Living in the Twilight Zone

Posted on December 1, 2009

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What do the fans love, the actors or the fantasy?

Unlike the typical movie review post, I am going to get on my moral soapbox and rant a little about my thoughts on Twilight and it’s effects on culture. If you are interested in our official movie reviews, check out past posts.

If you are a 13 year old girl, parent to one, know one, or just plain conscious, there is no way to escape the world-wide phenomenon known as Twilight. The first novel was the biggest selling book of 2008  and, to date, has sold 17 million copies worldwide, spent over 91 weeks on the New York Times Best Seller list, and been translated into 37 different languages. The first film adaptation has grossed more than $382 million worldwide. It’s fan base appeals to pre-teens (or Tweeners) all the way up to suburban moms (read this funny review). The legion of ‘Twi-hard’ fans has grown with the release of New Moon like a vampiric epidemic that has been released onto the planet. What is the source of this outbreak? What is the irresistable contagion and what are the potential side effects? Are we all doomed?

Don’t get me wrong, I am a big fan of otaku and love fanatics in all shapes and types. In fact, I grew up as a ‘nerd-core’ fan to Star Trek standing in line for countless number of hours for all the movies throughout my lifetime. However, my questions are what are kind of fans is Twilight producing? For this post, I will affectionately refer to this epidemic as the T1N1 (for Twilight and New Moon). So as the legion of those affected by the T1N1 virus spreads, here are my potential concerns if this goes untreated…

  • Selfishness: My biggest concern is that the central character Bella (the original host of T1N1), is quite simply not a nice person. She is completely self-absorbed, apathetic, and manipulative. She is an unfaithful friend and a disconnected daughter. I am fine with ‘anti-hero’ types but I find nothing redeeming about her character. She leads a self-destructive life oblivious to consequences. Bella’s character is clearly designed to be the one that identifies with the target audience and I don’t think the next generation need any help to be more narcissistic. The effect of T1N1 is the redefinition and retardation of protaganism.
  • Superficial beauty: A huge theme of this movie is the preservation of youth. Ultimately, Bella motivation to be turned into a soulless, bloodthirsty vampire is simply to retain her teen beauty. It’s not about sacrifice or for the greater good, she just wants to ‘look’ young as she stands next to the immortal Edward. Which leads me to another issue…
  • Morality: Edward is 108 and Bella is 17. Just because he looks young, is it OK that they are together? What would have happen if they made his character 40 or 50 years old instead of 108, would it have been the same? It’s a clever device, making Edward beyond a mortal age to help gloss over the fact that their relationship is grossly immoral- and illegal! The scary message is that it’s OK two people to be together as long as they look about the same age and connect on an emotional level.
  • Death: The loss of life is treated so flippantly in these movies. The towns people and tourists are being preyed on but no one seems to really care. The humans are basically cattle and have no real value but to move the plot along. Bella isn’t remotely conflicted about the fact that her new associates are causing the demise of her own kind. It’s the development of a consequence-free world that says killing is OK. T1N1 is a killer.
  • Boys are animals: There is a general sense that all boys are predators and girls are helpless victims. As a recovering teen boy, I am fully aware of the animalistic desires that are raging in all teen boys. The problem is that when you see someone as an animal you treat them like one. Bella’s manipulation of the boys in her life is inhumane. Edward even refers to their relationship as the Lion and the lamb. Again, it’s fine if we see unhealthy or co-dependant relationships on-screen, but you have to show the painful side effects that accompany them. Segway into next point…
  • Love: Ultimately, Twilight is a visualization of a fantasy. It’s immature infatuation at best. It promotes a ‘Romeo and Juliet’ forbidden love and we all know where that lead to. In both characters, death is a better alternative than life with out each other. Heaven forbid that there are any Twilight inspired suicides that come from this. I can also see why it appeals to the older ‘desperate housewife’ audience since it’s less about sex and more about emotional passion. That’s fine if it was reality, but this is fantasy boys we are talking about- or T1N1 boys.

I don’t dislike the series. I would actually consider myself open-minded or ‘Twi-curious’. I am hopelessly fascinated with new pop culture movements regardless of my personal interest in them. I find the tension between the wolves/vampires/humans more interesting then other fantasy incarnations like Underworld. But as I stand on moral soapbox, I can’t help but be bothered with what the T1N1 virus celebrates. To me it’s less about a guilty pleasure and more about creating a culture of self-absorption. It’s about being in love with being in love.

Has Twilight replaced Star Wars for this year's Christmas list?

I have to give mad props to the level of fanaticism all around me. T1N1 is making the Swine Flu look like it’s standing still. I have not seen anything cross the generational lines and polarize the sides as much as Twilight. You rather love it or hate it. I am a bit of a controversialist so the dilemma is entertaining. Will it reach the cult following that lasts for decades like Star Wars, well only time will tell. Let’s just hope that you don’t have to be immortal to survive the negative consequences that could result from the T1N1 epidemic. Let us know which team you are on (and I don’t mean Edward or Jacob).

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