Excerpted from Canticle Magazine by Susan Brinkmann, OCDS
New Moon, the second movie in the phenomenally successful Twilight series which debuts this Friday, is the latest installment in a new occult thriller featuring vampires and werewolves that is taking over where Harry Potter left off with teens and tweens.
The Twilight series is composed of four books written by Stephanie Meyer and is based on a romance between a vampire named Edward Cullen and a mortal teen named Bella Swan.
The story begins when Bella moves to Washington state where she enrolls in a small town high school and finds herself drawn to her rather mysterious lab partner, Edward. As their attraction grows, she learns more about Edward and his family, all of whom are vampires.
The four novels in the Twilight series focus mainly on this bizarre romance where the undead Edward struggles with himself not to feed on Bella blood. He avoids having sex with her because he doesn’t want her to become a vampire like him. But as Bella falls ever deeper in love, she repeatedly voices her willingness to forfeit her soul just to be with him forever.
As trite a plot as it might sound, Twilight is a phenomenal success. The four novels in the series, Twilight, Eclipse, New Moon and Breaking Dawn, have sold more than 17 million copies, and the first movie was equally successful. A third movie is already planned for release in June, 2010.
The success of the series is being driven principally by pre-teen and teen aged girls. According to Box Office Mojo, exit polling for the first movie found that 75 percent of the audience was female and 55 percent was under 25 years old.
So what exactly is wrong with Twilight?
First, the series features the same literary duplicity found in the Harry Potter series. By peppering the story with moral issues that resonate with Christians, and convincing readers that vampires (or witchcraft, as in the case of Potter) can actually serve a good and noble purpose, the author manages to disguise the occult beneath a veneer of righteousness that can easily trap the unwary.
For instance, the main character in Twilight is a vampire. According to Websters, a vampire is a corpse, animated by an undeparted soul or a demon that periodically leaves the grave and disturbs the living. In traditional folklore, the vampire is typically a being that sucks the blood of sleeping persons at night. Christians believe that only God holds the power of life and death, not undeparted souls or demons. Nor do they believe in the existence of undeparted souls. The Catechism makes it clear that man dies only once at which time he is judged by God and deemed worthy of heaven, hell or purgatory. Only in Hollywood are departed souls left to wander around the universe looking for something to do or, in the case of Twilight, re-inhabit their bodies in order to become blood-sucking vampires.
Although people are tempted to ignore criticism of the Twilight movies, saying they’re just another in a long line of vampire flicks, this film is markedly different from other Dracula-era, movies such as the famous 1931 production starring Bela Lugosi. In Lugosi’s film, the plight of the vampire is presented as hideous and unattractive; definitely not something you would want to be.
In Twilight, it’s just the opposite.
Edward is attractive and presented as a good guy even though he openly admits that he has killed people. His family, the Cullens, are vegetarian vampires who only feed on animal blood. Carlisle Cullen, Edward’s father, is also a vampire but because he used to be a pastor, his faith makes him strive to rise above his vampirism by becoming a doctor and helping people, all values he tries to instill in his family.
These are all literary devices used to make evil characters appear to be good.
The character of Bella has problems of her own. She repeatedly speaks about her strong desire to be with Edward forever, even if that means becoming a vampire, a creature who is eternally damned.
We are taught that the soul is that which is of greatest value in ourselves and what makes us in the image and likeness of God. What a dangerous message this sends to young girls that the priceless treasure of their soul can be tossed aside to win the man of their dreams.
Another troubling character in the story is Alice, one of Edward’s sisters who can see into the future. Alice and her occult practices repeatedly play key roles in the plot, making the use of divination seem appropriate and even important.
Many have also praised the fact that Edward and Bella’s relationship is chaste, but they are not abstaining for any moral reasons. Rather, it’s because Edward is too tempted to eat her, which would turn her into a vampire.
According to cult expert Caryn Matrisciana, in the end, Bella will indeed succumb to Edward’s charm and become a vampire. In a future movie, the two will have sex and a baby who turns out to be a kind of hybrid vampire-human that is sucking Bella’s blood from the inside. Bella dies during childbirth and it is at this time that Edward finally bites her, bringing her back to life as a vampire.
Of course teens, and their parents, don’t know this when they first become hooked on the series.
Perhaps the most troubling aspect of all about the Twilight series is the origin of the story.
Author Stephanie Meyer, a Mormon, is a housewife and mother of three who claims she received Twilight in a dream on June 2, 2003.
“In my dream, two people were having an intense conversation in a meadow in the woods,” Meyer writes on her website. “One of these people was just your average girl. The other person was fantastically beautiful, sparkly, and a vampire. They were discussing the difficulties inherent in the facts that A) they were falling in love with each other while B) the vampire was particularly attracted to the scent of her blood, and was having a difficult time restraining himself from killing her immediately.”
From that point on, Meyers says she was driven to write the story, often climbing out of bed in the middle of the night to write because Bella and Edward were, quite literally, voices in my head. “They simply wouldn’t shut up,” she writes.
Even more disturbing, Meyer claims she had another dream after the book was finished in which Edward appeared and told her the book was wrong. He wanted her to know that he did indeed drink human blood because he could not live on only animal blood.
“We had this conversation, Meyer said, “and he was terrifying.”
Unfortunately, the Twilight series is spawning a cult-like following among young girls who call themselves Twilighters and who celebrate Stephanie Meyer Day on Sept. 13 in honor of Bella’s fictional birthday. They wear t-shirts sporting sayings such as Forbidden Fruit Tastes the Best.
Even secular reviewers admit the story is “a dark romance that seeps into the soul.”
But the worst part about Twilight is the way it ends – in the happily-never-after of a young woman’s eternal death.
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