Sunday, May 03, 2009

Twilight: Fantasy, Romance, and Gospel

Update: This post contains spoilers for the Twilight series. I thought it came out long enough after the books that it wouldn't be a problem, but judging by the comments apparently not ...



My daughter recently brought home her very first romance book: Twilight. I should mention that I've long been allergic to the whole genre as (I supposed) a mix of sappy sentimentalism and soft-core eroticism. But, determined that I was going to have some idea what my daughter was reading and whether it was appropriate, I started reading Twilight. I've since read the whole set of four. For those not familiar with the story: Vampire meets girl (book 1), long complicated romance spans several books, then she becomes a vampire (book 4) and they live happily ever after. The story is well-told, the characters are engaging, and I'm sure it will give me plenty of examples to explain the facts of life and complications of romance to my nearly-teenage daughter.

One thing that took me by surprise was how incredibly narcissistic the books can be. Not only does our heroine capture the eye of the most desirable of all the immortals, but she also ends the eternal strife between vampires and werewolves, and (once immortal herself) becomes one of the most impressive and powerful and beautiful of all the immortals. In the fourth book, she defeats the evil enemy vampire army almost single-handedly while all the other powerful immortals on her side have almost nothing to do except be in awe of her. Several times I had to put down the books and laugh at the sheer over-the-top aggrandizement of our first-person viewpoint heroine. I did manage to enjoy the story, but sometimes the author laid it on a little bit thick.

Another thing that took me by surprise was how much the vampire legends -- including this updated retelling of it -- are some sort of inverted variation on the gospel. In the classic evil vampire story, the immortal destroys the mortal, taking its blood to live. And this latest retelling focuses on another aspect of the legend: the immortal can grant that same kind of tainted immortality to someone else through a bite. These seemed like a nightmarish reversal of the Last Supper, where Christ sheds immortal blood and gives it to us as a gift in order to remove our tainted mortality, replace it with his own more wholesome life. The vampire version creates a life that has the potential to be an endless, bloodthirsty, parasitic nightmare. It is close to the opposite of the gospel -- except that in the Twilight retelling, there is also an element of the gospel: the love of two who are both now immortal, with a love that will not fade or die.

One last thing bears mentioning tonight: the way the bright-eyed, mesmerizing, inhumanly perfect fantasy world of the vampires (a la Twilight) made the normal human world seem colorless, dull, and uninteresting for our heroine. To judge by the status of the books on the best-seller lists and the intense devotion of some of the Twilight fans, some of the readers also think the alluring, seductive fantasy-world is more appealing than this one. For them as for Bella the heroine, everything else fades in comparison. That, to me, is the most striking opposite of the gospel in the whole book. Jesus' life is not the kind that robbed the mundane world of its beauty or significance; it is the kind that restored it, that made the mundane holy again.

6 comments:

Howard said...

Fantasy can certainly be useful. I viewed 'The Outsider' last night, which aside from the predictable gore in places was a pretty wholesale lifting of the Gospel meta narrative.I personally find Science Fiction is a more 'blunt' vehicle in raising certain questions and issues.

Weekend Fisher said...

I like Sci-Fi for its bluntness & Fantasy for its rich texture. Never seen 'The Outsider'. Any good?

Take care & God bless
WF

Howard said...

Re: The Outsider. Comes from the same 'stable' as Beowulf and The 13th Warrior, so if you enjoyed those, you should find this one fairly watchable. A good performance from John Hurt.

Dannielle said...

Well thanks but no thanks. I wanted to read what a christian thought about this book and then I got to the part early in your article where you spoiled the whole series for me by telling me the ending. You really didn't have to do that. Please take it off before you spoil it for anyone else. I did not finish reading the rest of the article just because I was mad at you for spoiling it.

Sonnet said...

Thanks for sharing. Also wanted to get a perspective from Christian viewpoint, haven't read any of the books...

Sonnet said...

The Twilight Gospel by David Roberts- good book.