November 21, 2011



“The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn—Part I” (the third movie in the “Twilight” series) is a very pro-life, very Theology of the Body movie. I know there are other opinions rolling around from high-profile Catholics, but I really think they’re reading it wrong.

Here’s the storyline (not a total spoiler) for anyone who has managed to escape familiarity with this phenomenon. Bella (human, Kristen Stewart) marries Edward (vampire, Robert Pattinson). Bella could “turn” immortal vampire if Edward bites her, but so far she has not opted to go that route. On their prolonged honeymoon Bella gets pregnant (something that Edward and Bella thought impossible). The pregnancy is very difficult and seems sure to kill Bella.

Jacob (werewolf, Taylor Lautner) who also loved Bella and had hoped to marry her is exceedingly angry about this situation and blames Edward (vampires and werewolves are also sworn enemies).

Bella, from the get-go, although she is scared, loves her baby (even though exactly WHAT the baby is is not even known) and refuses to abort it. (The word “abortion” is not used, but “getting rid” of “it” and other phrases are.) At a certain point, it becomes almost definite that either mother or baby can be saved, but not both. But Bella is steadfast in her St. Gianna Molla-esque decision, which leads to a transformation and change of heart in those around her.

Objectionable parts of the movie would be the sex scenes (even though Edward and Bella are now married). Are we really supposed to watch people making love? Ever? Bella is often scantily-clad, also. The birth scene is kind of violent and bloody, but, um, isn’t the pain and peril of real-life childbirth?

A strange feature (or at least the way the movie portrayed it), is Bella’s continuing, demonstrative affection for Jacob. It’s almost like she has two husbands sometimes.

“Twilight” is pure female fantasy. Obsessive female fantasy. Two men adore one woman. But, you know what? It’s about time. 98% of what Hollywood produces is male-conceived, male-written, male-directed, male-driven, male-marketed, male-consumed.

How does Theology of the Body play out in the “Twilight” series? First of all, a chaste relationship because an honorable man takes the lead. (Good things happen when good men lead.) Second, Bella is truly the “bride,” whom the men in her life (OK, vampire and werewolf) will lay down their lives for. As Christopher West says: “It’s all about you, ladies,” (just as Jesus did everything He did FOR His Bride, the Church). And third, Bella is not a selfish prima donna. She returns “the gift” and is self-sacrificing in her love also.

The theme of immortality and “forever” is so strong in “Twilight.” Echoes of the unending heavenly marriage feast that awaits us.

Jacob’s role at the end of the film is pretty incredible. A beautiful resolution. I left the theater soaring.


--Do NOT look for good filmmaking or dialogue or acting or anything. This is camp. And it knows it. It’s like a soupy, sappy, tragic romantic comic book brought to the screen in slow motion. (My audience members—mostly young adults—laughed at the jokes in the movie AND at the most serious, melodramatic moments, which is pretty much the whole film.)

--This is a movie that girlfriends drag their boyfriends to. Overheard in line: Boyfriend: “Why am I here again?” Girlfriend: “Because I HAVE to see what happens!”

--So, could this female fantasy give young (and not so young women) the wrong idea about true love? Yes, BUT I really think that female romantic fantasies are closer to the truth about love, and not as potentially harmful as male fantasies.


• He really listens to me!
• He knows what I like!
• He wants to be with me all the time!
• He thinks about me all the time!
• He likes to cuddle!
• He tells me I’m beautiful!
• He likes to surprise me!
• He’s gentle with me and doesn’t treat me like one of the guys! movie reviewer, Steven Greydanus, did an excellent in-depth article in Catholic World Report not long ago about the massive appeal of the “Twilight” series. He ends it by saying that maybe if guys were more romantic, women wouldn’t have to escape into vampire fantasies. Guys: Look at the bullet points above. That’s all we want! It’s not that hard! Sometimes I think guys DON'T do the above simple things because they don't FEEL it and don't want to be hypocritical or insincere. But it's when you DON'T feel it and you do it anyway that it's selfless, pure love! All you need to know is that it means ABSOLUTELY EVERYTHING to us, so just DO IT if you really love us! You don't have to FEEL it. We get that you don't feel it. WE feel it. We need it. Desperately. I've heard it said (by a woman) that women are like flowers that need watering and care every day or else we'll wither. OK--maybe the "thinks about me all the time" is asking a bit much.

--Stephenie Meyer (author of the “Twilight” books) is a good little mythmaker.

--The human blood Bella has to drink could be synthetic, yes?

--Who "created" Edward and why?

--Does Bella's family know anything about the vampires and werewolves?

--What did Edward bite with his teeth during the birth?

