Twilight-A lot of people are reading it…should I ? (and more importantly, should I let my teens?)

Part 2 Should I let my teens read Twilight?

We will start the second part of this discussion with the presupposition that there are certain things that I can/should read that my children shouldn't. Some people disagree and say, "If my kids can't read it, I probably shouldn't either." I disagree, respectfully.  So, with that premise firmly in place it is the duty of the believing adult to consider whether he should allow his children to read this series.

Before we go any further I want to introduce you to an issue concerning teen girls that you may not have heard of or considered before. I think the easiest/most apt description is "emotional pornography." Before you roll your eyes and skip this part, just give me a minute. I think every true believer agrees that pornography is a big problem with our teen guys. It is harmful on several levels. Let's just list four: 1. Lustful thoughts are sinful. 2. Looking at pictures and videos can become addictive and distract a guy from his responsibilities.3. The "photoshopped," surgically enhanced females create unrealistic expectations that will render "real" girls unsatisfying. 4. Based on the "ideal" set forward by pornographic images, regular girls feel pressure to be something that they cannot realistically be.

All four of these issues are well-chronicled, and I agree with them whole-heartedly. The issue that I take is that we warn our guys about these and monitor their behavior in an attempt to protect them from these pitfalls. Meanwhile, our girls are being bombarded by all the same issues through romance novels and chick flicks. Disagree? Consider. Chick flicks to a certain degree, but romance novels especially, often portray the male lead as handsome, rich, sensitive but strong, understanding, intelligent, athletic, protective, and completely devoted to and adoring of the female lead.  [You may think that I am unqualified to say these things, but *gulp* I read all of the Sweet Valley Twins and Sweet Valley High books as a kid. I've also read a significant number of Gilbert Morris, Lori Wick, Linda Chaikin books. Cut me some slack: I am a voracious reader, and before I could drive myself to the library I had to read whatever my mom and sisters had lying around.] My point is that all four issues for boys with pornography are also problems for girls with "emotional porn." Let's look at the issues again and their corollary for girls. 1. Lustful thoughts are sinful. Girls certainly sinfully fantasize about characters from books/movies.  2. Looking at pictures and videos can become addictive and distract a guy from his responsibilities. How many girls are "bookworms" and lose sight of what they should be doing because they are so wrapped up in a book? 3. The photoshopped, surgically enhanced, females create unrealistic expectations that will render "real" girls unsatisfying. What guy can be as wonderful and charming as a figment of someone's imagination that lives only on paper? 4. Based on the "ideal" set forward by pornographic images, regular girls feel pressure to be something that they cannot realistically be. There is only one Matthew McConaughey, and you're not him. However, even he isn't as witty and charming as his movie roles make him out to be. None of us can be "that guy."

My point is that while guys are constantly warned about the dangers of pornography, girls are practically encouraged to participate in emotional porn. "Reading is a good thing, right? And it's just a romance novel." In reality, we unwittingly start our girls down this path at an extremely young age. Every little girl loves to play princess (I have a 4-year-old, I know). All the Disney princesses meet their prince and live happily ever after. Think about the princes, does any of them have a gut and a receding hairline? Is any of them ever stressed and tired after a long day of work? We let our girls dream about and expect things that are completely unrealistic to their detriment. A woman should try to look nice for her husband, but she is not going to look like an edited photo from a magazine. A man should be kind, caring, and a good provider, but he cannot be the guy from a book.

Now, after that extremely long side rant, we come back to Twilight. Another one of my preconceived notions about the series was that it would be extremely "emotionally pornographic." I would say that the jury is still out on that one in my mind. After all the words I just used to describe and decry emotional porn, I have to admit that it is much harder to pin down than visual pornography. The issue is that a certain amount of romance, winsomeness, and charm in a story is natural and appropriate (as opposed to a certain amount of nudity). The issue, as always, is for parents to know and understand their children. Let me say that again-you have to know your children. Though this may sound like a copout, I believe that the decision to let your teen read this series should depend on your teen. If your child is fairly mature and deals well with the difference between reality and fiction, she is stable emotionally, and she isn't given to flights of fancy, she should be fine reading these books. The issue, though, to be very frank, is that most teen girls (especially younger teens) aren't super emotionally stable (I know I am stereotyping, and I know that's not fair, but I am trying to speak to a wide audience--as usual there are exceptions). These books do have enough of an emotional element to them that they could be very unsettling. My personal opinion is that I would be very cautious about letting a younger teen read them just yet. Let her demonstrate to you some maturity and sophistication in emotional matters before you turn her loose on this series.

Just as pornography is typically more of an issue for boys but can also plague girls in some cases, "emotional pornography" is not limited in its scope to girls. While the primary danger of emotional unsettlement by the Twilight series is to girls, don't overlook the effect that this series (and other entertainment with these elements) could have on your boys. Once again, you have to know your children.


Conclusion: I really enjoyed the Twilight series, and I think it can be beneficial for believers to read, but I do think that serious caution should be showed in allowing your kids to read the series. There are several emotionally intense issues with which your child may or may not be prepared to cope. The onus is on the parent to know your kids and make a wise choice based on their maturity levels. 




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