.- Teenage girls (and their mothers) had been joining the growing wave of Twilight fans or fanatics, even before the movie “New Moon” hit theaters on November 20. Chris Padgett, a Catholic author and youth speaker explained to CNA that the epidemic isn't due to the attractive actors or innovative storyline, but rather it is the longing for heroic love that is drawing them in.
What they are really looking for, Padgett added, “is actually given in Christ who truly is heroic, who will give up himself entirely so you can be the best you.”
Padgett, who was introduced to the Twilight series by this oldest daughter, has since read the entire series with his wife. The couple will soon be releasing a book on the topic.
The books themselves were written by Stephenie Meyer and present a new twist on the traditional vampire story. In her books, and the subsequent movies, Meyer introduces her protagonist as a “vegetarian” vampire, who drinks animal blood but has sworn off that of humans. Though he looks 17 years old, Edward Cullen has been alive for over 100 years and, because he is a vampire, he will never die.
Despite his self-confidence, his calm rationality and his good looks, he falls for the extraordinarily ordinary girl, Bella Swan. Swan is the product of a divorce who often reverses roles with her immature, impulsive mother and becomes the responsible caretaker of the family.
The drama of the series revolves around the relationship between Edward and Bella. Though the two appear to be soul-mates, Edward denies his feelings and leaves Bella in the hope that she will be safe if she is not in contact with the world of the vampires. Bella, who according to Padgett, is “the picture of co-dependency,” falls apart completely when Edward leaves. In his absence, Jacob Black who is a were-wolf enters and provides Bella with the support she needs to pull herself out her depression.
Black cares deeply about Bella, though she thinks of him as more of a brother.
“Both Edward Cullen and Jacob Black have appealing qualities for young girls,” Padget told CNA. They are both willing to fight to the death for Bella and in doing so demonstrate a degree of chivalry. “There's a longing in women to be fought over, to be considered of such worth and value that someone would willingly lay down his life for them,” Padgett observed.
“Stephanie Meyers is touching on a subject which kids are longing for, which is true love,” Padgett noted. But what is disturbing about the series is the emotional response it evokes. “Everyone is now looking for their Edward Cullen, their soul mate.”
He then asked the question, “Girls, do you know who you are, before you entirely and willingly give yourself to this guy?” In the case of Bella Swan, such a situation becomes dangerous precisely because she does not know who she is before she becomes involved with Edward Cullen. Where is Bella's identity outside of Edward Cullen?” Padgett wonders.
Padgett emphasized that Edward Cullen has both his flaws and his finer points. While Edward is controlling and overly-rational, he is also capable of exercising the virtue of temperance and thinks of Bella's well-being, both physically and spiritually. Similarly, Jacob Black is very emotional and impulsive, but is loyal and caring.
Tying in Christianity, Padgett said that the wild popularity of Meyer's books manifest humanity's, and especially youth's, desire for true love and for their positive valuation by others. “What you're really looking for is actually given in Christ who truly is heroic, who will give up himself entirely so you can be the best you,” Padgett said.
“Christ shows us love in time by these four things: sacrifice, service, mediation and advocacy. Inasmuch as Edward Cullen or Jacob Black model that, they have aspects of love. But when you see, for example, selfishness as opposed to selflessness, there's a problem. When you see manipulation rather than free and complete self-donation, that's a problem.”
“Christ's gift to us is fulfilling; it is satisfying. We're not questioning his love for us. At least we're not as we look upon the cross,” he continued.
Ultimately, Padgett, who has seen this series impact youth across the country, said, “I want to see kids transformed by God's love. They're hungry and they're desperate for it, and that's why this series is so gigantic, because it plays at those issues.”
For more information, visit: http://www.chris-padgett.com