In this Twilight series sequel, Bella, having fallen in love with a vampire, is now falling in love with a werewolf. What a dilemma for this love triangle. Should I love forever the vampire I cannot be with or the werewolf right beside me? Seriously though, first let me address the underlying myth that this shares with the first movie. We have a world in which the Cullen “family” are “good” vampires who seek to do good and abstain from their human bloodlust, as opposed to “bad” vampires who do kill humans. But all vampires are sworn to a code that dictates they never reveal themselves to humans or they will be executed by the vampire council in Italy. Now, we have werewolves who are not evil, but essentially good, and whose purpose is evidently, NOT to kill humans but to kill vampires. So in this mythology, werewolves only accidentally hurt humans if they get upset and their animal nature takes over.
I don’t know a lot about Mormonism, not being one myself, but I understand that the original author is a Mormon, which brings some clarity to the underlying worldview of the story. As I understand it, in Mormonism, redemption is ultimately achieved through moral living. People can redeem themselves by doing good deeds that outweigh their bad deeds. In other words, vampires CAN suppress their evil nature and be good. This is why Bella replies to a comment about evil nature, “It’s not what you are, it’s what you do.” This is opposed to, for example, the Judeo-Christian view of human nature that what we are results in what we do. Orthodox Christianity claims that no matter how many good deeds we do, they cannot cancel out our evil nature, which ultimately condemns us. Redemption is therefore found in having our nature changed by spiritual rebirth not suppression of our evil drives. The reason why Edward won’t “turn” Bella into a vampire and therefore be together forever is because when you do so, you lose your soul and are damned. This is when Bella disagrees and tells Edward, “You couldn’t be damned, it’s impossible.” He does too much good as a “good” vampire. “It’s not what you are, it’s what you do.”
The big obvious metaphor that we are hit over the head with in the movie is Romeo and Juliet. We see Bella and Edward studying the play, and watching a movie version of it in class. And Edward can recite the dramatic sacrificial love lines from heart. And of course, this becomes their own dilemma, as Edward wants to have the vampire council kill him, once he thinks Bella is dead. She becomes his only reason for “living.” And then, when Bella saves him from the vampire council by saying “kill me, not him,” she shocks them all that a human would do this in love for a vampire. The whole thing is a reflection of the cross-cultural love story of Romeo and Juliet.
I believe that the reason why this series of stories is so popular with women is because it focuses on relationships affected by this struggle of human nature. Another element of Mormonism that seems to connect with middle America is it’s traditional values. Here is a story that depicts strong men with violent natures (both the vampire and the werewolf in love with Bella), suppressing that nature and turning it into positive redeeming protection of the woman. Maybe this is a kind of backlash to the emasculated men of modernity. Edward is erudite and educated, but his drawing power is in how he sublimates his primal drive for Bella’s sake. He would rather give up his eternity than let her become defiled. He protects her virginity. Even when she decides to become a vampire, he says he will help her do so, only on the condition that she marry him. This is NOT your average male mook, moron, or stud depicted in most advertising and entertainment. And Jacob, the werewolf, who falls in love with Bella, is a beefy mechanic earthy guy who also sublimates his own nature to let Bella in and to protect her (I heard the women in the theater breathe out sighs of joy when he takes off his shirt – I kid you not). These are all the negative stereotypes of the male in our culture that are subverted in the story into positive examples of strong powerful males rescuing, protecting, and providing for the heroine female. This is traditional moral values on the roles of male and female subverting modern notions.
SIDE NOTE: Something struck me that I didn’t catch in the first movie. This notion of the vampires shining like diamonds when out in the sunlight seemed a strange new idea to me, and I wondered where it came from. As I understand it, Mormonism believes in polytheism, that there are many gods. A Bible chapter they point to is John 10 where Jesus quotes Psalm 82 in saying, “Have I not said, you are gods?” But in Psalm 82, it talks about a council of “gods” that God sits amidst, also called “sons of God.” The problem is that the Hebrew word for “gods” is elohim, which has different meanings in different contexts. While orthodox Christianity understands elohim in that passage as divine beings (such as angels), Mormons consider them actual gods, and examples of what all humans can become. But here’s the kicker. An orthodox Christian scholar of ancient Near Eastern languages, Michael Heiser (thedivinecouncil.com), has made an argument that another verse in Psalm 82 describes these sons of God as “falling like the shining ones [‘princes”].” This is also linked to a famous Bible passage, Isaiah 14, believed to be talking about Lucifer, the fallen angel, “O star of the morning, shining one [son of the dawn].” Again, Christians would see this as divine beings such as angels, while Mormons would consider them as actual deities. Maybe this is too speculative, but it appears that the Mormon author is casting the preternatural beings of vampires, as elohim, gods, shining ones. Some are fallen, some seek to do good. At one point in the movie, Bella goes to Italy and the council of elohim, I mean vampires, actually meets somewhere in or around the Pantheon, the oldest building in Rome, which was a pagan temple to the gods (plural, as in vampires?).