“Oh no! I thought this was so over, and I totally exhausted myself pretending to everyone like I hadn’t read it. So embarrassing. (Team Jacob all the way!!!)”
“Oh no! I thought this was so over, and I totally exhausted myself trying to avoid it. So cringy.”
“Wait, what? Isn’t this a Christian website?”
Chances are that you fall into one of these camps. Haters gonna hate people! Step one out of denial: I’ll admit I fall into the first bunch. I may even be slightly more honest and marginally less embarrassed. Oh I get the eye rolls. I do the eye rolls. And yet I can’t seem to resist it. And neither do many young girls and women.
Because here’s the thing. Twilight was huge. Huge book sales. Huge fan following. Huge fan fiction. Huge movies. Innumerable book genre copycats. Even bigger backlash, endless spoofs.
So all of this begs the question, again, why? Why the appeal? What is it about a nightmare creature whose desire for blood resonates? And resonate it does.
Thus, here follows my ‘book review’. I haven’t reviewed a book since high school, but I have read these books so many times I’ve lost count. They got me through long airplane rides, helped me avoid my feminist dissertation work my final year of university, and distracted me from pregnancy nausea. I promised in my first blog that I would visit this topic, so if that mention made you queasy then go grab a bucket if you want to keep reading.
Young Bella Swan appeals to females on so many levels, most of which are not so healthy, but here are the facts. Clear ivory skin, not too skinny but not chubby. Long luscious hair. Booksmart. Doesn’t know how pretty she really is. Blood that sings a siren call to only one creature of the night, who just so happens to be beautiful and strong and chivalrous and chaste. He sort of checks the boxes, so to speak.
She appeals to him in a way more animal or basic than we can comprehend (SPOILER ALERT: because it isn’t real). Even so, identifying with Bella is easy as she struggles to fit into school, family, a new town, her body, her purpose, and ultimately find who she really is meant to be.
Now… SPOILERS AHEAD… she ends up becoming a vampire. It involves a lot of sexy non-sex, self esteem issues, love triangles, werewolfs, vampire fights, marriage and a baby. Yes, ladies and gentlemen, the vampire novel has a version of happily ever after that sounds like that song ‘first comes love, then comes marriage, then comes a baby in a baby carriage.’ (SPOILER ALERT: it doesn’t always happen in that order).
Anyways, why the blood sucking appeal? Isn’t it gross and ungodly, you say? Well, yeah. But here we are. So in an effort to detangle my hair from my lip gloss, I think I have come up with a few pretty decent reasons this story taps into so many fantasies.
One, minus the evil vampire affiliations, a good love story full of sacrifice, talk of destiny, and happily ever after is always a winner. Two, speaking of destiny, I have always seen a similarity between Bella’s feeling of being meant for something different, something more, as an extremely inherent human experience. We live in a fallen world with fallen bodies, and when she becomes immortal, after a painful transformation, she finally feels that she is who she was always meant to be. Take what you will from that, and for anyone studying theology shaking their head, my apologies. Three, we just love the thought of someone desiring us beyond our understanding, and still denying themselves everything to protect us. I mean, Edward can’t help but love Bella, as it is like she was made for him to love. And she can’t help but love him, because he says she is the reason for his existence.
That’s the appeal. God could have done nothing but be God in his trinitarian, perfectly loving being. But he made us to love him. Can you see the echoes? Can you see the desires awakened in ridiculous, unsanctimonious Twilight that tapped into our hearts? We have eternal souls; we want unconditional, until the world ends and beyond, love. We recognize blood is central to living and dying, and that is why we remember the blood of Jesus, pouring down the cross for us.
So read the books or watch the movies if you want. It isn’t artsy or refined, but it’s a bit of culture that we can’t just ignore or condemn. And please don’t judge me as I fondly remember a cold night in Dublin. I had joined my university housemates for a midnight showing of the premiere of Breaking Dawn: Part One. We giggled our way through a big empty mall into a crowded cinema. We were the only ones not dressed in ‘Team Jacob’ or Team Edward’ tshirts. There were some red contacts and glittery skin everywhere. There was a girly buzz in the theater. It was hysterical. And totally worth the lost sleep. What a shame we weren’t vampires who didn’t need sleep…