Unofficially known as “the crazy Mormon author” in much of the science fiction and fantasy communities, Stephanie Meyer has been singled out for her religiosity in both positive and negative contexts. Some Christian Twi-hards applaud the Saga’s apparently abstinent values, while other Anti-Harry-Potter-types damn it as a front for occult seduction. In the secular audience at large, many point to her religion as the source of her less enlightened attitudes toward female power. But before we generalize an entire religion, or for that matter — reduce one individual’s imagination to simply the product of stirred and festered religious propaganda, maybe we should look at this intelligently. Fairly, for what it really is: one woman’s creative work, a work by a woman who happened to be raised in the American Protestant (and by American Protestant I mean, any of the subsequent sects and traditions that have their roots in Calvinism — Ms. Meyer is Mormon) culture. Her religion is not the source of her literary skills, or her own personal morality.
I am not interested in damning a book for its religious alignment, or lack thereof. No matter what one’s creed is — to limit one’s mind (or the minds of one’s children) merely to the novels, music, and movies that have a pre-approved stamp of one’s religion is to commit a crime of education. It is to ultimately rob minds of that most precious gift: art and imagination, for its own sake — pure, and devoid of agenda. Nor will I limit myself or my children to books that have a pre-approved feminist, intellectual, or political stamp… What I am interested in is being aware of a book’s respective religious and political components, and making sure that I, and my future children, think critically about them while we stimulate our imaginations.
That being said, there are some very interesting religious aspects to the Twilight Saga.
I’ve noticed that in some ways, these books seem to reflect pervasive attitudes in modern Christianity towards women’s issues, and that is part of their widespread appeal to both Protestant and Catholic audiences. As sexuality in the media has become more and more overt, Christian theory and literature has had to adapt to meet these modern sensibilities, toe-to-toe; part of this phenomenon has created a culture of updated versions of courtship and abstinence, the values of which are somewhat echoed in Twilight. (For example, Edward and Bella choose to delay the consummation of both their sexual life and the loss of her mortality until they have married).
But it is not merely in Bella’s attitudes toward sex, but in her entire perspective as a female, that religious themes are pervasive. Meyer’s specifically violent take on female self-hatred and sacrifice gives us a unique window into the Judeo-Christian’s female psyche. Bella describes herself as “a stupid lamb,” doomed to love the vicious lion (or as Edward calls himself, “a sick, masochistic lion”) who will ultimately hurt her. This metaphor is just one of the examples of a Christian/religious motif being used to illustrate the female/male dyad as receptive/dominant — I would like to explore many more of these in detail.
Christian women face unique challenges asserting their own personal power and sexual rights, while still maintaining their beloved traditions; they are subject to both overt and subtextual forms of misogynism so often, that to be a Christian female is at times, to be a masochist; Bella reflects this masochism in her almost supernatural desire to destroy herself. Thus, I find it interesting to examine Twilight’s immense accessibility to a female, and specifically a religious female audience.
I will explore this in my next bout of blah blah blah, “Bella’s Scent: A Modern Original Sin?” More to come.