--Full disclosure: I haven't read the books. Only saw movie #1 and #2.

--No media tech. One cell phone. Just people and face time. And wolves howling communications and some vampiric telepathic communication.

--Bella and the Cullens (Edward's family) are definitely people of leisure. They have nothing much to do. They just sit around staring at each other and dealing with their supernatural problems.

--Bella gets married at 18. Like everyone used to. We need to rethink the possibility of getting married younger again.

--Soundtrack pop song: “I find strength in your fragile heart.” Nice. “In weakness, power reaches perfection.”

--For those still fretting that this may actually be an anti-life film in disguise, consider this: Catholics (some of whom I consider to be literalists and alarmists) are condemning it, AS WELL AS super-secular sources like the Huffington Post (who are even warning parents)! What is the “anything goes” HP worried about? The realities of childbirth, for one. Another criticism I heard is that it glorifies violent sex (Edward is super-strong and Bella wakes up slightly bruised on her arms and shoulders). But Edward is horrified and vows never to touch Bella again. Are characters pro-abortion (at first)? Yes! Characters! Not the whole film and not the heroine, Bella! And Bella prevails! What is the problem here?

--Dr. Michael Waldstein (who found the Polish original of Theology of the Body and wrote the extensive Introduction to it) says that we need to get away from the language of “rights” when it comes to pregnancy, even “the right to life,” because we immediately set up an opposition between mother and baby (of course, this can be a dire move just to save a baby’s life). I did a week of studies with him and he talked so much about our “NON-COMPETITIVE GOD,” not competitive within the Trinity and not competitive with His Creation. It just blew all our minds.

--Isn't "intermarriage" historically what always brings about peace? In Theology of the Body, all differences (starting with the sexual difference of male and female) are a call to communion, not strife.

--While everyone around Bella talks about “choice,” “choice,” “choice,” Bella just loves.

--Puts a whole new spin on “the first year of marriage is the hardest.” :]

--Right across from the cinema when I stepped outside was the store: “XXI Forever.” :]

--The only thing wrong with the “Twilight” series is that Bella is married to the wrong guy. :]

--Here are some insightful FB posts from a young Mom:

• Christina Yep Hi Sr Helena! Haven't seen movie yet either and I can see how some people would draw this articles' conclusions, but I think with guidance, today's teens can see through the negative messages and pull out the positive. In fact, this movie raises some of those more intimate "mom questions" that they deal with every day - the question of saving oneself til marriage, marriage itself, who to choose (baby or mother) in extreme pregnancies. Bella and Edward might seem entirely too obssessed with sex, but as with the best of us, their love matures over the course of their relationship and the message that they wait until they are married is pivotal for them.
Saturday at 3:36am • Like

Christina Yep Regarding Edward hurting needs to be put in context, which books do well but movies generally don't. He has been living an extreme self-control of both his passions for blood and to make love to Bella for years at this point, and has preserved both their innocence intact, so when at last they do try on their honeymoon, the appropriate time, it's hard for him to maintain that self-control. This seems so realistic to the pure married relationship to me! And when they get pregnant, like with a human pregnancy, he doesn't have a bond with his baby yet...all he sees is his wife slowly being killed before his eyes by this creature he doesn't yet love. This too seems so realistic to the human experience of fathers who struggle as a child seems to come between him and his love.
Saturday at 3:41am • Like

Christina Yep It's the powerful love of the mother, Bella, who seems to mature overnight with the presence of Renesmee inside her, and who opts for the same type of sacrifice evidenced by St Gianna Beretta Molla, that is the most beautiful of all... When I read the books and having been through 2 pregnancies myself, my first though was, of course Edward tries to force Bella to an abortion! He's losing his wife. In the end, he's not trying to get her to abort...he feels powerless to alleviate her suffering and grasps at the only solution he can reason. The fact that Bella chooses LIFE despite attacks from within and from without is a heroic example, and her reward is both her child and her living. The child herself (half human half vampire) turns out to be a brilliant, sweet prodigy of a girl who demonstrates extreme virtue and love to all those around.
Saturday at 3:50am • Like

Christina Yep Perhaps they didn't intend to get pregnant but it wasn't because they weren't "open" to life, they just thought they couldn't. In the end, the book tells me a few messages: 1 save yourself for marriage; 2 who doesn't want that type of passionate married love with their husband? this is possible; 3 no matter how difficult the pregnancy and no matter how many "extenuating circumstances" and how many people pressure you to abort, it's always better to "choose life", or your baby's life to be specific, and God will bless you.
Saturday at 3:53am • Like

