by Catherine Hardwicke
The problem with that is that though Bella is willing to believe fantastical things about Edward, it takes her the first two thirds of the fucking movie to realize he’s a goddamned vampire. It’s only after he stops Tyler’s van from crushing her to death with his bare hands in the parking lot one day that she gets that maybe Edward and his posh family might not just be way too elegant and undead for their surroundings, and even then it still takes her a while to get the full picture. Anyway, he’s a vampire and the reason he tried to distance himself from her is not because he’s a mouth-breathing asshole who likes porn and video games, but because he just didn’t want to kill her and drink her blood. That’s all! Yeah, so they start doing the courtship thing despite that being a horrible idea. Things go great at first: he breaks into her bedroom in the middle of the night to dry hump her, takes her flying through the forest a few feet off the ground, shows off his disappearing and reappearing a few feet away skills and makes her lie to her parents constantly. But it’s not all goofy flying sequences and bitching about how delicious she’d be. One day during a baseball game (which is about as ludicrous a thing as you’re likely to ever see) a pack of vicious vampire killers show up and get thirsty for her blood. Edward and his family then have to squirrel Bella away and plant a false trail for the killers to follow. Things come to a head and Edward has to decide whether to suck out some vampire poison from Bella’s wound or make her a vampire. But, there were three more films to be made after this, so who gives a shit what decision he makes?
I take issue with Twilight on a couple of grounds, some moral, some rooted in my deep-seated nerdiness and lifelong addiction to horror films. As I said, Twilight ain't exactly a horror film; it’s effectively a Young Adult movie in the same way that Twilight was first a Young Adult book or anyway that’s the section where I found the copy I located in the bookstore I’m sitting in as I type this to peruse some of its 500 pages for particularly good bits of ‘prose’. Now, the first thing to address here is the popularity of Twilight, both movie and book. I get the enjoyment in reading about people preparing for sex, that’s why erotic fiction exists, a genre I wholly condone, by the by. I’ve never read any but if given the choice between throwing my support behind say hardcore pornography and erotic fiction, I’m going with the one that requires brainpower enough to read rather than instantly downloadable subjugation. Porn as an idea doesn’t bother me, it’s the thousand years of explaining to women that any notion of independence and freedom that comes from getting paid to have sex on camera is comparable to the kind that men get from telling you that all these years that make me cranky. We invented the system by which a pornstar is both an acceptable and indeed even enviable occupation and the locus of campaigns by religious groups looking to tell the world its business. It’s no one person’s fault but taken as a whole it makes my skin crawl. What I’m saying is I understand the need for people to want to read about people having sex. What irks me is that Stephenie Meyer donates 10% of her profits from all Twilight-related shit to the Church of Mormon. I wish I could prove that stuff I heard about her donating to a homosexual re-education camp. I can't but I'ma go head and say it's distinctly possible.
Time Magazine has said that “the characters in Meyer’s books aren’t Mormons, but her beliefs are key to understanding her singular talent.” So let’s take a look at those beliefs shall we? The book of Mormon, the church founded by notorious liar and criminal Joseph Smith (I’m not editorializing, he was a liar and a criminal….it’s public record, not my opinion), is one of the most self-serving pieces of fiction ever concocted. It spells out that people who believe in god have been persecuted for centuries for doing so. Gimme a fucking break! You people have run things for fucking ever, so quit whining. And if Smith was so convinced that he had god’s truth, how the fuck come he spends so much time asking people to repent and join him? You’ve got the word, already, what difference did it make if everyone had it and if God gave it just to you (by placing golden plates a couple of blocks from his house) why bother sharing it and demanding people cede to the word of god? Plus, wouldn’t you be worried that they’d just persecute you for your belief in god, like they’ve been doing? Well you would if it weren’t all bullshit and you weren’t a money-grubbing asshole. I don’t care what you believe but don’t pretend that fundraising is spreading the word. If Joseph Smith wasn’t a con-artist on his way the poorhouse in desperate need of a mark, maybe I’d take his bullshit seriously. But he was and I don’t. So for Stephenie Meyer to have this in her resume is automatically a red flag. Especially because, regardless of her intentions, she wrote a book which has bored women fantasizing about a non-existent vampire during sex (again, I’m not making that up. Go to Twilightmoms.com if you’re looking for something to lose sleep over). Stephenie Meyer, like Joseph Smith before her, gets that people are just dying to commit to something. So for all her commitment, it doesn’t mean shit because I’m sorry, if you write about some guys sculpted chest and scintillating bare arms, guess where that drives people? Not to the goddamned book of Mormon, that’s for sure. People love reading about sex. That’s fine; what's not is pocketing 90% of your profit and giving the rest to a committed hate-and-money based religion, the same people who were the catalyst for Prop 8 yet have no statute regarding polygamy. That's disingenuous and makes me blind with rage.
It’d be one thing to write a book that is purely about functioning in a Mormon community but anyone who’s seen New Moon can testify that the reason you wanted to go see it was because Taylor Lautner takes his shirt off and you want to rub your face all over what he reveals. Again, nothing wrong with desiring a teenage boy, but when you’re drawing people into your film by having a teenager take his shirt off and then giving your money to the Church of Mormon, that’s where I call you a hypocrite and a money-hungry warthog. For example, did you know that in South Wales a movie poster featuring the shirtless Native American boys (seen below) from the movie was removed from a cinema because it was considered homoerotic. And this from a series who proposes that their totally straight hero who is just dying to fuck his pale girlfriend would say things like: “Just because I’m resisting the wine doesn’t mean I can’t appreciate the bouquet…You have a very floral smell, like lavender … or freesia.” Fuck you and your fucking mormon vampire bullshit, you hateful cow! But I’m getting off topic (you can read all about it in my upcoming biography Stephenie Meyer: Mormon Asshole, St. Martins $69.99; thank you to Nathan Rabin for inspiring that title and thanks of course to the big guy for inspiring my every word. Thanks for making me, a single mother of seven kids and committed scientologist a millionaire. You’re the man, god!).
