Adults fret that 'Eclipse' lacks good role models for teens
By Maria Puente,
The Twilight Saga: Eclipse is at the top of the box office, but as teenage heroine Bella Swan moves inevitably toward marriage with a vampire, some wonder if she's such an exemplary role model for the girls who follow her adventures in the hugely popular books and movies.
It's a rerun of an old debate: Can pop culture — books, movies, music — influence the behavior of impressionable teenagers, and in the case of Bella, is that a good thing or a bad thing?
And, for that matter, are teens really all that impressionable? After all, they've been reading Romeo and Juliet for 400 years.
Bella, for the few who have avoided the Twilight tidal wave, is a teenager who's so in love with an undead guy that she's ready to give up everything to be turned into a vampire so they can spend eternity together. Adding some urgency to the situation is the fact that Edward Cullen, her vampire love, is reluctant to have sex outside the bonds of matrimony.
Christine Seifert, a communications professor at Westminster College in Salt Lake City who has studied Twilight online message boards and fan fiction sites, says that the saga is strongly Mormon in tone and that a subset of Mormon culture prefers that girls marry young and start families. She says the abstinence message is so strong it could be labeled "abstinence porn," designed to convince teens that sexual self-denial is actually sexy. Will it work?
The author of the Twilight books, Stephenie Meyer, is a devout Mormon who says about Bella on her website: "I never meant for her fictional choices to be a model for anyone else's real-life choices."
Nevertheless, the three movies so far and the four books in print make some parents nervous about whether the saga is appropriate for younger teens, even aside from the vampires. Twilight, it should be noted, was No. 5 on the 2009 list of books challenged or banned from schools and libraries, according to the American Library Association.
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