Tuesday, December 1, 2009

The 'Twilight' Series: Chivalry, and Chastity #Catholic

I admit I've read the entire "Twilight" series, written by Stephenie Meyers. I've been interested in vampire stories ever since the wacky soap opera, "Dark Shadows," drew me in with its Gothic moodiness and creepy characters. My interest eventually led me to Anne Rice's vampire novels, which I later stopped reading as I realized they were just too doggone seductive.

Vampires have never been "good guys" in my eyes. There may have been unfortunate reasons for their "birth" as an immortal bloodsucker, but overall, I'd say they were nasty characters - until I read Meyer's portrayal of them and specifically, her main hero, Edward Cullen. I never expected to appreciate a fictional vampire but I found myself glad for the author's background (She's a Mormon.), which I believe found it's way upon the book's pages. It's not so much that her Mormon doctrines were included in the storyline, but rather her portrayal of relationships (they are respected) and topics like the state of one's soul, which is honestly discussed. I can only think such considerations would come from a woman of faith.

It's been awhile since I did anything with "Castitas," my videos focused on promoting chastity, especially for younger people. But reading the Twilight series has reminded me of how badly our culture needs chaste characters, and how much so many of our young people hunger for them. Obviously, they are no longer common. Turn on any sitcom and it will feature premarital sex as though it's the norm. Even Christian characters who seem to promote chastity, as the outwardly-beautiful-but-inwardly-ugly Quinn on the hit series "Glee," end up pregnant. The clear message is that no matter how hard someone promotes chastity - in the end, it's a farce, a fool's errand - because everyone knows that all teens have sex.

Those who desire chastity have an uphill battle. There are few celebrities who promote it, few educators who believe in it, and few government officials who want to include it in sex education. Those who want to preserve their virginity until they are married are typically mocked for being hopelessly out-of-touch with reality.

But now the chaste have a new, unlikely hero - a fictional vampire. Edward Cullen meets the heroine, Bella Swan and informs her that although he looks seventeen, he is actually more like 109-years-old. His polite and respectful manners are from another era, and goodness, how this makes him even more attractive. Unlike the twenty-first century teenage boy who expects to bed immediately any girl he meets - Edward uses incredible restraint to resist Bella. There are two reasons for this: First, Bella has the type of blood that seems to be the perfect match for Edward's vampiric thirst. Second, because Edward loves Bella, and because his incredible strength would kill her if he released his passion for her, he chooses to avoid any situation that would lead to intimacy.

Both choices show something that as Christians we know but rarely see reflected in entertainment - self-sacrifice. In this series, we have a man who truly loves a young woman enough to say no to his own desires. In fact, all throughout the story, we see Edward's character time and time again either save Bella from harm or save her from his own kind's killing instinct. Above all, he wants to keep her safe. Of course Bella, in her typical teen-angst way, doesn't see this. She only knows she loves Edward and doesn't want to be separated from him, not focusing on the truth that they already are separated by mortality.

But back to the chastity bit. I know for a fact that women yearn for chivalrous men who will put a woman's well-being above his own. Our culture has almost destroyed such men. After years of feminism and the degradation of masculinity, it is no surprise that most young men have been stripped of treating a woman with respect. And I know women have played their part in this unfortunate development. With female celebrities who dress like hookers and talk like salty sailors, it's no wonder they're mistreated, either by the press or their boyfriends.

I like how this article in The Catholic Herald, "Why Girls Love Chaste Edward Cullen," pinpoints one of the most persistent memes in teen-hood and eventually adulthood: the attraction women have for the "bad boy." I am thrilled to see this assumption finally get challenged. Years ago, when I taught workshops for single women over 40 who wanted to find love, I remembered a middle-aged woman saying, "I'm attracted to the "bad boys." I can't help it, though, they are just so sexy!" I responded by saying that getting a broken heart or feeling used isn't really sexy. I said it then and will emphasize it now - women get what they allow. No one deserves to be mistreated, but if a woman allows anyone to mistreat her, that's what she'll get.

If my male readers will forgive me, I pose the following theory: when women start to respect themselves, men will respond accordingly. When women carry themselves with the dignity and wisdom that God intended for them to have, they may be surprised to find that it awakens within a man an innate desire to win her affections. Long ago, chivalry included a man fighting for the affections of his beloved. Thankfully, it isn't extinct and in fact, may be experiencing a resurgence. Many women are realizing that treating men as contemptible objects and then expecting them to cater to their every whim isn't exactly going swimmingly well. Radical feminism's extreme hatred and revulsion of men has left many women lonely and excluded. "It is better to live in a corner of the housetop than in a house shared with a contentious woman." (Prov. 21:9) How true.

Edward Cullen has brought the ideals of chivalry and chastity to a new generation and it couldn't have come at a better time. As older women teach the younger, they can include a modern version (if slightly unusual) of a man who loved a woman enough to say no - to both himself and her, so that she would be saved. And it wouldn't be a bad idea for young men to study some of the attributes of Edward. Selfless devotion hasn't had such an advocate for quite some time.


Christine said...

I liked this. I have not read the books...but liked your review.

Allison Marshall said...

I love this, and think it is so true. If only men and women would help each other out a little more, the standards could be raised!

I knew I liked Edward for a reason...