Wednesday, December 23, 2009

John Granger on Twilight

As we've made clear, I have no great love for the Twilight franchise, but, nonetheless, some of the criticisms of the series kind of get on my nerves. I must agree that Stephenie Meyer doesn't succeed at writing a chaste teen romance, but I still give her credit for making the attempt.

(And if you want to talk conspiracy theories, I prefer the one that Twilight is a Catholic attempt to keep teens from having premarital sex. I'm pleased to say that I was in on this conspiracy, and that Twilight was written by a committee of mediocre Catholic authors posing as Mormons in order to maintain our cover. Being from Utah, and being a mediocre Catholic author, I was selected to write a five-page description of Edward Cullen's gorgeously chiseled pecs. I was a little embarrassed, when I received my contributor's copy, to find that the entire five pages had been included in the final draft, surrounded by about 300 similar pages.)

(Image minus captions stolen from Spes Unica.)

When Lucky, Snuffles, and I put together our review, I considered discussing Meyer's Mormon faith and its influence on Twilight, but I didn't feel competent do dive into that subject, and when I went to find outside resources, all I uncovered were sarcastic essays with anti-Mormon chips on their shoulders. However, I recently came across John Granger's "Mormon Vampires in the Garden of Eden" from Touchstone, an article that looks at the topic both deeply and respectfully, but quite critically. Granger offers an insightful discussion that falls into neither fangirlish hysterics nor reactionary anti-Twilight hysterics.

Granger attributes the popularity of the series partly to its religious basis:

When God is driven to the periphery of the public square, the human spiritual capacity longs for exercise, and it often finds it in the “suspension of disbelief” and activity of the imagination that are available in novels and movies.

The books and films that satisfy this spiritual longing most profoundly are the ones that have religious content of some kind, sometimes any kind. [more...]
Granger summarizes Twilight thus:
Which brings us to Twilight. 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. [more...]
The rest of the essay fleshes out that theme, and I encourage all our readers to read it. I will only note one odd detail that will probably catch most people's eyes: he places the origins of Mormonism in the 1600s, but I think he only means that Mormonism has certain precursors that date that early.

Update: It's only fair to post contrary views, and Granger's essay is unsurprisingly controversial. A reader kindly passes along a couple of links. The first is Tyler Chadwick's "Where Twilight Studies Meet Mormon Studies," and the second is "Mormon Vampires in the Garden of Eden?" by Daniel O. McClellan. I'm not interested in getting embroiled in an argument on the subject, but I think it's reasonable to note that Granger does indeed have to make some big assumptions to put together the narrative he wants.
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