In a 12-hour span yesterday, I went from being blissfully ignorant of the Twilight saga to having seen two of the three movies (New Moon and Eclipse). It's not my fault, I promise.
Bravo to Hollywood for thinking outside the box on these movies. Typically, producers of mainstream motion pictures insist that their products have elements that appeal to diverse demographics; this is why virtually every awesome action movie hiccups with romance and toys, and why Sex and the City has “sex” right there in the title. Because it’s impossible to appeal to literally everyone, attempts to do so usually do a disservice to the final product.
Well, the Twilight saga has none of that. It’s targeted to women the way restaurants calculate the perfect balance of salt, sugar and fat to make your entree delicious. The movies play so perfectly to a variety of feminine emotions that watching them is like taking a multivitamin for the soul. Or maybe narcotics for the soul.
Every close-up of Edward lasts 37 minutes. Jacob never wears a shirt, because why would he? Bella’s angsty angst shines through even when she isn’t in the same country as the scene unreeling. In the name of love, lust and emotional conflict, amen.
The Twilight series, at its core, is a soap opera. I spent many a childhood summer afternoon watching soap operas with my grandmother, and even then I noticed a disconnect between the drama on screen and the relative banality of my daily life. At some point, I asked, “Why are their lives so dripping with conflict?” I imagine this happened soon after I learned about the word “conflict.”
Granted, any good story has to have conflict. To paraphrase the teacher who taught me about conflict, you don’t want to hear a story about how someone had the best day ever.
True. Something like that would only ignite the angst within me.
On the other hand, I have the same issue with Twilight that I have with any Ayn Rand book or movie: the protagonists are often hard to relate to. And by that I mean, you root for their happiness and success, but it’s difficult to picture them ever having a happy or otherwise light moment. Bella, in particular, broods so much that I found myself looking forward to Edward and Jacob fighting with each other, because at least that’s relatable. As cranky, snarky and cynical as I can be at times, I still have long stretches where life is normal and fun. Because who needs this kind of conflict swirling around you 24/7?
Which is why, over the course of watching the films, I created my own Twilight character: Jim. I introduced him in a scene where Bella, Edward and Jacob were together and the tension was smoldering like an appletini. The scene represented the classic choice that Bella must make, as does anyone torn between two loves: who to choose? It’s a loaded cinematic trope, one that keeps even casual fans on the edge of their seats. Indeed, any edge of any seat throughout the history of film. It gets to the very essence of the human condition.
Being me, of course, I wondered aloud, “Why are these drama-laden guys her only choices? Wasn’t there a Saved By The Bell episode where the girl rightfully chose neither?”
Enter Jim — a guy not only as ripped as Jacob and as appealing as Edward, but who also has the benefit of not being a bloodthirsty animal. He swoops in, takes Bella by the arm and says with an unreal level of charm, “Forget all this bestiality. Come with me!” Bella falls head over angst in love, and they live happily ever angst.
I’m not saying that would make a better movie, but it would be funny to me, at least.
But I do understand the appeal of the Twilight series: porn. It’s porn for hopeless-romantic women. That’s why the camera lingers over the men, and they show Bella only from the neck up. And why they talk so much about how they’re (mostly) over 18, in accordance with Section 18 U.S.C. 2257.
I’m fascinated, and pretty much always have been, with how pop culture depicts and dictates what makes a guy sexy. And I’m sure many of my fellow men can attest to how crummy it feels when that person looks and sounds nothing like yourself. So thanks, Edward and Jacob! And Justin Bieber!
And Savage Garden, while we're at it. “I’ll be your dream / I’ll be your wish / I’ll be your fantasy.” Man, that’s work! And work is for motorcycles.
Which reminds me...New Moon has a segment involving the rebuilding of motorcycles, with one shot of parts organized across a blanket. And for that brief moment, those parts were my Edward.
So ladies, Twilight away. But never forget, all of us guys have something special within us, even if we aren’t Robert Pattinson with sparkly scarecrow makeup or Taylor Lautner with bite-me abs. If nothing else, we’re real at least.