The Ultimate Hero?

Unless you’ve been in a cave, you probably have at least heard of Twilight, the mega-selling book written by Stephenie Meyer. The book and its sequels have become a cottage industry of sorts, complete with T-shirts, badges, and feature films.

Talk to the average teen and you’ll find many fans who cheerfully, and even gleefully, admit to being obsessed with the books, particularly the hero—Edward Cullen (played by Robert Pattinson in the movie), who falls for Bella—the every-girl heroine (played by Kristen Stewart). Many fans have read these books over and over, far preferring them to any other books out there.

The overwhelming success of Twilight has sparked other books of paranormal romance, where a spunky teen meets the hottest guy at school and finds that he’s of a different persuasion (vampire, werewolf, fairy, pixie killer, ghost, immortal—you name it). This is the hottest trend in teen lit. According to an article in the November 17, 2008 edition of Publishers Weekly, publishers can’t acquire these fast enough for the audience. (See “The Next Dead Thing” by Donna Feitas,” p. 23.) Take a look at the YA section and you’ll find books like Evermore by Alyson Noël, Wicked Lovely, Ink Exchange, and Fragile Eternity by Melissa Marr, Need by Carrie Jones, Wondrous Strange by Lesley Livingston, Haunted by Meg Cabot, Never Cry Werewolf by Heather Davis—the list goes on. While some might argue for or against the literary merits of such books (and there have been heated debates on and other places on the Internet), they manage to hit readers where they live.

Not your cup of tea? Well, it might be your daughter’s, your wife’s, or your sister-in-law’s. These books aren’t just in mainstream bookstores out of the purview of Christian teens. Many Christian teens and women devour these books with a passion that far outstrips their reading of the New Testament. In most cases, you won’t find God mentioned, with the exception of Twilight. In that book and its sequel New Moon, Edward Cullen admits that he doesn’t want to be a monster and worries about whether or not he still has a soul, even though he’s a vampire. So, what is it about these books that teens (and many women) find so attractive? For one thing, they include a hero who is amazingly attractive, extremely powerful, as nurturing as any good parent, and completely devoted to protecting the heroine from the evil that threatens, even if that evil comes with the territory of being what he is—a vampire/werewolf/fairy/immortal.

Is that description familiar? With the exception of the protecting-the-heroine-from-himself aspect, that could be an apt description of Jesus, the ultimate hero. Any powerful but nurturing hero will always owe part of his soul to the One who sacrificed all for us.

So, what does this mean for Christian publishers? Rather than be tempted to discount these books and thus the powerful feelings they engender in readers, it’s time to acknowledge the felt needs of the audience. Most of us want to be nurtured—to be loved and cherished. You don’t have to read Genesis 2:18 to be convinced of that. Maybe it’s time to remind them (and ourselves) that the ultimate fairy tale hero is real, not fictional or even homogenized. He’s approachable and hopelessly in love with all of us. May the work we produce inspire our readers to proclaim like David (no stranger to the attractive, action hero label): “One thing I ask of the Lord, this is what I seek: that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to gaze upon the beauty of the Lord and to seek him in his temple” (Psalm 27:4).

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One Response to “The Ultimate Hero?”

  1. Claudia Says:

    Linda – you nailed it. I just “speed-read” Wicked Lovely, as it is on the Abraham Lincoln Awards (Illinois)list for 2010. I found it contrived, and some very disturbing aspects to it, and wished that there was something with truth in it out there. My son, who was reading the book for his school book club, also felt that he’d rather read something with more substance, and frankly, less sexual innuendo or acts! These books are escape, and the wrong kind! – why can we not develop products that bear the weight, like the Lewis trilogy and the seven Narnias, Madeleine L’Engle, and others, more recent?

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