An interesting review of the Twilight movie

I found an interesting review on the site of Our Sunday Visitor.  It is about this new vampire movie, Twilight, based on a series of books I have neither read nor know much about, other than that they are aimed at girlish audiences.

Have you read them?

Let’s have a look at the review with my emphases and comments.

By Steven D. Greydanus

Vampire romance: pure love or disordered passions?

Catholic opinion sharply divided over "Twilight" movie and books

Storming the box office following a No. 1 opening weekend, "Twilight"" is clearly a force to be reckoned with. According to analyst Gitesh Pandya of the website Box Office Guru, "Twilight" will likely wind up with total earnings comparable to the new James Bond film "Quantum of Solace." That’s remarkable for a movie that caters particularly to teenaged and young-adult women … and their moms[I wonder if this is like the Titanic phenomenon from some years ago: goop  which dissolves both knees and brains, while prying open… wallets.]

Directed by Catherine Hardwicke ("The Nativity Story," "Thirteen"), "Twilight" enjoyed the biggest opening of any film directed by a woman, and it is also the top-earning vampire film in history.

Fan enthusiasm for the "Twilight" novels by Stephenie Meyer is no less impressive. Once upon a time, only Harry Potter generated the same kind of bookstore frenzy — and in fact it was the third "Twilight" novel, "Eclipse," that bumped the final Harry Potter novel from the top of the best-seller lists last year. [That’s not nothing.]

Perhaps even more than over Harry Potter, Catholic opinion is sharply divided on "Twilight." Chastity blogger Kate Bryan of The Modest Truth speaks for the stories’ fans when she calls "Twilight" a "love story that promote[s] chastity, among other virtues."

But the Catholic blog Spes Unica, written by a Catholic mother with a master’s in theology from Franciscan University of Steubenville, argues that "Twilight" "taps into a particular vulnerability in women and then provokes a certain obsessive response. … These books merely extend the pornographic mentality of which they are both victims and willing participants.[Interesting.]

As Bryan notes, resisting temptation does play a significant theme in the story. Vampire hero Edward Cullen falls in love with mortal girl Bella Swan, but resists his desire to drink her blood. Edward belongs to a vampire clan that practices what they facetiously call "vegetarianism," meaning that they subsist on animal blood rather than human. By the fourth volume, Edward and Bella are married, and Meyer — a Mormon housewife and mother of three — has said it was important to her that they remain sexually abstinent until marriage.

Yet Spes Unica rightly notes the series’ disturbing twist on the theme of temptation and self-restraint. Where the real virtue of chastity involves abstaining from something that is good in itself under the wrong circumstances, vampiric abstinence merely repudiates a wholly selfish, one-way desire. Man and woman are made for each other, but vampires don’t complete humans, any more than a tiger completes an impala[One of the best lines I have read in a long time!  Well done.]

Even Edward and Bella seem aware of this, as in an exchange in which Edward suggests that their relationship is like a lion falling in love with a lamb — a "sick, masochistic lion," he adds, and a "stupid lamb," [emphasis on stupid, I think] Bella agrees. Yet neither the couple nor the author is serious about the critique. It’s all part of "Twilight’s" hopeless romanticism: How very much Edward and Bella must love one another, to carry on like this when it obviously makes no sense whatsoever.

Not only is the vampiric element obviously disordered, the ordinary boy-girl attraction is given free rein. Above all, "Twilight" emphasizes Edward’s beauty and desirability as well as the intensity of his unfulfilled passion for Bella. A typically breathless passage: "He lay perfectly still in the grass, his shirt open over his sculpted, incandescent chest, his scintillating arms bare." (Meyer’s vampires literally glitter in sunlight, a detail both much celebrated and derided.)  [blech]

Elsewhere, in a fit of passion, Edward tells Bella, "I’m going to spontaneously combust one of these days — and you’ll have no one but yourself to blame." Such narrative lingering on the intoxicating power of temptation and desire, such rhapsodizing about the beauty of forbidden fruit, may reasonably be felt to be less an affirmation of self-mastery than a hindrance to it.

