Danish teens tend to worship American supernatural media instead of religious deities, according to a new survey from the University of Copenhagen. Since religion is not a big part of daily life in Denmark, teens pick fantasy fiction over The Holy Book when they're grappling with questions of good and evil. Three guesses as to which bestseller inspires the most awe? You got it: Twilight.
"Being a 'Twilight' fan allows the teenagers to engage in very intense emotional experiences," the university's Line Nybro Petersen told LiveScience. "You can almost get the sense that these are transcendental emotions, the feeling that you are part of something bigger than yourself in a semireligious way."
Media studies researchers call the process of writing new stories with ancient themes "mediatization." Crosses and holy water become pop culture references instead of religious paraphernalia in shows like "Buffy the Vampire Slayer," and Twilight's vampires sparkle instead of disintegrating into dust. This kind of religious dilution tends to anger conservative pundits, but it's a way for kids to feel connected to familiar symbols without being bored by Sunday School stories or turned off by too many negative "fire and brimstone"-type lectures.
It makes total sense that nonreligious teens would still crave moral, larger-than-life role models; wasn't Jesus kind of the ultimate rock star? Supernatural stories often touch upon the same themes as the Bible — heroes, devils, the sanctity of marriage and sinfulness of premarital sex... (Twilight clearly has religious undertones; its author, Stephanie Myer, is Mormon.)
Interestingly, many of the teens Peterson interviewed became obsessed with Twilight after going through a Lord of the Rings or Harry Potter phase, and moved on to The Hunger Games trilogy after getting enough of a vampire fix. Basically, kids move on once they've learned all they need to learn from Bella's tormented love triangle or Harry Potter's fight against his inner Voldemort. I, personally, idolized Adam Pascal from the original Broadway production of RENT when I was a tween. Sure, he played an AIDS-inflicted ex-heroin addict, but come on, "One Song, Glory," is all about leaving behind the right kind of legacy. To each her own celestial being!