Among the new articles just published at TOJ, one of the most helpful is K.J. Swanson’s critique of the various evangelical Christian responses to the Twilight series. Given all the evangelical (and Catholic, lets be equal opportunity offenders here) uproar over the Harry Potter series it is pretty amazing that most Christian responses to the Twilight series has been at at most neutral and often glowingly enthusiastic.
As you might expect this divergence has everything to do with sex, particularly Twilight’s portrayal of female sexuality. Says Swanson:
Beth Felker Jones explains in Touched by a Vampire, “the themes of Twilight are all about what it means to be female.” This question of what it means to be female is one evangelicals have been trying to help girls answer for years. Whether it’s the formidable Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood or the franchised Every Man series, the evangelical media has produced an entire industry of relationship advice books that are not primarily about managing one’s love life, but are, rather, instructional guides to help readers personify “authentic” masculinity and femininity. And with the publication of books about Twilight written by evangelical Christian authors for adolescent girls, the evangelical conversation about Twilight has actually merged with the genre of evangelical relationship texts for young women. The manner in which such books respond to the cultural impact of Twilight follows the evangelical trajectory of placing gender at the heart of Christian faith, normalizing and spiritualizing patriarchal interpretations of femininity.
Be sure to check out the whole article and the two forthcoming installments which will complete the series. One final parting shot from Swanson’s apropos critique:
It is ultimately fitting that Twilight should be so often called a “guilty pleasure,” for at the very core of its narrative, we find guilt being linked to pleasure; a teenage girl wooed into physical intimacy but denied that intimacy the very moment she acts on her feelings. The mixed message of Edward’s pattern of seductive arousal, followed by shaming rejection, puts Bella in the position of needing to break Edward’s rules in order to honestly express what she feels. Bella is called a “bad girl” not because she is kissed, but because she kisses back. Kurt Bruner worries that Twilight will teach young readers that “even good girls are eager to have sex before marriage,” but he has no words of critique for Edward’s erotic pursuit of Bella. The cost of evangelical praise for Twilight is a deepening of the split between sexuality and spirituality wherein young girls have no recourse but to remain frozen like an obedient Bella would or become “bad” by reciprocating as Bella actually does. Either choice allows shame to reign where dignity should abide.