My blog has moved!

You will be automatically redirected to the new address. If that does not occur, visit
and update your bookmarks.

Friday, April 17, 2009


Curious about all the hulaballoo, the Mini-W and I watched TWILIGHT yesterday evening. We had hoped that the movie would be a kind of girl-power paean, what with the fact that it was written by a woman, directed by a woman and had a female lead. Sure, sure, the thing with the vampires, but this cultural phenomenon - which drew huge crowds of female tweens - was clearly having an impact and we wanted to find out what great female-empowerment messages were embedded in the material.

We were sorely disappointed. The movie is like a romance novel for teens and not much more than that. The smoldering, brooding stares from across the cafeteria, delivered with aplomb by actor Robert Pattinson (lead romantic vampire Edward Cullen) were just - embarrassing. His heavy lidded I-can't-live-without-you-but-I-kind-of-want-to-kill-you-and-it-hurts-so-good gazes are the kind of thing couples do when they are joking. Usually someone winds up with a pillow thrown at them. But no, millions of 12-year-old girls are imprinting this cinematic experience upon their collective ideas and ideals of romance. Cullen says to our lead character, the realistically named Bella Swan, after knowing her for as far as we could tell, two weeks: You are my LIFE. I can haz restraining order pleze?

And you know, this is what bothered the Mini-W and me more than the SUPER cheesy fx (the running through the forest scene is hilarious: blurry legs beneath a smoothly gliding torso), the lame romance novel story beats, the super cheerful vampire family who plays baseball together and the overall toxic level of melodrama complete with slo-mo entrances through fog - yeah all that stuff bugged us but in a fun way in which we laughed really really hard - what left us with a bad taste in our mouths was the way the main vampire dude, Edward, is clearly a freaky obsessive when it comes to his love interest, Bella. And his words and actions are lit in the soft, golden glow of true love. A guy who said or did anything similar to the Mini-W would find himself slapped with a restraining order post haste. But seen through the eyes of Bella and delivered to the minds of millions of tweens, this is what romance is like:

Stuff Edward says to Bella:
You are my LIFE!
I like to watch you sleep.
I can't trust myself around you.
I'm a vegetarian; we only drink animal blood.

Is it just us or does this sound like FATAL ATTRACTION for tweens? Only - it's NOT a cautionary tale, it's romantic. No, young, formative tween - obsession is not weird, it's romantic. When he watches you sleep and climbs through your window unannounced, when he claims he can't live without you after having known you for 12 days, that's epic love that cannot be denied! It's totally cool, man. It means you are the center of his universe! And, when a guy is brooding, hurt and tortured inside, you can cure him! Love is the answer! Bad boys are good for you.


Seen through the prism of feminism - no, scratch that - seen through the prism of modeling for young girls what self-esteem and healthy bonding is made of - this movie is not only a disaster, it's frightening. No girl power here, just messages of how being the center of someone's universe to the point where they like to watch you sleep is validating of your gender role.

Of course the movie also has a ton of vampire desire as (barely) sublimated sexual desire, which is as old as the vampire story I get that. But this is aimed at 12-year-old girls. Who do have a burgeoning sexual and romantic self. But to cast that in the light of obsessive need and validation through being some kind of gauzy, feminine balm for a clearly effed up guy - man, those are not messages I'd want my daughter to soak in. Sure it's all cloaked in abstinence, nobody ever does it in Twilight (yeah, because 17-year-olds don't just go out to the shed and do it) but the lack of sex does not make up for the powerful, archaic, damaging message that being the object - yes OBJECT - of the attention of a messed up bad boy is a good thing because messed up bad boys are sexy and they want you. And being wanted by a boy - that's what tells you you're good enough. See?

Is this how far we've come, baby? Really?

If you enjoyed this post, follow me on Twitter or subscribe via RSS.


joeverkill said...

I completely agree. Not to mention the fact that the story breaks basically every rule of good writing. I defy you to find a protagonist less active than Bella, or villains more poorly set up than... whatever those villains' names were.

That said, I thought the director did a great job with the look of the movie, and creating the world.