There are positive elements in the appeal of "Twilight," but they’re inextricably intertwined with the problematic ones. Its popularity may be in part a symptom of dissatisfaction with the hookup culture of shamelessness and male gratification. But it’s also a symptom of a larger crisis of healthy masculinity and feminity. In any culture that taught young men to treat women with honor and dignity, and young women to respect themselves and to expect the same from others, the tawdry allure of Meyer’s vampires wouldn’t glitter half so brightly.

Steven D. Greydanus is a film critic and editor of

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
This entry was posted in REVIEWS. Bookmark the permalink.


  1. Marie says:

    Having seen the movie and looked into the books, I see a couple more things wrong with the series. Bella Swan has no problem with sex before marriage. Her one request of Edward before becoming a vampire (which she decides she does want to be, so as to be with Edward forever) is to have sex with Edward. Bella has a dislike for marriage, but agrees to be married first before they have sex simply because Edward asks this of her. Then, when Bella becomes pregnant in the last book Edward desires for her to abort the child “for Bella’s well being.” She doesn’t, but this just goes to show that neither main character has a consistent moral compass.

    The book is simply a romance novel for young girls.

  2. Marie says:

    And then too it is made clear in a conversation she has with Edward that Vampires are all condemned to hell. That is just the way it is. Bella then says she doesn’t care about Hell. She still desires to be a vampire. And Bella all through the second book is trying to kill herself or harm herself because she cannot live without Edward (who has abandoned her for his and her own safety). Then there was a lady “with a rosary” in the second book that is eaten by vampires. Interesting.

  3. Nick says:

    My girlfriend got me to both read the book and see the movie with her. All I can say is that both the book and the movie were made for teenage girls, and was filled with a whole lot of nothingness. The plot was very slow, and even though I finished the book I was quite angry that it took so long for something, anything, to happen. I’ll pass on the rest of the books, and my girlfriend, who loves the books, hated the movie.

  4. Ad Orientem says:

    OK it’s confession time. As kid I had a real thing for horror films, and vampires were at the top of the list. My interest in the horror film genre has waned considerably over the years, though once in a while I will still sit down to watch the late night chiller if it’s a good movie. But sorry I am a traditionalist with no time for this kind of mush. I like my vampires the old fashioned way… with bloody fangs and a powerful aversion to crosses (and one hopes holy icons).

    As for people who try to psychoanalyze or dissect a good old fashioned scary movie for its sociological implications, all I can say is some people really need to get out a little more.

    I for one would love to see Christopher Lee make one more vampire flick if he still has it in him.

    In ICXC

  5. Matthias says:

    Vampires that don’t burn up in the sunlight? That is non-canonical! This sounds like another bad teen romance movie, the only twist here seems to be faux vampires…

  6. Dr. Eric says:

    Just what we need, another vampire movie. The whole vampire thing has been done to death (pun intended.)

    By the way, what is so “sexy” about a humanoid tick anyway?

    If one reads the folklore and Stoker’s Dracula, one would see that the vampire is a hideous creature. Nosferatu is the best film that sticks to the old legends.

  7. JaneC says:

    Matthias, only mid-to-late-20th century vampires are sensitive to sunlight. It didn’t bother folkloric vampires or Stoker’s Dracula.

    A friend of mine is a fan of the books. I haven’t read them myself, but having read descriptions and heard what my friend has to say about it, they seem very unwholesome.

  8. Oxoniensis says:

    I haven’t read the books or seen the film, but I would say this: the fact that no single character in a book is consistently correct in his approach to all moral issues presented, doesn’t mean that the book as a whole promotes immorality. If Edward is correct about premarital sex, and Bella is correct about abortion, perhaps the reader is left with that exact impression. If Mrs. Meyer is a Mormon, I doubt she treats the subjects to suggest the opposite! Sometimes, we can learn the truth from the consequences of people’s mistakes.

  9. Sam says:

    My friend and I are in an argument as to whether this book (she was forced to read it in her English degree) or the Davinci Code is more poorly written.

  10. Mary Jane says:

    One of my harp students was clutching this book when she came to her lesson last week. She thinks Harry Potter is a better read. And she’s not really taken with vampires. Thanks to Bram Stoker and “The Hunger,” I have serious difficulty seeing them as love objects.

    When the children I helped raise were in this age bracket, it was the era of the “teen problem novel.” Everyone had alcoholic, abusive parents, drug-using abusive boyfriends, and the occasional abusive, religious-fanatic father. Fortunately, the girls moved on to better books quickly. In the meantime, we read the books when they were left around the house and made sure there was room for discussion.

