Saturday, April 25, 2009

Once Bitten: A Twilight Review

Until recently, I've been leery of the Twilight book series and the recent movie adaptation simply due to the insane amount of hype. Any cultural phenomenon that attracts hordes of rabid teenage females for its fan base garners my instant suspicion, although Lord of the Rings had its share of such admirers and I never held it against that franchise. Beyond my aversion to participation in a frenzy over anything, something about the series made me uncomfortable. I read part of the first book and found the writing bland but serviceable. the characters mildly stereotypical but companionable, and the plot interesting enough to keep me meandering from one page to the next. I put it down when my morning sickness became too much for me to read at that moment and I've never picked it up again.

As far as the movie goes, I found myself wanting to watch the movie just to see for myself what caused all the fuss. It never made it onto my list of movies worth buying a theater ticket so I waited for it to be available elsewhere and generally forgot about it. The ever-present merchandise only heightened my skepticism of the movie-- everywhere I looked there seemed to be t-shirts and posters of the brooding Edward Cullen hovered protectively over the doe-eyed Bella Swan.
It looked like the Red Bull of teen melodrama. Not my cup of tea, I thought, and moved on. This past week, however, my husband was out of town and my curiosity returned so I took a few nights and watched the movie after my daughter was asleep.

And I liked it.

::smacks forehead::

Maybe it's the fact that I'm a hurricane of pregnancy hormones right now. Maybe underneath my independent exterior I'm a swooning little romance addict. (Perish the thought) Or maybe, just maybe, Stephanie Meyer did a few things right with her vampires and teen angst. I didn't have to look far in the movie to find flaws or creative choices with which I disagreed but what hooked me was the strong archetypal pull of Bella and Edward's relationship. It is as if in the midst of all the teen melodrama Meyer stumbled upon something truly resonant about masculine and feminine interaction. Forget the cliched talk of vampire-human love as metaphors for sexual confusion or isolation; these lovers have a more mythical appeal. Bella, the damsel in distress, is a strongly feminine character and Edward, brooding and sometimes painfully uncomfortable with his own power, is masculine in the vein of classic heroes. Their interaction showcases an idealized version of what men and women have to offer each other that each gender uniquely can provide.

And let me tell you, underneath all the feminist talk and modern propaganda, teenage girls want to be feminine. They want to respond to strong masculinity...not the brutish repressive stuff but the "protector and provider" role that God originally designed for men. Heavens knows we don't see much of that in reality these days, so when it pops up in such a clear way in a book or a movie, girls are drawn to it en masse.

Perhaps that's why I found the relationship compelling, despite certain somewhat silly aspects of the story and the hyper-emotional trappings. Archetypal characters draw us in and remind us of the larger ideas-- not necessarily what masculinity or feminity looks like in a fallen world but what it should look like. From ancient times to the modern multiplex, human being crave stories of male and female heroes bound together in epic, dangerous love. It is refreshing to me that such tales continue, even if it's in a hyper-popular teen melodrama.

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