Twilight, by Stephanie Meyer
No, you’re not experiencing deja vu (or if you are, it’s unrelated). Schaeffer’s Ghost has already posted a review of Twilight—and quite a good one at that. And yet, I am compelled to review the first book in the series because I have been compelled to read it by my wife (possibly as revenge for my forcing her to read The Cowboy and the Vampire, which in turn was revenge for being subjected to Jane Eyre).
If you haven’t read Twilight, there’s a good summary of it available here [crude language alert]. I have nothing more to say about the plot.
I will say that the book itself was an enjoyable read. Now, before you accuse me of being a thirteen–year-old girl, let me clarify: Twilight was “enjoyable” in that it was easy, quick, and not boring. I burned through the whole thing in a couple of hours without it ever feeling like hard work. (There are other kinds of enjoyable reads too—but Twilight isn’t the same kind of fun as Spengler’s Decline of the West, Crowley’s 1453, or even the aforementioned The Cowboy and the Vampire.)
With that said, unless Stephenie Meyer is being ironic (which I doubt—the book is not that subtle), there’s a serious problem with the presentation of love in Twilight. Consider the following:
“I love you,” I whispered.
“You are my life now,” he answered simply. (314)
Keep in mind, at this point they’ve known each other for weeks (days? The passage of time isn’t really clear in the book).
Look, I’ve been married now for two years and the number of people I would damage for my wife is disturbingly large (and probably best measured in units of “villages” rather than “individuals”). Heck, I’d even read Twilight for her! But when I draw up an honest list of my priorities, it looks something like this:
- God/the wife (depending on my mood)
- Everyone else
Granted, this is what the list SHOULD look like:
- The wife
- Everyone else
Now, if by some outside chance Twilight is actually satire and Stephenie Meyer is mocking the way popular culture thinks about love, then the book is a work of genius and ironically criticizes everyone who sees it as a picture of reality. (I mean, a reality with vampires that don’t eat people.)
Yet clearly the book is not satire, and as a result the view of love on display in Twilight is not only false, it’s actively wicked. On the one hand of course, it’s quite right to recognize that there’s something wrong with the way love works in reality. I shouldn’t love myself more than anyone else. I do anyway, but I shouldn’t. The solution to this problem, however, isn’t to replace love of self with love of someone else. This is just shifting our idolatry around, rather than killing it at the root (if it’s even really shifting it—there’s a good argument to be made that in claiming to love someone else more than ourselves we’re really just worshipping the image of ourselves in that other person).
On the other hand, the scriptural ideal is that we are to love God first and our neighbor second (including of course our spouse, children, parents, etc). The only way to reconcile reality with this Biblical ideal is to repent of our sin and believe that it has been paid for on the cross. Only then are we free to love God and love others with a real, practical love that goes beyond empty and meaningless platitudes like “you are my life now.”
Which leaves me with a potential future dilemma: if I ever have children—especially a teenage daughter—do I let her read this book? I think the answer is a provisional “yes”, so long as I (or, you know, the wife) talk with her about how this is an awful view of love that has no bearing on reality and, should she choose to embrace it, will only make her and everyone around her miserable.
With all of that said, I suppose I should admit once again that the book wasn’t terrible to read, and that I’ll likely hit the sequels at some point in the future.
As a little bonus, you can read a copy of my live blog through the text here.
Dr. Coyle Neal is Assistant Professor of Political Science at Southwest Baptist University in Bolivar, MO, where the sun is bright, tornados are common, and vampires do not glitter.