  11. Jayna says:

    “My friend and I are in an argument as to whether this book (she was forced to read it in her English degree) or the Davinci Code is more poorly written.”

    Well, at least this book isn’t trying to pass itself off as non-fiction.

    I have neither read the books nor seen the movies. I got sucked into Harry Potter, I don’t need to tempt it again. And anyway, from this description, I doubt I even need to waste my time on it. All I knew before was that it’s about vampires.

  12. Tim Ferguson says:

    I’ve not read the book, nor seen the movie, and likely will do neither. It’s not that I don’t have an interest in the vampire thing (Actually, I do, and have thoroughly enjoyed some of the books and films in that genre), it’s more due to the fact that it seems like a typical “chick flick” with vampires thrown in.

    With that aside, I’m always bemused by the conversations about whether a certain new book or film is wholly in keeping with Christian, Catholic moral virtues. I’m of the mindset that literature and film can be appreciated in their own right, without necessarily being vehicles for catechesis or evangelization. Some books and films are, and that’s wonderful. Some books and films are just stories.

    If we took seriously the catechesis and education of our children, we wouldn’t need to be so worried about books and films that might be a bad influence on them. As a young boy, I enjoyed a series of books (the name is escaping me right now, but it was in the category of Encyclopedia Brown and the Hardy Boys) wherein the main character was a young boy devoted to the ancient Greek gods. I was left with no lasting desire to sacrifice goats to Zeus, or invoke Bacchus in my idylls. I knew it was enjoyable fiction, and from my parents, I knew and loved God and His Church.

    I think we should save our ire and vitriol for those things which truly are designed to undermine our faith (and I would put some literature, like the Pullman crap, in that category) and train our children to be vigilant against such assaults. A fantasy vampire series will have no disastrous effect on a well-formed young woman than Shakespeare’s scandalous plays about murder, lust and intrigue would.

  13. Mac McLernon says:

    Hi Fr. Z… you’ve been tagged!

  14. phatcatholic says:

    I have collected reviews of the movie and the books, as a service to parents who are wondering how to respond to the recent obsession:

    I hope you all find it useful.

    Pax Christi

  15. Linda says:

    I’ve read parts of the books because my teenage daughter heard about them and wanted to read them. She thinks they’re wonderful; I think they’re silly, but it’s important for teens to be socially conversant with their peers. That doesn’t mean they necessarily believe everything going. One thing I did do (along the lines of training to be vigilant) was to give her two pieces of paper, marked “Things a good Catholic would do” and “Things a good Catholic would NOT dc” and asked her to jot down what she notices as she reads. She easily identified a number of things (a good Catholic would wait until marriage for sexual intimacy; a good Catholic would NOT give up her soul for anyone or any reason).

  16. mao now says:

    Well i have seen the movie TWICE!!! and i could see it again. My opinion is its very romantic, haunting and tragic. I see nothing wrong with it, after all its about Vampires, not faithful Catholics attending the EF. (that would be me) LOL lighten up folks its A good movie

  17. Mary says:

    My teen daughter was interested in this book series. We read them at the same time and discussed them. I think it is sad that such a story is popular; a low self esteem girl who would give anything for this young man who presents such danger. He shows self control, she demonstrates bravery – although quite misguided. It is supposed to be the author’s tribute to Pride and Prejudice but Bella is no Elizabeth.
    We couldn’t interest my teenage son into reading them and discussing them. He thinks its a big waste of time. I agree, except for my daughter’s real interest. I want her to be able to read and evaluate if truth exists in what she reads. I think it has been an interesting discussion for us on that level. I do not think viewing the movie will add anything to our lives, I think we will skip it.

  18. Amanda says:

    I too have seen the movie and am familiar with the book series. I think it’s easy to scoff at teenage romance as “silly” or “empty” but it truly reflects the yearning and longing of a teenage girl to be loved in a society which tells her the only way to be loved is to be self-destructive.

    Therefore it IS refreshing to have a sensation like Twilight which gives a picture of a love story that is not based on sex. The vampire is a metaphor for the outsider, perhaps even a counter cultural figure, if you will. Thus it is Edward who is insistent on abstinence when the rest of the world tells young Bella it is alright. True, Edward is presented as unbelievably beautiful and yes the writing and some of the movie dialogue is almost cringe-worthy. But at the end of the day it is a story which has spoken to thousands of young women all over the world.

