The Appeal of Twilight

Stephenie Meyer’s Twilight series currently hold three of the top ten slots on Amazon’s best sellers list. Her Young Adult novels about a love story between a human girl (Bella) and her vampire boyfriend (Edward) are popular with far more than just young adults. And “popular” is quite the understatement.

A friend who does ladies’ nails told me that one of her sixty-something clients confessed, “Don’t tell my husband, but I’m in love with Edward.” She also told me that when she invited one of her friends to go out to a movie, she was rebuffed with, “Oh, sorry, but I’m going to stay in with Edward tonight.”

“Popular” doesn’t quite describe the series. "Obsession" works well, though.

What’s all the fuss about? And is it safe for young readers?

What struck me as I read Twilight is how much the vampire Edward displays the beauty and strength of the Lord Jesus Christ. No wonder people are attracted to him! Whether this is intentional or not—the author is a Mormon, though I don’t see Mormon theology anywhere in the book—I believe it’s easy to get wrapped up in the transcendent relationship of a god-like figure and his beloved human sweetheart because it echoes the love story of God and His people.

Consider the way Edward is written:

  • He is able to read minds (hearing the thoughts of those near him, with the exception of Bella)
  • He has superhuman strength
  • He has superhuman speed
  • He consistently exhibits strong self-control, keeping his emotions and his great power in check
  • He is loving, kind, and thoughtful
  • He is self-sacrificing
  • He is tender and sensitive, at the same time the essence of masculine strength and leadership
  • He is lavishly generous
  • He anticipates Bella’s needs and desires and is prepared to meet them in ways that are in her best interests, even if it costs him
  • He sparkles in the sunlight with a stunning radiance

Edward and Bella’s relationship echoes the dynamics of Christ and His beloved bride, the Church. The relationship is a mixture of agony and sacrificial love. Human and vampire are very different and very other, yet they both desire oneness and intimacy. This reflects the way humanity and divinity come together in Christ and the Church.

Bella tells Edward, “You are my life” (p. 474). This sense of connecting to and being lost in the transcendent is the foundation of a healthy relationship with our Creator and Savior; but it is the essence of unhealthy emotional dependency in another creature. It sounds very romantic, to put all one’s eggs in another’s basket, but it also gives all our power away to that person since they have the power to make and keep us happy and fulfilled. This is safe in Jesus’ hands, but no one else’s.

I think there is a good reason for the strong reaction to the characters and the dynamics of the story. They resonate with the far larger Story of God wooing His people.

I found one passage that hints at a worldview perspective on the Twilight series. On page 308, Bella asks Edward where vampirism started originally. He answers,

“Well, where did you come from? Evolution? Creation? Couldn’t we have evolved in the same way as other species, predator and prey? Or, if you don’t believe all this world could have just happened on its own, which is hard for me to accept myself, is it so hard to believe that the same force that created the delicate angelfish with the shark, the baby seal and the killer whale, could create both our kinds together?”

However, thinking biblically, we know that the vampire “kind” doesn’t truly exist. It’s a fantasy. There are no “undead” people like vampires. Hebrews 9:27 tells us that “it is appointed unto man to die once; and after this comes judgment.” Transitioning from human to vampire by being bitten with a vampire’s venom doesn’t happen. 

The book’s cover features a pair of hands proffering an apple. Just after the table of contents, this quotation from Genesis 2:17 appears by itself on a page: “But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it; for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die.”

The author says on her website,

The apple on the cover of Twilight represents "forbidden fruit." I used the scripture from Genesis (located just after the table of contents) because I loved the phrase "the fruit of the knowledge of good and evil." Isn't this exactly what Bella ends up with? A working knowledge of what good is, and what evil is. The nice thing about the apple is it has so many symbolic roots. You've got the apple in Snow White, one bite and you're frozen forever in a state of not-quite-death… Then you have Paris and the golden apple in Greek mythology—look how much trouble that started. Apples are quite the versatile fruit. In the end, I love the beautiful simplicity of the picture. To me it says: choice. (www.stepheniemeyer.com/twilight_faq.html#apple)

Should tweens and teens read this series? I think it provides an opportunity for parents and other authority figures (like youth group leaders) to read and discuss the themes of the book with youth, particularly what makes Edward so attractive. People are drawn to him for the same reason that a seeking heart is drawn to Jesus. The best use of this book and series is if the reader can be pointed to the One who can actually fulfill the fantasy that Stephenie Meyer writes so well, of being cherished by a strong and beautiful Lover who thinks and acts sacrificially.

Because the heart that is drawn to Edward is actually looking for Jesus.

Note: Since writing this blog post, I have read all the books and done a lot of research, coming to a different conclusion. Please be sure and read Part 2: A New Look at Twilight: Different Conclusion. Thanks!

