Vampire Movies: Occult Repackaged or Harmless Teen Entertainment?
The Twilight teen fiction series, and now the box office hit movies, have taken the world by storm - with the first three novels selling over 8.5 million copies in the USA alone. The third book in the series, Eclipse, knocked Harry Potter off the number one spot on the USA Today’s bestseller list. There is even a fan website called “Twilight Moms”.
The success of the Twilight Saga comes in the wake of the increasing popularity of occultist fiction, and non-fiction, books and films.
At first glance, the books seem like a relatively clean, albeit unusual, teen romance story – Bella, the new-kid-in-school, falls in love with the mysterious “hunk”, Edward. Only problem is, he’s a vampire and she is a particularly enticing-smelling potential meal.
Their obvious attraction is fraught with tension, as Edward (though gentlemanly) could kill Bella at any moment if the temptation to drink her blood becomes too strong. They continue in their dangerous love affair because they decide that it’s ‘too late to turn back’ and that it would be impossible for them to live without each other.
These feelings between the two lead characters are easy-to-identify-with and convenient notions for teenagers to blame obsessive, immoral relationships on. A credit to the novels and films (though there’s plenty of yearning and sensuality) is that there is no swearing, sex, drinking or drug use promoted. Considering that most of today’s films are riddled with profanity and nudity, this is quite different.
Subtle Pagan Messages
The fast-paced, unusual twist on a familiar story make the books seductively intriguing, yet, for Christians, the repackaging of the occult should be a major concern. The author depicts vampires as possessing supernatural strength and some have clairvoyant abilities such as the ability to read minds or see the future.
The picture on the front cover of the first book has a hand with a red apple in it - a reference to the forbidden fruit - and Genesis 2:17 is quoted before the preface. I don't think the author consciously aimed to promote occultism, but interestingly, by trying to pick up on the forbidden fruit motif, the publishers ended up depicting the heart of paganism – the desire to be your own god and know (or decide) for yourself what is good and evil. Put another way, in the occult, one can manipulate reality to one’s own advantage.
“ ‘You will not surely die,’ the serpent said to the woman. ‘For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.’” (Genesis 3:4)
The Christian Perspective
In the novels, the vampires are creatures that were "created" by other vampires from humans who were about to die. That these humans are given a "new birth" apart from the saving work of Christ, is a very alluring idea. This negates the need for repentance, faith in Christ or facing judgement after death.
Some Christians defend occult fiction with the justification: “I know the difference between reality and fantasy!” Yet, as Berit Kjos, author of the article “Twilight: Seven reasons to shun this vampire tale”, says, “Fantasy and imagination can transform beliefs and values more quickly than reality. Popular fantasies, with their boundless thrills and unforgettable images, bypass logical thinking. Designed to produce strong emotional responses, they create new realities in today’s ‘open’ minds.”
Another worrying aspect about the book is that the main character, Bella, from whose perspective the book is written, is a selfish, self-absorbed teenager. She frequently lies to her parents and friends especially to hide the truth about Edward’s identity.
“…Abhor what is evil. Cling to what is good.” Romans 12:9
For parents who are wondering what to do about the movies, there are two options. Firstly, if your teens insist on seeing it, you can sit down with them and discuss the film and its underlying messages from a Christian perspective.
Or preferably, I would advise you to encourage your children to rather read classics like John Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress, CS Lewis’ Chronicles of Narnia or Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice – books that teach them to better themselves or their world rather than to engross themselves in an escapist pagan worldview that could cause them to be curious about or ensnared in the occult.
This article was first published in the January 2010 edition of JOY! Magazine .