The Redeeming Qualities of Edward Cullen

When I taught a middle school girls Sunday school class, we used to play what I referred to as the Good/Bad Game. I would describe something, usually a common situation taken to an extreme, and then identify what was good and what was bad. By taking a situation to its logical end and setting things in black and white terms of good and bad, it helps us make decisions in the all-too-common gray areas of life. It was an exercise intended to help them guard the intentions of their heart so they would learn to keep good things good by keeping them ordered correctly in their lives. It also was good to teach them how to find the redeeming qualities from any part of life; sort of a practical separation of the wheat from the chaff. It is a good thing to do because it keeps us from being blinded by the shortcomings of the things we like and prevents us from overlooking the good in the things we dislike.

I bring up the Good/Bad Game because I have been informed by some of my friends that I demonized poor Edward Cullen by only warning of the extreme danger instead of teaching girls how to enjoy this fictional saga in a right manner. In light of that accurate and constructive criticism, I offer to my readers the Twilight version of the Good/Bad Game.

If you enjoy reading Twilight because you enjoy creativity and good story line and you enjoy being transported to a different world for a time, that’s GOOD.
If you enjoy reading Twilight because it is an escape from reality and you wish it was your reality, that’s BAD.

If you’ve read it more than once because you missed some good details the first time, that’s GOOD.
If you’ve read it more than 5 times and have memorized large chucks to use as a comparison to all the men you date or because you can’t go to sleep at night without reading it, that’s BAD.

If you look for a boyfriend like Edward because he steadfastly protected Bella’s honor and refused to have a heavily sexualized relationship until after they were married, that’s GOOD.
If you look for a boyfriend like Edward because you want to find someone who so completes your soul that you would rather die than live without them, that’s BAD.

If you wish your husband was a little more like Edward because Edward had moments of endearing and self-sacrificial love, that’s GOOD.
If you wish your husband was a little more like Edward because Edward was willing to sacrifice even common sense and Bella’s health and well-being to ensure her happiness, that’s BAD.

If you think Edward demonstrated love toward Bella because he protected her from harm, that’s GOOD.
If you think Edward demonstrated love toward Bella by controlling what she wore and who she hung out with and where she went, that’s BAD.

If you love Edward because he met Bella’s physical needs and spoiled her a little to show his love for his lady, that’s GOOD.
If you love Edward because he sits in her room all night and stares at her while she sleeps, that’s BAD.

If you find yourself thinking that you are worthy of being treated well by a man and won’t settle for less because you appreciated Edward’s love and respect for his “normal” lady, that’s GOOD.
If you find yourself rejecting every guy who tries to pursue you because he just isn’t as perfect as Edward, that’s BAD.

If you’re really excited about going to see New Moon because it’s a night out with your girl friends who also enjoy the books and the movies, that’s GOOD.
If you’re really excited about going to see New Moon because all of your fantasies will finally be put to live action on screen, that’s BAD.

If you wish your husband would get into shape because he has a history of heart disease and diabetes in his family, that’s GOOD.
If you wish your husband would get into shape because he’s just not as yummy and hot as Edward (or Jacob, depending on which Team you’re on), that’s BAD.

If you recognize Edward as a type of Savior character and appreciate that a character like that should point us to our true Savior and make you thankful for his unconditional love and sacrifice for His bride, that’s GOOD.
If you recognize Edward as a type of Savior character and go out seeking a man to save you the same way, that’s BAD.

I could go on, but I’m sure you get the point. And 95% of the people I know who enjoy the Twilight series are 99.99% in the GOOD on this game. My worry is for the 5% who miss the One to whom a character like Edward should point us. I stated in a previous post that stories like the one of Bella and Edward appeal to the hearts of women because we are created with a desire to be saved, and, deep down, we all recognize our need for a Savior.

So if you are one of those mature, grounded, believing women who enjoys Twilight for all the right reasons, take the opportunity to be a mentor to some younger ladies. Go with some girls in your youth group to see New Moon (again, by now, since it’s been out 48 hours—you know they’re all gonna go see it more than once) and then go out for coffee or ice cream and talk with them about that they like about it and why they enjoy it and what they can get out of it for their own lives and loves. Take the chance to engage their brains instead of allowing them to think they are passively enjoying “brain candy”. Don’t be naïve to think any of us take in entertainment and remain neutral to it; anything we passively take into our minds shapes our perceptions and outlooks on life.

