Why Twilight Sucks

I‘m annoyed with moral relativism. This emotion wells up within me not simply because relativism is a ridiculously boring worldview, designed for the sole purpose of justifying petty immorality without the balls to justify heavy immorality. No, I am annoyed because it lied to us. Its advocates said — with remarkably straight faces — that if we would only realize that our quaint conceptions of good and evil were personal and not universal, and if right and wrong could be treated as a matter of taste and not of religious fanaticism, then the world would be a better place. We would flourish, shake off the traditional conceptions of evil that enslaved our minds, and be open to the new, exciting exploration of the human spirit. This all sounds wonderful. What we actually got was the Twilight series.

It’s true. The whole movement of relativism can be roughly defined as an attack against fairy-tales. If St. George went off to slay the dragon, the relativist is the man who begs St. George to see things from the dragon’s point of view. He would pull Frodo to one side and say “Look, how do you know the ring is evil and your actions are good? Good and evil are manufactured ideas of society that create conflict. What you believe is wrong might not be what Sauron believes is wrong, and frankly, it’s a bit presumptuous on your part to so harshly impose your morality on him, what with this whole ring-destruction business.” You may laugh and say I exaggerate, but look — for the love of God — at the state of our popular literature.

Vampires, dragons, werewolves, zombies — these things once objectified evil. They made spiritual truths tangible for us. They occur in the fairytale or the fantasy because there is no question of their evil — they are evil in their very being. Sin is sin, and a werewolf is a werewolf. To kill a dragon was to triumph over greed. To kill a vampire was to cast out Satan. There was a symbolism and a sacramentalism that existed in literature, a lovely drawing of objective good and objective evil, and fallen man’s struggle between the two. And what was the result? Beowulf, Dracula, The Lord of the Rings and The Chronicles of Narnia, to name a few.

With the blurring of good and evil into subjective, human inventions came the necessary blurring of the characters who represented that good and evil. So it was that the previously greedy dragons became man’s best friend and elves got a free-loving, secular humanist makeover in Paolini’s Inheritance Trilogy. Vampires and werewolves — once scary enough to make you convert to Catholicism — got sparkly and sexy in what-her-face’s Twilight series. And, in a move guaranteed to ruin my life, zombies are to be sensual, loving, and in tune with their emotions in a new, Twilight-esque movie – Warm Bodies.

Now let’s be clear. I am not annoyed because these books and films represent the perversion of some sacred form. I am annoyed because they suck. Straying from artistic form is a good and valuable exercise. But in order for it to be good, it requires knowledge of and grounding within that form. T.S. Eliot’s Waste Land worked, not because he said “all traditional poetry is enslaved and embarrassingly trite and I WILL BREAK FREE FROM THE PATRIARCHY!” but because he was grounded in poets like Dante. It is the recognition of a form that makes form-breaking possible. Moral relativism denies the existence of an objective moral structure, and then tries to write a book breaking that structure. Is this not what Meyers did? There was the objective moral symbolism — vampire=evil — and she tried to break from, without ever being grounded in it. How do I know this? Her interview with Entertainment Weekly: “Have you read Bram Stoker’s Dracula? No, but it’s on the list.” Good heavens, woman!

If Meyer was grounded in the Catholic concept of a vampire as an anti-Christ, perhaps she could’ve given the world something remotely interesting in her twisting of the monsters. As it turns out, she grounded herself firmly in a sandpit of hormonal emotions and wish fulfillment, and made millions telling little girls to wait for a flawless guy with a ‘perfectly-toned chest’ to start watching them while they sleep. Then it’s love. True, the terrifying perversion of good and evil might be a sin, but at least it would be a sin worth reading. The vague, relativistic denial of good and evil manifested in our popular literature can’t even muster that. So let’s be clear.

Twilight might’ve had a chance if it contained clear distinctions between evil and good, even if these distinctions were perverted. But in denying the very existence of these distinctions and making the symbol of the vampire neither good nor evil, but misunderstood, and thus succumbing to a literary, moral relativism, the story of Twilight sucked.

Not all hope is lost. J.K. Rowling — by and large — stuck with her guns and wrote a Christ story. And there is still that happy truth that a single page of Lord of the Rings will have more moral and spiritual weight than all of Paolini’s books dropped from a high height onto your face. (No one in their right mind would ask “What would Eragon do?” as the challenges of life arise, but it would certainly be a sane man who turns to the example of Aragorn for guidance.) The point is simply this: If moral relativism brings us Twilight, than I refuse to believe in it. For if any piece of art finds itself entirely alien to the human experience, chances are its philosophical foundation has no place in humanity.

Thanks for reading! I know a lot of folks are new to BadCatholic, so check out some posts you may not have read:

There Is No Such Thing as a Charismatic Mass

Indecent Exposure

Serial Killers Are Boring

  • Catherine

    What is your opinion on Harry Potter? I love your blog, but – with all due respect! – I’m not sure that Harry Potter is a “Christ story.”

    • Elizabeth

      Catherine, I posted above, but I recommend “Harry Potter and the Paganization of Culture” by Michael O’Brien. He really clarified Harry Potter for me when I was on the fence and analyzing all the thoughts out there. Potter does have a lot of religious symbolism, good and evil, but the end result is disturbing. Yes, you can find Christ in Potter — the death of Christ. I would recommend reading the analysis, though, because I could not do it justice in a combox.

      • Elizabeth

        And not the death of Christ in the Christian sense of the Crucifixion, but in the more disturbing sense…sorry if that was confusing.

        • sindarintech

          ‘In the more disturbing sense’ in that it’s yet-another-god-dies-and-comes-back-to-life story? Copied for the older stories of Mithras, Osiris, and countless other made-up stories?

          • Elizabeth

            No, not in that sense.

      • Catherine

        Thanks Elizabeth – I’ve read a lot of O’Brien’s work, and I’ve always been blown away by what he writes. I haven’t read this one as of yet, but it’s on my list!

      • Gail Finke

        I like O’Brien but I think he is completely wrong in this case. O’Brien writes for devout Catholics, a rather small audience.

    • http://twitter.com/Twilight_Site Twilight News Site

      You may want to see what John Granger has to say about Christianity in Harry Potter over at hogwartsprofessor.com.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=821929936 Georg Hendrik Laing

    Although I entirely agree with your sentiments regarding Twilight, the same arguments seem to weigh heavy against the witchcraft and wizardry of the Harry Potter universe. Any thoughts? (And to be clear, I LOVE Harry Potter.)

    • http://www.facebook.com/markromer Mark Romer

      I think the thing a lot of people miss about the magic in the Harry Potter books is that it cannot be learned. That is, a “muggle” human cannot learn the proper incantations and become a wizard. The wizard characters are born to it. They have an inherent talent that they have to learn to control so that they won’t be dangerous. Evil comes when the talented decide to mis-use their talents, or even begin to regard themselves as superior. There are even examples of “squibs”, who are born into magic-wielding families but cannot use it themselves. But witchcraft and wizardry itself is not a pursuit of “secret knowledge” to gain power, which is condemnable.

  • Barbara Soares

    THANK YOU for eloquently putting into words what I feel every time I walk into a bookstore and see it plastered with this rubbish. This goes for Twilight as well as that rubbish Paolini series (which was bad enough for me to actually write a scathing review of it on amazon.com…no one rips off and butchers Tolkien works on my watch!). You’ve given me hope for the future of literature. Oh, and your use of Stephen King’s quote is PRICELESS.

  • Fisherman

    Harry Potter is a Christ story. JK Rowling -who went to church as a child while her family didn’t- wrote using the “Christ figure” method that is employed in lots of literary plots (Tale of Two Cities, the Messenger, Full Metal Alchemist, the Giving Tree, to name a few). Harry dies at the end for the sake of the majority. He is is not resurrected, but only has the bit of Voldemort killed inside him (spoilers). While Rowling does use “magic” and “witchcraft” in her books, can it really be called those things? In all actuality, it should be called Hogwarts school of Kids Pointing Sticks and then Saying Latin Words (the same latin we use in Masses). You have to keep in mind the intent of the book- Rowling wrote these books as a) entertainment b) an entertaining and involved metaphor of good versus evil and c) so she wouldn’t be poor. Of course there is divination that and the idea of taking ones soul apart (or “demonic” as my mother swiftly deemed), but those are used aesthetically, and by Rowling’s standards, imaginatively. If you are concerned for your child’s good Christian upbringing, instead of dismissing the books as “Satanic” altogether, explain to your child, or friend, or parent, the differences between the authors intention and the readers interpretation. Also explain to them what magic is in the context of the Bible, and in the context of Hogwarts. And the best part- have your child go on a “scavenger hunt” on how Christianity influenced the book itself.

