[A] <i>Twilight</i> Rant

This post is reprinted with permission by the author, Miss Sarah Drosendahl, age 16.  You can check out her personal blog at Sarah in Real Life.

Spoiler Warning: I will talk about the plot and ending to the books. If you haven’t read them yet but plan to, don’t read this if you don’t want to know how they end.

So I finished reading the Twilight books about two months ago, and I’ve been thinking about them quite a bit since. As a teenage girl, I enjoyed them immensely, because of the romance and the perfect happily-ever-after. Really, I can’t help but love them and want to read them over and over again. They’re the perfect way to drown from reality, exactly my brand of heroin :P. However, as works of literature, I have to say that they were not at all worth reading. Now, I will proceed with my big long rant on all the reasons why these books were bad, and I wish I could just stop thinking about them, but alas! I am a very obsessive creature by nature, and can think of little else, once I am obsessed. Perhaps this will get it all out of my system and I can go back to living my life. These are sort of in order from least important to most infuriating, but not totally.

First of all, Stephenie Meyer is uneducated in sentence structure. I found it extremely frustrating to read her books when there were sentence fragments on every single page. I can understand that, because the books were written in a first-person perspective, the sentence fragments were added to make it seem more like a stream of consciousness, but they were used far too frequently! I really don’t like it when an author uses poor grammar; it makes me respect them much less that I normally would. After all, good grammar, punctuation, spelling, and a decent vocabulary are the foundation to any kind of good literature, in my opinion, and the Twilight books’ plentiful sentence fragments made it seem amateurish, to me.

Something else that bothered me about these books was that it didn’t seem like Meyer had a real plan of what was going on. The books didn’t really have any plot, individually or as a series. In the first book, it seemed like she realized, two thirds of the way through, that she needed to give it a climactic ending, which is why James, Victoria, and Laurent(!) came in. I noticed the same sort of thing happening in the fourth book. After Bella has become a vampire, Meyer realizes that she needs to end the book climatically (and wants it to be as long as her other books), which is where the big Volturi thing came from. The second and third books are better plot-wise, since you know about the "bad guys" from the beginning. The whole series did not feel very unified, to me. The books lacked a good, unifying plot.

One of things that really angered me, once I realized it, is how Stephenie Meyer is constantly comparing her writing to that of classic authors whose work is much superior to hers, such as Jane Austen, Shakespeare, and Emily Bronte. In the first book, one Sunday afternoon, Bella takes her volume of all Jane Austen’s books out onto the lawn to read (which made me incredibly jealous because it isn’t fair that she gets Edward and all of Jane Austen’s books! I want the books!). She becomes upset when she finds that the boy in Sense and Sensibility is named Edward Ferras. She skips to Mansfield Park, only to find that this book is about a young man named Edmund Bertram, whose name is much too close to Edward. Frustrated that she can’t get him off her mind, she takes a nap in the sunshine. By this, Meyer, intentionally or not, is saying that Edward Cullen is just as great as, if not better than, Ferras and Bertram, who in my opinion are far superior to him. In the second book, in the very first chapter, Edward and Bella watch Romeo and Juliet together on her couch on her birthday. Then, at the end of the book, Edward believes that Bella has committed suicide, which prompts him to go to Italy to commit suicide himself. Bella has not killed herself, although she did jump off a cliff for the fun of it. She and Alice have to run off to Italy and stop Edward from dying. Then in the third book, Bella is rereading Wuthering Heights for the billionth time, and she is mentally comparing her situation with Edward and Jacob to this book often. Now, I confess, I have never read Wuthering Heights, so I cannot accurately say how much of Eclipse came from it. All I can say, is that she was more obviously comparing herself to Emily Bronte in the third book than in the others; the book was quoted in Eclipse at least three times. I will say that she didn’t compare the fourth book to anything, that I know of. It was pretty ridiculous, though, and I don’t think anything has ever been written quite like it.

Another thing that annoyed me was that none of the characters in these books, except for Carlisle, had any goals or ambitions. None of them had any plan of what they were going to do with the rest of their lives, or any inclination to make one. I can understand the vampires not having any goals, since they move so much and just repeat school over and over, but Bella and Jake and their friends should have had some idea of what they wanted to do! Bella’s only plan is to be with Edward forever, which is romantic but unrealistic. She doesn’t plan to do anything productive in society, since she doesn’t plan on ever being a mother or staying employed at Mrs. Newton’s outdoor supply store. Jacob, also, doesn’t really have any plans for his future. After he became a werewolf, that did become his job, but, after Vicky’s army was destroyed, he didn’t really have much work to do and could have had a job, but he didn’t… He just moped about how Bella chose Edward over him. This sets a bad example for the young people who read these books, who ought to be learning responsibility and deciding what to do with the rest of their lives.

