The Gospel According to Twilight: Women, Sex, and God by Elaine A. Heath
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Is this a good book, worth taking the time to read and ponder? Yes, it is. Maybe I think that because I'm a Twilight fan (not a diehard one, perhaps, but a pretty big one) and, to me, most thoughtfully-created works of literature centered on the series would seem worth the read. Maybe I think that because I was raised as a feminist and a Catholic, and Heath's non-patriarchal approach to the "Gospel" aspect of her investigation is one I find familiar and comfortable.
A quote sometimes attributed to Stephen King re: Stephenie Meyer's series is, "Harry Potter is about confronting fears, finding inner strength and doing what is right in the face of adversity. Twilight is about how important it is to have a boyfriend." While the quote may be apocryphal, I have noticed that the Twilight series is criticized for its overemphasis on romantic relationships. Before I read Heath's book, though, I had not made the connection between the apparent fear of being single in Meyer's series and Meyer's Mormon belief system. That connection makes sense to me.
I'm also glad that Heath addresses another common criticism of Twilight: that the female characters are weak and unfeminist, while the male characters - Edward particularly - exhibit behavior that, in a nonfictional boyfriend, would be red flags for abuse. Even those of us who continue to love the book and movie series should ponder/discuss/address these aspects of the novel. I agree with Heath when she suggests we don't want young girls to mistakenly pick up the message that abusive behavior in relationships is acceptable.
Not being a particularly orthodox member of any religious group myself, I don't have any specific criticisms of the way in which Heath addresses the Gospel aspect. She's an ordained minister and an associate professor of evangelism in the Methodist church, so I assume many American Protestants will accept her credentials and understand her point of view. When I finished the Twilight series, I picked up on the fact that Bella's transformation was a akin to the transformation of the Pevensie children in the Chronicles of Narnia, with Edward in this case standing in for Aslan (standing in for Jesus). Heath takes the metaphor a step further, showing how Edward, Bella and Carlisle are all aspects of a Christ figure. Bella even rises from the dead after three days.
Based on some of the other Goodreads reviews, some of the criticisms of this book have been, "Heath thought too hard about a series that is, essentially, an extended romance novel with vampires and werewolves." If you fear that the author may analyze too deeply, then no, this is not the book for you.
But if you're willing to put some deep thought into how Christianity and Twilight co-exist - perhaps as part of a book club - then you've come to the right paperback.
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