    Marc, you are correct, Twilight is awful. Twilight is to teenage girls and grown women what birth control and abortion are (also) to teenage women. The writing is awful, and the characters are atrocious. I’ve read Dracula. Van Helsing attacked a vampire with the Eucharist. That’s amazing. People keep pooping themselves over the fact Bella is 19 or something and has a weird vampire baby. Well you know what? My Savior’s mother had HIM when she was 16 and didn’t even complain. And then she watched him die. Her son and God, die, for people who really didn’t deserve it. And then she became the Queen of Everything, and now we have to ask for her intercession more than ever to solve the Twilight pandemic in this world. Amen.

    As a side note: I’m slowly making my way through the last Eragon book: lolwut, imirite?

    • http://twitter.com/QDefenestration Rob

      The eucharist-attacks, while conceptually awesome, are pretty problematic as van Helsing somehow gets pre-sin forgiveness from the church for sacramental desecration. It’s all very odd.

      • Fisherman

        I do not remember that part. But you are right, that is a little fishy. Given, Stoker was into weird occult things, so he might of fudged (ok, a lot of fudging) some of the Catechesis. But I have a hard time getting through novels with them thur fancy lit-chur n such (at least I tried harder than Meyers). Mostly what I remember from that book are: Vampires are sin incarnate; the Eucharist is awesome; Jonathan is easily scared; crazy people eat spiders; and Quincey was the token.

        • Penny Farthing1893

          Yeah, I don’t think Stoker knew exactly what he was talking about, sacramentally speaking, but the idea that the Eucharist will put the hurt on vampires is awesome. I really like the characters in that book, especially Quincy, Mina, and Dr. Seward. They are great people, and Dracula “sequels” and remakes where Mina is either in love with Dracula or turns into a vampire make be a bit cross. Way to miss the point, people…

      • Gail Finke

        Re-read it last year because it is such a GREAT book, nothing at all like any of the movies or comic books or anything.The vampires have nothing to do with repressed sexuality, they are “sexual” in the way that a venus fly trap looks good to a bug — just to lure you in and eat you. And Mina is a fantastic female character. But Stoker was just being sensational with his crushed up Hosts. In the book VanHelsing says he was given special permission to crush them up to defeat vampires, but of course that would never happen if vampires were real. You can’t crush up Christ! Stoke was just writing an exciting monster story, he was not Catholic and didn’t care much, I presume, about real theology. Christ Good, Vampires Bad.

    • A random Person

      Full Metal Alchemist was a Christ-story!? I suppose he sacrificed his alchemy to save his brother. Actually now that i think about it the whole idea of equivalent exchange does sound pretty Christian

      • Fisherman

        IT depends on what you read/watch. Both the anime and the manga are rife with theology and philosophy and moral/ethical ideals. Much like in the Lord of the Rings, not one character represents Christ, but every single one has a Christ-like quality. But, ya, I kind of want to write a book on the Christianity of FMA.

        • sindarintech

          Well, that’s largely because Japanese writers can’t come up with their own ideas and find that regurgitating Western themes help make their stories more readily consumable by their targeted Western market.

          • Fisherman

            Which is why so many moms think Japanime is Satanic. But, hey, at least Studio Ghibli is keeping it classy.

          • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_KDQFQTMD56CJAKMLXRFYUDNCPQ Montague

            I personally think that the Japanese culture is so close to the gospel – and its frustrating that not enough people understand well enough to minister effectively to them. It is so painful!

            For example, why do those ridiculous, repetitive, and often painfully bad jump comics KEEP GETTING READ? I have a slight hunch, that everyone wants too see a community where foes become friends, diversity is not crushed, where evil is fought bravely and vanquished, and the world saved. CUE THE CHURCH! CUE THE CHURCH! GET IN THERE, XAVIER IS LONELY!

            BTW I am a great fan of Miyazaki, and am planning to my Junior Poesis/thesis paper on Miyazaki and Tolkien: True Fairie Tales. Though worlds apart, many of the things they say and employ are freakishly similar.

            PS Any Christian interested in Japan should read Bushido!!!! Not just anime or stuff.

          • Fisherman

            An essay on Miyazaki AND Tolkien? You sir or madam win an internet

        • http://www.facebook.com/people/David-A-Carlson/100001401488797 David A. Carlson

          I would read it.

        • Brian Westley

          (Two months late, but whatever)…

          You seem to equate moral/ethical ideals with your religion, which would make ANY character in ANY story acting morally/ethically as being a Christ-story. Which is ridiculous.

      • Penny Farthing1893

        SPOILERS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

        Actually the way they go beyond equivalent exchange, plus the way they destroy and sometimes redeem the homuculi is pretty Christian-ish. Also, what Truth tells Homunculus at the end after he is beaten, about how he basically condemned himself with his own defiance is a much better take on damnation than most literature. And then there’s Mustang’s plan, the way past sins and the thirst for revenge are overcome, etc. Basically everything that happens in the last twelve episodes or so, where many characters exhibit Christ-like qualities and virtues. Even if it not specifically Christian, being from Japan, it has really good morals. By the way, if you’re going to watch FMA, make sure it’s “Brotherhood”, not the other anime version. HUGE difference.

        • Fisherman

          I read the series, and watched both the animes. I know my FMA.

        • http://www.facebook.com/people/David-A-Carlson/100001401488797 David A. Carlson

          The first anime didnt really stick to the manga plot, or so Im lead to believe since I havent fully read the manga, but I suggest watching it with a grain of salt. It does get into some points that brotherhood and the manga didnt. Brotherhood may be canon, but if you watch the first anime, simply remove from your mind (as impossible as that may be to do) the parts from the first anime that arent in line with brotherhood and keep the parts that merely expand on the original story.
          Also, I never thought of FMA as a Christ story, but it does make sense now that I think about it.

          • Penny Farthing1893

            Yeah I liked the first anime as it’s own thing, but I like Brotherhood better. And not just because it follows the manga either – I just think the longer, more complex story is awesome. I highly recommend both though.

    • Annony11

      While I respect your opinion of Twilight (particularly the writing) IF you have read the books, I am at a complete loss as to how it is comparable to birth control and abortion. In fact, for a series that stresses abstinence before marriage and then shows various characters having a change of heart after contemplating abortion, the comparison is, quite frankly, absurd.

      And who was comparing Bella to Mary?

      If you (and Marc) have read the books, then I respect your opinion and right to dislike the books. Personally, I find the writing pitiful but the story engaging — when I want mindless entertainment. If I want to read something substantial, this is not what I choose. For the beach or a rainy day, however, sometimes it’s perfect. If you haven’t read the books then it’s hard to see why anyone should take seriously an uninformed opinion.

      • Fisherman

        I recommend you take a look around this website to find how damaging abortion and birth control are to women. Also, while kudos for Ms. Meyer for advocating abstinence, she is advocating as a way for Edward to not hurt Bella, and not for the sanctification of sex. And then when they do have sex, Edward causes Bella physical pain, desanctifying it even more. And, yes, having sex can be a physically painful process, but not to the degree that Belward have. Also, if Edward is “dead” then how does he have sperm and impregnate Bella? More desanctification. Meyers is not treating sex with respect: she treats it as first as a barrier that Bella and Edward must over come and a form of torture that must also be defeated, by Bella becoming a vampire. The message has nothing to do with marriage , abstaining, and sex, it has to do with unfair conformity and manipulation. I hoped you enjoyed my made up and mispelled words.

        I was comparing Bella to Mary.

        It’s funny that you should mention reading Twilight at the beach, because that’s where I read Twilight. On the beautiful shores of Lake Michigan. But I was distracted by how awful it was that I couldn’t enjoy it.

        • Annony11

          Thank you for your kind suggestion that I read this website for more information about birth control and abortion. The fact is, I have been reading it for months and fully agree with everything written on the horrors of both. What I still do not see is how you consider Twilight to be as damaging. Saying that a book is as bad as mass murder seems extreme even if you don’t like or agree with it (the book).

          I realized that you were comparing Bella to Mary but the way it was worded seemed to be a response to someone else doing it first.

          • Fisherman

            Just to be sure, are you being sarcastic when you say “kind” or are you sincere? It’s just hard to tell on the internet. I’m going for sincere, in which case, your welcome, you’re a wonderfully polite person.

