Arts and Culture / Magazine Feature

Interview: University of Denver Chaplain talks ‘Twilight’

The Twilight films aren’t just a big hit with the tween set.

College students are also choosing sides in the Team Edward/Team Jacob battle for Bella’s heart.

The University of Denver recently invited students to discuss the film series and why it strikes a chord with their demographic.

The event, led by The Rev. Gary Brower, let students share how the wildly popular film series has touched their lives.

Denver film critic Christian Toto checked in with Brower to get his reflections on the Twilight phenomenon.


Q: Are you surprised Twilight resonates so much on the college campus, and when did you first realize its impact spread beyond the tween demographic?

A: I was a bit surprised. I have a 13-yr-old daughter ( 11 or 12 when she began reading these books). So I didn’t think of them as “college” material. But the Chronicle of Higher Ed publishes a list monthly of the top 10 books being sold at college/university bookstores across the country. At one time at least three of the four books were on the list at the same time, and at least one remained for months. When I saw that, it was the indicator that the appeal reached out of the tweeners.


Q: Do college students long for old-school courtships and rituals in their own lives, a key element of the film series?

A: I think some do (at least that’s what I see in the literature).  On the other hand, there are lots of counter-pressures—such as the so-called “hook-up” culture—that come to bear. In my over-hearing of student conversations, I’ve heard more about “hooking-up” than courtship. In fact, I find it rather unusual (but I appreciate it) when I see two undergraduates walking across campus holding hands. Again, what I recall from the literature is that while some students would rather “court,” if they hold out for that, they miss a lot of relationship possibilities.


Q: What does this say about our culture, and can the films have an impact on both behavior and the choices students make in their own relationships?

A: If there is a return, or a desire for a return to “old-school courtship rituals,” I would see it as another indicator of a more wide-spread longing for things that have some depth or mystery. In an age when the smallest details of someone’s life are tweeted, or Facebooked around, an age of instantaneous—and fleeting—gratification, an age when loyalties are as grounded as “which costs less?” or “which is snazzier?” or “which demands less?” the long, 4-volume-drawn-out  courtship of Bella and Edward, with the complication of Jacob DOES suggest an alternative.  The demand of the books, of course, is that reflection, or personal application, takes place. I don’t know if those conversations are happening.


Q: Immortality plays a major role in Twilight. Teens and young adults can have an unhealthy sense of just that—how does this part of the series play into their own sense of self?

A: I’m not sure about this. I see the immortality issue playing out differently. It clearly is an attractive ‘life-option,’ but the question is what would one do to attain it?  The whole series has to do with choices:  human family vs. vampire family; ‘normal’ life vs. becoming a vampire; virginity or not; Edward or Jacob.  If folks can be brought into conversation with those big life-choices through a conversation on “immortality,” then I can more easily see how the series plays into the readers’ sense of self.


Q: Do you see the films as a beneficial force, or simply entertainment?

A: I personally don’t see the films as much more than entertainment (but that’s how I view most films).  But almost ANY film can become a beneficial force if the post-viewing conversations deal more with the issues raised than whether or not Bella looked like she was described in the book (for example). I doubt, for example, that the Twilight series will do much to change sexual activity among tweens, teens or young adults, so is it a “beneficial force” in and of itself?  I don’t think so.  Can it be used for good?  Yes.

Originally published July 3, 2010, on What Would Toto Watch? ( Reprinted with permission.


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