"Beautiful Creatures," a teen pop-goth film about supernatural star-crossed lovers, has been gaining attention in the critics' world since its Feb. 14 release date, primarily because of its similarity to the teen gothic movie "Twilight," especially in that it too carries the theme of abstinence.
The film, which is an adaptation of the 2009 book by Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl, follows the story of two star-crossed teen lovers, Ethan and Lena, in a small, South Carolina town.
Lena, a member of a witch family, is approaching her sixteenth birthday, at which time she will be "claimed" by either good or dark forces.
Ethan, as a mere mortal, holds a far "normal" state of existence for a teen boy, although he does exhibit an apt understanding of culture, including music and literature.
Critics contend that this film has much of the same queasy teen romance mixed with supernatural phenomenon as "Twilight," and much like "Twilight" it holds the theme that one must practice abstinence until marriage.
As critic Alan Scherstuhl writes for WestWord, the characters' practice of abstinence, along with their greater interest in classic music and literature, such as Bob Dylan's "Subterranean Homesick Blues" and the work of writer Charles Bukowski, serves as a beacon of light for teens otherwise distracted by lust and superficial gratification.
"In a movie about two smart kids bucking against a culture that doesn't value them, these references are more than just character-defining shorthand," Scherstuhl writes.
"They're recommendations presented to the target demo with some urgency, worldview-expanding suggestions that could really help soon-to-be-sixteens to not wind up being claimed by darkness," he adds.
Scherstuhl goes on to suggest that the movie is able to maintain an edgy, devil-may-care attitude that teens savor while not compromising its values, one of the central ones being abstinence.
"That's not bad for a movie engineered to teach the parent-approved lesson of the contemporary hero: that with great power comes great chastity," Schertstuhl writes.
Other critics disagree, however, at how deeply the theme of abstinence affects teens watching "Beautiful Creatures."
David Edelstein of New York Magazine describes the teen characters in the film as "handsy," and ultimately argues that although the film does an acceptable job of combining chastity with teen passion, it fails to hold the viewer's attention in the same way that "Twilight," a film series based off books by Stephenie Meyer, does.
"... writer Stephenie Meyer got hold of something creepy in American [not just Mormon or Catholic] culture – what happens when waves of erotic longing collide with waves of shame and body horror," Edelstein writes.
"'Beautiful Creatures' isn't pure camp – there's some real emotion in there. But not enough to hit you on a primal level. Can a movie in this florid genre pack a wallop if it's too cool for Sunday school?" he adds.
As many critics contend, the theme of abstinence found in pop culture serves as a reason for parents to allow their children to see movies such as "Twilight" and "Beautiful Creatures," but also contributes to a greater "chastity movement" among young women in the U.S.
An article written by The Washington Post in October 2011 expounds on the issue, arguing that the allure of chastity expands beyond faith lines and is rather now associated with a young woman's dignity, regardless of her religious affiliation.
"… not only is such behavior a direct violation of [women's] faith, it is the degradation of women, plain and simple," writes Asma Uddin for The Washington Post.
"Not only are Catholic and Muslim women increasingly sharing the experience of rejecting the college culture of sexual excess, but they find common ground in the empowerment that chastity offers as an alternative. So while Muslim and Catholic women may say different prayers each night as they prepare for bed, they are united in relishing that their bed (and their dignity) is theirs and theirs alone," Uddin adds.