One of the things that really ticked me off about these books was the lack of character development in all of the characters. I suppose that the vampires have a legitimate excuse, since their characters can’t change because they’re vampires, according to Meyer. Most of the vampires had cool characters, anyway (by most, I mean all but Edward). It was Bella, and Jacob to a lesser extent, whose lack of character development really annoyed me (No, I don’t count turning into a mythical creature as character development), since there really weren’t any other main characters that weren’t vampires. Both of them, aside from becoming mythical creatures, stay pretty much the same as they were in the beginning, except now they have found their true loves. Jake actually was starting to develop as a character, in the fourth book when he was hanging out with Leah, but then he had to go and meet Renesmee, and he was no longer heartbroken, and his character stopped developing, which made me sad. Meyer just isn’t good at writing characters who develop through the books.

This really bothered me because Bella’s character so desperately needed to be developed. As a person, she seemed smart enough, and she had good taste in literature, but she always let her heart decide. I’m not saying not to listen to your heart; I just think that listening and always following without considering how stupid it may be are two very different things. Always doing whatever you feel like doing is not smart. Sometimes, you can’t have or shouldn’t have what you want, because it’s bad or unhealthy for you. As the song goes, you can’t always get what you want. Once Bella meets Edward, it’s like her ability to think rationally just flies out the window. I mean, she never once thinks, "Hey, maybe it’s not such a good idea to go out with a guy who has admitted that he is a murderer, wants to kill me, has been sneaking in my window to watch me sleep at night, and isn’t exactly human." I can understand to an extent how it would be hard to think rationally, since she just found out that mythical creatures exist in reality, and he’s really dazzlingly pretty, but that doesn’t change what is smart and what is just stupid.

Then there’s the fact that she’s absolutely and utterly dependent on having a man in her life. When Edward leaves her in the second book, she can’t survive on her own at all; she just curls in on herself. Then she runs into Jacob’s arms and stays there until she can be with Edward again. Now, I do think that it is important for women to be with men. In a perfect world, women would always have men out there taking care of them, but alas! this is not a perfect world; it is a fallen one. In this fallen world, women need to be able to be independent in case a time should come when the men in their lives abandon them. Bella did have a man in her life; his name was Charlie. With him there, she did not need to have Edward there taking care of her and providing for her. Bella had been perfectly fine without a boyfriend before Edward came along! A rational woman would have to get over it eventually and move on and keep on living, with or without him, and become independent, which would have caused great character development. Bella doesn’t do that; oh no, she needs him and can’t live without him, which is romantic and dramatic and all, but it doesn’t work that way in the real world. Even though she’s in Jake’s arms, she’s still clinging to Edward, refusing to ever let him go, even though he’s already gone. Now, I know I’ve never had my heart broken, so I have no real experience with this, but I know that when someone doesn’t love you anymore and has left and been gone for more than 6 months and promised that they’d never come back, you can’t keep holding on, because it will destroy you mentally, especially when you have someone (like she had Jake) who is there for you and loves you and wants to make it all better.

One of the biggest problems I have with these books is how unrealistic they can be when it comes to relationships and happily-ever-afters. I’m not talking about the existence of vampires and werewolves; that’s just part of their fantasy universe. However, their existence shouldn’t change how things work in the real world. In the entire series, I can only think of two times that Bella and Edward ever argued about anything, both of which ended with Edward caving to what Bella wanted even though he was right. The first time was when Bella wanted to be a vampire, but Edward said no, he wouldn’t take her soul away like that. He didn’t win that argument, since his whole family and the Volturi disagreed with his point of view. The second time was in the fourth book, when Edward said that he wouldn’t sleep with her again until she was a vampire, because he didn’t want to hurt her. He went back on this as well, because Bella begged and cried, and he couldn’t say no to her when she did that. Now that I think of it, there was one other time that they argued: when she wanted to hang out with Jake in the third book and he hated Jake’s guts. That didn’t last very long, however, and it all worked itself out without any yelling and fighting. Other than those times, the two of them never tire of each other’s company, never get annoyed with each other, and never really disagree on anything! That’s just ridiculous! Real life isn’t like that; people who love each other still annoy each other and disagree on little things. The love that they shared in these books isn’t something that can be found in reality, I am convinced. What can be found, I believe, is the love that she shared with Jacob. Don’t kill me here; I’m not on Team Jacob, really! I just think that their relationship was more realistic. He was annoying and sarcastic and funny and couldn’t keep his hands to himself and couldn’t take a hint that maybe she didn’t want him to kiss her! He was also her best friend, and I’ve been told my whole life to marry my best friend. Now, in a realistic story, she would have gotten over Edward after he left and would have married Jacob and been Bella Black! If that didn’t happen, and she did end up with Edward, she and Jake wouldn’t have been friends anymore. After she got married, he wouldn’t have spoken to her ever again, if this were realistic, and he most certainly wouldn’t have fallen in love with her daughter and been her friend again! But that’s part of the fantasy-werewolf stuff, so I won’t mess with that. The whole unrealistic happy relationship makes girls think that there really are people who are as perfect as Edward, and they don’t want to settle for anything less. The problem is, no one is as perfect as him, since he’s a fictional character who has no flaws. Real men aren’t like that; they’re flawed people, sinners like everybody else. I just think that these books give girls unrealistic expectations of men and of life in general.

