What Twilight Teaches Us about Romance
By Hannah Goodwyn
CBN.com Senior Producer
CBN.com - Regardless of your thoughts on whether the Twilight series is harmless or harmful fiction, no one can argue the influence it has amongst fans – from teenage girls to single women to Twi-moms. More than 85 million copies of this four-book series have sold worldwide.
Breaking Dawn: Part I releases in theaters today and is the culmination of the romance from the previous books, resulting in the wedding of its two main characters – Edward and Bella. Their exciting love story and his old-fashioned manner is what drives many of fans to the series. But, what does their story actually teach us about relationships: good and bad?
Author Laura Gallier answers that very question in her new book, Where’s My Edward? In an effort to reach out to the young girls and women riveted by Edward, Gallier has written this biblically-based response to Twilight’s take on love. Recently, Gallier sat down with CBN.com to go over some of what Twilight says about love and how she encourages biblical understanding amongst singles and marrieds in this new book. Here are excerpts from that conversation:
Why draw attention to movies about vampires and werewolves?
Gallier: I used that as a platform to reach young people and women who had been influenced by the storyline. I am very careful about not in any way promoting it as much as saying, “If you've seen these movies, if you've read these books, here's what God's Word has to say.” So I don't see anything unethical about comparing in that way.
How is Twilight setting us up for failure in how we view love?
Gallier: There's a tendency for us to build our worldview of relationships, sex, dating, the whole concept based on what we're seeing in Hollywood, and it doesn't work. It’s not even working for these Hollywood stars that we are constantly seeing in the tabloids, much less what we're seeing in movies.
I believe obviously it's innate in us, as women, a strong desire to be loved and to have a lasting connection and something that stands the test of time. But if we think we're going to going to get that by doing what Hollywood's doing in a two-hour movie, we're set up for failure. At the end of the day, we are talking about families, families that fall apart when we go into marriage with a wrong idea. So my mission, the bigger picture, is that God has put a love in me for family and family stability, and that comes from a biblical worldview and having Christ at the center of the marriage. We need to be proactive about letting this generation know that fiction and fantasy and all that those things have their place, but we cannot build our lives on that. I think we're seeing that more and more today.
As a vampire, Edward naturally wants to kill Bella, right? Why is that appealing?
Gallier: Well, he actually doesn't want to kill her. He's very concerned for her well-being is the way Stephanie Meyer portrays him. We know that in real life, there's no such thing. I'm not saying there aren't people who parade around as vampires, but there's no such thing as a true vampire.
What there are, are II Corinthians 5:17 men, which is someone who the Scripture says has become a “new creation in Christ and old things have passed away and behold all things have become new,” and it’s talking about that new nature. So what I like to say is, “Yeah, personally, I don't know anyone who literally would want to be with some guy who's into vampire things,” but there is something to be said for marrying someone, for being with someone who has a supernatural nature. But I'm talking about of the God kind, full of the Spirit of God. So I'm in no way advocating seeking out some guy who's part of the occult and goes and does things involving blood. That's actually unscriptural and unbiblical, and it would never lead to romance. We need to stay away from that. It's more about having a renewed supernatural nature, which I think is neat, because so many people are attracted this guy. He's superhuman and yet we can have a man that in a sense that's superhuman, because he has the Spirit of God. I always balance that with saying that doesn't mean he'll be perfect, doesn't mean he's going to walk on water and be just like Christ all the time. But it does make a huge difference in how a man treats a woman if he has the Spirit of God.
Where's My Edward? points to qualities in Edward’s character female fans find especially appealing. What are some of those?
Gallier: Edward is loyal. He fights and would literally die for Bella. He actually insists on respecting her sexually until they're married. He puts a respect that goes beyond mere lust and shows that he actually values who she is as a person. That is so rare today. He speaks kindly to her. There are a lot of character qualities that I think women just melt when they see the way he treats her. Vampire stuff aside, I think that speaks to the fact that women today want to find that kind of man that would really love them for who they are. So that's the good side.
We can use that as an example, [asking women] “are you letting someone you know verbally abuse you?” “Are you giving your body away sexually to try to earn a man's love?” Those things are not good and healthy in the long run.
Looking at a character such as Edward, women see a nearly perfect guy. Is this an unfair standard to match men against?
Gallier: No question, no question, and that's part of the problem. I actually use the parallel of the fact that we know there are a myriad of consequences for pornography addictions, but one of the things that happens when men become entrenched in pornography is their expectations of women changes. They have this warped view of women sexually, physically. They're constantly looking at these digitally-altered images of women that aren't real. There are a myriad of consequences from pornography addiction, but one of them would be this unrealistic idea of what a woman has to offer.
Well, same thing with women. We watch these Hollywood hunks and they're perfect, and they're sensitive, and they're caring, and they're brave, and they're all these things. Then we get married, and our husband may have some of those qualities, but all of us have our strengths and weaknesses. So that's a big part of what people need to know, and young ladies need to know, is that they are going to let you down. They are going to have weaknesses. They are going to have shortcomings. We need to know that and not be shocked and appalled and think we've married the wrong person just because our spouse is not perfect.
You warn against falling for a “Jacob”. How does his character represent relationships we should avoid?
Gallier: Unfortunately, because of our culture's dating trends, we're encouraged to make these strong, physical, and emotional attachments that are not built on a lifelong commitment. They're for a season at best, and then that season ends. But there are these lingering soul ties and attachments, and if we're not careful we'll have this on-the-side flame, for lack of a better word, that we run to when someone breaks our heart.
