Monday, October 26, 2009

Why I Don't Read the Twilight Series

I love to read. I always have. Usually, when a popular series comes out, I'm curious enough to at least check it out at the library. After all, regardless of whether it's my favorite genre or not, if it's good enough to get national attention, I figure I can at least learn something as a writer.

However, I was extremely skeptical about Stephanie Meyer's Twilight series. Call me crazy, but there didn't really seem anything too appealing to me about reading a teen "romance" novel if you can even call it that, since the guy is a vampire. Working on a master's degree gave me plenty of reading material, so I put reading the teen saga on hold.

Then, it seemed like the Twilight phenomenon exploded in my life. Tons of the women in our church's young adults ministry were reading them. My hairdresser gushed about them. This was expanding way beyond the tween market!

My breaking point happened when one of the guys in the college ministry put up a Facebook status that said, "[His name] is better than Edward Cullen." Girls came out of the woodworks to comment. Most of the responses were outright violent! How dare him EVEN think that he could ever be better than their precious Edward!

"He's a fictional character!" I thought. "Don't these girls understand how ridiculous they sound?"

That was enough to convince me I needed to see what the big fuss was all about.

Just a few chapters in, I realized why every girl who read these books was head over heels in love with Edward Cullen.

He's perfect...if you can overlook that whole vampire thing.

He's tall, dark and handsome. (His skin even sparkles in the sunlight!) He's mysterious. He's always the at the right place at the right time. He's a good guy. He refuses to pressure Bella sexually. In fact, he turns down her advances. And the best part? His one-liners.

"I dream about being with you forever."

"Look after my heart. I've left it with you."

"Do you really have any idea how important you are to me? Any concept at all of how much I love you?"

If you prefer poetic imagery, how about this?

"Before you, Bella, my life was like a moonless night. Very dark, but there were stars - points of light and reason...And then you shot across my sky like a meteor. Suddenly everything was on fire; there was brilliancy, there was beauty. When you were gone, when the meteor had fallen over the horizon, everything went black. Nothing had changed, but my eyes were blinded by the light. I couldn't see the stars anymore. And there was no more reason for anything."

After reading that phrase, I thought, "Come on, James. Why can't you ever say something like that?!"

And that was when I realized I had to put the book down.

I'm not going to go so far to say that all men are wired one way and all woman are wired another way. There may be some women out there who could read this without becoming personally involved in the story. But I know myself, and I know that this book is dangerous territory for me.

Why? Because I am most attracted to sensuality and emotionally-filled words.

For women who think like me, allow me to flip flop the situation for you.

Let's say your husband is like mine, meaning he would choose sexuality over sensuality, and if he had to choose between seeing you and hearing you, he would always prefer to be able to look at you. Knowing this about him, would you say that it's perfectly safe for him to watch pornography? What about a simple sex scene in a movie with a female actress that you know he thinks is extremely attractive?

No way.

My husband and I both made "True Love Waits" commitments in middle school, meaning that we vowed we would not have sex until we were married. For 23 years, I heard women talk about how "sex isn't like they show it on TV." Now that I'm married, I know they're right...and to be honest, it really frustrates me.

Here's the bottom line. It's the media's job is to attract viewers. What better way to ensure that you have a captivated audience than show men exactly what they want to see?

They show the woman engrossed in a one night stand, but they don't show her regret the next day...or the fact that she struggles with trusting people for the rest of her life. They show the female as the pursuer in the bedroom, but they don't show the insecurity she feels inside. I won't go into details here, but they show how sex is picture perfect and passion-filled from the beginning...when in reality, the only way to make sex enjoyable is to have it with one person and learn from one another over time. They show the couple having sex multiple times a day...when let's be honest - if you have jobs and responsibilities, most couples are doing pretty good if they average a couple of times a week.

Because of the way sex is often portrayed in the media, not even including pornography, it sets unclear expectations on women from their spouses. Even for couples who wait like my husband and I did, at the beginning, sex was nothing like he expected. The media had put unclear expectations in his head of what the "ideal sex life" was like.

It makes me angry that the media can fill our heads with these lies. Trust me. Marriage is a blessing, but it takes work. Additional complications are not neccessary! Putting wives on TV who wake up in the morning looking as perfect as they did before they washed their makeup off, who work full-time, start dinner and give their husband "dessert" on a nightly basis is just not realistic!

It's just as unrealistic as expecting my husband to know exactly what to say to take my breath away each time he opens his mouth.

As I've already pointed out, Edward Cullen isn't real. He's a fictional character...and a fictional character CREATED BY A WOMAN at that. Of course he knows to say exactly what every woman wants to hear. A woman wrote the book!

Again, I'm not saying that this should be the rule of thumb for every woman. I'm just suggesting...if you are inclined to think like I am, reverse the situation:

Would you want your husband to subject himself to any material that could possibly put unrealistic expectations in his head of how you were supposed to behave? My answer is no, so that is why I realize that I don't need to read things like this book.

Now, I didn't finish the book, so I can't give a full report of this, but I do want to make a few brief comments on the character of Bella. As soon as she discovers Edward is a vampire, she is so intrigued by his life that she becomes disgusted with her own humanity. Very quickly, Bella becomes willing to throw away her values, family and friends for a guy she barely knows...and what she does know of him is pretty dangerous.

My pointis not that idenitifying with character of Bella could cause a woman to desire to fall in with a vampire. However, especially by means of social media, it's easy for grown men to have access to young girls and lure them away from home...just by saying (or typing) the right words. Idolizing a character who desires to exchange her created purpose for another life, disobeys her parents and devalues herself is just not the role model I would want my daughter to have.

