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Twilight

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So, anybody here want to offer an opinion as to whether the first book is appropriate fare for a twelve year-old? That's a question fraught with all sorts of subjective modifiers and personal approaches, I realize. So I guess a better phrasing might be: Have anybody's kids or nieces or nephews (yeah, right) of that age or thereabouts asked to read the books, and how did you respond? We're just talking first book here; I know the later ones develop the relationship further.

I'd be hesitant. There's no sex (I don't think there was even any making out) but there is a whole lot of physical yearning throughout the book. I guess it depends a lot on the 12 year old girl. If she's mature for her age and already into boys, then I think that it would be fine for her to read it, especially if it was accompanied with appropriate discussion. That discussion could be tough to have with a girl who doesn't have the level of maturity, and I wouldn't want a young girl I cared about to read it without the benefit of discussion.

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Our daughter isn't into boys at all, and it's not really the kind of book she typically likes to read. My wife and I are partly-inclined to think she'll find it boring or silly. She got a copy of the book for her birthday six months ago and we put it aside on the basis that we didn't think it was presently appropriate. That didn't bother her then, but her friend, a sweet girl being well-raised who is sorta into boys, has read the books and now there's a little bit of wanting to keep up. Thanks for your input.

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Our daughter isn't into boys at all, and it's not really the kind of book she typically likes to read. My wife and I are partly-inclined to think she'll find it boring or silly. She got a copy of the book for her birthday six months ago and we put it aside on the basis that we didn't think it was presently appropriate. That didn't bother her then, but her friend, a sweet girl being well-raised who is sorta into boys, has read the books and now there's a little bit of wanting to keep up. Thanks for your input.

My high-school age niece (now first-year in college) thought it was stupid, which I think shows what an unusually level-headed young person she is. Your twelve-yr-old might go for it--the appeal of surrender is powerful, no doubt--but you might want to read it yourself first, if you can stand it. Also, perhaps this:

The same ‘choices’ which Meyer parades as being Bella’s own in the Twilight series, and therefore above criticism, are in reality almost as narrow. For most of the series, she can choose only between relying on vampire Edward or werewolf Jacob for salvation from whatever big bad is gunning for her, or relying on Edward to allow her to become a vampire so that she too has access to the power which only he can bestow.

...

Twilight throbs with sexual longing, and this tension is part of what makes the books so compelling. (I admit it; whatever scruples I may have, I was gripped.) Yet, whatever intentions Meyer may have had with regards to the abstinence storyline, desire in the context of the vamp novel is a means by which the female heroine can explore power and fantasy, and so the abstinence within Twilight signifies a denial of the power that comes with the fulfilment of sexual fantasy. Authority over both the sexual experience and access to power remain with Edward.

OTOH, John Granger thinks the whole series can be read allegorically:

To sum up, on the allegorical reading of the Twilight Saga, we have the Garden of Eden metanarrative re-write in Twilight, in which God and Man are played by Edward and Bella, and the play is re-imagined as a gothic romance. New Moon, similarly, is the Morality Play/Harlequin romance version of the agony experienced by God and Man after Man has been expelled from the Garden and no longer walks and talks with God. Eclipse and Breaking Dawn finish the Eden Everyman re-telling by relating in story form the competing demands of world and the divine for the human heart in a fallen world and, ultimately, of the sacrifices, agony, and rewards to be expected in union with God.

I can see it, but I think it works about as well as the Canterbury Tales' Clerk insisting that the tale of patient Griselda tested by Walter is really an allegory for the soul tested by God.

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John Granger notes that some Mormons are apparently using the Twilight books as a form of pre-evangelism.

FWIW, in another of his recent posts, Granger also explored the possibility that the Volturi (an Italian vampire nobility introduced in New Moon) may reflect Mormon anti-Catholicism; in a related vein, he has a book coming up which explores the notion that this series is basically "an LDS divinization story".

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Mormon Vampires in the Garden of Eden

These Gothic romances featuring atypical vampires and werewolf champions are allegories about the love relationship between God and Man. They are, in fact, a re-telling of the Garden of Eden drama—with a Mormon twist. Here, the Fall is a good thing, even the key to salvation and divinization, just as Joseph Smith, Jr., the Latter-day Saint prophet, said it was. Twilight conveys the appealing message that the surest means to God are sex and marriage. . . .

Indeed, I think that resolving her misgivings and interior conflicts as a Mormon woman in a land of non-Mormons was a major impetus of Mrs. Meyer’s writing. In her books, she lays out defenses, often as inversions or compensating reversals (such as one would find in dreams), for at least ten specific Mormon beliefs, practices, and historic events that most outsiders would see as evidence that Mormonism is a fraud and a cult. One example from each category will illustrate this point.

Belief: A core genealogical belief of Mormons is that Native Americans are the descendants of Abraham through the children of Lehi. But in several articles written in 2002 and 2003, LDS anthropologist Thomas W. Murphy has argued that DNA studies show “no intimate genetic link . . . between ancient Israelites and the indigenous peoples of the Americas—much less within the time frame suggested by the BoMor [book of Mormon].”