Sue Bohlin

Sue Bohlin is a speaker/writer and webmistress for Probe Ministries, a Christian organization that helps people to think biblically. She loves teaching women and laughing, and if those two can be combined, all the better. She also loves speaking for MOPS (Mothers of Pre-Schoolers) and Stonecroft Ministries (Christian Women's Clubs) on the topic How to Handle the Things You Hate But Can't Change, based on her lifelong experience as a polio survivor.

She has a freelance calligraphy business in her home studio; hand lettering was her "Proverbs 31 job" while her children were young. Sue also serves on the board of Living Hope Ministries, a Christ-centered organization that helps people struggling with unwanted homosexuality and the family members of those with same-sex attractions.

Sue never met a cruise ship she didn't like, especially now that God has provided a travel scooter for getting around any ship! She is happily married to Dr. Ray Bohlin, writer and speaker on faith and science with Probe Ministries, and they have two grown sons. You can follow Sue on Twitter @suebohlin.


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    Gwynne Johnson

    Passing this one on!
    Love your analogy…I’m passing it on to my soon to be 16 granddaughter! She’s in love with Edward also.

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    I haven’t read the book, but
    I haven’t read the book, but lots of my friends (20-30-somethings) are reading them and throroughly enjoying them. I myself am a Buffy fan of old, so I understand.

    I appreciate your observations. It is perhaps for this reason that fantasy-fiction is one of my favorite genres: because I believe all stories parallel or image (whether the picture or the negatives) God’s Story of Creation–Fall–Redemption; and fantasy-fiction does this often more clearly and vividly than others because of the nature of the genre.

    I appreciate your commentary of this series because it points out the already-existing faith-bridges rather than burning them.

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      Sue Bohlin

      Renea, I appreciate your perspective about how the Creation/Fall/Redemption story keeps being echoed in so many stories! And thanks for your point about faith-bridges. Helps, doesn’t it? 🙂

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    Edward’s Love for Bella
    I think there is something deeply profound about how ordinary Bella is as well. To us, and compared to Edward, she really is nothing special. So he can’t read her mind, but this isn’t the only reason he’s drawn to her. He loves her simply because of who she is – in all her awkward splendor: fragile, clumsy, pale and ultra-human at her very core. This makes his love for her all the more beautiful because its nothing she has earned! Bella, as she says continually throughout the novels, is no Rosalie; she’s not some incredible and graceful creature worthy of pursuit by a god like Edward:

    “Well, look at me” I said… “I’m absolutely ordinary – well except for bad things like near-death experiences and being so clumsy that I’m almost disabled. And look at you.” I waved my hand toward him and all his bewildering perfection.
    His brow creased angrily for a moment, then smoothed as his eyes took on a knowing look. “You don’t see yourself very clearly, you know”. -pg 210

    Aren’t we so much like Bella in this way? So many women have been made to think by our enemy that we are unworthy of real Gospel Love – that sees us exactly as we are and loves us anyway. So many of us let our sin, our human frailty, stand in the way of actually accepting the grace that Christ longs to lavish upon us.

    What if Bella had refused to let Edward love and pursue her because she was human and so much weaker/ less beautiful than him? What an unfortunate twist that would have been in this powerful romance. What if Edward waited until Bella was a vampire – perfect and unbreakable like him – before he truly loved her with all he had. That really would have been depressing! The first three and a half books of this saga wouldn’t exist if this was the case.

    Praise Jesus that He loves us exactly where we are, like Edward loves Bella. Our God doesn’t wait till we clean up our act and bring our best selves before him… but while we were still sinners Christ died for us.

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      Sue Bohlin

      What literature does well

      Thanks so much, Caroline, for your insight in showing the connection between us, as God’s unworthy beloved, and Bella. Isn’t this just what literature does? It highlights True Truths in ways the heart can get.

      I appreciate your comment!

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    Edward as Christ-figure
    I’m a nearly 40 Christian, homeschooling mother of 3. I read Twilight to see what it was all about, and became completely enthralled with the series. I was shocked to find this blog because since reading Twilight, my reaction was the same- Edward seems a LOT like Jesus, or at least how I see Jesus. Incredibly beautiful, dangerous to “some,” yet completely protective of “me.” I was raised in a very narrow church where the heaven sold to it’s pew-warmers was very dry and boring. “Sexless, ageless, whisp.” That’s how I described my future existence in heaven from a very early age. Only now that I’m older, and feel completely okay w/ asking questions of God, do I believe (firmly) that we have no clue how wonderful Heaven will be. The relationship with the Lord will be beyond our imagination. Edward gave Jesus a face for me. He made him a little more real, to my very concrete human brain. Jesus, is always with me, even though I can’t see him (yet). He can read my mind. He sees my frailty. He thinks I’m lovely, because he made me. He created me to love, honor and WORSHIP him. I feel like I *get* it a lot better now. More than I ever have. I’m amazed at how many people feel Edward exemplifies the anti-christ. Jesus is WAY more attractive and PASSIONATE than that old devil ever could be. I’m so very happy, thrilled, excited, giddy to be HIS!