            You’re right. I was in the heat of the moment and Twilight is probably not as bad as abortion. But a lot of the elements in the story are still unhealthy for women. I have teenage cousins who laud Twilight and think Edward is the bees knees and only hate Bella because she is the force getting between them and their super-smexy vampire man-boy. For the girls who do like Bella, they place her on a pedestal as a female role model. Bella is one of the last women on this earth that I would want as a role model. Also, this:

            http://www.mylifeistwilight.com/top

            That is the link to the top 100, but most of the rest is crazy too. And of course there are going to be a few nuts for every fandom (for instance, if there was a My Life is Lord of the Rings, I’d probably have something to post everyday), but the Twilight fandom seems a little insane. Not insane like the Star Trek or Harry Potter fandom, which can get really weird sometimes, but like a cult, insane. Am I sounding any clearer?

          • Annony11

            I’ll go for half and half with the “kind” .. it was a good suggestion but the way you presented it (intentionally or not) came across as “you poor, uninformed, Twilight-loving heathen, let me educate you on the horrors of abortion.”

            I notice you say that Twilight is “probably not as bad as abortion” which still implies that it may be.

            With your reasoning, any love story (or story which includes a love story) could be unhealthy for women. Personally, I’m much more attracted to Georg von Trapp than to Edward Cullen … is it any healthier for me to wish that I could take Maria’s place? Saying that girls like Bella as a role model may be true in some cases. However, the vast majority, I would expect, like the fact that she was a “normal, awkward, high school girl” just like them. They relate to her and, in some ways, live vicariously through, all the while knowing that it is fantasy and could never happen in real life. That’s no different from watching Cinderella and wishing a fairy godmother would show up so they could fall in love with Prince Charming.

            Finally, about the link. All of those type of sites (FML, MLIA, etc.) attract the extremists. I have no doubt that there are fangirls/boys obsessed with any other fictional work to the same degree. Perhaps not as many, but just as strongly. In fact, you’ve already proven my point by stating that if it were about LotR you would be posting daily.

        • http://www.facebook.com/people/David-A-Carlson/100001401488797 David A. Carlson

          Something I have wondered about in the recently released latest Twighlite movie is how she can be empregnated by a vampire. Anne Rice solves this problem simply, vampires cant empregnatte humans. But this is where the legend of the Dhampir comes in. If vampires cant empregnate humans, how do Dhampirs come to be? http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dhampir

        • Matt Kennedy

          You claim to have read the books, but you obviously didn’t pay attention while reading as Edward specifically says he doesn’t want to have sex before marriage because of the moral imperative to save sex until marriage. The book also explains how he impregnated Bella (vampire venom replaces all bodily fluids, including sperm).

  • Morgan

    Although I’m a fan of Eragon, you’re right: Middle Earth over Alagaesia all day errday.

  • John Mcnichol

    Loved this! We’re having a tongue-in-cheek parody of the Twilight thing over at my blog these days, re. who the fans want Gilbert to be married to by the end of the series. :)

    Looking forward to a review on the YCC one of these days…;)

    My big question: With all this wonderful writing, when do you find time to study? :D

    John McNichol

  • http://twitter.com/PHoelscher17 Patrick Hoelscher

    How disappointing was the Paolini’s series! It could have had such potential, but instead… we got 4 books of crap.

  • N0BAMA 2012

    ‘Nuff said.

  • Smwbmpfjm

    Thank you. The rush to recreate all of history and literature with zombies and vampires as a way of “modernizing and sexing it up” –see Abe Lincoln Vampire Hunter –the movie coming, is part of the inability in the modern world to believe in actual creativity, actual real world building and word building. Lazy thinking and retelling to turn the pure cynical and make every beast a beauty is what relativism must do…except they can’t quite bring themselves to do it completely. They let Gaston fall to his death rather than be transformed into a beast to repeat the process of growing and maturing and learning to earn love. Some are more worth saving than others…

    WhenI read the first book –the only one I did, I wanted to sing, “Some day, my prince of darkness will come….” because all this is, is My boyfriend’s dead and you’re gonna be in trouble…

  • http://spikeisbest.blogspot.com/ Paul Stilwell

    “Straying from artistic form is a good and valuable exercise. But in order for it to be good, it requires knowledge of and grounding within that form. T.S. Eliot’s Waste Land worked, not because he said “all traditional poetry is enslaved and embarrassingly trite and I WILL BREAK FREE FROM THE PATRIARCHY!” but because he was grounded in poets like Dante. It is the recognition of a form that makes form-breaking possible.”

    You’re confusing artistic form with symbology. Symbology is the intrinsic mode through which an artist gives form. Eliot brought about a new form; he was not breaking or twisting symbols.

  • http://twitter.com/QDefenestration Rob

    Meyer isn’t to blame for this shift. On again off again pseudo-catholic Ann Rice is. She is the one who really popularized vampires as sympathetic, leading characters. (If you think her books are niche or not that well known, walk into your local barnes and noble and see what is sitting next to dickens and crichton in their leatherbound classics section. They’re insanely influential in genre fiction, just they didn’t catch on with teenage girls.)

    But that’s neither here nor there. I’m not certain that there is as direct a correlation between moral relativism and the transformation of monsters into protagonists as you think.

    Let’s start by looking at Stoker. Vampires are not metaphors for simple pure evil, or the demonic. They are a corrupting sexualized force. They’re far less the demons in Dante’s hell, and far more the damned souls that appear as grotesque versions of their former selves. Lucy’s interaction with Dracula is portrayed almost like he’s rufeeing her. It is constant imagery of perverted seduction or rape, and when the darkness finally consumes her, she rises up as a weird version of her former self. Her own weirdly sexual deviancies here involve her stalking children, seducing them into a weird game where she can prey on them night after night. She is not an abstract evil force here- Lucy has previously been an extremely innocent, silly girl with multiple suitors whose mind is constantly on marriage. It is darkly reflected in her vampiric state. When she’s staked, she returns to her previous image. It’s like they kill the sexual perversion, and she can rest peacefully in her salvation.

    I should also quickly note that when dracula first shows up, before the reader would have even originally known he was a vampire, he’s pretty much a creepy old stalker/ pervert. He’s got hair all over his palms, a sign of masturbation, and he tells the three sisters essentially that they cannot seduce Jonathan, as he is going to take him for himself. Dracula isn’t just rape or seduction, he’s all out abandon of sexual boundaries.

    The metaphor today of the vampire is still one very sexual. Let’s skip the Anne Rice and go straight to Buffy. Angel is very much the kind of vampire you’re saying is linked to moral relativism. In the cosmology of Buffy, they way vampires work is very simple: a dude dies and his corpse gets possessed by a demon. With Angel it gets more complicated- after years of pillaging of raping, the vampire Angelus gets cursed with the reinstitution of his previously separated human soul. The demon is still there, the demon is still objectively evil (it is, in fact, the most terrifying and effective villain of the show’s seven seasons, plus the spinoff’s five), but now Angel, the human person, has to spend centuries keeping that demon in check. The viewer isn’t asked to ever identify with the demon, not told “now now, silly you for placing your moral judgements on someone different!” He is told that in this protagonist exists a huge burden of sin and temptation and to ever give in is an ultimate evil.
    The sexual connotations of the monster remain- basically, if angel, the man, ever sleeps with a woman he loves, the demon de facto takes control and there is nothing he can do to stop it.

    Do you see what that means for the modern, protagonist vampire? He is someone burdened with the extreme desire to break sexual boundaries, but must constantly choose against that tendency in order to live a morally good life. (Angel’s story come to a culmination at the end of his own series, where for an entire season all the other characters keep seeing his actions as him giving up the good fight, and taking ends-justify-the-means actions up as daily behavior. The big twist is, psych, no, the main character still believes in objective morality and will follow that morality even though it means his own death).

    This vampire-myth is something that modern society deeply needs. It’s the catholic church’s stance on sexual morality but with fangs!

    It even penetrates Twilight, horrible as Meyer’s writing may be. The first book/ movie climaxes with Edward being forced to put himself in the line of temptation, and maintain a superhuman amount of will to refrain from giving in (and draining Bella). The central vampires are a lone group who choose to live with their affliction in morally healthy, if extremely difficult ways, unless the rest of the depicted vampiric society, who just give in to their affliction with no moral concern.

