The Twilight of Addiction

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twilight poster.JPGThis is the age of addiction.

Think about it. People are pointing to new addictions just about every day. The Internet, now, there’s a real life-stealer. Reality TV shows, wow, just can’t get enough of those dancing stars of yesteryear. Movies. Music. iPads. Videogames. Seems that everybody is up-ending their lives to mainline something or other.

And the obsession du jour? Twilight. Yep, the teen book series turned movie blockbuster saga is now being credited with breaking up marriages and generally ruining the lives of obsessive devotees who can’t seem to get enough of Bella and her two paranormal beaus.

Just as a quick example of the junkie-tastic behavior, a recent Los Angeles Times article told the tale of an obsessed fan mom. She joined over a thousand Twilight diehards who slept outside the Nokia Theater in downtown L.A. for days in hopes of catching a glimpse of one of the movies’ stars at a premier for the pic, The Twilight Saga: Eclipse.

Now, if you’re thinking, “Well, that’s not so bad,” let me finish. The 39-year-old woman was interviewed by a reporter and she said: “This is the first time I’ve been this passionate about anything. I’ve read each of the books at least eight or nine times and I’ve watched each of the movies over 300 times apiece.”

The article goes on to discuss others—mainly women ranging in age from tweens to, well, let’s just say old enough to know better—who are consumed by this teen fantasy phenomenon. They’ve got non-stop (read and rereading) book clubs, online advice portals and websites where the impassioned can gather and feed each others’ habit. “It’s like a drug,” the L.A. Times article quoted one fan as saying. “I have to read it or I break down crying. It’s awful … I fear it’s unhealthy.”

Um, yeah, she may be right.

Who wrote this?

Bob Hoose is a senior associate editor for Plugged In, a producer/writer for Focus on the Family’s Adventures in Odyssey, a writer of plays and musicals and one-half of the former comedy/drama duo Custer & Hoose. He is a husband, father of three and a relatively new granddad.

Have something to say? Leave a comment.

Anonymous More than 1 year ago

Comment by  Person:

I think we ought to all agree... Vampires aren't supposed to be Edward, they're supposed to be evil. Lots of people have already said this. I dislike the current trend of un-yukifying/mainstreaming those things that were once shocking or horrible. You can't make a good vampire movie anymore, because the "vampire romance" thing has gone too far.

I admit, I do have a bit of a different point of view from a lot of these reviewers... namely, I enjoy the shock factor and to an extent the "evilness" part, but I still don't like Twilight, True Blood, Vampire Diaries or anything like that. Mainstreaming=Bad.

Oh and as for "well-rounded" characters... XD

Anonymous More than 1 year ago

Comment by  sistercynthia:

Vanaloth brings up an interesting point, the current fascination with monsters who don't WANT to be monsters, and who must therefore fight their base instincts in order to be as much of a human as they used to be.  That idea has been used in werewolf plots as well as the current vampire rage (Wolfman, anyone?).  Isn't this basically the struggle ALL humanity faces?  We KNOW we want to be "good," yet it is so natural for us to sink into sniping and petty behavior, if not actually cross the line into cruelty when angry or self-absorbed.  Prisons are fully of those who gave in to their "dark side" and chucked their humanity for the sake of greed, anger, lust, or whathaveyou.  It seems that we no longer appreciate SHEER evil (well, except when demonizing our political opponents!)--so instead of monsters as freaky affronts to both God's Creation and Goodness, they have become stand-ins for our own sin-nature... we look to see how Angel or Edward or Lawrence Talbot fight the natural urges of what they have become, as tho seeking to learn how to conquer our own "monstrous" tendencies thru their struggles.  I also find these setups intriguing and, if done well, compelling.

But at the end of the day, those of us who know Christ have to admit that no-one is going to find the cure for their propensity towards evil (the sin nature!) by seeking inspiration from a fictional monster.  The ONLY way we can hope to grow beyond what we were born with that makes us lash out in selfishness is the transforming power of God.  We can seek to be "better" thru discipline, and many religions are based on just that, but the bent towards evil is still there.  We have to seek the Lord's strengthening and the renewal of our minds and hearts thru His Word and the indwelling Spirit.  Even then, we still stumble like others in many ways (hopefully minor, and not major)--at the end of our lives, the only hope we have of appearing before Judgement and not being condemned for knowing the good and not doing it is our perfect Christ's standing in FOR us.  We can't save ourselves or others from us, we have to submit our whole, flawed selves to God and seek His transforming salvation.  And no monster movie or series being churned out today points us towards the cure: the Wolfman suicides, the Cullens just muddle along, and various other monsters seek ways to embrace their desires and celebrate what they are without hurting others, in effect trying to live out the Wiccan Reed and ignoring the older wisdom of the Apostles' Creed.

