As a way to make sure that our HAVEN materials and curricula are age appropriate for tweens and teens, we created a Teen Advisory Council (TAC). TAC is comprised of several teens for local high schools, donating their time, opinions and talents with us. We invited TAC member Julia Nagy to blog for us about the very popular Twilight movie series. Great insights and though provoking for any of us with young people in our lives. Thanks Julia!
Fiction not Reality
Fans of the Twilight Saga are not only sinking their teeth into the books and movies, but they’re also biting into the idea of unhealthy relationships. We, HAVEN’s Teen Advisory Council, wanted to get the word out about Twilight’s portrayal of unhealthy relationships. We were planning to go to a theater and pass out bookmarks with information about healthy relationships. Unfortunately, the theatres that we contacted were not interested.
Even though our original plan has failed, that doesn’t take away from the fact that Twilight portrays unhealthy relationships and what’s worse, markets these unhealthy relationships to a young audience—tweens—that might not know what a healthy relationship is. Even teens for that matter might not have a full grasp of what a healthy relationship is.
“Oh, but Twilight portrays true love,” fans have argued. So, let’s take arranged marriages for example. Is being forced to marry someone true love? Imprinting (which is when a werewolf “imprints” on someone else, meaning that they are “destined” to be together) is just like an arranged marriage. Neither the werewolf nor the imprintee has a choice in the matter, and the werewolf sees to it that his “true love” never falls in love with anyone else. He steers the direction of her life down any path he wants. Healthy relationships are about choice, not control.
Twilight shows that “true love” is about control and power and, at times, stalking. Edward and Bella, the book’s central couple, apparently are experiencing “true love.” However, it’s not true love when Edward climb’s into Bella’s room without her knowledge or consent and watches her sleep. It’s not true love when Edward disables Bella’s car so she can’t visit the people she wants to see. It’s not true love when Bella is so dependent on Edward that when he leaves, she throws herself into suicidal situations to see him.
We want to spread the message that the relationships portrayed in these films and books involve control, power, and jealousy. Abuse is not love. A healthy relationship is about equality, mutual respect, and trust. But how can a young girl or boy realize this, when the book their reading equates “true love” to an abusive relationship?
One in three teens will be a victim of dating violence, and what will happen to that statistic when these Twilight tweens become teens? Will it be one in two teens? Will it be all teens?
Everyone has the right to enjoy and read what they want to, that includes Twilight. However, we believe that there needs to be a conversation about the unhealthy relationships illustrated in the series. There’s a difference between fiction and reality, and in Twilight’s case, I hope that fiction doesn’t become reality.