An Adult Male Watches ‘Twilight’
We’re gonna get into this, with three caveats: A) Being as I’m not a teenaged girl, I know I am not the target audience for this movie; 2) I am talking from here on out about the immensely popular movie, and not the big fat-ass book it was whittled down from; and III) I KNOW I AM NOT THE AUDIENCE FOR THIS MOVIE.
That said, I am speaking as an utter expert on this teen-culture phenomenon. So I can say this: Twilight is one fucked-up piece of teen-culture phenomenon.
Allow me to summarize the film’s plot, omitting remarkably few details:
Girl moves to small midwestern town with an unusually large high school. Despite not being particularly interesting, funny or smart, she is quickly accepted by a colorful clique. There is also a mysterious pack of antisocial, palefaced siblings, one of whom takes a liking to the girl. He saves her from a car accident, then from a gang of would-be rapists (who troll an otherwise quaint peddler’s village). Also, he can drive the living shit out of a Volvo.
At about an hour in, she twigs to the obvious fact that he and his family are vampires (who for reasons not really elaborated on here, don’t eat humans). He tells her flat-out that their smoldering and yet very dull attraction to each other is the product of his pheromones, but she doesn’t seem to care about that.
They continue their tentative romance, wherein he tells her they can’t fool around, or else he’ll want to eat her (abstenence-vampire!). She is cool with that. Her very hands-off cop dad, meanwhile, gives her a can of mace to put in her purse, which is the smartest thing anyone in the movie ever does.
Also there is a roving pack of human-eating vampires, who have been killing a couple of folks. They quickly reach an understanding with the good-guy vampire clan, but then the dickish-looking human-eater (see picture at right) sniffs out the girl as human, and goes apeshit hunting her down.
Finally, at an hour and a half in, we have some actual action, as the girl runs away from home (making sure to say some really hurtful shit to her dad so he doesn’t follow – which might make sense to a teenager, but baffled me), and heads back to Arizona for reasons that also don’t make a ton of sense. But that doesn’t matter, since the mean vampire tricks her into a trap, where he beats the shit out of her and finally bites her but good (vampires in Twilight have venom in their bites, which I do think was kind of clever).
While the rest of the vampire family catches and kills the bad vampire, vamp-boyfriend sucks the venom out of the girl. Then they go to the prom, where she asks him to make her a vampire, despite his repeated explanations of what a horrible, monstrous existence he lives. He just kisses her neck. The end.
As such, Bella is a completely passive character. There’s nothing noteworthy about her, and yet everyone immediately loves her. She doesn’t try to make friends – or even talk to people – they just come to her. This includes the Totes Hottest Boi In School, who is instantly, irrevocably attracted to her, and will love her and protect her forever and ever. See, girls? Don’t bother developing a personality or attitudes or opinions of your own – interesting things will just happen at you!
Which brings us to Edward, teh hot boy vampire. Edward is the ideal fictionalization of what a teenage girl apparently hopes for – he’s soooo pretty, and a dangerous bad-boy, but is ultimately a sensitive, chivalrous soul.
Except everything in this movie paints Edward as a stalker – he isn’t attracted to her as a person, but rather as what he needs. He rejects Bella, then is nice to her, then rejects her again, then tells Bella – despite not actually knowing her – that he is “very protective” of her. He beats up other people for her, but also pretty much tells her flat out that he’d just as soon kill her, if not for his Massive Attraction to her.
Also he stands in her room without her knowing, so he can watch her sleep. No, not creepy. Not creepy at all.
Finally, after she’s suffered a broken leg and various lacerations as a result of his love for her, he tells her to explain the injuries as the result of a clumsy fall down some stairs. And Bella, passive as she is, goes along with it. Yet after all that, Bella still wants to be with him forever and ever (literally).
I don’t want to get dramatic or anything, but it kinda seems like this series encourages abusive relationships (and as it’s been explained to me, things just get more fucked up from here). And teenaged girls are deeply invested in this story. I have some problems with that.
So I propose that anytime you see a kid holding a “Twilight” book, you hand them the DVD of “Buffy the Vampire Slayer,” Season 2 – where the title character’s vampire boyfriend (also a brooding yet well-mannered type) has sex with her, becomes obsessive and violent, and torments her family, until finally she resolves to kill the hell out of him.
Joss Whedon’s horror/high school metaphors may be a little more on-the-nose, but they make for far more impactful stories. And say what you will about Buffy, but she’s a hell of a lot more proactive (and a far better role model) than Bella.
Some other notes on the movie:
- All the interesting shit happens behind the extremely dull Bella and Edward. Bella’s friends are charismatic and fun to hang around with; Edward is clearly the least interesting member of his family; and I could’ve spent an entire movie just hanging out with Bella’s dad and his Indian buddy. This is made annoyingly clear at the end, when the rest of the family attacks the bad-vampire, and all the awesome-looking action happens out of focus, over the shoulder of boring ol’ Edward and Bella. There may well be an outstanding movie going on just out of frame this whole time.
- VAMPIRES SPARKLE! Did you know that? I did not know that! Yeah, sunlight doesn’t kill them, it just makes them shimmer like Glitter Eggs (those glam-rock eggs that look like they fell out of David Bowie’s butt, to quote Patton Oswalt).
- The other clever conceit of Twilight: vampires kick ass at baseball, but can only play during thunderstorms so the thundrous crack of the bat doesn’t arouse suspicion, and they can run around at super-speed catching fly balls. (This is also one of my favorite X-Men tropes – when the gang at Xavier’s unwinds with some intermural sports and a frequently-broken “no powers” rule - but I’m going to give Stephanie Meyer credit and assume she did not rip this off.)