Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Have you seen Twilight?

While I'm still putting together the next entries in my grocery store series, I thought I'd share a few excerpts of a review in The Atlantic of "Twilight," the teen vampire romance movie my two girls and seemingly every other one of their female friends has seen. No teen I've talked to thinks the movie was as good as the book, but they liked the movie anyway.

After hearing what my girls said about the movie (they don't seem to be caught up in the Twilight fever some of their friends are), and after reading this review, I'm still not sure what to think of the book or movie. Even though these quotes make the author appear to think the movie is salacious or erotic, she actually seems to say elsewhere in her review that the movie harkens back to an earlier time of clear moral choices and stances, and provides a sort of alternate scenario of teen romantic relationships as mutually committed pacts instead of just quick "hook-ups." I don't plan on seeing "Twilight" myself, so I'll rely on any of you who do to tell me if she's got it right.
Twilight is fantastic. It’s a page-turner that pops out a lurching, frightening ending I never saw coming. It’s also the first book that seemed at long last to rekindle something of the girl-reader in me. In fact, there were times when the novel—no work of literature, to be sure, no school for style; hugged mainly to the slender chests of very young teenage girls, whose regard for it is on a par with the regard with which just yesterday they held Hannah Montana—stirred something in me so long forgotten that I felt embarrassed by it. Reading the book, I sometimes experienced what I imagine long-married men must feel when they get an unexpected glimpse at pornography: slingshot back to a world of sensation that, through sheer force of will and dutiful acceptance of life’s fortunes, I thought I had subdued. The Twilight series is not based on a true story, of course, but within it is the true story, the original one. Twilight centers on a boy who loves a girl so much that he refuses to defile her, and on a girl who loves him so dearly that she is desperate for him to do just that, even if the wages of the act are expulsion from her family and from everything she has ever known. We haven’t seen that tale in a girls’ book in a very long time. And it’s selling through the roof.

The erotic relationship between Bella and Edward is what makes this book—and the series—so riveting to its female readers. There is no question about the exact nature of the physical act that looms over them. Either they will do it or they won’t, and afterward everything will change for Bella, although not for Edward. Nor is the act one that might result in an equal giving and receiving of pleasure. If Edward fails—even once—in his great exercise in restraint, he will do what the boys in the old pregnancy-scare books did to their girlfriends: he will ruin her. More exactly, he will destroy her, ripping her away from the world of the living and bringing her into the realm of the undead. If a novel of today were to sound these chords so explicitly but in a nonsupernatural context, it would be seen (rightly) as a book about “abstinence,” and it would be handed out with the tracts and bumper stickers at the kind of evangelical churches that advocate the practice as a reasonable solution to the age-old problem of horny young people.
From “What Girls Want” by Caitlin Flanagan, Atlantic December 2008. Go here to read the full article.


R said...

huh. Interesting.

I am not sure if I will ever read the book, and I will most likely never see the movie, but that was an interesting take.

Karie said...

I saw the movie with my 10 year old daughter. Her 12 year old friend had a Twilight birthday party the weekend the movie opened. I had mixed feelings about letting her read the books and see the movie. But I read about half of the book and some interviews with the author. I liked that she was definitely promoting waiting until marriage and also a true love based on sacrifice and self-control.

I actually enjoyed the movie; 3 of us moms sat toward the back of the theatre and listened to the girls giggle. Definitely not a guy's movie, but it was fun for a girl's day out.

Inkling said...

One way to look at it. I definitely agree with it not being a literary classic, and I actually put it on a par with the soft porn of romance novels--not something I'd want my daughter reading, and I felt slightly guilty reading it myself. The boyfriend is possessive and controlling, the heroine is weak and dependent, and the whole romantic scenario to me is poison to the minds of young girls who need to learn that healthy relationships are built on equality, strength, and personal responsibility. And that's from a Mormon Middle School teacher--I've read all the books, I've watched all the girls reading them, we've discussed: overall, I would prefer Hannah Montana, if I had a daughter. I married one of those possessive controlling obsessive romantic types first time around: the reality is nothing like Edward, and it's very dangerous. Can you tell I feel strongly about this one?

Muley said...

R, Karie and Inkling:

Thanks for the comments. I think if my daughters were among those who were really, really into the whole Twilight thing (and believe me, there are teenaged girls around here who are), I would be more concerned, and might even consider banning or at least seriously curtailing any more involvement.

However, my kids, thankfully, seem to be treating this as something they're interested in because they want to see what all the excitement in their friends is about, but after seeing the movie (and after my older daughter read the first book), they seem pretty unimpressed. I guess I'm going on the idea of picking my battles, and this just doesn't seem one immediately dangerous enough to warrant a full-scale attack. Maybe I'm wrong, but that's how I'm seeing it at this point.

Carla said...

So glad someone did a post on this! I've read all the Twilight books. Since I am a Christian, it's so very important for the books I read to NOT have anything inappropriate and I will (or at least try) put a book down if I find anything very unmoral about it.

So, having said all that, Twilight has great morals in it (for the most part), the type of morals that people call "old fashioned". Surprisingly the vampire boy (Edward) is much more moral in some ways than Bella (main girl character) is. They wait until marriage (Edward's influence)...their not just hooking up with each other,they head into the relationship not just for fun, but because they love each other. They hardly touch each other in the beginning of the relationship too.

Also, I think humans can (this is going to sound odd, be prepared) relate with the vampires in the story. These vampires are fighting against who they really are. They don't want to be monsters. They don't want to lust after human blood because they know it's wrong in every way. Everyday they fight against their natural state. Just like humans do and especially Christians. We dont want to be bad (just like the vampires). We fight against our fallen nature everyday (once again, just like the vampires). Like the vampires, everyday is a struggle for us all. A struggle to not become the sin we were born into....just like the vamps.

Oh and I thought the movie was good but the book is better.

Carla said...

I also wanted to say that Edward and Bella's relationship does have equality. They compromise all the time...:)

Muley said...

Thanks for stopping by and leaving your comments! It sounds as though you have already done some thinking and evaluating about this movie (and the books). I'm intrigued by your comments and analysis, especially the comparison between the vampires in the book and we Christians. I guess to truly understand all of this, I'm just going to have to read the books myself (if I can ever get through the 10 or 15 unread books I have piled up already).

It's good that you are actively evaluating what you see and read through the lens of your faith. You sound like you've got a good head on your shoulders, and as long as you keep your eyes on what's truly important, you'll do fine.

By the way, in practical terms, equality in a relationship doesn't always mean resorting to a split-the-difference compromise every time there's a disagreement. Don't get me wrong -- a compromise that truly brings each side more happiness is always a good thing. But, sometimes, all a compromise ends up doing is to make sure that both the man and the woman are equally miserable and unsatisfied. Sometimes a compromise works, but sometimes it's better to agree to lose (like the man who sucks it up and goes along to the chick flick with his wife), knowing that the other's happiness is what you want to see, and knowing that the other person might make the same sort of trade for you some day.

And sometimes, equality doesn't mean compromise or giving in. It means that, on occasion, he does his thing and she does hers, apart, and both come back together when it's over.

Nothing profound here, just a little bloviated observation based on life experience.

Carla said...

Thanks for your insight! Twas good for me to read.

I am not even an adult yet, so I [mostly] only know what I observe and then evaluate from my observations.

But, you did honestly give me a better understanding of equality in a relationship. And yes, of course a healthy relationship need more than just compromise.

Thanks again!

Muley said...


I don't think you'll really need my advice. You seem like a pretty sharp cookie. I have a feeling you'll figure out a lot on your own.