Anonymous More than 1 year ago

Comment by  oldfashionedgirl:

I liked the Twilight series because of the characters. They were clear and well-rounded, and you felt like you knew them. And the series is very addictive. While I only read one book a month, I found that all other books were not as fun as Stephanie Meyer's, so could not read anything else. I was also obsessive about the movies, even though I found the acting stilted and the artistry lacking. What is so compelling about this series is the relationships between the characters, and the fact that it is basically a treatise on different kinds of love. What baffles me is that Bella chose the love that destroyed her rather than the kind that allows her to grow. Incidentally, reading Louisa May Alcott is the perfect literary antidote to this series, it worked for me.

Anonymous More than 1 year ago

Comment by  jhnwsly:

While I don't want to totally echo the sentiment of your reviewer Paul Asay(in his review ofEclipse), in response to this article, I do find his observations on Twilight's appeal to beintriguing. Everyone could reasonably expect that the teensomethings and twenty somethingswould be immersed in the kindof idealistic romantic fantasy Twilight indulges in. However thekeen interest of married women  does raise a very interesting issue. After all, these "mature"individuals should seem to know that love is more sacrifice,  than the fantasies portrayed inmedia.The fantasy lives married women are vicariously living through Bella suggests that few areleading the marriages they envisioned . This of course leads to one of two options. That womenstruggle to make their marriages as passionate as the ideal that Twilight  presents through variousmeans, or that women occasionally indulge in the escapism, then in the non-Twilight  time beingcontent with what they have, realizing that the ideal is unattainable.Yet the rush to condemn the idealism of  Twilight 's romance though needs to be held inperspective. As Christians even though we are to be flexible when life's hardships come againstus we still cling hold to a hope that our faith will produce idealistic results. For example, like themany Christians I know believing the Lord for a spouse, they are believing that God will send"the right person" their way. The idea in Twilight  that Bella and Edward are eternally committedto each other would strike most people as reasonable, after all, ideally, doesn't everyone deserveto be with someone who loves them as much as they love the other person?Twilight here serves as a mirror for the Christian view on hope faith and expectation. After all inthe Bible, we are told stories of Jacob who worked 14 years for Rachel, Ruth who found thefavor of God and Boaz, and Christ who laid down His life for His bride the Church. When westate that Twilight is raising people's expectations of their spouses to an unreasonable level, aswell as the expectations of singles in regard to their future mates, we do so at the cost of sayingthat finding the perfect mate or having a deeply intimate marriage is out of the realm ofpossibility, ultimately inferring that it is too hard for God to do. Expectations can be a double edged sword. On one hand as Christians we should always be prepared for the reality that God directs all our paths, and that such direction will at times lead us to places we don’t want to be. On the other hand if we don’t believe and set any expectations we risk falling into the category of disciples who “have not because they ask not”. Jesus told the centurion of great faith, “...and as thou hast believed, so be it done unto thee.” (Mt. 8:13) and even commands his disciples to ask God for what they need that their joy may be full (Jn 16:24). In the end I would rather err on the side of believing for the best than believing for the worst. Sure the likelihood that everything in life is going to go exactly as planned in incredibly unlikely, but as Christians we’re called to be a people who practice faith, hope, and charity. Conceding our faith and hope by assuming unnecessary difficulties will always arise  and that God doesn’t give good gifts unto His children, will only result in a life that is comprised of those things, rather than a life of the things that God wants us to have.

Anonymous More than 1 year ago

Comment by  vanaloth:

While I do agree with much of what she says about the nature of Bella and Edward's relationship, I feel that she's going a little far in insinuating that the series is inspired by Satan.  As a writer myself, I know that I've had my share of dreams that inspired plots, and they obsess me until I get quite a bit written down--that's nothing unusual for someone interested in stories.  Also, she emphasizes that vampires are evil.  But vampires aren't anything.  They don't exist.  And thus, they are what we make them. I've never been interested in any other "vampire romance" genre book (maybe that's why it doesn't bother me that the Twilight vampires don't have the attributes of traditional vampires), but one of the things which attracted me to Twilight was the premise---if there were vampires, who became vampires and were given this blood-lust against their will, what if there were those who chose not become monsters?  Who chose not to kill humans?  Who suppressed their natural instincts in order to not be a monster?  It's a pretty cool concept, in my opinion. As for my relationship with God, it's actually had the reverse effect.  Knowing that some people do get too obsessed, I end up, if anything, praying and talking with God more when I'm reading Twilight.  I know not everyone will do that, but it shows that it doesn't have to separate you from God.  (and if you're wondering why I feel the need to pray more when I read Twilight, it's not because I think it's inherently evil, but because, like any gripping book (LOTR included, as my previous post shows) has the capacity to obsess, and I don't want that to happen, no matter what it is I'm reading.)

