought it was okay to have a guy sneaking into her room at night for ANY reason, even if they barely even kissed. Plus Bella was so insecure and depressed without Edward, how lame! Things that didn’t bother me from this side of having fallen in love and experienced physical passion were wildly inappropriate for my pre-teen. But my daughter kept hearing and reading bits and pieces from friends, so we started to talk about it. I knew she’d read it if she could get her hands on it, regardless of what I said. Then the movie came out and I knew I would eventually buy it, so then it became “well, should I let her read it before she sees the movie anyway?” I held out as long as I could, then finally we listened to the audiobook together so I could hear it through her perspective, then she read it, and then we watched the movie together. She was appropriately disappointed at how much was left out, but ecstatic to see some of the things she had imagined brought to life. I agree with parts of so many of the comments on this blog… no it doesn’t lead to Christ or encourage spirituality, but it’s not a highway to hell either and it is a vehicle that opens up lines of communications between kids and parents. I just wish it wasn’t aimed at such young audiences… I think it should be read by people who have already fallen in love at least once, so it’s not the first impression formed of how romantic love should be. Now I’m just trying to hold out and keep her from reading the other books until she’s older. Ha!

  10. DOMENIC MARTE says:

    i love twighlight but i dnt tjink thts the real 1

  11. lisa Evola says:

    I just want to comment to the “just say no to twilight” mother….although I do see your point about the spiritual darkness, I think that you are kidding yourself if you think that your daughter will do whatever she wants behind your back…she will say yes to your face and rebel on the side if that is what she chooses. Now I may be wrong and I hope that I am in your instance but I have a 24 year old daughter whom I was very strick with (basically because I went through it all and remember vividly) She was perfect….always agreeing with me and saying okay to any “no” I ever posted….I wont’ go into details but she pretty much just went elsewhere to do the things that I did not approve of. I encourage you to choose your battles wisely because she is only going to give you a few and then go her own way. I agree that these kind of movies need to be taken as entertainment and the only way for you to teach her that lesson is to let her see them and explain the difference between that and reality. Again I hope that you have a different experience but in mine…..always saying no just drives a wedge….save the no for drugs….weekends with mixed groups….things of that nature. Sometimes these movies open up important discussions that you might never otherwise have. Good Luck!!

  12. Jeff says:

    The most important fact is if you don’t have a real and honest dialogue with your kids, anything is going to effect them from Music, Movies to MTV.. Twilight could be the first door of someone that thinks relationships are the answer to being happy and searches their whole life for the perfect- Edward. Emotional addiction is as real as drugs, sex etc.. it’s just nicer to have a romanticized view of everything to be validated- if only he or she would love me then the world would be perfect. How many teens or adults, leave Twilight to find their Edward to end up with being used and abused because they dont have a balance on what it takes to develop a lasting real loving relationship. Twilight teaches that my feelings is all that matters over any normal balance judgment. Fantasy is fine, till it becomes what you turn too to take the hurts of life away.