    I’m sorry sir, just as a fellow with (I think given the contents of your excellent blog), similar interests in the modern world, you are mistaken in your negativity toward the newer conceptions of the vampire figure. I definitely think Twilight has problems, moral problems at that, but it’s got nothing to do with the central conceit.

    • Penny Farthing1893

      Well said, especially the analysis of Lucy Westenra. Although Anne Rice did mess up Vampire books by making vampires sexy (as opposed to coruptingly sexual) at least she never made it seem as though being a vampire was a picnic. That’s my beef with how Edward and Bella’s relationship turns out – they give in and it’s awesome (yes, they are married but they are also vampires, and there is never the idea that perhaps marriage as a rightly-ordered sexual expression redeemed their situation. It just magically works out, due to bad writing.

      I like your point about the modern vampire protagonist, like Angel. That story is pretty well done. Mitchell in Being Human goes through the same sorts of struggles, trying to live up to his moral principles and retain his humanity in the face of his thirst, pressure from other vampires, etc. He fails a few times, but he is a really interesting character, and it really makes you root for him to stay strong.

      • http://twitter.com/QDefenestration Rob

        I’ve heard so many great things about the UK being human (and pretty good things about the new US being human), it’s definitely on my list to check out this year.

        • Penny Farthing1893

          I only watched the US one a little, and it seems like they rush through the story, packing about 2 UK seasons into one. Also there is *even more* sex and violence in the US one. But like I said, I haven’t seen enough of it to judge.

  • Martynwendell

    Sigh… yes, Twilight sucks, and to say so at this point in the game is banal. But the reasons for its being crap are not the ones you give, if I understand you correctly.

    For one, isn’t it a little ironic to argue for timeless moral essentialism through literary types that are themselves inescapably relative to, contingent upon, and conditioned by the context in which they were produced, and the changing contexts in which they have developed? The examples you gave – vampires, werewolves – are tropes that have been shaped and developed over time, deployed in good and bad ways. A new moment in history requires literary symbols to be translated, interpreted to respond to the change after the dust has settled. These symbols are indexed to human self-understanding, which is itself indexed to history, and they are therefore partially (partially!) contingent human constructions. (It doesn’t have to be all or nothing, regardless of whether extreme oppositions are easier to understand and accept or repudiate than moderate positions.)

    Can’t we say that there’s a place for literature with a clear moral perspective (Lord of the Rings, the Chronicles of Narnia), in which the primary existential question has to do with mustering the courage to do what’s right, but also that there’s a place for literature that is morally ambiguous to the core? The second sort of book is reflective of our day and age, which is the context in which truth of any kind is meaningful to us, historical creatures that we are. Morally ambiguous literature offers one way of posing legitimate questions about making sense of a world in which numerous moral frameworks present themselves as arbiters of the truest truth, which is the world we find ourselves. The primary existential question is moved back a step: the courage to do what is right requires a ground to first be established that will enable a character to know what is right in the first place. It’s not that there is no “objective moral structure;” it’s that there are a bunch of different moral structures that all brand themselves as The One.

    As a person of faith, I find it bracing to open myself to a more equivocal authorial perspective in fiction; it’s helpful for refining my own moral commitments and outlook. I’d rather be challenged than not—a desire to be stretched is one of the best reasons for picking up a book in the first place, I’d argue—and beyond the exemplars that you mentioned (Tolkien, Lewis), it’s tough to find authors who are able to deliver the hard-won pleasures of serious fiction while also maintaining a univocal moral perspective through a univocal moral universe. Less brilliant writers with similar values to those of Tolkien and Lewis inevitably fall into the trap of didacticism, which is as sure a way to excellence-proof a book as there ever was.

    Your characterization of “subjectivism” is reductive and simplistic. There are many ways of appreciating the irreducibly “relative” and “subjective” aspects of belief without categorically sacrificing all beliefs’ claims to truth; Charles Taylor has a great piece on this (“Explanation and Practical Reason,” if memory serves) that helps to make sense of maintaining belief in something, even a comprehensive set of somethings, without playing the very modern game of claiming absolute certainty, or absolute anything.

    I’m also hard-pressed to come up with the worldview that is “relativism,” apart from the vulgar “postmodern” outlook only taken seriously by evangelical youth pastors trying to figure out why their students keep reneging on their purity pledges. There is, admittedly, an inarticulate self-understanding in pop-culture that will justify any choice so long as it’s “sincerely intended,” but if this shriveled intellectual descendent of a couple of the more soft-headed children of Nietzsche is what you’re after, please let us know, rather than using a clutch of hot-button words that lack clear referents. It pulls the rug right out from under your analysis.

    I think Meyer’s appropriation of vampires for her story without respect for their literary history is among her lesser crimes against literature and art generally. Why can’t her terrible prose, one-note characters, and insidious sexual politics—certainly giving a passive and agency-bereft bent to the romantic dreams of a generation of girls—be enough to qualify Twilight as a rotten series? Mourning the passing of an age in which a society could exist within a clear, shared cosmological horizon, and attaching this epochal nostalgia to the turdy quality of a set of books that everyone agrees to be trash (which, it bears remembering, is not a modern invention; pulp fiction came into existence at the moment the novel was born, and our literary forebears were perhaps only better at cleaning up after themselves, which would account for Shakespeare remaining in print while the Meyers of his day has been consigned to the dustbin of history) seems a little capricious to me.

    • Martynwendell

      By the way, I should say I do enjoy your blog a great deal. I have only really taken issue with this post so far; the rest has been unflaggingly entertaining and sharp. In general, keep up the good work!

  • http://www.facebook.com/john.j.osullivan John J. O’Sullivan

    Free love is another party for the hippies to ruin.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_KDQFQTMD56CJAKMLXRFYUDNCPQ Montague

    I’ve not really read HP, but if nothing else, I can at the very least know how much better HP is than Twilight, because it takes “Dear Reader – Wizard People” to mock the movie of Harry, while Twilight… doesn’t… need and extraneous commentary to be an absolute farce. A sad farce.

    Anyway, Well played. And Tolkien Rocks because he wrote A REAL Epic, as in the league for proper use of the word epic real epic. Because he read old books. And knew words were important.

    And Paolini just… just sucks. The only good that came of me reading it, was that now I can mock it with more interest. He steals the IMAGE of Tolkien, without understanding the SUBSTANCE. Seems fair and feels foul. Btw, the plot line is like Starwars.

    (Satisfied for now with vented rage, he presses the post button)

  • Christy

    Good Chestertonian argument Marc! It’s a true story with Twilight and it speaks to how sad our culture has become with its popularity.

    • Gina

      My thoughts exactly — good Chestertonian argument!

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=730520187 Aaron Lopez

    Yep, new reader here. Loving your blog!

  • Jane Hartman

    The “thing” about Twilight – Yes, one has to sort of believe in the idea of vampires and werewolves. And yes, they are considered “evil” in our eyes. But the relativism about making evil good and good evil, I see only part way. The vampire in the story is living a chaste life, if you will by not giving in to his “feelings” and his normal nature. The werewolf in the story is trying to live with a nature that would put to death anything that makes him angry. Both of these “evil” creatures with evil natures are working to do just the opposite. Edward, the vampire, will do anything he can to protect Bella, even giving his life. He will not destroy her innocence. Jacob, the werewolf, will do anything to protect Bella as well, but he hates Edward and would love to kill him and the baby born to Bella (after Edward and Bella were married) but he is working against his “evil” nature, too by loving the child. While I can see superficially this looks like some big romance novel dealing with the occult, the messages that are coming through from these characters are giving us a message of self-sacrifice and loving others as ourselves. With every movie these days filled with filthy language, profane sex scenes, and culturally driven agendas, the Twilight series is just the opposite. Beautiful filming, lovely photography, and a message that while it is tricky, is still is counter-cultural in its portrayal of loving others more than oneself. I wasn’t wanting to like the books or the movie, at first, and I’m still not a fan. But I see the redemptive point, and I would much rather my young son or daughter see these movies than most other R-rated crap put out by Hollywood.

    • AHLondon

      I second the redemption point. I agree with the problems of moral relativism and agree that it has brought about a change in how traditionally evil beings are used in literature. Often that is a problem as the beings are treated as another version of good, but that isn’t what Meyer did. She, like Buffy before her, used the inherently evil nature of vamps to highlight the struggle for redemption. Vamps in Buffy and Twilight are simply more starkly fallen. Note too, that in both cases it is only certain vamps that strive for good, Angel and Spike and the Cullens. Because of the evil nature of typical vamps, their struggle for redemption is an exaggerated version of ours.