    Bella is a character to which these young women can relate. She’s clumsy, awkward, doesn’t have the right clothes or the right cars. But the most unattainable guy in high school finds the beauty in her. That is a message that is also refreshing. Unlike the shallow, selfish rich brats of the Gossip Girl series, Bella is a girl that despite her “flaws” finds true love.

    Obviously men are going to find Twilight to be sickeningly mushy. But as a young women myself not too removed from the horrors of high school I can see the appeal of Twilight. And the fact that a romance movie in which the paramours only exchange chaste kisses throughout is destroying the box office should give us hope.

  19. Martin says:

    SDG is a brilliant catholic movie reviewer who does not pan movies for \”not being Catholic enough\” but looks right through the characters and plots to show you what\’s inside. He leaves it to you to decide the real value of any movie.

    I read his reeviews for fun as he is an excellent writer. try reading a few of his reviews to make you think.

  20. Lori Ehrman says:

    I didn’t read the books but I did see the movie(for free, I have family that works for AMC.) I thought the movie was a bit stupid. I was totally disappointed that the Cullins family only drank animal blood. I really wanted to see the vampire aversion to crosses, holy water and garlic. And Edward should have bitten Bella. I think all the negative hoopla about this movie has been exponentially multiplied due to the internet. It seems a bit like mob mentality to me. The movie is just not worth this much effort.

  21. Maureen says:

    I read some very interesting reviews of this series by an ex-Mormon. She sees the whole series as steeped in Mormon attitudes, with the vampires actually representing the good, perfect Mormon ideal,” and the confusing features of the book created by the author’s unconscious rebellion against the “perfect” Mormon life.

    Lots of bad language, btw.

  22. Another Nick says:

    I think the books are fun, but many try to read way too much depth into them. They’re just cheap entertainment. Not classics, but certainly not any more destructive than any other juvenile pablum. (Just a quibble with some of the comments: whether or not vampires have souls is never made clear; the characters disagree on the subject, but Bella’s vote is a definite “yes”.) The only problem I see with the books/movie is setting up girls to look for an “Edward” in their marriages: impossibly handsome, impossibly wealthy, devoted to his girl beyond all reason, possessing an iron self control, perpetually young. I pity the guys who have to compete with that! :)

  23. Brandon says:

    This is about to become another Harry Potter, Anti-Catholic fiasco, BECAUSE of Catholics. Many people are so desperate to find persecution everywhere, and enemies under every rock, that they’ll invent anti-Catholic (anti-Christian) biases everywhere.


    Da Vinci Code – Not particularly anti-Catholic, just some kooky novel that was viewed that way, and so the author/publisher took advantage of the hysteria.

    Harry Potter – Since when is a fascination with fantasy and imagination, mixed with magic bad for young people growing up?

    Obviously these things can’t teach our children all the lessons that life holds for them, but that’s out job. We let them take the good things like; adventure, fun, imagination, hope, sacrificing for others, and teach them to reject the bad like; question everything the Church says simply because she says it, waving a wand to make everything better, and yes, of course and particularly choosing to go to hell for someone.

    We need to not throw the baby out with the bathwater. If we’re looking for something completely good, without error or falsehood, the only thing we’ve got is the Bible, and what Mother Church explicitly says.

    Again. Babies and bathwater.

  24. Matt says:

    My brother Nick has a round-up of Twilight reviews on his apologetics/catechesis blog here:
    Exposing Twilight: Critical Reviews of Stephanie Meyer’s Saga

  25. ‘the books are fun, but many try to read way too much depth into them. They’re just cheap entertainment. Not classics, but certainly not any more destructive than any other juvenile pablum”
    Are you sure?
    As teacher in a Catholic Middle School, I am faced with the phenomenal hold which this series has on the imagination of teenage gils. It’s cultish and dangerous as I describe in my review:

  26. Sue Sims says:

    Unlike many of the contributors here, I’ve read Meyer: the year 8s and 9s (= grade 7 & 8) in the girls’ school where I teach are all mad over them, and I think it’s sensible for a teacher to know what her pupils are reading. I enjoyed them mildly; Meyer does manage the page-turning what-happens-next? technique pretty well. They’re not great literature, but she avoids some of the worst cliches – and more to the point, if you compare them to the sort of things many of them are reading otherwise (which range between semi-pornographic and actually pornographic), they show up quite well.

