Love Lessons from Ridiculous Teenaged Girls, Werewolves and Sparkly Vampires
My friends, the gay couple with the baby, and I went to see the latest sparkly vampire movie. They call their daughter Punky, so I’ll call them Mr. and Mr. Brewster from now on. One of the Mr. Brewsters is just nuts about the Twilight saga as are many teenaged girls, giddy young and middle-aged women, and romantic gays.
Since this is a cultural phenomenon, I decided a couple of years ago when everyone I worked with was on the Twilight band wagon immediately preceding the first movie release, that I needed to get over my disdain for the romance genre and bite the bullet to read Twilight.
So, I read the damn book, and one book is enough. First off, it’s a romance novel disguised as supernatural or horror. I hate romance novels, not because I hate love, but because they’re STUPID. If I ever read a romance novel that got love and the relations between men and women half way right instead of being an insipid fantasy, then I might change my mind. For instance, I love Gone with the Wind and Wuthering Heights and the collective works of Jane Austen. But these books are not stupid.
Twilight is no exception to the rule that romance novels are stupid. Stephenie Meyer can plot, but she can’t write for shit. The author is a young Mormon mother with a bachelors degree in English literature who was home bored during the day and decided to write the book Twilight after a dream she had about vampires.
Parents love Twilight because it’s like propaganda for chastity. Teenaged girls like it because Edward conforms to their every fantasy about the “perfect” man. And perfect is the operative word here. I would love to get a word count for exactly how many times Meyer uses the word perfect to describe her hero in the first book alone. Given the success of the books and the movies, maybe she can now afford to run on down to Barnes & Noble and buy herself a thesaurus.
The thing that Meyer and the movies both get right: the entire Twilight saga is an extended analogy of a young woman’s sexual awakening. It’s not a very subtle metaphor, but it works.
In this movie, Twilight: Eclipse, we finally get an explanation for just why Edward’s sister Rosalee seems to hate Bella so much and why she is so adamantly opposed to Bella’s being “turned.” It turns out that Rosalee had herself a beau who got drunk with his buddies and then raped her and passed her around. After she was gang raped and left for dead, a vampire smelled her blood and turned her. Since Rosalee had no choice in the matter, she marvels that Bella would actually consciously choose vampirism.
Being turned is becoming a vampire, and in this movie an army of “newborns” stalks Bella. We are told that newborns crave blood like they never will again and that being turned is something that fundamentally changes one and something that, once done, cannot be reversed. So, it’s a caution about desire and sex and the consuming urge to mate once one has had the experience. Even the Cullens’ “vegetarianism” is like a metaphor for celibacy. The longer that a vampire is a vegetarian the easier it becomes to resist the urge to feed on human flesh.
Twilight doesn’t shy away from the subject of actual sex, either. Throughout this movie, Bella pressures Edward to have sex with her. Edward, being an old fashioned sort, refuses to put out until he’s married. And, of course, Edward is terribly concerned that in being intimate with Bella, he will hurt her. Once again, we have a not very subtle metaphor for the way that men physically and emotionally hurt women through sex.
I’ve never known an actual straight man who had an inkling on this, but then Edward has had many more years to live in which to learn it. Gay men get it. The very physical act of being the one who is penetrated makes us more vulnerable. You can tell them, of course, but unless they have the experience they don’t really get it.
Real boys are right to be resentful of Edward. They can’t compete with his perfection or his infinite wisdom. And there was never a real heterosexual boy who lived who turned down an opportunity for sex out of a selfless desire to not hurt a girl, let alone a girl he loves and to whom he is committed.
He wants to marry her, and he’s going to live forever. Remind me. Why doesn’t he want to have sex?
One of the Mr. Brewsters said to me on the way out of the theater, “I would have thought this would appeal to you. You’re such an old fashioned kind of girl.” It’s not so much that it’s unappealing. It’s just not realistic. The fact of the matter is that you want a boy who wants to have sex with you. If he doesn’t, then you’ve got a bigger problem than being consumed with desire. Sex is a gift from God, and it’s a good thing. It’s not inherently evil.
No review of Twilight would be complete without mention of Jacob, the Native American werewolf boy. Teenaged girls are very opinionated about which camp they belong to: Team Edward or Team Jacob. Jacob, as a werewolf, is Edward’s natural rival, but they also rival each other for Bella’s affections. The second movie in the series saw Jacob take on more of a starring role, as he was Bella’s comforter after her devastating breakup with Edward. You see, Edward told Bella he didn’t want her because he was afraid for her safety. Jacob stepped in and tried to pick up where Edward left off.
For the record, if I have to pick a team, I’m on Team Jacob. Number one, he’s much hotter than that glittery, skinny blood sucking popsicle, Edward. Number two, he’s a sweeter guy. Number three, she gets to live a normal life and not have to conform entirely to some man’s life and leave her family behind. Number four, she’ll actually get laid. To play devil’s advocate, though, Mr. Brewster the Twilight fan, a member of Team Edward, does remind me that Jacob probably licks his own butt.
Jacob takes Bella for a motorcycle ride about halfway through the movie, where he explains how wolves mate. Apparently, wolves “imprint,” and once they imprint, they mate for life. Well, Jacob is talking about bonding. He’s talking about the kind of bonding that happens through making love repeatedly with the same person, over a considerable length of time. It’s sometimes called making love for a reason. Our bodies produce oxytocin, a chemical that glues us to our mates. Imprinting happens with humans, too.
Here’s another thing that Twilight gets right. In introducing Jacob and making him a serious rival for her affections, the movie teaches an important lesson about the nature of love and desire. Jacob exists to provide necessary conflict for our story, but his very existence and the resulting schism of Bella’s heart and loins teaches a valuable lesson about love and fidelity.
The human heart is capable of infinite love, and it is, indeed, possible to be in love with two people at once. It’s not healthy for young women to grow up with the notion that one man will be the one and only “one” forever. We will have many options, and once we’ve made a choice, it’s important to be a person of integrity and stick with that decision.
While I’m not a fan, I think that Twilight does have some important lessons to impart to young women about love and sex. Even straight boys can learn some useful truths if they can wade through all that annoying perfection.