Go forth, enjoy Edward (or Jacob) for all the right reasons, and guard your hearts against loving them for all the wrong ones.

Is Twilight Emotional Porn?

Much is made today of the devastating effects of pornography in the lives of men. Articles and books have been written by the thousands outlining the emotional, financial, time and relational impact of porn addiction. I work for a ministry that deals everyday with the effects of pornography. We have learned that men are wired to respond sexually to visual stimulation—I have been told by numerous men that, try as we might, women will just never understand the power of lust and the battle they fight against their sexual desires. I believe them.

Sometimes I wonder if the damage done by pornography is felt more by the women in the lives of these men than by the men themselves. Porn gives men an unrealistic expectation of how women should look and behave. Because men tend to be visual creatures, they respond to what they see. When what they have in real life doesn’t match up to what they have trained themselves to respond to on TV or the computer screen, they turn to those images for satisfaction. The problem is that no woman meets those expectations; not even those women themselves. They are airbrushed actresses, playing a part in a fantasy that cannot come true in real life. There are few things more damaging to the self-worth and emotional well-being of a woman than to feel like her husband is more attracted and sexually connected to an image on a screen than he is to her.

What, you may ask, does this have to do with the book series Twilight? Just like men tend to be stimulated visually and crave sexual connection, women tend to be wired emotionally and crave relational connection. In the past couple of years, I have watched middle and high school girls become obsessed with this book series and its characters. Recently, I have begun watching my friends in their twenties and thirties become equally caught up in the lives of the characters on the pages. More than any other character in the series, the obsession really lies in Edward Cullen, the teenage vampire heartthrob that loves the heroine, Bella Swan. Not only is Bella the heroine, but the books are written in first person from her perspective– as you read, you become Bella. You read her thoughts, you feel her emotions, you are drawn into the story in a way that is next to impossible in a book written in the third person. Fantasy becomes your reality, and Edward is set up as the perfect gentleman—he loves Bella at first site, sacrifices himself in an attempt to protect her, gives himself up to make her happy. He becomes a Messiah figure in her life, and because you are so attached to Bella’s character, he becomes your messiah, too. Deep down, we are all wired with a desire to be saved. That’s what makes the “knight in shining armor” story stand the test of time.

There is nothing wrong with desiring a man who will exemplify the standard of sacrificial love; after all, Scripture tells us that our husbands are to love us as Christ loved the church, which means he is willing to lay down his life for his wife (Ephesians 5). But in becoming obsessed with this fictional character, are we placing a standard of fantasy perfection on the fallen, sinful men who God has called to both serve and lead us? Just like pornography sets an unrealistic visual expectation for men, is Edward setting an unrealistic emotional expectation for women, particularly teenage girls?

Don’t think I’m picking on Twilight; it’s just the latest in a long line of things I would consider emotional porn. If you aren’t sure what I mean by emotional porn, have you ever been dumped by a boyfriend or been disappointed or hurt by your husband in some way and comforted yourself on the couch with a night of Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan “chick flicks”? Have you ever read a romance novel or watched a movie and thought, “If only he would treat me this way?” Have you watched The Notebook at least a dozen times and still sob like an infant, wondering if you will ever have a Noah Calhoun? The expectation has been set that men should sweep us off our feet—but then never put us back down.

And that is the crux of the issue—we are looking for a fulfillment in the creation that can only be found in the Creator (Romans 1:22-25). When a man seeks a woman who is a “real life porn star,” one who was created in the mind of a man instead of in the image of God, he is ultimately worshiping himself and his desires and he will always be disappointed. When a woman begins seeking a man who will meet her every need, satisfy her every desire, she has set herself up as an idol to be worshiped both by herself and by those around her, and she will always be disappointed. Only One is described in Scripture as “the fullness of him who fills all in all” (Ephesians 1:23).

While fantasy and fiction are fun, when we become so caught up in them that we begin to expect our fantasy in reality, a line has been crossed. So if you’ve read Twilight, has it altered the expectations you have set for the men in your life? Do you think it has created a fair expectation? And, does that expectation line up with the expectation laid out in Scripture of a godly man?