The other side of "Twilight"

Wallace G. Smith
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In a helpful previous commentary, Karl Harmdierks covered the occult concepts behind the Twilight stories that are so terribly popular these days – both in printed word and on silver screen – and even more could be said.  However, there is an additional aspect about these stories that make them very dangerous to their obsessively devoted young fans – and to their not-so-young fans, as well.

By some, the Twilight books and movies have been praised for their element of "chastity" since the lead characters, Bella Swan and vampire Edward Cullen, are forced, however reluctantly, by their unique circumstances to abstain from a sexual relationship.

And in a world where teenagers are depicted as taking off their clothes at every available opportunity, here in the stories of Twilight we have "chaste" characters that do not "consummate" their relationship until they are married. Sounds great, right?

In the Bible, Jesus Christ teaches that the basis of true chastity is not simply holding back the physical while the heart is free to lust; real chastity is a matter of the heart, first and foremost (Matthew 5:27-28). Not just one's body should be saved for marriage, but also one's heart and the unique emotional intimacies that belong in marriage (cf. Song of Solomon 2:7).

In light of the Scriptures, how should we evaluate the reluctant sexual abstinence of the stories' characters?

The chastity of Twilight stories is a counterfeit chastity.

The legions of fans may not all recognize it, but those in the industry know exactly what is being peddled. Consider, for instance, this comment from one of the movie series' big stars, Robert Pattinson, who plays the good-looking vampire and eternally youthful Edward Cullen, given to the UK's Daily Telegraph:

"The success of the Twilight books comes from the fact that fans can lust after Edward and yet, certainly in the first book, there's no actual sexual contact between him and the series heroine. Twilight is a big metaphor for sexual abstinence, and yet it's erotic underneath. There are so many elements in the story which are sexy."

Stephen King, the famous horror novelist, has also explained the pull of the book in similar terms to MSNBC (emphasis mine):

"People are attracted by the stories, by the pace and in the case of [Twilight series author] Stephenie Meyer, it's very clear that she's writing to a whole generation of girls and opening up kind of a safe joining of love and sex in those books. It's exciting and it's thrilling and it's not particularly threatening because it's not overtly sexual."

The key word there, of course, is "overtly" – the sensual eroticism and sexuality that Mr. Pattinson and Mr. King are talking about is not upfront and openly on display. But that it is there is beyond dispute. And the fact that it is not overt makes it all the more deadly.

Mr. King continues in the same interview: "A lot of the physical side of it is conveyed in things like, the vampire will touch her forearm or run a hand over skin, and she just flushes all hot and cold. And for girls, that's a shorthand for all the feelings that they're not ready to deal with yet."

Ultimately, Twilight's message isn't to be a wise moth and avoid the flame. Rather, it's about the thrill that comes from lingering long in the candle's heat – the glory of having it so dangerously close. As the New York Times' reviewer of The Twilight Saga: New Moon so astutely explained, "Chastity is only hot, after all, when it seems like it actually might be violated."

"Erotic underneath." Successful because "fans can lust after" the characters. Not a chastity that is pure and undefiled – a chastity that is "hot" and steamy, because it constantly, painfully lingers at the edge of being violated.

This isn't chastity as God sees it. It is the devil's counterfeit.

The boundaries that God lovingly wove into the physical and emotional aspects of the sexual relationship He designed for marriage are there for our good and our benefit. If you want to understand real chastity – how to practice it and how to experience the blessings that flow from it – consider reading two Tomorrow's World articles that would have saved Edward and Bella a lot of trouble: "Teaching Chastity in an Unchaste World" and "Is Saying 'No' Enough?" The real thing is so much more wonderful than the counterfeit.