Unless you've been living under a rock this week, you are probably aware that the latest installment of the Twilight movie franchise, "New Moon", debuted in theaters nation-wide on Friday. Based on the four-book series by Stephanie Meyer, "New Moon" picks up where last Fall's "Twilight" movie left off. In her small town of Forks, Washington, Bella, the awkward human teenager in love with the vampire Edward, encounters her own broken heart and the shocking revelation that her best friend Jacob is actually a warewolf (I'll leave it at that so as not to spoil the fun). I haven't seen the movie yet, but I've read all the books (twice...), and as you may know from past entries on Sticks and Snakes, I am totally fascinated with the full-blown cultural phenomenon that these books have brought about.
Well, it seems that Pope Benedict XVI and some other top Vatican officials are not as smitten with Edward Cullen as I am (big surprise!). The Vatican recently released a statement slamming "New Moon" and calling it a "deviant moral vaccuum." Uh-oh! Monsignor Franco Perazzolo, of the Pontifical Council on Culture, had this to say about the blockbusting movie:
'Men and women are transformed with horrible masks and it is once again that age-old trick or ideal formula of using extremes to make an impact at the box office. This film is nothing more than a moral vacuum with a deviant message and as such should be of concern.' Source.
Six years ago, the Vatican famously criticized the Harry Potter franchise for similar reasons. I am always surprised by how religious cultural critics (Roman Catholic, Evangelical, or otherwise) seem completely unable to grasp the importance of metaphor in popular media. The Twilight Saga is certainly not overtly religious, but like Harry Potter, it contains important messages about the triumph of good over evil, the struggle between one's best intention and one's fallen nature, and the meaning of friendship. And you'd think that the Vatican would applaud the books' emphasis on teenage abstinence--the Pope loves abstinence!
A parishioner at my church recently asked me if I thought it was appropriate for her teenage daughter to read the Twilight books. I paused for a moment, not because of my religious interests, but because of my feminist ones. I told her that as long as her daughter is able to discern the difference between fantasy and reality, and as long as she understands that the super-controlling elements of vampire-human relationships do not translate in a healthy way to human-human relationships, then she is good to go.
Ultimately, Twilight is another vehicle for young women to experience the joy of reading and to exercise their imaginations--what can be wrong with that?