Hey everybody, I’m back and bringing you another cultural phenomenon. This time, there are no singing and dancing high school students! This time, there are sparkly vampires and a small rainy town on the Washington peninsula!
This latest cultural phenomenon began for the world in 2005 with Stephanie Meyer’s book about a teenage girl who moves to a small, cloudy town and falls in love with a vampire. The author, mother of 3 from Phoenix, Arizona, got the idea for her first of 4 novels from a dream she had about “two people…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” (from stephaniemeyer.com/twilight.html). Stephanie Meyer has since written New Moon, Eclipse, and Breaking Dawn and the series has sold over 25 million copies worldwide in 37 different languages.
For me, it all started when a girl I worked with told me that her favorite verse was “but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die” from Genesis 2:17 because it was on the title pages of Twilight. I decided that I should engage this aspect of the culture I was working with and read the books for myself. I was quickly hooked. I read New Moon and Eclipse in short order and then waited at Barnes and Noble at midnight to get my copy of Breaking Dawn, which I finished within the next few days (unfortunately I had to work a couple 8 hour shifts in the middle, hindering the speed at which I finished them). My family and I even stopped for some Twilight fun in Forks on our vacation this summer.
The time came for the movie to come out, and people were flocking to places like Hot Topic to buy the t-shirts and necklaces emblazoned with Edward’s face, the “Cullen Crest,” and quotes from the movie. At the movie theatre on opening night (morning, if you want to be specific), I felt legit in my Forks sweatshirt while nearly ever other girl at the 12:04 am showing was wearing a t-shirt they bought that evening at Hot Topic in the mall.
When it was time for me to start thinking about what I was going to write in this review, I had a very startling realization: I had initially intended to read these books with the specific point of seeing how they connected to my relationship with Jesus. After a year of reading and re-reading them, I felt like I was so far from that goal. I had allowed myself to be sucked into this world of sparkly vampires and teenage romance without a second thought. The more I thought about it, the more I realized that that is exactly what I should have learned from the first book and the movie themselves.
In Twilight Bella Swan moves from Phoenix because her mother got remarried and is feeling torn between being with her daughter and traveling with her minor league baseball player husband. So Bella, being the ever self-sacrificing young woman, decides to move in with her dad, Police Chief Charlie Swan, in the small town of Forks, Washington on the cloudy Olympic Peninsula. At school she is the novelty, to everyone except for one group of “devastatingly, inhumanly beautiful” students who sit off to the side at lunch and seem to not interact with anyone. She asks her new friends Jessica and Angela who they are and she learns that they are the Cullens, Dr. and Mrs. Cullen’s “foster kids.” One in particular catches her eye – Edward Cullen, the brooding, James Dean-esque one with “untidy, bronze-colored hair.”
Bella soon discovers that she is in Biology with Edward. When she sits next to him, he only glares at her, seemingly disgusted, and she has no idea why. For the rest of the week Edward is absent, but when he comes back, he acts as if that first day never happened and attempts to befriend Bella. They chat a little and then the next day, an icy day in Forks, Bella is nearly crushed by a van that slips on the ice and spins out of control. But Edward is there instantaneously and stops the van with his hand. When Bella demands to know what happened, Edward doesn’t say anything and doesn’t talk to her for a while.
After they begin talking again, Bella starts to piece together some of the strange things that she noticed about Edward, particularly after going to the Quileute Indian reservation on the coast and talking with her new friend Jacob about why the Cullen’s don’t go to the reservation. He tells her briefly about how the Quileute’s were supposedly decedent from wolves and the legend of “the Cold Ones.” This inspires Bella’s research further, including a trip to Port Angeles to get a book on the subject.
However, while in Port Angeles, Bella is followed by a group of drunk men, meaning her harm. Before anything can happen, Edward drives in and rescues her – a knight in a “stupid, shiny Volvo.” He takes her to dinner, and then home, during which she pieces together more ideas of who, or what, Edward really is. And when she reaches the conclusion of vampire, she confronts him.
And he reveals what he really is to her. He tells her that he is “the world’s most dangerous predator,” that everything about him invites her in, “as if I would need any of that!” He let’s her know that he is “designed to kill.” To which she quickly replies, “I don’t care.” He continues – his family is different, they don’t drink human blood, but to him, her blood is his “own personal brand of heroine” and he wanted to kill her that first day. Rather than being scared, she tells him that she’s not afraid of him, that she’s only afraid of losing him. “And so the lion fell in love with the lamb,” he says. “What a stupid lamb,” is her reply. “What a sick, masochistic lion,” he laughs sadly.
Their relationship continues to grow, though in the movie we are not privy to all their conversations, you at least get to see them, talking and getting to know one another. Everything is great until some “non-vegetarian” vampires come to town and disrupt their peaceful existence. One of the new vampires, James, is a tracker and he decides that Bella is his new hunt and he turns it into the best game ever when he realizes that the entire Cullen family is ready to defend her. Edward tells Bella that she is his life now, and that he will do anything to make her safe again. However, when it comes down to it, Bella is willing to sacrifice herself, if it means keeping her family – vampire and human – safe.
Suffice it to say there are a few more books with Bella and Edward in it, so you can guess how this first edition ends. But I hope that if and when you do go see the movie, that you will look at it with open eyes to see what I am only now realizing – we need to keep our eyes open, get good council and have mature and wise people speaking into our lives.
“What does that have to do with vampires and a teenage romance?” you may ask. Well, let me tell you. Bella dives into her relationship with Edward with her whole heart, and that is exactly what is at stake – her heart. She gives Edward herself so quickly she even calls herself a “stupid lamb.” So often we give ourselves away so quickly, as I did with Twilight, that we don’t often realize how much we are putting on the line. We give so much time and effort to things without even a second thought, and most often, they’re not even things that are inherently harmful to us, but we don’t do them in a way that glorifies God. 1 Corinthians 10:31 says that “whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.” Whether it’s reading a book series, or watching a movie or whatever, we need to be doing it with the specific point of worshiping God with our actions and motives. We need to be throwing ourselves into our relationship with God with the same intensity as a teenage girl in love with a vampire.
In closing, for those of you who have read the books and have been hesitant to see the movie, go see it, with the open mind that they will not get everything right, but that it will be a great supplement to the books – a fleshing out of the main ideas. For those of you who have never read the books, or have been avoiding the teenage-vampire-romance, go check it out and be challenged to have the same kind of passion for God that Bella has for her sparkly vampire.