Bright Lights Film Journal

The Beautiful and the Darned: Avenging TWILIGHT

It’s massively popular, it’s ridiculously mopey, yet it’s also brooding, purple and relatively un-headache-inducing… in short, it’s everything you hate and love about Seattle if you ever tried to move there. TWILIGHT captures the “real” version of the icy self-importance that suffuses the locals, as opposed to the foggy eccentricites of, say, TWIN PEAKS…it celebrates alienation, emotional distance and the ability to suppress darker instincts… and youth oriented product positioning!

I haven’t read the TWILIGHT books but that doesn’t mean I can’t comment on the movie… plus, that Kristen Stewart is a little flannel-wearing hottie with a brain (“Earlier this month, Stewart was made to clarify some comments that she made about fans of the vampire romance, after calling them “f**king psychotic” in an interview.) and I love that her character, Bella, is not humiliated and bullied on her first day of school in a strange new town, or ostracized in the lunchroom, or saddled with a John Hughes-esque geek as her only friend. She’s hot in the context of the movie, so every clique in the school is vying for her membership, just as it would be in real life. And I like that she’s a legitimately weird, dark character.. boys are important, but sulky poetry and drawings in her notebook are as well.

Then there’s the Ed Cullen, I mean Robert Pattinson. Well, who cares? He’s a dreamboat who wears white pancake make-up like a pro and can brood well and I dig that Bella keeps her virginity and it’s all a big mopey deal. Like BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER without Buffy, or Zoe Bell’s stuntwork, or laughs, or good writing. But at least the scenery matches the clothes! And Robert Pattinson is better at being ANGEL than David Boreanz. God, I couldn’t stand Boreanz, no offense to the man, it was mainly the hair and the poseur quality. Pattinson walks a thin rope over the pit of adolescent pretentious/narcissism (which most of the WB network falls into) and never slips. TWILIGHT works because it pays barely any attention to the tropes expected by the slavering fanboys. It’s a chick flick in a very real sense of the word… all it’s missing, really, are more horses. Are there horses in it? I can’t remember. Hell, our dopey hero only drinks day old animal blood instead of humans, the vampire equivalent of a promise ring.

Also, more than the homey shire or Hogwart’s or Sunnydale, TWILIGHT’s locale manages to be both fantastical and actually real– a genuine geographic destination, one soothing in its misty purple mountain majesty – the Pacific Northwest. In this sense TWILIGHT is like the scene when Jimmy Stewart and Kim Novak wander through the redwoods in VERTIGO, stretched to three hours and what the hell is wrong with that? Everything of course, if you consider VERTIGO to be a terribly overrated bore. (I don’t, but I used to).

So why does TWILIGHT draw the simmering hate from the bad boy blogosphere? Is it a reminder that we’re all not Robert Pattinson or 13 year old girls? And why is an old reprobate like me netflixing it and getting drawn into the swoony virgin pining of it? Because I recently noticed that if a young cute innocent girl can learn to enjoy movies clearly meant for boys and men (war, gore, superheroes, Japanese “pink” movies, bimbo-thons, etc.) then we men should at least try and do the same for teenage chick flick vamp movies. Plus, I follow the Carol Clover model of the “viewer” as beyond the dualities of age and gender and am on speaking terms with my inner 16-year old girl. Why am I even justifying this to you? My GOD! Kristen Stewart is so cute. That trumps all

TWILIGHT it must be remembered, has nothing to do with “real” high school or “real” horror films – it’s a fantasia of maturity deferment; a snapshot of how pregnant with dangerous, giddy possibility the world seems before one gets their first “bite.” It’s permanently frozen at the moment of rapture right before the disillusionment of the first sexual experience (see also: THE VIRGIN SUICIDES) with a guy who promises you the world, then splits. The idea of an ageless vampire here becomes an excuse for the eternal virgin prepubescence; an eternity dwelling at the edge of the cliff that all your friends are now beginning to dive off of (and looking kind of busted when they resurface, if they ever do).

Aren’t movies primarily vehicles for escape? In the case of TWILIGHT, what the girl demographic is escaping from is their own wooden stake penetration, the pink dawn of the mighty crowing cock. Who can blame them? I remember my revulsion at seeing hairy 1970s nudist magazines being circulated in elementary school. Could people really be doing these things with their… potty holes? It seemed unsanitary, violent and most of all, painfully humiliating. The giddy night of the prom starts out flowers and anticipation, it ends up pig’s blood and Trip Fontaine splitting before you wake up in the wet grass of the football field.

What eased the fear of this sullied maturation when I was of TWILIGHT age? Pamela Sue Martin as TV’s NANCY DREW, Kate Jackson in CHARLIE’S ANGELS…much of TV at the time fostered a dependable sexlessness, the promise of an eternity of hand-holding and chaste confessions of love and adoration, as opposed to a humiliating orifice merger.

Perhaps the TWILIGHT haters have moved into adulthood and now find themselves undersexed, if so, why? Self-sabotage? Unrealistic expectations? Could it be that the answer is right there in Kristen Stewart’s dazzling pout? It’s when you’re ultra-hot that virginity carries currency, the electric buzz of tantric orgasm. For the rest of us, not gettin’ any becomes a great excuse to never face the dread of our own desires.

But haters needn’t worry. The immense popularity of the series all but automatically ensures it wont last. The bigger the rise the faster the plummet once the demographic grows up and into college. But the lovers needn’t worry either; if we survive past 2030, there’s bound to be a wave of nostalgia–TWILIGHT-mania–with a few thousand stalwart troupers still rolling out for the semi-annual convention. Comics, fan art, souvenir programmes, and probably Pattinson–toothless and hungover–in a booth with a stack of glossies and a magic marker, endless ways for now mature fans to turn their ordinary money into autumnal reverie.

See also: Tortured Longing is the New Coke