Thursday, July 1, 2010

A Dangerous Narrative

Blog favorite, Matt Chandler, tweeted this morning: "I'm at a movie with my wife. . . I don't want to talk about it"

I'm sure he's not alone, . . .I also partook in some vampire romantic-suspenseful-ness with my beloved last night. I'm not ashamed to admit it. I saw the movie, just me and my wife. My man card is intact. I've also seen the first Twilight (rented it) and have had many conversations with Jody about it, so I thought it's probably time to share my opinions on the whole thing. . .

Before I jump in, I should probably say that Douglas Wilson over at Mablog has an entire series about Twilight. He's a genius, but is also pretty far to the right theologically, and culturally. So, although I glean alot from Rev. Wilson theologically, . . .I usually pass on his cultural (music/movies) stuff, because, frankly, we live in different worlds in those areas. To put it simply, Doug Wilson thinks that Twilight is dangerous for young girls. I was pretty dismissive of that philosophy at first, but after seeing one of the movies, live in the theater, I'm inclined to agree somewhat. .here's why. . . .

DISCLAIMER #1. I'm going to take the viewpoint of a parent here. . .not a husband/boyfriend. There's alot to glean about romantic love from how Edward treats Bella (outside of trying to suck all of her blood. . . sorry. . I'll stop). My wife has written some very insightful blogs about how Bella's feelings are the kind of thing that every woman/wife wants to feel about her husband. And, there's alot there, we've had some great conversations about it. However, in this post, I'm thinking like a parent, and taking that viewpoint. Some of my friends/commentors are going to have some fun at my expense for this one. . . that's ok, I can take it. I feel like I need to say some of these things as a dad and pastor. So, I'll step out over the plate and take one for the dads.

DISCLAIMER #2. I'm going to skip the entire story, skip the vampire rules, and skip an evaluation of the writing/movie making, . . .(you're either a fan, or you're not), and go straight to the takeaways.

The climax of the story in Twilight, . . . . is that Bella (the female lead) is going to follow her heart, go for the love of her life, become a vampire (and marry a vampire) against all good counsel, against her families wishes, against some of the other vampires (who think it's a mistake) and against good sense.

(I know, I know Twilight fans,. . . I'm skipping alot. . . stick with me)

Far from the traditional "Titanic" romantic narrative of "go for the bad boy", "don't marry for money", "follow your heart"(It's similar to the typical "Leader of the Pack", "Titanic", "Grease", "90210" narrative; only on steroids.) Twilight (if you're on Team Edward) is actually pushing you to root for Bella to abandon all hopes for a family, for a legacy, for her soul, and for her health in order to have the "love" of her life.

(when I say "soul" here, don't think Christian narrative. I'm letting the book have it's own theology, and even within that, Bella would be giving up her "soul" to become a vampire,. . .some kind of "losing your eternal soul," etc. . . Even within the Twilight new age/eternal undead creature theology. . . . it's a bad move on her part)

To become a vampire, she has to give up family (she eventually has a child, right before she becomes a vampire), her soul, and the ability to have relationships with any of her current family or friends at school; except for the one relationship with her eternal, undead, lover, and go for the "dangerous" move against all counsel to do so.

Now, if I'm a 15 year old girl with a guy who maybe doesn't share my faith, or share my values, but he's dangerous, dashing, and I (as all 15 year old girls and boys do) feel out of place and "different", what is "Twilight" encouraging me to do?

I know I'm stretching a bit here: What if I "gain my boyfriend" but "lose my soul"? (precisely what happens in Twilight)

I found the conversation where Jake-abs, I mean Jacob, tries to convince Bella of the benefits of staying human, to be really persuasive. Ah, the sage wisdom of the werewolves. She, of course, chooses the other path.

See, I'm all for following your heart, and living passionately. But, I'm not for living passionately if you're doing it, as a teenager, because you "feel different" or simply because you're in "love". What 15 year old isn't?? What 15 year old doesn't feel out of place?? Jody and I disagree about the level of emphasis placed on Bella's "different-ness". Perhaps the books are different, but the movies play up Bella's awkwardness and "every woman-ness". The movies are drawing ladies into her persona and story and using that as one of the reasons for her to choose a different path for her life. I think that's dangerous.

I'm also not for abandoning all good counsel. See, once upon a time there was a thing called "courting" (ask Edward) where the parents and community were involved with matching folks up. We've moved (unfortunately) a long way from those days, but suffice it to say, when the other vampires are telling you to not become a vampire, in addition to the human folks that you love. . . . .perhaps "walking with the wise" might be a good rule of thumb??

Now, if you're a 35 year old wife and mother and can filter through all of this to take away the good/fun romantic stuff and good storytelling from the books. . . . . go for it.

However, if you're the parents of a young girl, . . please help your kids stay away. This story, if taken to heart, gives young girls the wrong idea about what to look for in a guy, how to go about it, and what things to think about when she's making decisions about those things.

Love is dangerous at times, and passionate. But, you're not ready to make solo decisions about who's dangerous and passionate enough, and all the meaningful consequences when you're in high school. Hey, I broke up with my future wife twice in high school. . .what did I know? And, you're certainly not ready to make decisions about it if you "feel different, out of place, like I don't belong". You need some input. . you need some wisdom. . .

Twilight is idealistic in those ways as well. The Cullen vampire clan presents a "perfect" vision of community and Edward, the idealistic, bad boy, boyfriend. What 15 year old hasn't felt like her friends have it together more than her family??

I'm all for High School love. . . I lived it. . . But, I think Twilight can lead to some bad decisions for young girls. I'm not letting my girls get into the series until they're much older.(hopefully it will be gone by then, or hopelessly uncool)

Dudes are still going to have to come through me to get to my girls. . .even if they have long teeth and chiseled abs.


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joven said...

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joven said...

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