I don't think you are a bad person if you read this book or if you let your daughter read it. These are simply my own personal convictions and precautions. Sure, there's a chance that I could read this entire series, enjoy it and never put unrealistic expectations on my husband.

But my marriage is too valuable to me to take that chance.


Britt Trotman said...

Wow, I really enjoyed that, Michelle. I haven't read the books, but I now understand what the craze is all about. I think other girls should read this post!

Anonymous said...

I love the Twilight series. I think it's wonderful story telling by a brilliant author. But yes, I understand what you're saying. You make very good points. However, let me just say this, this series isn't the only one putting unrealistic expectations of men into the minds of young girls and women. There are other novels, movies, etc., that do the exact same thing. Should people think twice about those too? Take the movie "The Notebook" for instance: she fell in love with a poor boy, got engaged, cheated on that fiance with the same poor boy, and lived happily ever after. That is just as unrealisitic as Twilight, as are many other countless examples. Sorry for the rant, I'm just making a point. I disagree, respectfully. But keep up your good work =)

Michelle Myers said...

Dear Anonymous,

Absolutely not, Twilight is not alone in setting a poor example. you're so right. There are tons of other movies/books out there, including The Notebook, that set don't promote the morals and standards I wish they would support. This is simply raising questions to one particular series that has gotten a lot of attention recently. Thanks for stopping by!

LynnAnn said...

I totally relate to what you are saying here Michelle. I read the Twilight series and didn't fall head over heels for it because it wasn't really super brilliant writing. I don't feel like this particular book affected my expectations of Paul; however, there have been a couple of times when I've picked a book up at the library or borrowed one from a friend and as I started reading I realized the author portrayed marriage in a poor light and glamorized adultery. The same goes for the TV show MadMen. Do I believe in adultery? No. Do I believe in divorce? No. It would be really easy for me to say, well, it's okay to watch or read this because I would never do that and it's just such a good book/tv show/movie. But my marriage is way too important to me to let Satan get a stronghold on my mind with subtle ideas that what the world believes is truth.
What it really boils down to for me is choosing the thing that is worth fighting for and going on the offense now rather than the defense later.

Mike Pickle said...

Michelle, you are right on target!!! In fact, this needs to be published somewhere that the public visits; maybe even where Mother's will read it. I'm thinking in their face like a women's magazine or site.
You have some great insights and some great cautions. Good job, very good job.

Mike Pickle

Stephanie said...

I have thought about these exact same things many a times. In fact, our former youth pastor turned young married pastor (who has now started his own church) used to call chick flicks female pornography- basically saying what you are saying. How many times I have fallen into that "emotional" side of how romance is often portrayed. Unfortunately it is every where through out the media, just as sex is-- really right down to the Little Mermaid I just popped in for Hannah Grace! While it is pretty much impossible to avoid altogether, it is a wonderful thing to have the discernment and wisdom you have to recognize it and how our sinful natures react to it!
Thanks again for the reminder, as I know I and I'm sure many other woman can completely relate!

valerie said...

Hey Michelle! I saw on facebook that you had a post that was causing attention so I thought I would drop by to see what it was about. I totally agree with you on this! I think it's a very dangerous and slippery slope. I'm not married yet, but I know that as a single girl, reading books or watching movies where you fall in love with the "perfect" male character does make you compare the men in your life to him. I can only imagine how magnified that would be in a marriage. Great comparison to pornography as well! I would have never thought to compare the two, but it makes total sense. I haven't read the Twilight series because the draw of vampires and teen romance didn't really seem to be something I would enjoy, but now I definitely won't read it. Hope you're doing well! We miss you in Memphis!

angela said...

Hey Michelle, It's Angela Speed.

I appreciate your comments, it is great to put it into words that actually do caution people about the differences in reality and fiction.

My daughter read the entire series before the movie came out and then saw the movie. She was very disappointed and angry after seeing it (although most movies are disappointing to the viewers who actually read the book).

I decided to read the series after that and flew threw them in a week or two, all 4 books (I watched the movie after finishing the first one and realized why she was so upset. The movie had bad acting and a low budget. but if you read the book you are most likely ready to see te next one hoping the budget increased and the actors have more time to do retakes).

Anyway, I too get caught up in the story (of any book I read, even the Bible) and can't put them down until I get thru them, usually ignoring things I should do, like sleep, in order to continue.

I think your blog brought up a good point; that this is a good way to introduce to our girls the differences in how guys really think and how women portray how we think they should think.

Another note, is I am pleased that in the series, Edward refused to have sex with Bella until she married him, and they did wait. Although it seems in the series that Edward was obsessed with Bella following her around and forcing her to marry her...can you say, "stalker?"

Anonymous said...

Michelle, it was so good to read this. The media portrays sex, even unmarried sex, as absolutely perfect. I truly appreciate having the rare opportunity to read/hear other women starting an honest conversation about how sex simply isn't what you see on TV.

J E S S I C A said...

I haven't read the Twilight books, but have seen the movie. I never thought to look at it the way you have, but I totally agree. I'm not married, yet, but I think you have brought up some very valuable points. Thank you for sharing your opinion and opening my eyes to this subject before I was married and made the mistake of expecting unrealistic things from my husband unknowingly. You're awesome!

David Showers said...


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Warren Baldwin said...

Another great article, touching on some very sensitive issues, but some that really need to be addressed. The media and entertainment industries specialize in attacking men and women where they are weakest, threatening our purity, marriages and families. Thanks for your warning to be careful and above reproach.