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      Sue Bohlin

      I don’t mind shocking people. . .

      . . .as long as it’s good shock and not an ugly or God-dishonoring shock! Wink

      Some people have been unhappy with connecting any Edward-Jesus dots because of what happens in the second book that isn’t very Jesus-like, in their opinion. I guess I’ll have to keep reading to find out what they’re talking about!

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    John M. Kirton II

    Your take on Twilight’s character, Edward
    I was surprised (and relieved!) on your take on Twilight’s character, Edward, as opposed to your take on Harry Potter! While I, too, noticed several religious and theological themes through the Twilight Saga, I also heard Dr. Albert Mohler rant against it for its close-to-sexual scenarios.

    Thanks for your mature handling of this work of fiction.

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      Sue Bohlin

      Surprised and relieved

      You made me smile, John! I’m glad you’ve found my stuff on the Probe website! (I’ve gotten emails complaining from both directions on my Harry Potter position; I guess I’m an equal-opportunity offender? Maybe it’s a family thing; my husband Ray gets vitriolic email from both old-earthers and young-earthers because he won’t take a position on the age of the earth.)

      I’m not surprised I came down on a different side of the fence from Dr. Mohler, whom I greatly respect. We came down on different sides of The Shack as well. Laughing

      Thanks for writing.

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    I’m a 20 year old girl, studying theology in Norway. I feel in love with the Twilight saga and while I study I came over that maby Edward cold be a symbol of Jesus. I find your artical very interesting and I agree how you compared Edward and Jesus. I would like to hear your thoughts around Edward and Jesus on the other books; New Moon, Eclipse and Breaking dawn.

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      Sue Bohlin

      The Other Twilight books

      I’ll have to read the other books. . . then I’ll let you know! I seem to be one of the few souls on the planet who’s been perfectly content to stop at the first book.

      Maybe that’s because I’m not tempted to fall in love with Edward when I’ve got Jesus with me all the time! :::grin:::

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    My favorite book is “Twilight.” (here you can find this ebook http://www.ebook-search-queen.com/ebook/Twil/Twilight.all.html). I prefer reading book to watching film . I love this book because it is a book about love, adventure, pain and mystery. I am on “New Moon” right now. I know I am a little young, but I don’t care. A cool thing about Stephanie Myers is she went to BYU. I am Mormon too. Even though she says bad words I skip over them.

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    Wow, this is shocking to me

    I just stumbled upon your blog, and I have to tell you I am simply shocked by the support of an analogy that allows Christ to be portrayed by a vampire. There is so much in the Twilight series that is contrary to scripture. I realize that these are fiction works and that people like them, however, when we begin to see paralells in fiction to point us to Christ, that work should point us all the way to Christ…not distract our focus from Him. I also noticed that this blog was written more than a year ago, so perhaps the obsession with Twilight, New Moon and Eclipse were not permiating the lives of Christians with such vengence. CS Lewis once said that if Satan could not convince the world that he did not exist, he would facinate them with the things he does. Well, there is certainly a facination running rampant with this saga. Clothing, accessories, choosing between a vampire or a werewolf? Did you see the valentine conversation hearts? One said "Lamb", one said "Lion" and one said "Live Forever". The outside of the box was imprinted with "Forbidden Fruit Tastes the Sweetest". Are you going to say that is to point us to Christ as the redeemer for sin? I do understand the references to Lion and Lamb as they pertain to Twilight. None the less, I find the authors choice to use these terms quite disturbing. A good fiction writer could certainly have chosen other words to make an equally effective point. No, this series is not a good analogy for Christ and the church. Edward is not Christlike in any way and the comparison is sad and disturbing. I realize this is not the popular opinion of this blog, or our culture, even in the church…but we must start looking at things in light of Scripture and stop being entertained by evil, especially to the point of justifying it by throwing biblical terms or Christ comparisons in to justify our lust for worldly entertainment. Just my two cents.

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      Sue Bohlin

      Glad you kept reading!

      Thank you for reading the second blog post! Your comment made me realize how important it is to read my "Part 2," so I added a link to make it easier for readers to find out where I ended up on this issue.

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    I disagree

    I disagree with your analogy. I believe that Meyers, a Morman, should have left Christianity out of a book about vampires, werewolves, and other witchcraft ideas. It was wrong of her to do that. Also, I don't think Christian girls should be reading this book because of the evil ideas. God tells us to "Stay away from all evil."-1st Thessalonians 5:22.