    • Ave Maria

      I haven’t read any of the Twilight books but I did see the latest movie with a friend who’s obsessed with the books and one thing that really stuck out was how pro-life it ended up being. Bella insisted on keeping the baby that was most likely going to kill her and they referred to it as a “baby” and when anyone else tried to refer to it as something other than a baby, the point was made a few times that it was a “baby” and not some “thing.” Anytime the point is driven home that what’s growing in a woman’s womb is a “baby” I think that’s a good thing to get into people’s subconscious.

  • Lily

    Although we must remember that you can take a good twist on a generally evil creature and do it well. In some legends, for instance, St. George doesn’t kill the dragon, but actually converts it! In other stories, people make distinctions between Dragons, Wyrms, Serpents, etc, with varying degrees of good and evil. In other-other stories, dragons are prone to greed, but can overcome this inclination by espousing generosity (and I have officially outed myself as a pegasister :P)

    I think it’s okay to take a symbol and do your own thing with it as long as you still admit that good and evil exist and take into account how this might affect a zombie, vampire, werewolf etc (like, if the author stops to consider if said creature has free will or not, rather than just ignoring the issue) and that you don’t completely through out the source material (as Twilight does with both Vampires and Werewolves.)

    • Penny Farthing1893

      I totally thought of that episode too! It’s especially lovely that Rarity reminds Spike of his own generosity and thus saves him from his greed. Each of us, of course, has a vice we are prone too, and can choose virtue. Brohoof!

      • Fisherman

        BROHOOFS FOR EVERYONE! THE FUN HAS BEEN DOUBLED!

  • Elizabeth

    This is good — I really like your commentary on these books from a more artistic perspective of literature; however, I strongly recommend Michael O’Brien’s moral analysis of modern literature, specifically Harry Potter and Twilight. You say a few similar things in this post, but he warns against the intentional twisting of good and evil. While it definitely merits higher artistic value, it is far more dangerous, especially when wrapped in a children’s book. I’m not an overly cautious or sheltered person, and I was on the fence about Harry Potter. After reading O’Brien’s analysis, my kids definitely won’t be reading it…and that goes for Twilight too! Now Tolkien, Lewis, and many other great authors are always welcome in my house. You are right, though, that Harry Potter is far more interesting than Twilight, and it precisely because Rowling twists good and evil in disturbing ways.

    The book: “Harry Potter and the Paganization of Culture” by Michael O’Brien.

    • http://twitter.com/PersistentSeekr Rick

      Elizabeth — I would suggest you read John Granger’s How Harry Cast His Spell. He’s a conservative Eastern Orthodox father of seven who read the first HP book so he could tell his kids why it was demonic and they weren’t allowed. After reading it, he realized that it was highly Christian. The notion that HP is about the (non-substitutionary) death of Christ is pretty mistaken, I think.

  • http://twitter.com/Twilight_Site Twilight News Site

    Um, it doesn’t look like you actually read “Twilight.” Good heavens, man!

    Twilight posits that, as immortal beings, we have the potential to become more “god-like,” “heavenly,” and “angelic” — all qualities frequently attributed to the Cullen family. The Cullens won’t kill humans, but suppress their carnal desires to live lives based on sacrificial love. Breaking with vampire tradition is specifically done to underscore that potential for mankind.

    Meanwhile, a group of vampires — who have created a false, assumptive papacy in Italy, the Volturi — represent the evil that enters society through selfish carnality.

    The delineation between good and evil in Twilight’s two groups of heroes and villains couldn’t be clearer.

    Further, the Volturi’s chief defense — that killing humans for their blood is “natural” for vampires — is actually rooted in moral equivocation, which is something you rightly resent. Yet Stephenie Meyer vociferously agrees, as the Volturi’s equivocations are attacked and disproven again and again and again.

    Bella is a very human girl, who sees these two great potentials for good and evil for mankind — immortality consigned as angel or devil, which will she choose? She sides specifically with truth and moral goodness, sacrificing her own selfish desires, and places herself at great peril to help those around her overcome evil, sorrow, and their own sinful natures.

    This isn’t even metaphorical, as she frequently engages in direct discussions over the worth of one’s immortal soul, and the need to avoid “temptation” — in a way that I simply can’t recall coming across in a recent popular novel that isn’t actually about religious matters.

    I applaud your disdain for moral relativism. But your chosen target of Twilight is misplaced. Best wishes.

    • Gulo

      Your read “Twilight” by Stephanie Meyer, right? Published first in 2005? Not sure we’re thinking about the same book.
      Being a vampire in these books is not glorified as a more god-like state of being. If that were so, the Cullens would be converting people as fast as was inhumanly possible. If that were so, Edward would have let Bella become a vampire through James’ bite in the first book, instead of waiting around for three more protesting. The vampires are portrayed as monsters, they struggle not to harm of kill people. They’re not angels. They’re devils struggling not be devils. But you forget that these words are almost always used in the context of referring to the Cullen family’s /appearance/. They’re pretty devils. Edward does not want Bella to be a vampire, he does not want her to live the ‘life’ he leads because it is empty and cold and forever.
      Bella only wants to be a vampire because she wants to live with her sex-god Edward for eternity. She has a nightmare in the second book about growing old while he remained young forever. I don’t think your defense of the book makes much sense, or perhaps you read it a little differently than I did.

      • Penny Farthing1893

        Yeah, the vampires pay lip service to the idea that it’s awful to be a monster, and they don’t want to turn people. Edward doesn’t want to turn Bella, he warns her blah blah blah. She decides to be a vampire anyway, and it turns out to be awesome! She looks and feels better than ever, she’s with Edward, happily ever after, etc. None of the stuff Edward said seems to be true for her. I will chalk this up to bad writing and to Bella being a Mary Sue to whom the story’s own internal rules do not apply, but it does seem to muddle the message. It turns out not to be empty or cold, and it’s forever! If Meyer wanted have that ending, she should have had it all seem OK, but then the last sentence should be about Bella’s sudden THIRST!!!! I admit, I like Twilight Zone style twist endings though….

        Being Human (UK version) and even Anne Rice can get that right – conceding for the moment that a vampire could retain human feelings such as love, it would always be at odds with its bloodlust/rage/resentment (or hatred of the living and of God to the point that it actually wants to drag others as close to hell as it can – that is why vampires would actually turn people, not because they lonely (although I suppose hell is supreme, self-inflicted loneliness)). The drama in the story ought to be about whether the vampire loves someone enough not to condemn them, and what an act of sacrificial love would do to such a creature (it might make it “die”, since it would break its vampireness). People often say that Bella’s love makes it all OK, but it really seems as though they both get to have their cake and eat it too.

    • sindarintech

      Oh brother… now the freaks start coming out of the woodwork. How *anyone* can discuss Meyers’ books with any modicum of seriousness, ignoring the fact that they’re a perfect example of how BAD WRITING can make someone fantastically rich, makes me lose hope in the potential of humanity.

      Unfortunately, even mentioning the books within the context of a blog post gives them far more credibility for quality than they’ll ever deserve. The pathetic reality of marketing in the U.S. (for both books and film) is that they are pandering to the money held by parents of tween-aged girls who have been brought up largely to have no taste and are solely motivated by stories appealing to their hormones. What’s sickening is how even women in their 30s and 40s fawn all over the male lead ‘actors’… no matter how bad of an ‘acting’ job they do.

      • Fisherman

        While I agree with you sindarintech, let’s try to use our nice words, ok? The Twilight News Site are/is not freaks- they are beautiful children of Jesus just like you and me, but with a poor choice in literature/toilet paper.

      • http://twitter.com/QDefenestration Rob

        You do realize that seriously discussing a piece of literature and deeming it good literature are two very different things, right?

        Twilight News Site’s reading of Meyer’s stance on moral relativism is extremely clear to anyone who has had any interaction whatsoever with the source material.

        The fact that you and I think that said stance is expressed through poor fiction changes nothing.

    • Gail Finke

      Sounds to me, based on that analysis, as if Stephanie Meyer wrote a romance based on a Mormon understanding of reality (we have the potential to become more ‘god-like’ etc.). Which would hardly be surprising. The Mormon understanding of reality agrees with the Christian understanding in many ways, and departs from them in others. I suppose, if this analysis is correct, that what you get out of the Stephanie Meyer worldview depends on how seriously you take it and how well grounded you are in your own world view.

