I had been waiting for a few weeks to read KJ Swanson’s paper dissecting the evangelical response to Twilight in The Other Journal. I had been told it was amazing and my source is right. She doesn’t get vicious on the book itself but on the evangelical Christian reaction to it. Against Potter they lobbed charges of devil worship and other such guff. For Twilight they say that this is a laudable example to young women.
I sure want any prospective daughters of mine to get into a weird obsessive necrophiliac relationship with a 117 year old man who wants to devour her.
Swanson probes deeper than this though, into the implicit picture of normative female sexuality advanced by contemporary Christianity and lays out for us how its logic leads to disfunction and guilt. Check it:
It is ultimately fitting that Twilight should be so often called a “guilty pleasure,” for at the very core of its narrative, we find guilt being linked to pleasure; a teenage girl wooed into physical intimacy but denied that intimacy the very moment she acts on her feelings. The mixed message of Edward’s pattern of seductive arousal, followed by shaming rejection, puts Bella in the position of needing to break Edward’s rules in order to honestly express what she feels. Bella is called a “bad girl” not because she is kissed, but because she kisses back. Kurt Bruner worries that Twilight will teach young readers that “even good girls are eager to have sex before marriage,” but he has no words of critique for Edward’s erotic pursuit of Bella. The cost of evangelical praise for Twilight is a deepening of the split between sexuality and spirituality wherein young girls have no recourse but to remain frozen like an obedient Bella would or become “bad” by reciprocating as Bella actually does. Either choice allows shame to reign where dignity should abide.
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