    It’s also noticeable that the feminist lobby are up in arms against the books and the film (which I haven’t seen), and that alone would predispose me in their favour!

  27. David Kastel says:

    If you want to see a pro-family movie, you should see Four Christmases. There are some elements which may be distasteful, but the theme of the movie is that these couples who are materialistic, hedonistic, and selfish (i.e. they each have their careers and no children, and love the easy life) are shallow and ultimately unhappy. It is natural and right for adults to have children and that will bring joy into your life. Plus, the one explicitly Christian person (Protestant minister) in the movie is actually portrayed in a positive light. I can;t remember the last movie where that was the case.

  28. Jane M says:

    The one element I know about that hasn’t been discussed here is that when Bella and Edward get married Bella turns up the next day, black and blue. Because Edward can’t help it. And the girls who are reading these books all buy that line. If that’s not a set up for trouble I don’t know what is.

    Further, the vampire baby is incredibly destructive to Bella because it hasn’t learned to be a vegan so it chews on her.

    The Mormon idea about women is that a Mormon woman cannot go to heaven unless she is married and her husband allows it. Just FYI

  29. dymphna says:

    Twilight is no worse than Harry Potter, for pity’s sake. And it’s rather remarkable that Ed and Bella don’t do the deed in the first chapter. If you read the teen girl books that are in the stores but haven’t attracted national attention there is a LOT of sex that would curl your hair.

  30. Mike B. says:

    Interesting review. I teach a literature course that covers quite a bit of vampire fiction, and I’m always amazed at the diversity of vampire folklore. Nothing beats Bram Stoker’s classic novel in my opinion, although there have been many other neat examples of vampire fiction.



  31. avecrux says:

