Friday, December 18, 2009

On French Braids and Truth or Dare

I saw the new Twilight Movie last night (I know, I know). Basically, in my defense, it’s a cultural phenomenon which, for better or worse, will influence many media for some time to come. I also saw the first one (commence judgment), and haven’t seen a movie in a while.

I’ll say before I begin, I haven’t read the books, nor do I have any plans to (I still haven’t finished Harry Potter, let alone the shelves of “serious” books at home). But I’m interested in the values of these films (and, I’ll assume of the books), how they build on vampire lore and what they say about us today. If you are a loyal adherent to the saga, you probably won’t enjoy this, and if you want the movies or the books to be a surprise, then don’t read any further.

The Heroine
While I appreciate that the character of Bella is an awkward, clumsy, blushy, angsty teen (as I was) I find her lack of agency disappointing. In a post-Buffy universe, I didn’t realize the damsel-in-distress routine was still copasetic. But she’s only human, and in a world of shape-shifters and vampires it’s tough for a girl to compete. However, her only substance seems to be from her all-consuming love for her vampy-beau. The Romantic-era the author apparently takes some of her inspiration certainly permitted less dynamic or engaging ladies, but we’ve come a long way since then, no? Also, two words for you: Jane Austen. Even her more lackluster heroines had depth, dimension and diverse interests. I don’t really get that here (maybe that has something to do with the actor, book-followers?). So, while, yes, I like my ass-kicking ladies, I’d take artistic or bookish or funny or athletic or something.

The Vampires
Each Vampire story I know builds on some of the same principals. Vampires are eternally young and usually beautiful (the appeal), often evil, dangerous and sexy. The sexual metaphor is more overt for some than others. So, while Nosferatu wasn’t as nice to look at as your more contemporary heartthrobs, the sneaking into ladies’ bedrooms at night while they slept to “have your way” with them conveys a similar idea. What’s interesting about Twilight’s vision, is the vampires have no “ugly face” literally and metaphorically. They are always very pretty, and seem to be able to choose if they will be good or evil. Really, being a vampire seems mostly pretty awesome – as opposed to other stories that really play up “the catch” (you have an insatiable urge to kill people, you are a monster, you are damned, you can’t go out in the sun without bursting into flames, no more Italian food, etc).

The Sex
My understanding is that these books (and therefore films) are supposed to, to some extent, extol the virtues of abstinence pre-marriage. So, while the movies portray gleaming, writhing, beautiful youthful bodies, the romance and the appeal is in the longing, not the fulfillment of desire. Sure, anticipation is fun, but do we really need to continue to stigmatism women’s desire for sexual fulfillment? Really? Also, Bella is torn between two men who might eat her, one of which she wants to die for. Because danger is hot, and a true woman can reform a man through her love? Thanks, Victorian era. Seriously, though, I don’t want to sound all, well, mom-ish or puritanical, but isn’t this a bit of a dangerous example to be setting for young girls? I mean, a VERY reductive version of the story could be he hurts her, but he also loves her, and because she really loves him, she’ll stick it out till he kills her. Um, gross. Not to mention 18 seems a tad young to get married, to me, but she literally doesn’t seem to have anything else to do, so why not?

To answer your question preemptively, yes, I probably will see the next two movies, further contributing to the franchise, because I am, in part, an angsty-pre-teen trapped in an adult body. And now that you know all of my secrets, I will go eat some cake.

1 comment:

Meg said...

Oh beloved Turg Talker! We've missed you!!! Welcome back - and with such a great post!