      I only read part of the first one and, while hardly Pulitzer Prize material, it didn’t seem to me to be particularly badly written. She can write the pants off Dan Brown, whose works are FAR dumber. A lot of popular novels are really bad.

  • http://sassysoulfulandsingle.blogspot.com/ Juno

    Can you be serious? I mean really, to imply that Catholic Church ever bothered to develop a conception of vampires (and one as simplistic as vampires=evil?) I’m just saying. I have to raise the baloney flag here. Don’t you think that you, like many Twilight fanatics all over the world, are taking vampires (and your own opinion) just a little too seriously?

    The series is popular because it is imaginative, the characters have super powers and the tension between Bella’s loyalty to her dad’s friends (the Quilette tribe) and her romantic interest’s family (the Cullens) makes for an interesting story. Throw some crazy Voluturi in the mix and you got yourself an entertaining read. I don’t see the need to decry a book because there isn’t a super virtuous hero fighting against the external forces of evil. It’s primarily a story about relationships, family loyalty and wrestling with the desire to possess a beloved but also wanting the best thing for that person. It’s a different kind of story. I wouldn’t say that makes it morally ambiguous. The characters seem to be aware of good and evil and make choices in accordance with altruistic notions.

    I think it’s a guy thing to think that a story must have characters who either have black hats or white hats and it’s a girl thing to have a story about relationships. Guys may arge that stories about relationships violate some impearative rule that all novels must obey in that there must never be a lack of white or black hats but in all reality its just opinion. In the end don’t you think that taking your opinion (particularly regarding a silly story about vampires) and making it seem like its some universal truth is the most relativistic thing of all? I mean I think there’s a real danger in not being able to separate facts from opinion. I like the Twilight series, yes, but in the end I’m honest about my like for it. It’s an entertaining read and nothing more. BTW Harry Potter is an utter yawn and does not deserve comparisons to the likes of a Tale of Two Cities and whether you want to admitt it or not is in the same league as Twilight.

    • Elizabeth

      THANK YOU! Yes, yes, and more yes, Juno.

      “I mean I think there’s a real danger in not being able to separate facts from opinion” — You are right, Juno, this is the very heart of relativism, and the original poster swan-dives directly into it.

      Marc, do you honestly discount all forms of relativity? You are a living, breathing example of it. All of our so-called truths grow from the roots of our experience. The way we interpret the world is defined by the culture which shaped us, our environment, even down to the language we speak.

      • Elizabeth

        (Just a note: I am a very different Elizabeth from the one who posted below about not letting her kids read Harry Potter. Content probably makes that obvious, but just in case.)

    • Penny Farthing1893

      The Catholic Church never developed any conception of vampires officially since they are (hopefully!) imaginary creatures. However, the imagery and symbolism of Catholicism is all over vampire lore. Don’t forget, also, that most vampire legends actually came from older pagan beliefs in Eastern Europe, and like all pagan legends, Christians and their beliefs shaped and embellished them into new traditions over the years. The idea of taking a vampire’s blood and gaining a sick perversion of “eternal life” is a post-Christian conversion of those legends, an obvious corruption of the Eucharist. Originally, they were just the life-sucking spirits of people who had died badly or committed suicide. Vampires as we now know them were indeed shaped by Catholicism.

      And speaking as a girl, if the people in the relationships in a story do not have black hats and white hats, the story tends to be boring…. although the best thing is when a black hat gets swapped for a white one.

      • http://sassysoulfulandsingle.blogspot.com/ Juno

        Yes, good points about the history of vampire imagery and relating it to the corruption of the Eucharist. But I still think Catholic dogma/doctrine and vampire symbolism should really be thought of and discussed in two different realms entirely. I guess I just came away from the article thinking that if I didn’t hate Twilight I was being corrupted. But in the end, most readers should approach all the things that they read with a critical eye.

        Didn’t mean to overgeneralize about the types of stories but I guess I did. Of course most people like the black hat/white hat kind of story.

        • Penny Farthing1893

          No worries. I get pretty intense when I (over)analyze literature too, but I can see why people like to read Twilight for fun, even though it’s not my thing.

    • http://twitter.com/QDefenestration Rob

      The types of fiction a culture embraces are most definitely important, and how our concepts of horror develop are *incredibly* important, for they reveal and further morph exactly what it is that we determine to be repulsive.

      Also, “taking your opinion and making it seem like its universal truth” (meaning, making the claim that what you believe is actually objective) is kind of the opposite of being relativistic.

      • http://sassysoulfulandsingle.blogspot.com/ Juno

        I never said that the type of fiction our culture embraces isn’t important. I did say that people make too much of it and Mrs. Meyers’ religious values are all very present in the series, she clearly writes from a standpoint of how things ought to be, she promotes ideasl and convictions through her characters choices/actions. So I don’t see how its morally relativistic.

        I’ve never heard anyone arge that our concepts of horror are important for the development of moral life (or whatever you were arguing). I don’t think it’s necessary to expose children to horrific images. I didn’t watch horror films when I was a child and I still have the capacity to be repulsed by inhumane acts. Even more so, I think, than if I would have been exposed to all sorts of violent images from horror movies or dracula films. So I guess I just don’t get what you’re saying with that. A focus on the horrific seems to operate from a fear-based mentality which can be taken too far and actually be a barrier to true joy.

        I think you misunderstood my point about opinion and relativism. Or maybe I was just confusing terms. But what the author seems to do is to take his opinions and act like its the Catholic Church’s teaching. He has no right to say what the Catholic conception of anything is unless its based on a firm grounding of scripture and tradition. No such thing exists regarding vampires.

        • http://twitter.com/QDefenestration Rob

          Oh, I totally agree that Twilight isn’t relativistic at all.

          I’m sorry I was unclear about my point on horror- I’m not speaking about individual development through childhood, but speaking about how our *culture* as a whole develops. That the popular fiction of a time period both represents and shifts general thought is something that is pretty universally accepted; that the genre of horror is revealing of what we consider taboo or immoral is also pretty established.

          Anyway, I agree that undue amounts of violent or frightening imagery being consumed by children is not a good thing.

          So I agree with your first two points. It’s with your last that we differ. If you look at his previous posts you’ll see that this blog has a fantastic grounding in scripture and tradition.

          Scripture and tradition provide a framework and mindset to which literature can run contrary, even if that piece of literature contains no explicit statements of heresy. If it is implied that there is no objective good or objective evil, that work is contrary to a truly catholic mentality. Tales about monsters are inherently about morality and humanity in some way, and so its totally fair to approach a work about vampires and ask whether that work implies an objective or subjective morality. Again, I think Marc’s reading of Twilight is wrong; but it’s most definitely not wrong to say that a work of literature which promotes moral relativism is contrary to the faith, or that traditional vampire tales (which evolved through a catholic culture, as Penny noted) are inherently Catholic works.

  • 7th Pillar

    Literalism, like Fundamentalism is the source of all idiocy. “Vampires, dragons, werewolves, zombies” are never presented as Literal beings, they are symbols of what each of us face within ourselves during a single lifetime (of many). Life if full of folka confusing the map with the location. Do your homework before ranting about things beyond your limited awareness. Hint: The Body of Christ is not a biscuit and the Blood of Christ is neither wine nor grape juice.

  • Katherine Stroud

    I’m just wondering, have you read the Twilight Series, or are you just referring to the films?

  • Anonymous

    Thank you, thank you, good Sir.

  • Lindsey

    It always amuses me when people try to analyze Twilight or Harry Potter who 1) have not read either, or read only one and 2) try to compare them to actual literature. Harry Potter is written for children and Twilight is written for preteen girls. The fact that either series has become such a touchy subject for adults is just embarrassing. Neither one is very well written. Rowling writes like a fifth grader while Meyers at least created enough tension to make the books a quick read. They both would have become a teenage phenomenon and then died out if so many grownups hadn’t gotten involved and tried to compare them to the classics. Don’t worry, neither series will be around in 100 years for you to be upset about.

    And as for moral relativism, both series have a very clear right and wrong. The understanding in Twilight is that vampires are by nature evil (just like people) and that the Cullens are fighting their evil nature. There is actual discussion of whether or not they have souls and are capable of being redeemed. They’re still not great literature, but not because of moral relativism.

    • http://twitter.com/PersistentSeekr Rick

      Rowling hardly writes like a fifth grader. The complexity of both the story and writing evolve as the books progress, almost like a reading course. By the last book she is quoting the Bible, Aeschylus, and William Penn. You have to read the whole series, and probably some commentary, to see just how deep the planning goes.