The last, and probably the biggest, thing about these books that I could not agree with was how Meyer put her Mormon theology into her books, which goes against everything I believe. I know that I’m probably biased, since I’m an awesome Lutheran like Charlie, but still, this is something that made me deem this series as less than great. It doesn’t help that I think Mormon boys are cute, since they’re so polite and well dressed all the times. This is clearly in all of the books except the first one. It’s like the theme of the books is this: If you try hard enough, you can be a good person, and if you are a good enough person, you’ll get to live forever with your true love like a god and goddess. That is purely Mormon theology right there! Let me back up. It starts off innocent enough, and if you didn’t know that Meyer was Mormon, you might not even realize that she put her theology into her writing. In the second chapter of New Moon, Bella and Carlisle discuss theology to get her mind off her injured arm. Carlisle believes that, because he and his family are good people, he thinks that they will all go to heaven. This is wrong, since being a good person can’t earn Heaven, since people can’t ever be good enough; people go to Heaven only because Christ died for them and forgave their sins and made them worthy of heaven. Then, in Eclipse, when Edward says that they should wait until they’re married, I was very happy. That is, until he gave his reason. He wanted to wait because he wanted her to go to heaven, and he didn’t want to jeopardize her eternal life. This is the wrong reason. He truly believes that you have to always do the right thing to go to Heaven. In the partial draft of Midnight Sun, you get to see into Edward’s mind, which reveals his obsession with doing the right thing no matter what. Whenever he fails to meet the incredibly high standard he sets for himself, he is overcome with self-loathing (as in the beginning of Breaking Dawn), which would not be bad if it changed how he looks at the world and made him see that he can’t be perfect, but it doesn’t. He is convinced that vampires cannot go to heaven because they are naturally evil. I liked this, but Bella changes his mind on this subject. Something that really angered me was how, in Midnight Sun, when Bella was a newborn vampire, she had perfect self control. When she and Edward discussed how Jasper started to rethink his worldview because of that, thinking maybe if he tried harder, he could be a good little vampire, you can see how the books do not promote Christianity or Lutheranism. They are all about relying on yourself and not on your Lord and Savior, Christ, to earn heaven and eternal life for you. They seem to say that, if you are a good person, you’ll get everything you could ever want in life. That is just completely untrue. Nobody can be good enough, and even Christians who are forgiven and saved still suffer all their lives. Christianity isn’t about having a happy life; it’s about having something to look forward to when things aren’t going right, having hope in something other than yourself when you know you’ve failed. The Mormon theology was the most aggravating thing about the books.

So you can see that I have way too much time on my hands and spend way too much of that time analyzing books that really aren’t that important. I have to say that the books are very captivating, and Meyer is very good at writing emotions, which makes it easy to get swept up in her writing. This worries me greatly, because I know many girls and women who have read these books and seem to believe that this sort of happy ending is somehow possible, when it really isn’t in this wicked world. The books lacked good sentence structure and good plots and any real character development. The author constantly compared her books to those of brilliant authors who were much better than her. The characters didn’t have any ambitions, goals, or any plans for their futures. The main character, Bella, was a silly little girl who couldn’t think rationally or live without a man to love her, yet she was portrayed as an extremely intelligent person. The other main character, Edward, was a Mormon, which makes me sad, because he is what girls who read these books end up looking for. He’s also impossibly perfect on the outside, which somehow doesn’t upset Bella at all after the first book. So, if you happen to be anything like me and end up obsessing over things like this, I would advise you not to read this series. If you’re looking for really good literature and thought that, since these books have been bestsellers for the past few millennia, I must tell you that they are not, in any way, good literature. Honestly, though, I can’t say that I don’t like these books. I love them as much as I hate them, and I can’t help it. I like stories that end with perfect happily-ever-afters and have magic in them and have lots of happy romantic parts in them. Unfortunately, when I read things like this, I become a person that I don’t like being, and it’s not good for my mental health to focus on fiction so much instead of reality. So, I haven’t read any of these books in over two months, and I don’t intend to read them for a really long time, if ever. In conclusion, the Twilight books were entertaining, but they were not good literature and I do not recommend them to anyone.


The Fine Line We Walk

As Lutherans, we walk a fine line, theologically speaking.  We are very careful to maintain doctrinal paradoxes while not falling into errors of one side or the other.  It’s kind of fun, in discussions, that we can just as easily take either side of an argument in an attempt to bring that paradoxical tension about and get back on that fine line.

