Monday, November 29, 2010

The real reason why werewolves and vampires are bad for your health:

Curiosity finally got the better of me and I gave myself a crash course in the Twilight Saga - saw all three films in the space of a fortnight.

The plus sides: it’s visually stunning. A lot of the soundtrack is pitch perfect. The overall ‘look’ of the films avoids the hackneyed imagery of emo black-obsessed goths in favour of an approach sympathetic to the native/ancient origin legends of vampire/werewolf mythology. I found this refreshing.

See, I can be nice.

…And now for the teeth:

I was never a fan, and yet throughout the Twilight saga, I was barely repressing the urge to cry, “but where is Buffy??” What has post-feminism done to girl power? Where is it? Gone is the kung-fu fighter with attitude, the quick-witted, shrewd, vamp impaler. All (lamely) hail the return of the Maid Without; the wilting rose, the shrinking violet, the limp inhaler.

Twilight’s ‘heroine’, Bella, spends her days moping, mooching, brooding, staring wistfully out of windows at autumnal trees/her naval, sleeping, fainting, getting picked up, carried around and passed about between the werewolves and vampires, put down again, and driven about in/on various vehicles: car/vampire/motorbike/wolf. She is helpless and completely in the hands of the men/monsters competing for her love.

So it’s all about Trust, is it? It would seem Trust is the Big Issue that Twilight thinks it's exploring. For despite their incomparable strength and power, and despite the potentially fatal danger they pose to her, Bella willingly hands over her feelings, her body, to Edward and Jacob, because she trusts them. She is given the opportunity to walk away, by both Edward and Jacob, but she chooses not to. The reality is, she does this not because she trusts them, but because she hates herself. Bella’s dialogue is filled with her self-derision – all that she considers her imperfections and faults. Like the budding masochist she is, she welcomes pain, she deserves it, especially if it's at the hands (or mouths) of the men she loves. Presumably also the idea is to suggest that, yes, Edward is flawed – he craves blood – but, look, Bella is flawed too: she’s an insecure teenager who feels like she doesn’t fit in. It’s almost the same thing.

Except it isn’t.

Not only because it obviously isn’t, but also because Edward isn’t really flawed at all. Only if he were human would he be flawed. But he’s not human. He’s immortal and he’s the perfect killer. The only way in which Edward and Bella are comparable is in how much they hate themselves.

Bella is a rubbish role model for teenage girls. Even putting aside her vapid flimsy character, she is espousing death for the love of a boy over the choice of life, adulthood, sex, hope and belief in her potential as a subject with agency and a future. She advocates teenage suicide. Her weapon of choice is a vampire’s teeth. In the world of Twilight – demonstrated not only by Bella, but also by Emily, the disfigured girlfriend of a werewolf – girls are shaped and defined by the boys they love and their futures are directed by their chosen partner’s needs: Bella relentlessly asks Edward to ‘change’ her (from human to vampire, since he can’t ‘change’ himself ((– how convenient!)), and Emily’s scars are as a result of her boyfriend, Sam, “imprinting on” her. (And she must continue to live with that threat of violence if she wishes to stay with him.)

This part of the film, though treated as an incidental side story, does much to reveal Twilight’s warped social coding. As a result of Sam’s inability to control his werewolf powers, Emily nearly had half her face ripped off. You’d have thought, or hoped, that these days, that would have been a pretty definitive end to that particular romance – at least in a film targeted at teenagers – or that the relationship would have been presented as untenable and without a future. There might be a court injunction, even some jail time? How about some Perpetrator Counselling? Isn’t someone at least going to get grounded?? No, no, no, quite the contrary. Emily is still living with her abuser. Yes, that’s right, Sam and Emily are still together. But this is ok, in Twilight World, because they wuv each other. Emily has stuck by her abuser, “because he didn’t mean it”, “because he promised never to do it again”, ‘because she wuvves him’!

More specific to Twilight Language, Sam has ‘imprinted on’ her. For an explanation of ‘imprinting’, (which is as sinister as it sounds), I’ll hand over to Jacob:

(It’s so complex it requires Swedish subtitles.)

But the gender portrayals in Twilight aren’t only unhealthy for girls, they don’t do boys any favours either. Because Edward and Jacob are essentially ‘good boys’. They are hardworking, courageous and when they’re not terrorising the neighbourhood they partake in otherwise perfectly wholesome extracurricular activities: Edward paints and plays baseball and Jacob fixes bikes and likes going to the cinema. But, you see, they are also at the very same time extremely dangerous predators with a carnal lust for blood/flesh, who have volatile control over their strengths and powers. The (barely) underlying message = boys might appear nice on the surface but every one of them, including the seemingly nice ones, is a potential violator/abuser/predator/killer. The power they have to protect is the same power that may inflict the violence that creates the need for protection in the first place.

Oh, and I agree with the critics who pronounced Twilight pro-chastity. The message in the films is most definitely, ‘the only safe sex is no sex.’

Perhaps in the end the thing I found most depressing about Twilight overall though, is that I just couldn’t quite buy into all the pouty over-wrought (and over-acted) teenage angst. This is probably solely down to the unsettling realisation that I am most definitely too old for these films. (And yet it feels like only yesterday I was stuck up Dawson’s Creek without a paddle.)


Oh, and also a personal quibble: pious principals aside, why on earth does Bella choose bloodless, red-eyed, washed-out, effeminate white boy, Edward, over hot-blooded, dark, exotically sexual, warrior-like, Jacob?? Like, h-e-l-l-o-o-o?? Wolverine Jacob could so take a great big lupine bite out of Edward’s pasty vampire butt!

General Overall Conclusion: exercise extreme caution when dating werewolves and vampires. Stick to men. Or women. And preferably ones with a pulse.

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