  • Patrick Ohl

    “I am not annoyed because these books and films represent the perversion of some sacred form. I am annoyed because they suck.”

    There is so much I could say to praise you for saying this, but Orson Welles has already done the best possible job:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=B01o2xtJwgk

  • Anonymous

    I found some of your points very interesting and insightful. But you should check out this interview with Catholic speaker Jason Evert. I found it insightful as well. God bless! http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SWmH8vLZwlE

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100002961276748 Gavin Aendless

    One *could* say that the Twilight franchise is both original and good.

    The problem is simply that the parts that are good are not original, and the parts that are original are not good.

    That, and the fact that Bella and Edward appear to tick several boxes in terms of what professionals would look for in an abusive relationship.

    • http://tonylayne.blogspot.com/ Anthony S. Layne

      Yeah, Samuel Johnson could say that.

  • http://twitter.com/QDefenestration Rob

    Oh and Marc, if you do still disagree, you should know that the traditional vampire metaphor isn’t *completely* dead. Look to recent greats Let the Right One In and the Fright Night remake (with David Tennant!) for excellent Scary Evil Vampires.

  • Donna

    What I don ‘t get is the illustration to the post. I can’t imagine Belle reading the “Twilight” books – I always pictured her as having far better taste.

  • http://www.facebook.com/theresagnes Theresa Noble

    Not really on board with you here Marc. Perhaps it is because I am a girl :)

    http://fsppostulants.blogspot.com/2011/11/breaking-dawn-cotton-candy-for-my-soul.html

    -Theresa

  • BorisG

    Buffy the Vampire SLAYER was also a series aimed at Tweens but with the notable difference that it didn’t suck bcoz she …um…SLAYED them – not fell in love with them – exactly what’s supposed to happen objectively speaking. This is without a doubt why Twilight sucks bcoz it DOES fall prey to what Lewis termed the ‘poison of subjectivism’.Dracula has been hijacked; had his spine and hair removed and is now poster boy for Vampires Anonymous.

    There have been some interesting reviews by other Catholics,though,who have managed to draw out some positive aspects with regards to how relationships are treated in light of The Theology of the Body.
    And sure it is always right & charitable to see the good in things.
    The big problem here though is that Twilight really messes with theological truth at a fundamental Level. Symbolism and physicality is so important here; its why we love LOTR – because good is good and evil is shown to be the perversion of good that it is. A vampire is not just an evil character who might one day come to his senses and do good; it is the Antichrist; the devil himself who’s choice for evil , once made cannot be unmade as it is now fixed for eternity .

    • http://twitter.com/QDefenestration Rob

      The first three seasons of Buffy were explicitly about her falling in love with a vampire, btw.

  • http://twitter.com/PersistentSeekr Rick

    Hey Marc — I really don’t think that werewolves or vampires have to be unsympathetic characters in order for a belief in morality to prevail. I haven’t read Twilight, but HP at least has a sympathetic werewolf character who is pretty central to the story. I don’t think there’s an objectively moral way to write a story; part of the beauty of fiction is that it allows us to explore different perspectives and use imaginary worlds to shed light on our own. Sometimes, that will include stories written from the perspective of a baddie, or which show a baddie in a sympathetic light. Sometimes it won’t. But I don’t think it’s relativistic to say that different moralities in fiction can be profitable without denying that we have moral duties to God and each other.

    Anyway, great blog dude. I’m not Catholic at all and totally disagree with what you write, but you helped me understand the appeal of formalized liturgies to people, which I never have.

  • Anonymous

    The Lord of the Rings series of Books are truly Great Lit. Narnia not quite at that level but very, very good. I couldn’t read past the first ten pages of Rowling, didn’t even bother with Meyer or who ever wrote Twilight. Like the H.P. movies, can’t stand the Twilight flicks. BTW: The Lord of the Flies is one of the Great Christ figure novels, not mentioned.

    I think that, currently, it is subconsciously illegal in society to be too much better than average in the Fine Arts. Heck, it seems to me that it is somehow wrong to publicly be intelligent in today’s society. President Obama is an intellectual? Chris Matthews shapes opinion? Bill Maher is funny? Then look at who the well known visual artists are, Serranno, Ofili, Hirst, Koons, Emin… give me a break. (BTW anime is junk drawing, junk cartooning, low brow mind numbing formulaic junk.) Among musicians, if you can’t play guitar… you may as well play the Bongo’s. Then again I could be wrong… NAH!

  • Hatman

    It’s an interesting argument, but I certainly don’t agree with it. As a moral relativist myself, I would argue that stories about paragons of good and evil are boring; Messiah A beats Demon B, because he is Good and the other guy is Evil. Pure Evil characters are often used to drive a plot (Sauron, Dracula, Grendel, Voldemort and St. George’s dragon all being wonderful examples), but stories employ fewer Pure Good characters – usually protagonists are considered generally good, but flawed, and often wrestle with the choices they’re forced to make. Generally speaking, we like stories about people we can identify with going up against something we can identify as “evil”, in part because to humanize our villains is to deny some satisfaction in their defeat. Darth Vader is a classic bad guy until we learn he’s a human being, trying to reconnect in some way with his estranged son – at which point we seek his redemption over his destruction.

    I agree that Twilight is horrible, but I would argue that they veer more on the side of moral objectivism: in this case, Love is a supernatural force which is objectively Pure and Good, and if it exists between a human and a vampire, or a werewolf, than that’s okay because Love Conquors All. It’s an idiotic moral to a really stupid series; one that, I agree, finds its roots less in any classic monster story and more in the pop perception of the monsters themselves. The series is uninteresting at best, but I’d chalk that up to bad writing more than its moral standpoint.

  • Nicholas Hardesty

    Great post! I added it to my collection of critical reviews of Twilight:
    http://phatcatholic.blogspot.com/2008/12/exposing-twilight-critical-reviews-of.html

  • Gail Finke

    Thank you for writing that Harry Potter is a Christ story! It is not an allegory, per se, but a story about Christianity from the viewpoint of a kid who (like a great many kids these days) knows nothing about Christianity. Christ is not mentioned in the books but Christianity is supposed in the entire story from beginning to end — in a different way from, but in the same tradition as, Catholicism is presupposed in The Lord of the Rings. LOTR is an alternate, pre-Christian history, in which Christ is still the savior of mankind. He hasn’t come yet, but the world is ordered around his future coming. Harry Potter’s world is one in which Christianity is true whether people know it or not. Voldemort is doomed because (spoiler) he is already immortal. He dooms his own soul through sin and through attempting to conquer death. But as Harry finds written on a tombstone (one that he doesn’t understand) the final enemy is death, and it’s not mankind’s enemy, it’s Christ’s. And the end, when (spoiler again) Harry goes to die, is one of the best things I’ve ever read that shows (by analogy) what it meant for Christ to be willing to die, but to not want to die. Harry never wavers in what he does, but he is terrified of it, and his body protests, and he suddenly sees the infinite worth of life and the infinite goodness in the world. Where else are people writing stuff like that? Twilight is nothing more than a fantasy romance novel — there are whole publishing lines devoted to them — that got more popular than all the rest. People are hungry for love and for something more than the material world to be true.

  • http://www.feminismthecatholicfword.blogspot.com/ Christine Dalessio

    Hi. First time reader :) I didn’t get through ALL your many comments (wow!) but I did want to point out, in case others had not, that Meyers is a Mormon. If you read the novels with this knowledge, you can see it – well, perhaps not on every page, but on many – including the idea that Bella’s hunger for marriage overrides her good sense to stay “alive”.
    Alas, it may be a long time until we see another Tolkien (my undergrad thesis focused on his female characters) but Rowling did do a good job, and I believe once we tire of the entertainment of “reality” we may again turn as a culture to the novel idea of depth of imagination, and our human need for the true, good, and beautiful.

  • Morgan

    Not sure if you’re going to respond to this or have already responded, but I’m wondering what your view of Harry Potter is? Your brief comment on how it is a Christ story makes me think that you are pro-HP, but I’m always interested to see what fellow Catholics have to say/think on this topic.

    I have had a few conversations with religious sisters about the series and they are adamantly against the entire concept and series, saying that reading these books will open you up to Satan and that Ms. Rowling said that she didn’t write these books, there was a force outside of her that drove her to write the series (which sounds to me like the drive of a writer’s imagination) and since there are only forces of God and forces of Satan, and HP is not of God then it must be Satanic.