Anonymous More than 1 year ago

Comment by  lupinskitten:

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Rockchalk, thanks for the link to the article. I found it quite interesting.

I don't agree with the author on all things (I suspect she is overreacting with her "the books are demonic / of the occult" argument) ... but she bring up an interesting point, and one I have stated many times from the perspective of an avid fan of classic literature:

Vampires in genuine literature are supposed to be evil.

I have my own reasons for disliking Twilight, which has much to do with the disturbing, co-dependent relationship between Bella and Edward, but am always curious to hear the opinion of others. I asked one of my friends her reasons for disliking the fandom and she said, “Because vampires have always been about spiritual symbolism. It has always been about the vital importance of Life and Blood.”

Stoker wrote Dracula as a counter-assault against the creeping atheism of the Victorian era. The novel is a warning that without fearing God, society is at risk from evils it cannot comprehend. Christians base their salvation on the Blood of Christ – vampires feed off the blood of the living, God’s Children. Essentially, they are seeking eternal life apart from God – a very apt depiction of hell. It is an illustration of evil.

Stripping that symbolism (aversion to crosses and crucifixes, having to stay in darkness, being burned by the Light) therefore is offensive to those who look at the series from a spiritual perspective. Instead of illustrating the darkness and sadness of these lost souls, Meyer chooses to make them sparkle.

I don’t think reading about vampires is essentially evil, unless it leads you toward other things that remove your focus from God. Nor do I think Twilight is demonic. I do, however, think its views and underlining messages are not all that healthy for teenage girls, particularly young and impressionable ones. What concerns me most is that this fascination may lead fans to pursue other vampire franchises – namely, True Blood on HBO. The amount of Christians I have met that enjoy that series in spite of its rampant gore, pornographic sex scenes, and absolutely foul language makes my heart hurt. Is that where most of these girls are headed?

Anonymous More than 1 year ago

Comment by  lolibbitb:

You say that as if men aren't obsessed with how actresses look. i mean, angelina jolie and megan fox, they're pretty average? Twilight is an escapist fantasy for women. the men happen to be hot, but that's not the issue. the real lure of twilight, for many, is the intense intimacy the characters have with each other.

also, the two biggest vampire fandoms i can think of are "buffy the vampire slayer" and anne rice's books. buffy had a pretty co-ed following, and it's mostly women who like anne rice.

Anonymous More than 1 year ago

Comment by  Spinmaster:

Joff, I must disagree with you on this.  Considering that there have been "hunky" vampires long before Twilight (Angel and Spike, anyone?), I doubt the intensity with which "twihards" love the series can be attributed merely to physical attractiveness.

I think instead, the main draw is the intensity of passion in the characters' relationships, and the unusual sensitivity with which the author imbues Edward, and the animalistic passion that drives Jacob.  These are two qualities that I think most women like to see in their men, but for various reasons, are often repressed.  Now add to this physical perfection and a literally to the death devotion, and Meyers paints a picture that can be quite absorbing, to those in unsatisfactory relationships, or those not in a relationship.

For the record, I quite enjoyed the books (though not so much the movies), and I think the "addictiveness" is often overplayed.  They're just stories, and the obsession over them says more about the mentality of the people obsessing, than any problem with Twilight itself.

Anonymous More than 1 year ago

Comment by  rockchalk32:

Excellent article on the topic:www.probe.org/.../The_Darkness_of_Twilight.htm

Anonymous More than 1 year ago

Comment by  jofftheheezay:

Is it really that hard to figure out? Girls are obsessed with how the actors look. The abs, face, whatever.

"Desire for women to be loved"? yeah, right; By a "hunk" of a man, you mean?

If the "stars" of twilight were average looking men, the series would have never have been remotely successful; After all, before this franchise came around, weren't the kids who obsessed about Vampires shoved into lockers and shunned by society, ESPECIALLY Women? Definitely.