Christina Yep Sorry, this got really long!!! So of course, watching the movie...these questions are going to be raised and lets hope Mom and Dad are there to counsel teens with some solid answers. It's much harder to transmit a complete message by film. God bless, Sister!
Saturday at 3:55am • Like

Christina Yep Oh, one more thing...someone mentioned the Bella-Edward relationship not being ideal. Well-said. I think teens struggle with being objective already and it's hard for them to take a step back from the emotional attraction to a passionate relationship and realize how, yes, we can all identify with elements of their relationship, but mostly it's not a very realistic relationship. The LOVE and PASSION is possible...but the strange plot and predicaments...not so much. A good story only. And the characters themselves are very flawed...but I guess the hope is that aren't we all...and despite that, love and happiness are eventually possible.
Saturday at 4:00am • Like • 1

Cynthia Morales I haven't read any of the books and I don't plan to see the movie, but I did read a review in the Chicago Tribune that described the series as "anti-abortion" and "pro-abstinence." Go figure.



ME: Kinda like Benjamin Button. Aren't vampires and werewolves kinda ageless/timeless? Of course he's gonna hafta wait for her as in the vision AND i hope no one reads this cuz it's a big fat spoiler!!!!
JEN: thanks for your take can delete my post sister .. though I can't imagine anyone who is interested who doesn't already know anything we could spoil - but maybe someone has been hiding under a rock and it will spoil it :o) personally ... it's a bit too pedophilia -ish for me. Benjamin Button was a little different because they were actually the same age ... This part of the Breaking Dawn story reminds me of Lewis Caroll and his feelings for Alice Liddle ... sick. I know it is rationalized in the story as "it's not sexual - it's imprinting" and "she's not like a normal human child" ... I know it's fiction ...but fiction reflects and shapes the mind of society... and these sort of arguments are arguments that adults who abuse children make in the real world.
The prolife vs prochoice conversation in Breaking Dawn is interesting enough but it should not be the primary controversy surrounding this story ... there are so many darker deeper sicker issues in Breaking Dawn. Pedophilia is threaded throughout the entire series.

Edward is hundreds of years older than Bella - who is an immature teen... but okay .. there's no story without it ... but once we accept that story line the slide into blatant pedophilia is swift. Meyer teaches young girls that love is obsessive - that young girls are to be possessed by men ( who look like boys) and that age and experience are inconsequential. She started with the Bella and Edward relationship and continues it in increasingly disgusting ways.

Claire is imprinted by Quil ( if I remember rightly) as a fully human child at 2 years of age - at 16 she will be imprinted to him like it or not. Then Jacob imprints with a newborn. Sorry if that's a spoiler - but educating people about the evil of child abuse is more important than whether or not someones surprise is ruined. This is not just an innocent story - it like many stories has a cultural impact - more so than others considering the record breaking opening box offices.

Our stories become our schemas. We create scripts for living and social interaction largely based on the stories that we step into. This story has many misguided notions about what sexuality should be - physical violence, abuse, obsession - are not elements of healthy relationships. Being willing to damn your eternal soul for a man is not good for a young woman but it's a choice - the pedophilia portrayed in this story on the other hand is not a choice.

Jacob and Nessie are obviously eventually intended to have a sexual relationship sometime in the future. Earlier in the story ...Jacob imagines being the father of Bellas children ...and likewise she imagines the same. Jacob is going to be intimately involved in raising her. She is going to be raised by the pack - he's to be her father, sibling , uncle, moms former paramour and eventually her own lover - no conflicts there. The argument that she develops faster and will be an adult by age 7 a common argument from pro pedophiles ... people develop and mature at different rates - so chronological age doesn't make a difference. Nessie may develop physically mentally faster than the rest of us - but with this situation of being raised by the man she's expected to mate with - she is bound to develop into a truly messed up person - she'll just do it quicker than most abuse victims. Similarly Quil is called Claires "best big brother" - a brother who she is expected to start mating with at 16.

This notion that somehow a child victim can be developed enough to be a willing participant is why we end up with real world situations like the Penn state situation - in which ( according the the grand jury report) on at least two occasions adult men walked in on another adult man abusing boys 10 and younger - and walked away without removing the child from danger - as if they had walked in on two consenting adults.

Although Meyers sets up the canon that the male imprints - later she seems to want to imply that the baby imprinted on Jacob first ...this is why Bella wants to to be around him and such. This is a common pedophile mindset - it is the victims fault .. he is helpless over his need. This reversal of victim hood - the idea that the victim exerts more control over the abuser than he does over the victim - is extraordinarily common. We don't like to admit it but we live in a blame the victim world.

The imprinting seems to have left Nessie with no free will. Another common thought process of abusers - the victims will doesn't matter.

