The last Twilight Saga movie premieres tonight. Why are these films so wildly popular?
For those who, like me, have not read the books or seen the movies, here's some background. The films are based on the four-novel Twilight series by Stephanie Meyer. Her novels have sold more than 220 million copies. The movies have grossed over $2 billion in worldwide receipts to date.
They tell the story of Bella, a teenage girl who falls in love with Edward, who turns out to be a vampire. (He's one of the "good" vampires who drink animal blood rather than human blood.) She also befriends Jacob, who turns out to be a werewolf. Bella becomes pregnant with Edward's child and nearly dies before Edward turns her into a vampire, granting her immortality. In the episode that premieres tonight, Bella adjusts to vampire life and wins acceptance by Edward's race.
When the third film was released in 2010, a 39-year-old mother said, "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." Another woman admits that her obsession with the series damaged her marriage. Why is the story so popular, especially with women?
Some credit Meyer's descriptive writing style and alluring characters. Others point to Edward's romantic charm-he is old-fashioned in many ways, respectful and protective of Bella, insisting that they remain chaste until they marry. However, I'm wondering if something more visceral is at work here. Edward has all the positives of vampires without the negatives-he is immortal but not creepy, strong but not abusive. Is such an existence more appealing than we want to admit?
The first temptation in human history is the same temptation we face today: "You will be like God" (Genesis 3:5). John Claypool, one of my favorite preachers, once confessed: "People used to ask me what I wanted to be when I grew up, and I was shrewd enough to fashion my answer according to what I thought they wanted to hear. For some it was a policeman, for others a fireman or a preacher. However, in my own heart of hearts, I had my own private fantasy that I never dared to share with anyone. Do you know what it was? I am telling you the gospel truth: I wanted to be president of the world!"
So do I. So, I suspect, do you. Twilight offers viewers the hope that they can be loved, empowered, and immortal. So does our Father: "God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life" (John 3:16).
The bad news is that the hope of Twilight is just a fantasy. The good news is that it doesn't have to be.