On a lonely day, we hear a certain song, and we're picking up the phone and calling that “Jacob” in our lives, and it can actually lead to infidelity later in life when we're married. So I encourage grown women to cut those relationships off completely, and for young girls to beware of cultivating these on-the-side, casual-yet-intimate relationships with the opposite sex knowing that's not who you want to spend the rest of your life with for whatever reason. That is not wise in any way, shape, or form. It's not even fair to that young man.
What makes a girl ready to meet her soul mate?
Gallier: First and foremost, we need to know Christ. Because without the Holy Spirit, I can't speak for everyone, but for me I would not be able to sustain my marriage much less be happily married if the Holy Spirit was not helping me. We need to do some soul searching and see if we have bitterness and unforgiveness towards men in our lives, maybe our father or maybe the way a male treated us. We need to let the Lord heal us, so that we don't bring all that baggage in. If we have an idea that marriage is going to meet all of our needs and make us so happy, and we're the type of person who’s just very inwardly focused, we're going to be very disappointed when we get married because it requires constantly putting our mate's needs before ours.
How would you encourage single women who aren’t meeting any of the good guys?
Gallier: I think we have to be careful, because it's so true that we subconsciously attract what we think we deserve. A lot of times, we're hanging out in the wrong places. We're putting up with things we shouldn't put up with. Having said that, it really does start with our identity in Christ, getting our value from God, being OK standing on our own two feet, embracing the single life for the time that we have, and going to God and using his Word as a filter for who we would choose to let into that more intimate side of our life, and doing things biblically.
Obviously, there is a great deal of emotion involved when we start to fall involved and that's wonderful. That's not a bad thing. But, we need principles. I've seen time and time again, and I've experienced in my own life, where we jump in head over heels because we're just so in love in terms of emotion. But the biblical definition of love is not there, and the principles in God's Word of godliness, and integrity, and patience, and all these things, we blow right past those and ignore them and then wonder why we end up with a mess. There is something to be said for God's principles. They are our protection. They’re that flashlight that lights our path, and we can't lose sight of that. But if we don't even know God's Word, if we don't even know His instructions, if we don't know what to look for in terms of a godly man, we will likely keep winding up with something disappointing.
What about married women who feel like they missed out?
Gallier: That's very common. And obviously we can only do so much to influence our spouse. The main thing we need to do is pray for them, but work on ourselves and guard our thoughts. We're constantly bombarded with thoughts that insult our mate, with complaining about our lives in general. Sometimes we look at Hollywood, and it seems so exciting. Then we're sitting there with a load of laundry, and kids with runny noses, and our husband’s watching some football game we don't care about, and we're just tempted to feel sorry for ourselves and think we have a miserable life when in reality that is life. We need to make the most of it.
Our husbands fell in love with us because we thought he was a hero. We thought he was really something. Through circumstances, a lot of times we've done a 180. We're starting to be the ones who are verbally insulting and we're being condescending. We're being disrespectful and we're undermining our marriage.
We need to go back to the biblical definition of love and look at ourselves and say, “What am I investing? What I am sowing into my marriage? Am I still esteeming him as a hero in spite of his faults, in spite of the times he's let me down?” Of course, if it’s more serious than that, we need counseling. We need to fight for our marriage. Just saying “I'm not happy, I'm out of here”, that's not going to work.
Robert Jackman is the author of The Ripple Effect, a book that just came out. He makes the statement that if we're feeling like we've fallen out of love with our spouse, all that means is God is not at the center of our marriage. I felt like that was so good. It really is about building your marriage on a foundation of Christ.
Where's My Edward? is mainly for female readers, but what if guys pick up this book? What can they expect?
Gallier: I think a guy would appreciate it a lot because I talk in there about the value of real guys, and what they really have to offer, and what they don't, and the fact that so many times we actually want our spouse to have these feminine qualities. We want to be able to talk for hours about issues we have with our best friend or we're out shopping, and we want them to have strong opinions of what color the curtains are in our living room, or what have you. Obviously, some men maybe are given to that, but men are different than women, and it’s OK. We don't have to make them into this feminine companion when they need to be allowed to be masculine. We need good girlfriends in our lives.
At the end of the book, there is an evangelistic quiz - “Am I a good person?” Why include this?
Gallier: Because I believe that without the Holy Spirit in that genuine experience—I'm not talking about finding religion. I'm not against going to church, but I'm not just talking about going to church—I'm talking about truly experiencing repentance and what the Bible calls “Passing from death to life” by being born again, having the Holy Spirit come live in us, I just don't see how any relationship can work.
I am incapable of loving anyone to the degree that I need to without the Holy Spirit. I can't be forgiving. I can't walk in love. I can't be discerning. The Holy Spirit is a constant present help in my marriage to give me restraint when I want to pop off and say something I shouldn't. Like I said, to be forgiving, and even just to even celebrate in the highs to handle those situations the right way, to resist temptation and even if I had somehow this wonderful marriage but didn't have God, I've really got nothing at the end of the day. Ultimately, the most important thing is our relationship with who I call “The Ultimate Edward”. You talk about someone who's looking out for us, and protecting us, and being loyal, and being brave, that is God the Father. So that's where all of life and every relationship in our life needs to flow from. So I don't apologize that I share the Gospel. It's key.
Hannah Goodwyn serves as the Family and Entertainment producer for CBN.com. For more articles and information, visit Hannah's bio page.
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