Is Twilight Good for Girls?

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The other day, while at a conference, a colleague and I were headed to a theater in Chicago to see the film “Lincoln.” I jokingly posted on social media that he was insisting on seeing the latest “Twilight” film, and was surprised when Honest Abe wasn’t all fanged and sparkly on the screen. The reason this was a joke, of course, was because “Twilight” in our culture is largely marketed to adolescent girls.

And, sure enough, at the theater, there were lots of adolescent girls lined up to see the latest in the “Twilight” series. In fact, the “Breaking Dawn Part 2” film was the top-grossing movie in America last weekend, as expected. The vampire romance series, in both book and movie genres, reaches its demographic effectively.

As I thought about all of those girls lined up to watch this movie, I remembered a commenter several years ago who posted on this site to this interesting article from Wired magazine about unfortunate lessons girls learn from the New Moon film (then just released, and just as popular) and the rest of the Twilight books and movies.

These start with:

“1. If a boy is aloof, stand-offish, ignores you or is just plain rude, it is because he is secretly in love with you — and you are the point of his existence.”

These “lessons” move on to darker, abuse-enabling themes, such as:

“7. It is extremely romantic to put yourself in dangerous situations in order to see your ex-boyfriend again. It’s even more romantic to remember the sound of his voice when he yelled at you.”

I don’t think this is unique (at all) to the Twilight series, but this is an area to which we ought to pay more attention. It’s also an area where Christians and some feminists can agree, at least on diagnosing the problem. Images given to our girls and young women often mask a pagan and predatory patriarchy, one in which female worth is seen satanically in terms of sexual availability and attractiveness to men.

The answer isn’t just to “deconstruct” these images, in whatever format they come. The answer means providing a compelling counter-narrative about the glory of womanhood. That’s about more than just picking better books and watching better movies (although that might be a good start).

What do you think?

Should we encourage our daughters to read and watch the “Twilight” series and other related books and films? If so, how do you teach them to avoid some of the pictures of femininity and masculinity encoded there? If not, how do you discern what’s harmless fluff entertainment and what’s not?

We live in a fearful and cowardly time. The crisis we face is not a crisis of clarity but a crisis of courage.


About Russell Moore

Russell Moore is Public Theologian at Christianity Today and Director of Christianity Today’s Public Theology Project.