Mrs. Meyer’s answer to this scientific challenge to her faith comes in the climax of Breaking Dawn. The Volturi have come to the Cullens’ Mountain Meadow for a showdown with the “vegetarians” and their allies, and it looks very bad for the latter. What saves them from the vampire-papists is an inversion of the genetics argument against the Book of Mormon revelation: The Cullens are saved by the ex machina appearance of a South American aborigine whose DNA proves that the Mormon vampires are telling the truth. Genetics isn’t the enemy; it’s the savior.

Practice: In his 2003 book, Under the Banner of Heaven, Jon Krakauer presents many damning anecdotes about the suffering of child-brides in communities of polygamous LDS fundamentalists who live, for the most part, above and outside the law in the Mormon belt. These girls are wed in their early teens to much older men practicing what they call “celestial marriage.”

When Bella meets Edward in January 2005, he is well over 100 years old, though he seems to be 17. Their relationship is hurried along because of Bella’s fear that, if she isn’t transformed into a vampire soon, she will become an unattractive old woman while he remains forever youthful. Edward, of course, says his love has nothing to do with age, but he also asserts that their marriage is a necessary condition for his making her a vampire. Since Bella’s whole life and her apotheosis depend on her fixed relationship with Edward, the real-life nightmare and crime of man-child marriage that Krakauer lays at the feet of Mormonism is re-packaged by Meyer as a child saving spiritual practice that the good guy insists upon.

Historic Event: The Mountain Meadows Massacre of 1857, cited above, is an atrocity with few equivalents in American history. The only Mormon defenses for it have been the pathetic insistence that the migrating families somehow provoked the attack and that all Utah was in a panic that they were about to be killed by the US Army and California militias gathering at their borders. Mrs. Meyer reflects this claim of religious persecution as justification for murderous “self-defense” in each of the Meadows confrontations in her books. Tellingly, the Meadows are the places where the Mormon-vampires are attacked, twice by invaders in great numbers, whom they only repel by heroic effort aided by something like miraculous intervention. . . .

John Granger, Touchstone, Nov/Dec 2009

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Our daughter isn't into boys at all, and it's not really the kind of book she typically likes to read. My wife and I are partly-inclined to think she'll find it boring or silly. She got a copy of the book for her birthday six months ago and we put it aside on the basis that we didn't think it was presently appropriate. That didn't bother her then, but her friend, a sweet girl being well-raised who is sorta into boys, has read the books and now there's a little bit of wanting to keep up. Thanks for your input.

My high-school age niece (now first-year in college) thought it was stupid, which I think shows what an unusually level-headed young person she is. Your twelve-yr-old might go for it--the appeal of surrender is powerful, no doubt--but you might want to read it yourself first, if you can stand it.

You definitely should. I wouldn't be nearly as worried about the sexual content as I would about the control factor in the relationship, which I think borders on the emotionally abusive. At the bare minimum, I think every young girl who reads it needs to have it explained to her that "You will go only where I say you will go, and if you disobey I will kidnap you or disable your truck" is not a basis for a healthy relationship.

You would hope most young girls would instinctively understand that, but alas, many don't.

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Thanks, Edwin, for your very insightful paper, which I greatly enjoyed. I find your approach to religious literacy refreshing, and I think your insights are much closer to Meyer's actual thinking than those of John Granger, who appears to trust anti-Mormon sources more than Mormon sources. One does not have to accept what we believe, but it is refreshing when someone like you reports our own views of our beliefs.

I do have a minor quibble with one item in your thesis: Joseph Smith and other early LDS leaders may have believed in a literal transformation in the blood of a convert, and this is understandable, as the major inheritable factor understood at the time was "blood." But I doubt that many modern LDS believe in a literal change in our blood upon conversion, nor any change in our chromosomes. To us, sealing trumps our genetic inheritance, and adoption is an eternal principle.

By the way, we teach that although resurrected beings have bodies of flesh and bones, they do not have blood! They dwell in “everlasting burnings,” and their bodies are “quickened by the Spirit of God.”

http://www.lightplanet.com/mormons/basic/afterlife/burnings_eom.htm

The process of being "grafted in" to the "true vine" (John 15:1-8, 1 Nephi 16:6-18) is more a spiritual process than a physical process – until the resurrection. By conversion at baptism, and later by sealing in the temple, we are adopted into the House of Israel, and through Israel, into Christ.

http://scriptures.lds.org/en/1_ne/15/6-18#6

Tracy Hall

hthalljr'gmail'com

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Yet another reason to love NPR: "The Writing Style of 'Twilight."

"It's just this wildly florid prose that's wielded with the subtlety and repetition of a jackhammer, all in the service of a story that's going nowhere being told by a girl who seems to be fighting me for the gold medal in a not-liking-her contest."

"Maybe Meyer's like the guy from Memento. Maybe that explains why she constantly repeats herself, why she describes Edward's face over and over again, why she says "the boy named Jacob" a page after she introduces him by name (meaning that she could have just said, you know, "Jacob"), why she keeps changing his eye color and why she writes "traitor tears were there, betraying me." Because she can't remember what she's already written." (Anyone who mentions Memento in any context gets extra points from me.)

The bit about the "dust moats" is funny, too.

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