Anonymous More than 1 year ago

Comment by  vanaloth:

It's clear that Twilight has it's issues, both in its own content and its sometimes crazy fandom. But Twilight is not crack cocaine.  It's not automatically addicting, and it's not its own fault that some people become addicted to it.  There is definitely a sector of the fandom who live in the Twilight universe (as the post said) but there are also those who (like me) enjoy the story, like the characters, and then can put the book down/leave the theater, and go on with life.  I think it's mainly those who have not developed a good view of romantic love (or love in general) to begin with, and thus are desperate for something to fill the void, who decide that their new standard for men is now that they must be either a werewolf or a vampire.  (Or, more to the point, Jacob Black or Edward Cullen). These are the 40 year old women who ask 16-year-old Taylor Lautner to sign their "Team Taylor" underwear." (Now that's where pedophilia meets Twilight; the imprinting on children is not romantic; it's entirely friendship until the imprintee gets into their teens--until then, you just have one really devoted babysitter).  But it's these same people who shouldn't be reading Twilight, because it doesn't fulfill their desire for love, it just fuels it, while giving them an incomplete picture of what love--especially romantic love--is. In some ways, I can relate to the Twilight addicts, because I've had my own literary addiction (not Twilight).  When I was 12 (I'm 18 now), I read Lord of the Rings, over and over and over and over and over.  I would not read anything else.  I did not want to talk about anything else.  I did not think about anything else.  One of my friendships was damaged because of this obsession.  After seven or so months, my very wise mother prohibited me from reading the books for a while.  I still love LotR, but I am an avid reader of other books, and discusser of many other topics, and a thinker of even more topics.  And some of this Twihards really needs my mom to tell them to stop. 

As for Twilight's own issues, within the books themselves (as opposed to the fandom), they definitely exist.  Bella and Edward's love goes past "committed" to "obsessive."  Bella's father (although certainly a favorite character because of his love for Bella, at least among my friends), though loving, is somewhat clueless; while it would be dangerous for him to know about vampires, I'm sure many teens decide to ignore that particular detail and take it as license to enact their own Twilight story.

And there are also good points, though.  I find it quite interesting that of all the vampire romances out there, the one that became famous was the one in which the male vampire lead believes in abstinence and marriage. 

Anonymous More than 1 year ago

Comment by  ChinaDoll:

The addiction probably lies in women's natural longing to be loved. Edward Cullen seems to love passionately, protectively and purely. It's easy, though incorrect, for many women and girls to overlook the many destructive aspects of Bella and Edward's relationship and focus instead on its intensity. These two charaters share a kind of love that few people ever experience.

In Eph. 5 men are called to love their wives--perhaps because affection isn't as easy for them to express. Women, however, are notably called to respect their husbands, because love comes more naturally to us. So when a man loves a woman deeply, other women notice and watch with fascination and longing--even if the relationship is fictious.

I can see middle-aged women pining for this type of relationship if their marriages are disappointing. (And whose marriage isn't on occasion?) The "vampire love" obsession is likely a form of escape.

So is this Twilight trend explicable? Probably. But is it healthy? Absolutely not. Our culture has made an idol of romantic relationships, and in doing so, we're creating unreasonable expections and impossible ideals that will disappoint anyone who wants what Bella and Edward only appear to have.

Anonymous More than 1 year ago

Comment by  lupinskitten:

I can understand teenage girls loving this series, because the premise is a bit immature and "high school"-esque, but I cannot understand why moms and grandmothers are so crazy about it.

Yesterday, I read a really interesting article called "Shedding Some light on Twilight" that talked about the unfortunate underlining themes of the books from the perspective of a mother who asked herself, "What if Bella was my daughter?"

She brings up a bunch of primary points that illustrate my concern with the story -- revolving mainly around Bella's dangerous and self-destructive behavior. Looking at it from her perspective, it seems even more unusual that middle-aged moms would love this series so much. And that's not even entering into the creepy pedophile undertones of later volumes -- leaving aside that Edward is over a hundred years old and Bella is just barely legal, the Italian vampire Aro kisses his immortal child minion lingeringly on the lips in New Moon, and of course a major character "imprints" (chooses for his future bride) on an infant in the last book.

With regards to the previous comment, the answer to addiction is simple -- any time anything in your life becomes more important than your walk with God, it is not good and you need to take a step back from it. It's normal for humans to have addictive personalities, but there's a difference between temporary interest and full blown obsession. It's normal to be focused on something for awhile due to a new interest or passion, but then it is normal to move on and find something else of interest. How do we control our obsessions? By putting God first, our spouse second, our children third, and our interests and obsessions fourth. One cannot and should not pursue an obsession at the cost of the people in their lives.

Having said that, I'm baffled as to why the series is so popular. What is it feeding these women that is lacking from their lives? There must be a reason it resonates so well with a particular demographic of females.

Anonymous More than 1 year ago

Comment by  lolibbitb:

so what would you suggest these women, and other addicts, do? the ending sentence seems redundant, awfully trite, and not very compassionate. it would be nice if you had closed this post with some spiritual advice for addicts, or had analyzed the appeal of the very destructive messages the twilight franchise gives fans, instead of simply pointing out that, "look, anything can be addictive!"