It’s the series that has media blogs and entertainment websites debating, “Is ‘Twilight’ the next Harry Potter?” Hollywood.com called it, “The most epic romance since Titanic.” It’s the “pop culture phenomenon” known as “Twilight.”
The supernatural series written by Stephanie Meyer includes, “Twilight,” “New Moon,” “Eclipse,” and “Breaking Dawn,” with future books in the works. The story is written in the first person view of Bella Swan, a 17-year-old, who after her mother remarried, moved from Phoenix, Ariz. to Forks, Wash. to live with her father. Bella’s new, wet and dreary hometown located on the Olympic Peninsula is not only the place of her childhood home, but it is also the residence of an ancient family…of vampires.
Bella Swan’s first encounter with one of the beautiful bloodsuckers takes place on her very first day at Forks High School. While all the other boys drool over fresh meat, one young man seems completely turned off by Bella: Edward Cullen, who she describes as a model or a god. This intrigues her.
The Cullen family seems normal enough to Bella. That is, if five teenagers (of which two sets of the teens are dating each other) living with a couple in their early 30s is normal. But Bella is able to push past the whispers of gossip in the school hallways and the local tribal legends, and accept the Cullen family for who they really are – a covenant of the undead. Or so she finds out after Edward saves her from a near death experience involving a truck.
As the first book progresses, so does the relationship between Edward and Bella. The two fall intensely and passionately in love. Edward finds he is strong enough to put aside his desire to taste Bella’s blood (a metaphor for abstinence). The rest of the Cullen family have also given up their fleshly desires, and are able to exist peacefully in a human society because they have given up their way of life – praying on innocent humans – and instead have taken up “vegetarianism,” or feasting on the blood of animals. The Cullens also made a peace treaty with the local Quileute (Native American) tribe: as long as the Cullens maintain their vegetarian status and do not “turn” a human into one of them, they can remain in the area.
The majority of the first book, “Twilight,” is made up of the strong emotions of longing and yearning that Bella and Edward feel for each other. While many people out of high school may find the 300 plus pages of teenage romance squished in between a couple action scenes in the first book hard to swallow, this is what draws in the teens and preteens.
According to 12-year-old Morgan McMillan, “Most people think that vampires are evil and they want to kill you, but the Twilight series shows that they have a deep sensitive side to them besides just killing.”
It’s the deep sensitive side of Edward Cullen and his I-would-die-for-you attitude toward Bella that has the girls swooning and putting themselves in Bella’s skin.
“Edward is just so romantic,” said 14-year-old Janie Naylor. “I love how he would put Bella before himself and how he feels like he can’t live with out her – how he is willing to kill himself if she ever died.”
While Meyer relies heavily on the blossoming love relationship between Edward and Bella in order to develop the characters in the first book, she does add in other elements that help appeal to a broader audience.
Kim Ecker, a high school senior, said, “As soon as I read the first book, I was hooked. I love how the author combines romance and adventure.”
After hints of fantasy and action in the first book, Meyer allows the fantasy world to melt with real life. She mixes in other ancient covens, evil vampires and even werewolves. By adding to the story more of the vampire-werewolf mythology, Meyer is able to hook in the Sci-Fi/Fantasy buffs, as well as the hopeless romantics.
By the end of the third book, “Eclipse,” Meyer adds another ingredient to keep her readers interested: Jacob Black’s point of view. Jacob Black is Bella’s best friend. However, Jacob feelings for Bella intensify; creating a love triangle, in which Bella must eventually choose between Edward and Jacob. Black is a complex character. Some “Twilight” fans find it hard to decide which male character they like best.
“Choosing between Edward and Jacob is an impossible task for me. Edward is so romantic and protecting, but Jacob has the ‘fall in love with your best friend’ thing going for him that I really like a lot,” said Ecker.
However, others either love Jacob or hate him.
“I just want to say go team Edward,” McMillan said, while Naylor shows off her “Team Edward” bracelet.
Just type in “Team Edward” or “Team Jacob” into “Google” and you’ll come across pages and pages of the big debate. It’s a pop culture controversy much like the great, “Is professor Snape good or evil?” argument of the Harry Potter series.
While the “Twilight” series has generated a fan base nearly just as large as Harry Potter has, the content differs significantly. While both Meyer and J.K Rowling were able to create a story in the fantasy realm, and mold characters that readers could fall in love with, “Twilight” knocks Potter off the bookshelf in one department: its mature content.
Throughout the first three books, Edward wishes to remain abstinent. The theme of waiting until marriage is paired with the metaphor of Edward resisting Bella’s blood. Meyer’s aspiration of promoting abstinence is well intended, but perhaps was not thought out well enough.
Bella and Edward constantly find themselves in steamy-risky situations, in which temptations (and hormones) run high – situations most teens could not resist. Edward is constantly “sleeping over,” or watching Bella sleep (without Bella’s father’s approval). And during these night watches, Bella persistently pushes Edward to give in.
Ecker said, “Although their relationship is perceived to be more mature than a typical high school fling, some of the turns that Edward and Bella’s relationship takes could send some red flags to parents of young readers.”
While Ecker is old enough and mature enough in her Christian faith to point out these “red flags,” some of the younger teens and teens that do not have a Christian upbringing, may perceive these mature situations of the norm.
Fortunately, Meyer does hold Edward to his no sex before marriage standard. Unfortunately, in the forth book, “Breaking Dawn” (caution: minor spoiler), Bella marries Edward right out of high school. This young betrothal may cause some love-struck teenagers to be blinded by visions of sparkly vampires. Also Meyer does give a PG-13 rated look at the newlywed’s Honeymoon night.
“I would recommend the series to anyone over the age of 15 due to the mature content,” said Ecker. “Younger teenagers should not read this book. The relationship that Edward and Bella have could convince young readers that all relationships are that perfect, causing hurt for them in the future. Also, the mature content dealing with sex is something to look out for with younger readers.”
If, parents, you do decide to let your preteens and younger high-schoolers read this series, it is important that you discuss with your children what a true-godly relationship looks like. Also, talk with them about their desires for a career or to continue their education after high school. Getting them to think about the future may hold back any impulses they just might have to elope after graduating.
So is “Twilight” the next Harry Potter? Perhaps, if you’re counting fans and loveable characters. But, Meyer has created a series in the fantasy realm of its own. Comparing the two would be like comparing vampires to wizards.
Shawnee Randolph is a freelance journalist who lives with her husband near Salem, Ore. She graduated in May 2008 from Corban College with a Bachelor of Science in English-Journalism. She currently works as the Office Administrator at her church. Shawnee has been working along side her husband in youth ministry for four and a half years.
This article was printing in the March/April issue of Rethink Monthly magazine (issue #6).