Sometimes we fail.

I grew up with a lot of traditions that would make many of the people I know today cringe.  For example, it was perfectly normal for women to vest in an alb and read lessons or serve as communion assistants.  I did so myself many times.  Later in life, I had an opportunity to re-examine these practices and came out the other side with a different conclusion than the one I originally held.  This wasn’t a casual decision or something easily changed.  I had planned and build my education and future career on this foundation.  A different conclusion meant that a lot of what I had done and invested time and energy (and my parents’ money!) to do was for naught.  But it was, in my opinion, the right thing to do and I couldn’t NOT do it in light of the self-examination and maintain any semblance of integrity within myself.

It certainly wasn’t pleasant to be confronted with the opportunity for self-examination.  It usually isn’t.  But that doesn’t mean it needs to be done occasionally.  That was the point of my previous post, regardless of the casual and unnecessarily caustic tone I mistakenly took with it.

Let’s face it, we have all seen faithful Lutherans abandon our faith for greener pastures.  Many of them have admitted that at least part of the reason that they were attracted to it was because of the high regard for ceremony and practice in the Eastern Orthodox and Roman Catholic churches.  Higher Things has even been suffered such a loss of one of our founders.  Some, through careful counsel and self-examination, have stepped back from the very edge of the precipice.  From what I have observed, these “prodigal sons” have not disregarded ceremonies and traditions, but they make a concerted effort to show how these practices point us to Christ.  That’s what they’re for after all, aren’t they?

On many Lutheran controversies, I have been something of an outsider and have had to figure things out on my own much of the time.  I didn’t know about the Book of Concord until I was in graduate school.  I had to figure out the whole Seminex thing on my own by spending hours in the library reading up on it.  These are not things I was taught (surprisingly enough) in my formal Lutheran education.  I was not raised with our traditions but grew up in a pretty progressive LCMS church where they were pretty much mocked and/or bucked.  I haven’t studied at a Concordia.  I attended an ELCA seminary.  And after all that, I became confessional and have managed to just pick up on all this stuff that many Lutherans take for granted.

When I was a student at an ELCA seminary, it was during and just after the turmoil in that denomination over the JDDJ and the agreement formed between the ELCA and EC-USA.  I didn’t understand all the flap going on, so I did some research.  Ever tried to figure out what Episcopalians actually believe?  It’s something like nailing Jell-o to a tree.  What I was able to conclude, however, was that doctrine is a pretty flexible thing for them.  The amount of flexibility made it almost seem irrelevant.  What is truly important is the liturgy.  The liturgy, done properly and rigidly according to tradition, is what matters and in everything else there is tons of wiggle room.

I know that the traditions of our liturgy do not rise to that level of authority or uniformity for Lutherans.  Some may sigh wistfully at the luxury of being able to openly and freely practice the historic traditions of the church without being worried about what Grandma Schmidt is going to stir up among the blue-haired crowed because that’s not how they way they were when she grew up, or having some Boomer wonder why he and his buddies can’t jam to some CCM during the service.  That would be nice, indeed.

My problem with the traditions comes largely from the information I gleaned studying the Episcopalian church.  That left a huge impression on me.  I have frequently encountered pastors, vicars, seminarians, students, and laymen who would wax poetic on liturgical traditions such as bowing and genuflecting and the use of incense – even bells – in the service.  But when it came to talking about things like our Lutheran doctrine, they could not tell me the basic catechism explanation on how to distinguish Law and Gospel, much less apply it.  I have also talked to laity who were confused and hurt by their pastor’s attitude about instituting new traditions.  It’s not that they were necessarily opposed to any changes, but they didn’t understand and their pastor was too personally concerned about liturgical correctness to worry about things like catechesis or pastoral care in the matter.

So when I hear more talk this weekend about breaking out the fancy rose vestments, red flags go up in my mind.  Is the bling overpowering everything else?  Are we more consumed with the color of the day than the Gospel?  Probably not.  I certainly hope not.  But maybe it is.  It’s certainly something for us all to consider and reflect upon, especially during Lent, whether we’re a pastor in a rose chasuble or a layman in our Sunday clothes sitting in the pew.  Is there any chance that our love for tradition and enjoyment of practicing it can teach others that our way is the “right” way to do it or that to be truly Lutheran, we should try to emulate the way a certain church does things?

Yesterday’s post was from this perspective.  I have read in countless places that I singled out Pr. Petersen and Redeemer, Fort Wayne.  I have not.  I think it’s wonderful that they have the traditions they do and do not fault them for it.  It is my personal opinion that it might be a little bit ornate for me, but that’s just an opinion and anyone is welcome to have a different one without us having to hate each other.   I am deeply disappointed that my post was the impetus for the strife and hurt it has caused.  That was not my intention at all and I am sorry.