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JOE LAGUARDIA: 'Twilight' worth examining from a Christian perspective

One would think that by now the whole "Twilight: Breaking Dawn" movie hype would have died down. After all, the movie -- about vampires and werewolves and centering on a love story involving a girl named Bella Swan (Kristen Stewart) -- was released nearly two months ago.

My wife saw it in the theater last week (for the third time, mind you), and she noted just how full the theater was for a Wednesday night. Since it has not died down, I guess I can opine about the web-generated controversy related to whether Bella is an appropriate (and appropriately moral) heroine for the hoards of "Twilight" fans.

The debate boils down to what the movie communicates about feminist empowerment and a woman's right to choose. On the one side, feminists argue that Bella isn't a hero because she only finds her self-worth in her relationship with sweetheart vampire, Edward Cullen (Robert Pattinson).

Their relationship hangs in the balance throughout the movies; but even when Edward agrees to marry Bella, she stills seems melancholy and stoic.

"Breaking Dawn" includes additional issues (spoiler alert ahead!), as Bella becomes pregnant with Edward's child on their honeymoon. The pregnancy threatens Bella's life; and, again, the action swirls around her passive character as Edward's family fights over whether to abort the fetus.

Bella remains docile. In the words of Entertainment Weekly critic, Lisa Schwarzbaum, "Since Bella doesn't know how to speak to her beloved -- you know, with words -- the two just gaze into each other's eyes in the shared romantic agony of a young couple in over their heads."

On the other hand, people sympathetic with Bella's hero-journey argue that Bella chooses her own destiny throughout the series. She chooses to love Edward and marry him just as much as she chooses to keep the baby. That the baby threatens her life emphasizes her bravery and independence.

Now, I'm not one to follow every debate that involves fiction -- (as my father would say in this situation, "it's only a movie!") -- but there is something going on that involves how fans (80 percent are women) engage the movie on an ethical level. This, despite Stephenie Meyer's (the books' author, upon which the movies are based) own admission that, "I never meant for [Bella's] fictional choices to be a real life model for anyone else's real life choices."

Since I am not a woman, I write with humility and caution here: What I do notice in this entire conversation is that fiction as a form of art does need adequate assessment from a thoroughly Christian perspective.

We don't leave our morals at the theater door, and when my daughter eventually watches the movies I should be prepared to discuss these important issues with her.

One issue is the obvious romance rampant in the films. Although most movies show sex as casual recreation, "Twilight" reminds the audiences of the value -- and responsibility -- of having the type of long-term commitment that marriage provides. That Bella chooses to become a vampire -- a ticket to eternal life -- to be with Edward reveals many a person's longing for stability.

Secondly, the debate over abortion reveals the irony of the pro-choice movement. Apparently, from what I'm reading on the web, one is only "pro-choice" if you choose abortion. It seems that women can't choose to have a baby without having to compromise the feminist cause.

Can a person be a feminist while honoring the sanctity of both marriage and life? Some would argue that a person can't have both, and that's sad.

The fact that women can choose to marry young, have a baby, and commit to a chivalrous hero at all, no matter how traditional, proves just how far women's rights have come.

Third, Bella is a Christ-figure in the movie. She risks her life for those whom she loves and gives birth to new life, even if that life is imperfect. Her baptism by blood provides a redemptive narrative arc in the entire series, and her inevitable ascension in the next "Breaking Dawn" installment will reign in the entire fabric of human history into one purpose-filled destiny.

Perhaps the debate -- especially in Christian circles -- is worth discussing after all.

The Rev. Joe LaGuardia is the senior pastor of Trinity Baptist Church, 301 Honey Creek Road, Conyers. E-mail him at trinitybc3@bellsouth.net or visit www.trinityconyers.org.