Wednesday, June 03, 2009
"Hold on tight, Spidermonkey!": a meditation on 'Twilight'
Gone are the days of Anne Rice. She has found her lord and savior, and she has turned her back on the vampires she once tended to so lovingly.
Now, I never begrudge anyone a good rebirth (or two, in the case of Robert Zimmerman). But Anne Rice left behind her a void that lesser folks have struggled -- and failed -- to fill. True Blood is said to be campy and silly; everyone shudders at the idea of a new Buffy movie; and then, of course, there's Twilight, the international sensation.
The four books of the saga have twee names and covers that could have been designed by the staff at Hot Topic. That's more or less all I know about them, having never opened one; and if the writing is as over-ripe as the movie, that's all I ever need to know.
Lord, this movie. Have uncorseted bosoms ever heaved so dramatically? Have two sets of eyes ever stared so beseechingly into each other? Have vampires ever seemed so ridiculous? And I do mean ridiculous. The "good" vampires -- a set of clean-cut, wealthy, thoroughly creepy Aryans in pancake makeup -- have to stay hidden from view on sunny days. Why? Because they turn into David Bowie. Whereas poor Kirsten Dunst and her nurse were reduced to ash in seconds in Interview with the Vampire, and their equivalent bursts into flames in Let the Right One In, in Twilight the undead merely sparkle.
Other rules broken by these "good" vampires: they have reflections; they seem unfazed by garlic; and they can enter new spaces without being invited. What is the point, I ask you, of well-understood genre conventions if they are overthrown without so much as an explanation?
There are of course "bad" vampires, a crew of multi-culti, gender-nonspecific hippies who escaped from the recent Shakespeare in the Park production of Hair. These vampires seem quite sexual, whereas the others aren't; they also attack humans, while the superior creatures restrict themselves to animals (and then have the gall to call themselves vegetarian). It's the culture wars of the 60s all over again.
Here is the crux of the books' and the movie's appeal, as I understand it: though Bella and Edward are so into each other and so horny that their sexual tension made me need to pause and get some air, they cannot consummate their passion. It's all titillation and no release, presumably because if Edward were to physically love Bella, he would have to kill her. (Why? Who knows? He may be a vampire but he's also a teenage boy and they are NOT TO BE TRUSTED.) Still, as a viewer I felt like echoing Jeneane Garofolo in Reality Bites after she has suffered through the thousandth Winona Ryder-Ethan Hawke bantering session: "Just do it and get it over with already!"
The alternatives offered by the movie -- lying down in a meadow, holding hands, tearing another vampire to pieces and burning his body in a ballet studio -- are unintentionally hilarious, as is most of the dialogue ("About three things I was absolutely positive. First, Edward was a vampire. Second, there was a part of him, and I didn't know how dominant that part might be, that thirsted for my blood. And third, I was unconditionally and irrevocably in love with him.").
For all that, it was the Indians-as-werewolves that were the tipping point.