Fans scream at the premiere of The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn - Part 1 at Nokia Theatre in Los Angeles.

London - Many teenagers no longer seek the answers to life’s big questions from religion – and find them instead in films such as the Twilight series.

So says Line Nybro Petersen of the Department of Media, Cognition and Communication at the University of Copenhagen, whose PhD thesis was entitled “Wicked Angels, Adorable Vampires”.

It consists of a study of the consumption of TV shows with supernatural and religious content among 72 Danish teenagers aged between 14 and 18, a smaller study among a group of nine teenage Twilight fans as well as a more general analysis of American TV shows.

Increasingly, she found, young teenagers rejected established religion – and the popularity of shows such as Twilight, True Blood and The Vampire Diaries showed they were seeking “the spiritual” elsewhere.

The films, with their supernatural themes and immortal characters, were used by teens as a way to think about life and death, good and evil.

“A film series like Twilight offers young people a playground for exploring life’s big questions, moral judgement and to imagine the possibility of the supernatural in a pleasurable and informal fashion,” explained Petersen.

“A number of the teenagers I interviewed did, for example, express their fascination with the fact that vampires that are traditionally portrayed as evil often come across as heroic characters in current TV shows. They see that as an invitation to reconsider their own assumptions about good and evil.”

For some fans, film screenings almost had the atmosphere of a religious ritual, said Peterson.

“I have observed the Twilight fans at premieres and noted how they, through a number of rituals, show or perform their affiliation with the series. They cry, shriek and sing – and this performance is central to their sense of belonging to something larger than themselves.”

Some young fans’ idolisation of a film series like Twilight could become so intense that it resembled a new form of religious worship.

The film or TV show became sacred and fans compared all other supernatural shows to the “canonical” and original show.

Peterson claimed a series like Twilight could even replace traditional religion – at least for some young Danes – and enhance their interest in spiritual and religious issues.

Many Danish teenagers rejected established religious institutions and their beliefs.

The lack of a coherent religious world view would in some cases make TV shows like Twilight and The Vampire Diaries, in which vampires and other religious symbols abound, assume part of the function which the old religious institutions used to have, said Peterson.

Stressing that her study was among a fairly small group, she added: “Other studies have pointed to the fact that TV shows and films with a supernatural content tend to increase people’s interest in religious themes and my thesis underpins that these shows also have the ability to reshape young people’s religious imaginations because, among other things, the religious elements which the shows draw on must be subjected to a certain narrative logic in order to fit into the fictional universes.

“In this fashion, the religious elements are recontextualised and seem very different from the traditional representations we all know from the Bible and other religious institutions.” – Daily Mail