Jacob gives her a token of his promise to force him to be his forever ..and were supposed to think this is sweet? BTW he gave a similar bracelet token to her mother - who he was passionate about and abusive towards ...when he can not have the mother the way he wants - when the mother does not adore him - he takes the child. This is unfortunately an all too true reality for many real world daughters.

And as happens all too often in the real world the child's parents do not protect her. Edward and Bella shrug it off.Edward even calls him "my son" ... the whole thing is pretty sick and not very TOB at all.
ME: Wow! Thanks for this in-depth read. It makes sense. Isn't it interesting how something can be superficially one thing (OK) and at a slightly deeper level--not OK at all. Jacob does it because it's "the only thing that can save her," (but, yikes! Doesn't that sound like a pedophile's argument, too?) I'm going to take this into serious consideration. Thanks so much!

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  1. Twilight sure does seem to irk some Catholics folks. Back in my former life Catholic radio life, a listener threatened to stop donating to the station I worked at because I got on the air and gave a positive review for the last Twilight movie (for many of the same pro-life and chastity themes you mention in this review).

    I think some of our Catholic friends forget that vampires and werewolves actually don't exist.

  2. Read the books - haven't seen the latest film (yet) but THANK YOU for your insights and your post. I am getting tired of people who refuse to understand that without dialog, without freedom which is inherently related to truth, without recognizing that there needs to be conflict in art in order for good to rise above - we have an unrealistic world, not so much related to Eden as to a kind of Purgatory, devoid of passion, and without free will.
    I don't "love" the Twilight books, though as a youth minister I own them, but my objections are mostly of the "not great literature" variety, as well as my misgivings about the Mormon philosophy subtly woven into some of the themes.
    However - truth is truth. And the new evangelization demands that we get out of our own way and have the courage and the faith to face conflict head on, and to wrestle with the dark nights and find where love prevails. If we don't teach our daughters how to do this, they are sure to become insipid, and even boring women, who never understand what the strength of woman is all about.

  3. Haha, I JUST wrote a blog about the Twilight saga today. I love the books and the movies despite a few flaws. I get so annoyed by high profile Catholic bloggers who condemn this series- most of the time not even have read the books. Thank you for this post! You make some excellent points that I didn't think of!

  4. Dear Dan, Christine, Maggie,

    Thanks for being such enlightened Catholics like me! ha ha ha.

    Sr. H <><

  5. Brenda Pretko12:48 PM

    Sr. Helena, thank you so much for writing this post! I love the Twilight series for all the things you mentioned. I have both read the books and seen the movies, and this is something I've been trying to tell my Catholic circle of friends for years. I'm not sure why it's gotten such a bad rap. The only thing I disagree with you on is your comment that Bella married the wrong guy. Team Edward all the way! ;o)

  6. +

    I read all four of the books. As I am a young teen within that sort of society I have to say that I found the books damaging. Also badly written. Sure they were chaste and waited until marraige to consumate their love, but throughout all 4 books all Bella thought about was the pleasure of sex. And the fourth book was entirely based around unchaste passion and some seriously strange twists. And the baby tried to bite itself out of her womb, what does that tell young women about childbirth (even though it is a fantasy book)? Basically every 3 sentences she thought about him, or his body. It was strange, she was trying to tempt Edward at every turn in every single book. And in New moon when she isn't with him, she curls up in depression and jumps of a cliff...
    This is not meant to be mean or anything, I just thought I would tell you because some of the things you said in your review were questionable to myself.

    Oh and Vampires are suppossed to be empty vessels, therefore they cannot have living organisms inside of them(so having babies really shouldnt have worked if they followwed the rules of this fantasy creature). They do not have souls, therefore have no concience, and they cannot feel emotion.

    I watched the first movie and I dont think I will watch any of the others. But I would just like to make that point, I hope that it helps.

  7. Thanks, Milisande! Your points are well taken. The more I get into what's really being said in the series, it's kinda disturbing on a lot of different levels. (On the surface it seems like a welcome change from "hop into bed on first date" stuff.) There are MANY inconsistencies like when Edward says: "It's too late for my soul, but I care about your soul." Really? But he's willing to change her into a vampire, knowing full well that she will be a "newborn" who will go around killing human beings in her town, hungry for blood! I will take a look at the books.... Thanks!

  8. Just because there are some pro-chastity and pro-marriage messages doesn't mean we have to compromise on everything else! (Which just shows how desperate we are for a pro-chastity message in our culture...)

  9. +

    When Bella actually becomes a vampire her *gift* is superhuman control (that is control of everything except her want for edward). She doesnt eat anybody.