Catholicism, vampires, and what’s at stake

The premise of the Breaking Dawn movies is about the right to choose how to live one's life
HIGH STAKES. With the issue of reproductive health in the public consciousness, a vampire movie may be what will change minds.
I am an outsider looking in when I talk about the Twilight phenomenon. What I know of the Twilight series of books and movies is predominantly hearsay and partly based on my understanding of, and takeaway from, the first Twilight: Breaking Dawn movie, which I reluctantly decided to watch.
I found it strange, then, that a controversy erupted with the Catholic Initiative for Enlightened Movie Appreciation’s (CINEMA) review of the movie on their blogspot review page. In my mind, I imagined an arm of the Catholic Church (for lack of a better term) teaming up with the undead to promote the right to life of an entity whose existence or life-status is still being argued.

The result of some research, some soul-searching, and a bit of analysis led to what you’ll be reading below.

After the excesses

When CINEMA mentioned that the previous films had “critics of Bella’s immaturity,” it was not joking.

According to a report from The Daily Mail in 2009, Monsignor Franco Perazzolo, the Vatican’s culture council leader, said of the Twilight series:

The theme of vampires in Twilight combines a mixture of excesses that as ever is aimed at young people and gives a heavy ­esoteric element. It is once again that age-old trick or ideal formula of using extremes to make an impact at the box office. This film is nothing more than a moral vacuum with a deviant message and as such should be of concern.

It’s been a little over 3 years since the last update on that post in The Daily Mail, and while some may see the change between Perazzolo’s view and the CBCP’s view as something strange, it shouldn’t be.

More than anything else, the Breaking Dawn duology of The Twilight Saga appears to be about dealing with the repercussions of excesses, such as excessive feelings for another person and, if I remember the first Breaking Dawn correctly, minor bruising after excessive vampire-human sexual intercourse.

Different circumstances

I feel that one thing the CBCP did not take into account when it came to the duology was that Bella had very different circumstances when it came to having sexual relations. 

First, there is an interesting character study on Empire’s website on some of Bella Swan’s attributes. While throughout most of the books, she has an unhealthy obsession with Edward (and Edward with Bella), Bella herself possesses a strong will which allowed her to follow the path she wanted to take in life, even if it wasn’t the smartest path to take.

As Helen O’Hara writes in her character study, 

He [Edward] may try to control her life, but she simply doesn’t let him. She negotiates to get turned into a vampire whether he will or not; he negotiates to turn her into himself in exchange for marriage (which is not something she’s keen on, despite her obsession, which I found rather refreshing). She accepts his no-sex-before-marriage rule, but insists on sex while she’s still human, which he’s reluctant to agree to. She keeps her two admirers (Edward and wolfy Jacob) from killing themselves or each other, and ends up forcing both of them to respect her decisions.

The other thing Bella had, unlike many Filipinos, was access to information and an on-call doctor to cater to her every disastrous whim. For those who didn’t know, Carlisle Cullen, Edward’s adoptive father, is a doctor. Moreover, according to what I’ve picked up online, Carlisle was “the son of an Anglican pastor and a mother who died giving birth to him.” 

While perhaps not explicitly stated in the first Breaking Dawn movie, it wouldn’t be an unlikely stretch for us to reason that Carlisle would have explained the good and bad of childbirth. He would have perhaps also been closest to being compassionate regarding Bella’s decision to keep her baby: because Carlisle’s mother faced immense peril to give him life as well. 

By comparison, here are 3 notable articles regarding the Philippine situation. First, there is a rise in the number of teenage pregnancies reported in the Philippines between 1999 and 2009. Second, despite a decline in HIV infections across 25 low-and-middle income countries, there are reports of rising HIV infections in the Philippines. Lastly, there is a human element that needs to be considered, which is well explained in this piece by Florencia Casanova-Dorotan, Undersecretary of the National Anti-Poverty Commission.

The vacuum

As human beings, we do not (or I hope we at least try not to) live in a vacuum of self-absorption. 

A politician, for example, who implies that people are merely human capital that are a means of keeping a nation afloat will likely receive ire in the realm of public opinion. The reasonable assumption is that the human capital being spoken of consists of human beings, each with lives, connections, and anguish and fear all their own. 

The CBCP’s CINEMA branch’s endorsement of the Breaking Dawn duology of films and the Breaking Dawn novel, based solely on the second movie is folly as well, because the review exists in a vacuum of its own creation. 

It does not simply “bring into focus the value of marriage, the need to protect life in the womb and the importance of family.”

Based on the above, my conclusion is that the premise of the Breaking Dawn movies is about the right to choose how to live one’s life, even if supernatural circumstances force you to have an accelerated birthing period, painful cramps, death in childbirth, rebirth as a vampire, and eventual demonization by the greater powers of your overarching community because you have done something against their edicts.

To end this, let me rephrase Perazzolo’s quote above to suit the current situation more accurately:

The theme of persecution of a sector of one’s community for making informed life choices in Twilight combines a mixture of excesses that as ever is aimed at impressionable people based on a heavy esoteric element. It is once again that age-old trick or ideal formula of using extremes to make an impact in the court of public opinion and the House of Representatiives. This attempt is based on an ideological vacuum with a dangerous message and as such should be of concern.

That said, I will be heading to Church tomorrow to attend Mass. I’m going to be a godfather to my cousin’s son, and I hope to protect and care for him in the future as fiercely as Bella’s extended family of vampires and werewolves protected and cared for Renesmee. I also hope I will be let in. –

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