No, I'm not talking about Severus Snape and his vampiric qualities. Last night's midnight opening of Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, the latest installment in the blockbuster book-movie franchise, brought with it comparisons to another teen fantasy phenomenon, Stephenie Meyer's Twilight series.

The sixth Harry Potter film features front and center the budding hormones of the now-16-year-old wizards, but, compared with Meyer's vampire oeuvre, J. K. Rowling's Harry seems downright innocent - a phrase rarely attached to the magical tales, at least among many evangelicals.

The "question" of Harry Potter - good fun, or evil vehicle for witchcraft? - has circulated through Christian culture since the first movie introduced the boy wizard to the mainstream in 2001. Eight years later - years that have brought the series' conclusion and Rowling's admission that her Christian faith deeply influenced her work - many evangelicals still oppose the book's positive portrayal of witchcraft and wizardry, fearing it gives curious children an entry point into the occult.

Christianity Today magazine has weighed in on the controversy; I personally believe the books are not only harmless, but can also deepen our faith by engaging our hearts and minds in an epic story that explores some very biblical ideas, a la Tolkien and Lewis. The series' conclusion relies heavily on Christian imagery (I'll stop there to avoid spoiling Deathly Hallows' incredibly powerful finale), and in the end, we see that the spells and potions are merely plot devices to depict themes of good vs. evil, the importance of sacrifice, and the power of love. Even the Vatican has stepped out in support of Half-Blood Prince, giving the film a surprising two thumbs up to its treatment of adolescent love.

The fact that the Vatican even commented on this represents the new realities of a "post-Twilight" world. About a month ago, I made my way through Meyer's four-book series about vampires, werewolves, and the girl who loves them. Perhaps that is not generous enough to the books; I may have "made my way through" the first book, but I completely devoured the remaining three, despite what I found to be horrible writing and a thin plot. Really, these books are all about the boys. It's the romantic tension that pushes the characters and the plot forward. These famously chaste vampires/werewolves/humans are completely intoxicated with each other, thinking about little else but the love (and lust) they have for each other. It's all-consuming, obsessive, and very unhealthy.

When I finished the books, it was difficult to fight the feeling that I was incomplete until I found an Edward (or, in my case, Jacob). And I was actively fighting the false ideals presented in the novels. While Harry Potter fans will certainly head to the theaters in droves, by tapping directly into the hormonal vein of teenage girls, Twilight fever is still on the rise. Potter fans may have created their own musical genre, but "Twi-hards," as they are called, will now have their own TV show devoted to news about the series.

So, is Harry Potter as "hot" as Twilight? A lot of people will be asking that question as the box office numbers roll in during the coming weeks. But as the Harry Potter demographic ages - Quidditch is now an intercollegiate sport - the Twilight phenomenon seems to grow younger with every passing day. One quote in a Wall Street Journal comparison of the two franchises' marketing plans particularly worried me:

Haami Nyangibo, a 13-year-old girl from London, says that after years of reading "Harry Potter" she has come to find the "Twilight" books "far more relatable. They just engage in a more realistic way. A lot of my friends have gone off 'Harry Potter' and are onto 'Twilight,'" she says.

I'm observing the same thing among the teenagers I work with in my church's youth group. While I'm all for enjoying a good story, I worry that the unrealistic romantic ideals of the Twilight series - that romantic love should consume every other part of your life, that you can't live without your "other half" - is ultimately harming the teenage girls who devour these books and movies without input from mentors. And this isn't even addressing the "weak heroine" image portrayed by protagonist Bella, who barely seems able to walk without the help of her big, strong men, who must often physically carry or guide her to avoid self-injury.

That's the great thing about the new Harry Potter movie. These teenagers have crushes, struggle through the ups and downs of dating relationships, and deal with heartache, but while these situations create some funny and touching moments, they represent one aspect of much deeper, more thoughtful characters. It is their friendships - with each other and with their mentors - that solidly anchor the film, and hopefully provide some much-needed contrast to their vampire counterparts.