    Hi Father.
    I am a long time reader of your blog and the author of the Spes Unica blog mentioned in Mr. Greydanus’ article. I think there is a lot more going on here than many realize. I got involved writing about this because 3 of my 5 daughters are in the “line of fire” age group – age 11, 12 and 14 – and the obsessive impact of this series is having a very negative impact on their lives. They are finding it almost impossible to be around girls of their own age who aren’t talking about the books, and usually the erotic aspects of them.
    My girls haven’t read the series or seen the movie – I have. Regarding the “chastity” angle – well, it is true that the couple in the series do not engage in sexual intercourse before marriage – but Edward does sneak into Bella’s house and sleep in her bed every night, which leads to some pretty intense passion described in the first person and obviously written in a manner to arouse. The star of the movie, Robert Pattinson, recently said in an interview with Rolling Stone that for a book about chastity, it is certainly having the opposite effect on its readers. That is because people have unfortunately begun to equate “chastity” with the maximum pleasure that can be derived from an encounter, shy of intercourse. Also, the reason the couple wait (even though Bella, the girlfriend, exerts quite a lot of pressure not to) is because of Edward’s super-human vampire strength, which he says could kill Bella if he completes the act. Thus, when we get to book four, Bella spends her honeymoon covered in bruises. Young girls can now buy t-shirts which say “Edward can bust my headboard, bite my pillows and bruise my body anyday!” (Yes, that is in reference to the wedding night of the couple in book 4.)
    People bring up the “pro-life” aspect of the books… well, Bella does conceive a half-human/half-vampire baby. She has to drink human blood out of a styrofoam cup at frequent intervals (which she enjoys!) to keep the baby’s thirst satiated. The child is so strong and grows so rapidly that she breaks her mother’s ribs, pelvis and spine before finally eating her way out of her body in a grotesque birth scene. Yes, Bella dies in the process, and many are lauding her for giving her life for her child. However, they tend to ignore how disgusting this portrayal of pregnancy is. The child’s first act after emerging from her mother is to bite her. Upon Bella’s death in childbirth, she is immediately injected with vampire venom which turns her into a vampire as well. Edward has been reluctant to turn Bella into a vampire because it requires the surrender of her soul – but she doesn’t care. She is attracted to the power and beauty of being a vampire.
    And maybe this is where we get into the most intense aspects of the Twilight saga. The author, Stephenie Meyer, describes herself as “anti-human”. Gina Dalfonzo, in an excellent article on the series written for National Review, unearthed that quote on Meyer’s website in response to those who accused her of misogyny – “I am not anti-female; I am anti-human.” Yes, this is clear in the series. Bella who describes her human face as “hideous” and her vampire face as “glorious”, finds that her transformation into a vampire brings her equivalent of salvation. She claims that in becoming a vampire she finds her place in the world, that it was like she was born to be a vampire. What does she get out of it? Super human strength, beauty, power and unrestricted sterile sex with her vampire spouse. Of this intense sex life she says “I was always going to want more. And the day was never going to end.” I don’t think this concept of “endless day” is accidental. I think it is an anti-type of salvation. It is interesting to note that “newborn” vampires (meaning, people who have just been turned into vampires) are meant to have an uncontrollable blood lust. Bella accepts this as one of the down sides of being “turned” (namely, that she would be indiscriminately murdering people on a regular basis for the first couple of years of her new existence), but finds once she IS a vampire that she has the power of super-self control… a willed behavior that enables her to be a “good” vampire that doesn’t kill people. She, in fact, saves herself from her blood lust. Why is this significant? Well – it very much accords with an important statement made by the author. The first book in the series – Twilight – has a woman’s hands holding an apple on the cover. It also quotes Genesis 2:17 just inside the cover. Of this, the author states:“The apple on the cover of Twilight represents ‘forbidden fruit.’ I used the scripture from Genesis (located just after the table of contents) because I loved the phrase ‘the fruit of the knowledge of good and evil.’ Isn’t this exactly what Bella ends up with? A working knowledge of what good is, and what evil is.” In Meyer’s world, however, we do not see the consequences – namely, death. Rather, the serpent would appear to be the truthful one… Bella does not die. She lives on gloriously – a life of power, incredible sensual pleasures, self-control which enables her to manage her vampire bloodlust in a way that has been impossible before now. The loss of Bella’s soul proves to be the beginning of her “happily ever after” – the title of the last chapter in the series.
    All I will say is that wounded feminine nature is still subject to the temptation of Eve and the consequences of the Fall. This book plays right into those deep, deep wounds and wraps it all in eroticism. Remember – the target audience is tweens. I haven’t even touched on the the terrible portrayal of femininity in the series (thus the – reasonable, I think – accusations of misogyny from feminists) but I think I’ve gone on long enough for now!

  32. IMHO says:

    “I HAVEN’T read the books, HAVEN’T seen the movies…”

    Excuse me? So if you haven’t seen/read the story then you’re qualified to give an informed opinion? To all the posters out there who fit this scenario: maybe you should form an opinion based on your own experiences rather than rely on someone else’ regurgitation. And for the record, I read the Twilight series b/c a friend really liked the story and wanted me to read them to discuss w/ her. I was not impressed by the writing or character development. But that’s just my opinion. Maybe you can read the story and form your own ideas.

  33. IMHO: Yep… I neither read them nor saw the movie. I said that up front. However, this wasn’t a review of the books or the movie. This was my intra-text commentary on a review.

  34. Jordanes says:

    IMHO said: Maybe you can read the story and form your own ideas.

    Or maybe we can save ourselves the time and trouble and just go with the opinion of everybody else who has read them. We can’t read every book or watch every movie, and in deciding what to read and what to see, it’s only sensible to listen to what others say about them. Now, I’ve not found a single person who says these are well written, not even those who liked the books, and judging from the way the plot and characters are described in these reviews and commentaries, it doesn’t seem like a good use of my time to sit down and read them. I might consider keeping them in the bathroom in case I run out of toilet paper, though.

  35. Christopher Milton says:

    “Man and woman are made for each other, but vampires don’t complete humans, any more than a tiger completes an impala.”

    I would say an tiger does complete an impala. IT allows the impala to fufill its role in the food chain. You know, circle-of-life sort of stuff. Humans, on-the-other-hand, were not meant to be prey.

  36. Laura says:

    haven’t read the books or seen the advise would b enjoy the story but don’t try to find role models on the book..just another fic. story

  37. coffee says:

    i wonder what will be more successful/popular in the long run, Twilight or Harry Potter

Comments are closed.