Torn Between Two Stalkers

There’s a meme going around right now (I got it most recently from George Takei, but there’s another iteration of it here.) that syncs very nicely with thoughts I’ve been having about the kinds of things I read and that I let my kids read.

Very recently I saw a status update from a 10-year-old girl (How a 10-year-old got onto Facebook, let alone onto my friendslist, we can discuss later. Suffice it to say I have no say in the one and have no interest in injuring the child by denying the other.) that said, to wit: Whaaaa – Just finished Breaking Dawn and have nothing to REEEEEEeeeeeaaaaaaad!

Perhaps you have surmised that I did not, precisely, approve. You would be quite right. But, being a generally reasonable man, and at least modestly self-aware, I checked with another friend of mine who has read and does enjoy the Twilight books to see if my apoplexy was even by the thinnest margin justified.

My friend very diplomatically advised me to keep my mouth shut as this child’s reading habits were none of my business. Agreed. But this friend also posed me a question: Why is it any different for you to let your children read Harry Potter than for this other child’s parent to let her read Twilight?

Well, let me tell you.

It’s true that the Harry Potter books handle some rough stuff – especially in the later books. Violence, abandonment, war, terrorism, the failures and deadly flaws of adults… we could go on. Harry’s life is horrible and the horror of it spreads to his friends, classmates, and even his enemies. Harry has moments of despair, he has flaws, doubts. He makes mistakes. He wins and loses. But through it all he responds with admirable character. Not perfect, but admirable. The same goes for his friends. Ron and Hermione each rise to heroic heights, standing by their friend through terror and fear and deadly danger.

When my children read these books — and more importantly, relate to these characters — they are relating to people exhibiting laudable character. They are aspiring to strength and self-reliance, intelligence and wit, loyalty and integrity. When they pretend they are Harry, Ron or Hermione, they are modeling positive qualities in themselves.

The same, I’m afraid, cannot be said of the characters in Twilight.

Bella, in the very first pages of the first book, has nothing but contempt for people who show her genuine care, affection and acceptance. She becomes infatuated with the first person who wants nothing to do with her: Edward. Edward briefly exhibits some small measure of noble self-sacrifice, removing himself from the picture because of the very real threat of his losing control and killing Bella, but then wipes it all away again when he returns because he ‘got tired of staying away’.

It goes downhill hill from there – stalking, obsession, suicide used as manipulation, must I go on?

It comes down to this: When a child — 8, 10, 12 years old — reads this and relates to the characters; when he or she begins to cast themselves in the roles of the protagonists, what sort of character are they modeling in themselves?

For me, I’ll take Hermione or Leia over Bella any day, and if no vampire ever shows his sparkly ass in my house, I’ll be a happy man.

Leave a Reply

You can use these HTML tags

<a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>