Today my baby girl cut her first tooth. I want to believe that by the time she and her little friends are old enough to read Stephenie Meyer’s Twilight series, everyone will have forgotten about that embarrassing literary atrocity. But, I’m afraid that might be wishful thinking. I want to have an answer prepared when my daughter says, “My friend Susie gets to read the Twilight books and why can’t I?!” Here it is:
I know that Susie and some of your other friends are devouring the Twilight series. They’re telling you how epic and romantic they are. My dearest, they are wrong. I have read the books in question (Ok, fine, I couldn’t make myself finish the last one with the half-vampire baby with that ridiculous name. I just couldn’t do it.). And they are nothing of the sort. If you want epic, read Lord of the Rings or Kristin Lavransdatter. If you want romance, read Miss Austen’s novels.
What’s that, my heart? You want specific reasons? Very well.
They will waste your time. In short, they’re simply mindless books. There are other books to read, my dear. Books that you will carry with you in your heart and soul till the day you die. I think far too much of you. I think far too much of your mind to let you waste it on something like Twilight.
And no, it’s not because there’s a little bit of violence, or because they’re fantasy books. There’s nothing better to help you learn what’s true than to read fantastical fairy stories. Your Daddy and I hope you read all sorts of good fantasy. We agree with Mr. Gilbert Keith Chesterton when he says:
“Fairy tales, then, are not responsible for producing in children fear…The baby has known the dragon intimately ever since he had an imagination. What the fairy tale provides for him is a St. George to kill the dragon. Exactly what the fairy tale does is this: it accustoms him for a series of clear pictures to the idea that these limitless terrors had a limit, that these shapeless enemies have enemies in the knights of God, that there is something in the universe more mystical than darkness, and stronger than strong fear.”
My dear, it’s not that I don’t want you to read about evil things like vampires. I can’t wait till you’re old enough to read George MacDonald’s Lilith. It’s my favorite vampire book. I just want you to read really splendid books about vampires, not lame ones. I want you to read writers who are master wordsmiths and who tell stories full of truth, beauty, and goodness. Needless to say, Miss Meyer is not one of them. If you don’t believe me, read this discussion that points out some of the stylistic gems she pens like this one: “I quickly rubbed my hand across my cheek, and sure enough, traitor tears were there, betraying me.” Wow. How does that even happen?
Dear girl, these books are just bad literature. You are too clever to waste your time on them. Now, we’re not expecting you to always read Dostoevsky and Dante and never read easy page-turners. Just because something is easy to read doesn’t make it bad. There are plenty of easy, fun reads that have meaningful things to say and are well-written.
The Twilight books are not in that category and Miss Meyer’s terrible writing is not the only major problem with them. The female protagonist is just about the worst role model I can imagine for you. You can read about what I think of that and what female literary characters I want you to get to know instead some other time. What I want to tell you today has to do with love. I don’t know anything about Miss Meyer’s personal life. But from what I read in Twilight, I can’t imagine that she really understands love.
You see, there’s something titled “love” in these books that isn’t anything like love at all. The boring protagonist Bella and her boyfriend who, I must add, is shockingly dull for being a 100-year-old sparkly vampire, have a relationship that is presented as an epic romance. Instead, it is a weird infatuation. Boring-gal and Old-Man-Vampire are madly attracted to each other from the moment they see each other (or in Old-Man-Vamp’s case, smell each other). He even compares the strength of his attraction to her scent to that of a pretty serious drug addiction. My dear, that’s not love. That’s hormones. Also, it’s creepy. Let’s just come right out with it: giving up your soul and abandoning your family because of your infatuation for an elderly stalker that might accidentally drink your blood is never a good choice.
Next, enduring love must have a basis of friendship. The only thing you have in common with your beloved cannot be your relationship. “We both like the other person a whole dang lot” isn’t grounds for an epic love, it’s the grounds for a bad high school break up. All Boring-Gal and Old-Man-Vamp talk about is their relationship. Yadda yadda yadda. Boring boring boring.
True love is exciting and dangerous and epic, but not because your man might accidentally kill you because he wants to drink your blood. True love is exciting and dangerous and epic because when you commit to loving someone forever, like Daddy and I have, you promise something so difficult and consuming that it is only possible by the grace of Our Lord. True love isn’t about sacrificing your humanity so that you can live with your weirdo vampire forever. True love is about filling each ordinary day with small sacrifices for your beloved. It’s about making the mundane events of life something beautiful and heroic. True love isn’t about gazing passionately into your beloved’s eyes (this may happen and that’s fine). True love is when your husband takes the toddler on a run in the jogging stroller at 6am so that you can sleep an extra 30 minutes next to your baby who nursed all night. It might sound unromantic to you now. But it won’t someday if you experience the unfathomable depth of true love. True love is so much more demanding than Miss Meyer thinks. And it is so much richer than her pathetic, weak rendering. You may not understand now, but someday, I hope you do.
That’s why you can’t read Twilight. You may envy Susie for having parents who let her read it. You may even be angry with Daddy and I. That’s ok. Our job isn’t to make you like us. Our job is to guide you to what’s true and beautiful and good. But do know, that every decision we make is because our love for you is beyond measure…and because bad literature makes us want to die. Also that.
Disclaimer: We’re not the sort of people that will be banning books from our household right and left. Rather than forbidding our kids from reading certain books, we plan to read the books our kids want to read with them so we can discuss the ideas presented and help our kids process them. By simply forbidding them to ever read certain books, we would only be making those books more enticing and we would risk our kids not truly understanding why we disagreed with the ideas presented as well as remove an opportunity for them to learn to discern good literature from bad and beautiful ideas from ugly ones. Once our kids reach an appropriate age choices about what they read will be entirely up to them. Hopefully, by that point they’ll have developed enough taste that they won’t want to read Twilight. Making decisions about when kids are ready for certain books is something only their parents can do. We won’t be allowing our kids to read Twilight when they’re preteens because so many ideas about relationships and identity are being formed at that age and we think the negative portrayals of women and twisted relationships aren’t something we want our kids to be presented with until they are older.
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