    However, I have also spoken to priests who don’t have an issue with the series…and for the record, I read the books growing up and enjoyed them…was never one to dress up like the characters and wait outside of Barnes and Noble until the opening hour, but I liked them and the message of love and loyalty and good conquering evil.

    So tell me, what do YOU think, Marc?

  • CatholicHipster

    On a pop-culture related note, when I read this article the first thing that came to mind was BadCatholic:

    http://stillsearching.wordpress.com/2009/02/27/are-you-a-christian-hipster/

  • Nessa Lothlomiel

    Basic morality, the kind we learn between the ages of 3 and 5 is universal: don’t steal, don’t lie, don’t cheat and don’t hurt people without provocation. Even wolves live by this code of conduct, as anyone who has ever tried to take a dog’s food, or tried to trick it, or tried to abuse it will know. This is the kind of morality contained in the Golden Rule “do unto others as you would have them do unto you”. This moral compass seems to be entirely absent in Bella, the protagonist of Stephanie Meyer’s novel. She rarely if ever thinks about the consequences of her actions, and has double standards regarding the actions she does and those that others do. Might I point out that Tolkien’s anti-hero Saruman does the exact same thing. Of course it is a bad author who provides no explanation for why characters are bad, and even Tolkien doesn’t fall into this trap (although most people think he does). This is because in Tolkien, the explanation is in another book, namely The Silmarilion which a disappointingly small number of people have read. Even Paolini does not entirely fall into the moral relativism trap, his elves are clearly good guys, even if they are hippies, and Galbatorix, Morzan and in the second half of the cycle Murtagh are clearly bad guys. Eragon, even if he’s an idiot is definitively a good guy as is Brom. Paolini’s problem is that his book falls into the realm of fan-fiction, and crossover fan-fiction at that. He basically combined Star Wars and Lord of the Rings, which doesn’t really work as they are the same story actually. would anyone ask themselves “What would Luke Skywalker do?” no, because Luke, for most of the movies makes really stupid choices, they’d ask themselves “what would be Obi-Wan’s (or Yoda’s) advice”. substitute the name Brom for Obi-Wan (hmmm…they even sound similar) and you’ve got a perfectly good moral guide. In Star Wars you have a modern retelling of the fall of Lucifer, and a hopeful redemption, a modern adaptation of the ending of a medieval Mystery Play. In Lord of the Rings you only get the tale end of this story, the redemption part. Tolkien did write the rest of the story, but that part is in the Silmarilion, which Paolini apparently did not read. If he had read it he would have realized that combining the two stories would be impossible, because they are in fact different parts of the same story. He might also have realized how religious Tolkien’s works are and been inspired to write something similarly spiritual. Instead what he gives us is pieces ripped at random from Tolkien combined with pieces ripped at random from Star Wars that makes no sense whatsoever. However Paolini has neither the perfectionism and epic scale of Tolkien’s works, nor the swagger and nobility of Lucas’ stories. The Shur’tugal lack the dignity of the Rangers and the philosophy of the Jedi. Galbatorix and Morzan lack both the utter disgustingness of Sauron and the pitiablility of Darth Vader or the sadistic cruelty of Darth Sideous. In addition Paolini is guilty unsubtle allegory, and moreover allegory of a culture he knew nothing about. Galbatorix and Morzan are clearly allegories of the punk subculture of the 1980′s, but as viewed by someone from outside that culture who could not possibly have understood it. In addition Paolini is guilty of writing too much (most of Brisingr was unnecessary and could have been summed up in a chapter at the beginning of Inheritance). Now granted, he was only 15 when Eragon was published and therefore we shouldn’t be too hard on him, considering his age it is an impressive piece. However, we should be much harder on Stephanie Meyer, she is after all a grown woman and ought to know better. There’s a difference that she does not seem to appreciate between her work, and that of say J.D. Salinger in which morality is also a little bit murky: Salinger does not set up Holden Caulfield as a role model, he sets him up as a jerk. Salinger is writing a satire, but Meyer is not, or if she intended it to be a satire then it’s a bad one because no one can determine what it is satirizing. Salinger is poking fun at the society of the 1950′s with it’s standardization and conspicuous consumption. What is Meyer making fun of? nothing, not vampires not werewolves and not preteen girls. Now had she written the story of Carlisle Cullen’s (Edward’s “Father”)turning into a vampire that would have been quite a book to read. There you have a moral tale, that deals with moral questions like: does the end justify the means?(i.e. does Carlisle’s love justify his turning Esmé into a vampire?), should an inherently evil being strive to be good (i.e. is nature ever an excuse for evil)? that would have been a good story.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=702410037 Skyler von Enn

    Comparing Tolkien’s elves to Paolini’s elves is like comparing renaissance italians to 1960′s hippies. Some of them were murderous bastards, but most of them achieved feats of monumental beauty and courage. And weren’t hippies and uniteresting to read about.

  • Pat B.

    “Vampires and werewolves — once scary enough to make you convert to Catholicism…” Ahem. “Still scary enough” would be more appropriate. I have a friend who was once a flaming Calvinist who converted after reading Bram Stoker’s Dracula and is now living here – http://www.clearcreekmonks.org/ God bless Bram Stoker.

  • Pat B.

    “Vampires and werewolves — once scary enough to make you convert to Catholicism…” Ahem. “Still scary enough” would be more appropriate. I have a friend who was once a flaming Calvinist who converted after reading Bram Stoker’s Dracula and is now living here – http://www.clearcreekmonks.org/ God bless Bram Stoker.

  • Carrieannebetts

    Love this entry!

  • Random

    Wow, I’m not sure moral relativity has much to do about Twilight, but I agree. When I was a teen, I couldn’t understand my peers’ love of Twilight. Or ,for that matter, why everyone loved Edward. If I let any man treat me the way Bella does Edward, I would be ashamed of myself. I always preferred Vampire Academy or The Mortal Instruments. Not well written now I look back, but it was just what teenaged me wanted. Something better than Twilight.
    The one thing that stupid series can do, however, is unite people. I think the suckyness of Twilight is something all religions can agree upon!

  • Editor

    The Twilight books reflect more damningly on the taste of the reading public than on the cleverness of their author or the literary worth of her creations. The books have little merit, but they are earning fortunes—it seems they are fulfilling their function. The ‘Evil’ that you want to reestablish, however, isn’t the problem with the books or popular literature. The world rarely offers choice between good and evil, because moral relativism is inherent in most actions we undertake. The professional sphere is loaded with subjective choices between lessers of two evils, of collateral effects, unintended results, harm to competitors, etc. Personal relationships, too, are fraught with moral peril, rarely reducible to black and white choices. I might also add that what what you call the Christ story, meaning the gospels and apocrypha, recounts that everyone can resurrect. This doesn’t mean that seven billion reiterations of the story would make for good literature. Art is somehow sacred, but business surely isn’t. While I sympathise with and share your disdain for Twilight, I think you are wrong. The Vampire, for the authors, never objectivised evil. Your reading is too simplistic.

  • http://www.facebook.com/omar.mejia.98 Omar Mejia

    Mayer is a mormon who majored in literature from BYU…..That is why she is not “Grounded in the Catholic concept” lol

  • T_P_Dawson

    I agree with Fisherman in the sense that Harry Potter is a Christ story. I don’t understand why some Christians are so against it when the story is parrallel to that of Jesus in a way.
    I myself am not religious, but I do appreciate the morals of Christianity and the Bible…and I respect JK’s views as well.
    But, at the same time, Harry Potter is independent from the Jesus story – orphaned, magic, all that.
    Twilight is something I have a major issue with. Meyer’s mormon values in the series are the main theme – I’m not judging her, but the ideas are terrible.
    While in Harry Potter women are equal to men (Amelia Bones head of law enforcement, Hermione, McGonagall and Bellatrix), Twilight shows the men’s superiority over women. Edward tries (and mostly succeeds) in controlling everything Bella does (taking the car exhaust out so Bella can’t visit Jacob)?
    Harry Potter shows that you can’t live in both worlds (Lily and Snape – Snape wanted to stay Lily’s friend but he also wanted the Dark Arts and Death Eaters) but Twilight shows that you can (werewolves and vampires living in harmony?)
    Twilight just doesn’t seem as realistic to me as Harry Potter.

  • Anna

    “J.K. Rowling — by and large — stuck with her guns and wrote a Christ story”?! Boy, I think I need to find the time to write a blog.


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