03/18/2010 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

You Asked for It: How to Talk to Girls About the Messages of New Moon, With a Free Activity Plan for Educators

I think there's been enough written about the dizzyingly bad messages "New Moon" telegraphs to girls. Among the cringe-worthy morals of this story: When you're in love, the only thing that matters in life is your man. If you get dumped, your life is over, so feel free to act suicidal to get him back. Even if he tells you he never wants to see you again, manipulation and game-playing are effective ways to get his attention. Your friends are only ornaments; just kick them to the curb when he comes back.

No matter how you slice it, Bella Swan's one reason for being is Edward Cullen. She's got no hobbies. She's got no opinions. She pretty much has no friends. The girl has nothing on her or about her that extends beyond one burning, fangy desire: Get. Edward. Back. Is it any wonder that when Bella extends her hand to the mind-reading Italian vampire, he is stunned to see "nothing?"

Which puts adults in a thoroughly uncomfortable position. Sitting in a sea of girls twittering and swooning at the phenomenal acting skills of Taylor Lautner's torso, I found myself praying quietly for a scene where Bella paints, or sits on a bus with the debate team, or does something unrelated to obsessive, self-destructive pining. And I began to wonder how we could talk to girls about this film.

My suggestion is that we don't come down like a ton of bricks on it. That's a debate we're sure to lose. Twilight isn't just a phenomenon of dollars; it's a social obsession among girls. It's something they bond over and believe in together. Challenging it would be like taking on rock and roll.

So let's talk with girls about New Moon on their terms and ours. This is a terrific opportunity for you to communicate your own values as a parent about intimacy, love and relationships. Here are my suggestions for a discussion, followed by an activity plan for educators.

Warm-Up Questions

  • What did you think of the movie? What was your favorite part?
  • Do you think it was better than "Twilight?" Why or why not?
  • Why are girls so obsessed with the Twilight Saga?
  • If you're not that into Twilight, why?

And then you can transition into the heavier questions:

  • Do you think you'd be friends with a girl like Bella (not Kristen Stewart)? Why or why not?
  • If you were introducing Bella to your friends, how would you describe her? What are her interests and hobbies, for example?
  • Who is Bella besides Edward's girlfriend in this movie? Does she have another identity?
  • Bella seems willing to die in order to get Edward back. In your opinion, is this an accurate portrayal of a typical girl in love? Is it healthy?
  • What do you think of the way Bella treated Jacob in this movie? (If you need to prompt: It seems like she ditched him as soon as Edward came back. )
  • People are divided on who is the better guy for Bella (the joke is "Team Edward" vs "Team Jacob"). Who do you think is better for Bella? Why? And what about the fact that there's no "Team Bella?" Are either of these relationships worth having?

If you're working with a group of girls who have seen this film, try these activities.

Activity 1: Love as Addiction

Start out with some of the questions above to warm the group up. Then explain that you want to explore Bella's relationship with Edward in more detail.

Distribute a copy of the lyrics to the song "Addicted" by Kelly Clarkson and play the song for your group.

Ask girls to raise their hands if they agree this song could be about Bella Swan in the film "New Moon." Then ask who believes the song does not apply to Bella Swan. This is a good time to remind your participants that you're talking about the movie, not the book (which may have a more textured portrayal of Bella Swan; I don't know because I haven't read it).

Divide the groups accordingly. Using the lyrics, have each group prepare an argument about why the song applies (or doesn't) to Bella. Get a spirited debate going.

Activity 2: Team Edward, Team Jacob or Team Bella

Ask the girls if they believe Bella is better off with Edward, Jacob or on her own, and divide the groups accordingly.

Ask the Team Edward and Team Jacob groups to come up with a short presentation about why Bella would be better off with their character. They should provide clear evidence and consider the following questions, among others (feel free to add your own prompts):

1. How did your character treat Bella?
2. What impact did your character have on Bella's emotions and on her life in general?

Team Bella can prepare an argument about why they believe neither guy is worth Bella's time. Like the other groups, they should be ready to provide evidence.

After each group makes its presentation, allow the opposing group to challenge with questions and debate.

Have fun! Email me if you have any additions to these activities or feedback on how it went.