Sunday, 2 December 2012

Twilight (2008)

“You’re my own personal brand of heroin.”

Aha! Bet you didn’t expect me to start reviewing the Twiglet saga, did you? Let’s face it; I’m a thirty-five year old man- not exactly the target audience. The chances of my ever reading the novels are vanishingly low. All the same, though, I’m curious about the recent trend in popular culture for vampires to be portrayed as sexy, evil yet redeemable bad boys in an interesting takeover of a previously male-dominated genre by female authors writing for a female audience. The sexual subtext was always there, of course- it’s certainly there in Dracula- but these days we have whole subsections in bookshops called “Gothic Romance”. That’s an interesting cultural shift, and certainly not something I’m going to knock. More catering to female tastes, and more female writers, are a good thing generally, and much needed. Consider just how male-dominated is script writing in general.

All the same, though, I’ve heard some potentially troubling things about Stephanie Meyer; her books are said to promote the dangerous and irresponsible idea of refraining from sex before marriage. If true, this is a disgrace. We should not be telling young people that relationships matter so little that you needn’t bother to find out if you’re sexually compatible with someone before marrying them. Yes, once upon a time it may have been impossible to do this without risking pregnancy, but not these days. Decent contraception exists. And regarding contraception, incidentally, there are two sorts of people: those who support sex education in schools and those who support teenage pregnancy. Social conservatism is NOT entitled to any sort of moral high ground: it is profoundly damaging, misogynistic and immoral.

Er, yes. So what about the actual film? Well, for a start, it’s not very well directed. The look of the film, in particular, is ill-judged, with muted colours and a very washed-out look simply giving the film an appearance of dullness. The performances are generally a bit blah and, given that the same actors give much better performances in the later films (yes, I’m a bit behind in my blogging), it’s also tempting to ascribe that to poor notes from the director.

Otherwise, though, there’s much to like. I love the awkwardness of Bella’s relationship with her decent but awkward father, and the refreshingly nuanced and n on-clichéd description of American high school life. Bella’s likeable enough, I suppose, although a bit more quirkiness of personality would have been nice. The problem, though, is that I can’t stand Edward. He’s arrogant, creepy (spying on someone, while they’re sleeping, in their bedroom, is psychopathic and stalkery behaviour), and entirely devoid of charm, humour, or personality. I’m well aware that Fifty Shades of Grey derived from Twiglet fanfic, and that Grey is supposed to be based on Edward, but I don’t see anything kinky about Edward- where’s the playfulness, the sexual imagination, the excitement? My reading of the character is that he’s dangerous, self-obsessed and narcissistic. I simply cannot invest in the idea that the female lead should become romantically involved with the male lead. That’s a fairly big problem.

Jacob, on the other hand, is a much nicer guy, but let’s save him for later films. Edward’s family are cool, too, especially Alice. But these are secondary characters. The film suffers hugely from its lack of a sympathetic male protagonist, the long, dull, pieces of exposition, and the lack of wit or humour of any kinds. The scenes with baddie vampires, in particular, just make me pine for the witty scripting of Joss Whedon, who wrote vampires much, much better.

(Incidentally, sorry about the lack of recent posts on Buffy and Angel. Fact is, since I’ve moved in with my lovely girlfriend I’d rather spend time with her, and that means watching things together. It would be silly to just ask her to start watching Buffy and Angel from some random point mid-season. Don’t worry, though: things have slowed down, not stopped. I’ll plough on, but expect only occasional posts.)

The vampire backstory is a bit straightforward and, well, insipid (vampire “vegetarians”?), but that’s fine- this is primarily a romance. But the dodgy subtext I’d heard about seems to rear its ugly head near the end: Edward doesn’t want to make Bella into a vampire in what feels suspiciously like a metaphor for extra-marital sex. I’ll be watching the subsequent films with narrowed eyes.

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