Sunday, December 18, 2011

Twilight of Taste

If you knew me, you wouldn't be surprised to hear I won't be seeing the new Twilight movie. I've long since aged out of its target demographic, and I usually see smart movies. I'm amazed by how good the third Olson sister was in Martha Marcy May Marlene. I can't stop thinking about Melancholia. When I do go for silly, it's silly with a meta twist of irony. Stepbrothers, maybe, or Wet Hot American Summer. If you knew me, it would never occur to you I'd consider doing any such thing.

But I did. Not for long, one minute, maybe five, that's all. For the very same reason I decided in the end against it. I love the Twilight books, especially the last, beyond all reason. So just like I never saw Demi Moore's turn as Hawthorne's Hester Prynne, or last year's Never Let Me Go, I won't be seeing Breaking Dawn because I like the book too much to want to see a filmic version.

I know better, I really do. I'm entirely too old to be reading teen vampire porn at all, let alone loving it. I know the books aren't very well written, the heroine is intolerable until the last book, and there's arguably an anti-choice Mormon subtext. My love for them is every bit as weird and inappropriate as the books themselves.

I don't know what possessed me to start Twilight in the first place, not a clue. It was Edward Cullen, Bella Swan's vampire boyfriend, though, who kept me reading, kept me coming back for more.

For starters, he is exactly my type. Tall, skinny, pasty, and deeply invested in his vision of himself as dark, complicated, solitary and strange. His please stay, go away, initial approach to courting Bella was also awfully familiar. So I kind of couldn't help myself. That's what I always say.

As things progress, however, Edward becomes something else entirely, the world's most perfect boyfriend. Really, without flaw. He likes to talk about feelings, he craves commitment, he never presses Bella sexually, giving her space to sort out her own teenage desire, and of course, he's good for rescuing her from the endless parade of evil vampires out for her blood. And that's the least of it.

Edward has nothing to do but hang out with Bella, think about Bella, talk about Bella, protect Bella, watch Bella sleeping, Bella, Bella, Bella. He's rich like Warren Buffett, so doesn't have to work. In high school for maybe the 25th time, academic work is nothing to him. All he has to do is kill a deer or something now and then, to keep himself in blood. That's it. He has nothing better to do, nothing he's more interested in, nothing to distract him from his Bella. When he tells her, "You are my life now," it isn't just romantic hyperbole. He means it literally. Best of all, when Bella tells Edward to go away, he does. What could be better?

Bella herself, however, is a whiny brat, throughout the first three books. She wants to become a vampire herself, immediately. She wants to have naughty pre-marital sex. She doesn't like Edward's extravagant gifts. She can't do much of anything for herself, she's impossibly insecure, and has no discernable sense of self protection. She's exactly as unbearable as any actual 16 year old girl.

In Breaking Dawn Bella is transformed, literally and figuratively. Her fairy tale doesn't end with the wedding, it continues into the days and months after, during which Bella gets everything she's ever wanted, and it's even better than she'd dreamed. Clumsy and awkward as a breathing being, Bella is great at being a vampire, amazing the others by taking so easily to the whole thing. She and Edward have a lot of fabulous married vampire sex. Her werewolf ex moves on. Chronically victimized, requiring endless rescue through the first three books, here, Bella does the rescuing. She saves Edward, his family, and all their vampire friends, from the power mad vampires of the Voltari. She doesn't just become a vampire, she becomes a sexy bad ass. I'd take her over Edward any day.

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