Julie Gray said...

No, Joe, Bella was perfectly active, she uh...there was that time when she...Nope. You're right. :(

Michael Brownlee said...

I don't think it's the tweens we need to be worried about.

Right now, in my office, Twilight Fever has spread from one secretary to another. These women are not young adults. They have not been young adults since the Kennedy administration. These books, and the movie, have them under some sort of spell. They quote from it chapter and verse. And I am scared.

What if Ms. Meyer put some sort of subliminal message in this book and is trying to raise an army? This book was never meant for young girls. She was after their moms! What better way to bring down corporate America than by infecting the very cogs it uses to operate.

2012 ain't got nothing on this.

Consider yourselves warned.

Caitlin said...

I actually watched Twilight for the first time a few weeks ago, and was surprised by how much I liked it. But I had very low expectations, and was already familiar with most of the major criticisms. (And I don't disagree with any of your criticisms that you made.)

I wrote a blog post defending it, which I won't reiterate here, but the gist was, I liked the fact that it's an unabashedly cheesy, ridiculous adolescent female fantasy story. And I think that it captures something about the emotional experience of being a teenage girl, in a weirdly authentic way.

Maybe the main problem is that society instills young girls with unhealthy, conflicting ideas about relationships and sexuality, and then Twilight just reflects and exaggerates those ideas, which makes it a little hard to stomach at times.

Caitlin said...

Oops, I meant to include a link to my Twilight blog post, in case you're interested:

Dave Shepherd said...

Thank you.

I wasn't the only person who found it unbelievably creepy.

Plus the story sucked. At least try to give your characters some depth. This movie had about as much depth as Mario for Nintendo.

Bella = Princess, doesn't do a thing on her own, just around to get saved by...

Edward = Mario, who has an unhealthy obsession with someone he's just met because she smells good, and he has to save her from...

Hunter Vampires = Bowser, who's only purpose is to capture the princess and screw with Mario.

Bad acting, which has to be blamed on a bad script, because normally Kristen Stewart is solid (see: Adventureland). And I think you have to blame the bad script on the weak source material.

This is the primary evidence that popular does not equal good.

Lisa said...

I agree!! ooooh, I've felt alone for so long.

Although beautiful at first, the overwhelming blue tint became claustrophobic after a while. The characters are vapid at best. Bella looks lost and confused after the first ten minutes until the end, and the dude? Well, no way.

Most of the screenplays I write are geared to the tween audience, and are meant to empower young girls, and I have to agree that Twilight had none of that.

Bella's constant blinking, the tight shots on Edward, baseball (???), and the feeling it was shot underwater were irritating.

Bleh. And you know? My 10-year-old niece had no desire to see it. I rented the DVD and she told me to watch it after she went home. Haha!

And yup...liked Adventureland.

amy said...

Does everything have to be about girl power all the time?

Teenage girls like romance novels. That's what this is.

Just like grownups know it would be better if we had the whole wheat tofu and alfalfa sprout sandwich with a side of carrot juice, sometimes we're just gonna go for the bacon double cheeseburger, fried pickles and a beer. It's fun. It's escapist. And it's not great for our arteries but it's enjoyable.

Third World Girl said...

Twilight was moronic but I thoroughly enjoyed it in an "oh this is so bad it's amazing" kind of way.

And I totally agree with Caitlin that it captured the emotional authenticity of being a teenage girl, when any of Edward Cullen's ridiculous declarations of love might have seemed so "tortured" and "epic".

But I do also know a number of teen girls (including the mini-W) who loathed it, so perhaps it's one of those things that evokes a kind of nostalgia among older women for adolescence and its pursuant hormonal insanities...that we thankfully survived.

purple monkey, dishwasher said...

Apparently it's lost on everyone that dear Mr. Cullen is actually somewhere in the neighborhood of a hundred years old...and he's picking up high school girls.

Um, yeah...

Luzid said...

"And I think you have to blame the bad script on the weak source material."

Well, Stephen King *did* say that the author of the books couldn't write her way out of a paper bag.