One final point about the whole vampire thing. Clearly the changes were made because otherwise no books, but the whole thing with Edward pisses me off because it sells girls on the idea that boys are worth all the trouble they’re going to bring you. That goth kid makes you cut yourself? It’ll be fine, he really cares. That quarterback wants to get into your pants on the first date? I’m sure he has a good reason. Gail Collins of The New York Times has said that “Edward is a version of that legendary, seldom-seen male who won’t take advantage of his date even if she rips off her clothes and begs him to take her to bed.” In other words imaginary. I’m not gonna say that all boys are dying to get women into bed…but a lot of them kinda are and applying Twilight’s logic to real life is gonna get you pregnant or in the hospital. The way I see it this guy throws her around, brings her to the tops of old growth trees to scare her, nearly gets her killed during a game of baseball and rarely if ever shows anything like actual affection (and just wait till we get to New Moon. He really ups the fucking ante there).
The script is problematic beyond all that stuff. Time passes just as arbitrarily as it does in 30 Days of Night. Bella meets Edward, they hate each other, they’re lab partners, they’re together for approximately a week, then it’s prom and school’s over? Where’d the year go? When was winter? The performances run the gamut from non-existent to scenery-chewing with few exceptions. Billy Burke as Charlie Swan I buy because he pulls off being put-upon in more than one way. I’ve actually been waiting for him to get work ever since he was in the straight-to-DVD Komodo, which I really liked when I saw it ten years ago (They sent me a certificate a few years ago for being the only person alive who liked it). But look for nuanced performances outside of his and you’re shit outta luck. The effects are uniformly terrible and suck the tension out of every scene I imagine was supposed to have some. Watching people zipping about with shadows of where they were a few seconds ago reminds me more of Looney Tunes than of Blade or 30 Days of Night, especially when they’re digging into the floorboards to make themselves slow down like in that ending fight scene. Was I the only one reminded of Wile E. Coyote and The Road Runner during the scenes with James? And what the hell is with that goddamned baseball scene? The way that Alice lifts her leg before pitching is ridiculous enough for a few movies nevermind the other guys flipping around and knocking into each other. That was the one time I was glad that my sisters had put the movie on, because I realized that Twilight is in fact just as bad as I had always pictured it.
The Twilight Saga: New Moon
by Chris Weitz
In trying to reconnect with her friends she discovers that what brings her joy is trying to and failing to kill herself because when she does a spectral Edward shows up to tell her to knock it the fuck off. Does she, though? Nah. In fact she enlists the help of Jacob Black to help her rebuild some motorcycles so she can drive them into canyons and shit. Jacob's gotten sexy since the last film. We know that this is a big part of selling this film because Bella will occasionally take time out from moping to tell him just how hot he is and then resume her olympic champion moping. Seriously, it's just "Christ, I'm sad! Where'd these muscles come from, pal? I'm not gonna lick 'em cause I love Edward, but shit man, those are fucking impressive. Where was I? Oh, yeah, moping." Predictably Jacob falls for Bella (by predictably I mean everyone else is doing it so he will, too and it’s always opposite day in Forks, WA) and when she has to turn him down he takes it pretty badly. He stops talking to her, cuts his hair off, gets a tattoo and starts…hanging out in the woods with a bunch of shirtless guys who exclude girls from whatever they’re doing? Ok, so ordinarily I’d look down on generalizing and stereotyping based on behavior but I have to say it: There is plainly no way to see the cult of Werewolves as anything other than homoerotic. I mean clearly this was a way to attract teenage girls and young gay men in equal measure. From someone like Meyer who gives money to the group trying to outlaw gay marriage, the awful big emphasis on shirtless dudes in her big movie adaptation is ridiculous, but not funny enough to negate the tragedy inherent in young gay men supporting the Twilight franchise. Anyway, Jacob’s turning away from girls has nothing to do with discovering he’d prefer roughing it with a bunch of guys with six packs; he’s a werewolf who’s job is to kill vampires who break ‘the treaty!’ “What’s the treaty?” I yawned. Apparently it’s a set of rules keeping vampires and werewolves from engaging in hostilities. But forget that for a minute. So a year goes by again (the montage they use to show the changing of time is even funnier than the shrunken century of the last film) and soon Bella is wondering if she should commit to Jacob instead of Edward. But then Alice shows up after Bella’s latest attempt to not-off herself by leaping off a cliff. She thought Bella was going to kill herself; remember her X-Man power is to see the future and Edward’s is to read thoughts like Dr. X, so ipso facto Edward thinks Bella is dead. So they then have to fly to Italy via Virgin Air to stop him from asking the vampire council (a little Underworld, a little Harry Potter, a little Blade 2) to kill him.
You know, sometimes I wish I were a recreational drug user because I feel like New Moon would have been hilarious on weed. The product placement's a good example; it's pretty egregious but also hysterical. Note that when Edward disappears in one of Bella’s daydreams, his Volvo disappears with him. Yeah, cause he’s not a real man without the wheels to prove it. Also, they do that aggravating thing where they interact with songs on the soundtrack written specifically for the movie which by definition couldn’t exist without the characters on screen. That shit bugs me, especially because the music is actually pretty good. When Bella asks Jacob to turn off the radio, which is playing a Magic Numbers song, I just about lost it. Yeah, Magic Numbers on the radio! Maybe later they'll play Woolly Leaves or Vic Chesnutt. Somehow (money) the producers convinced Grizzly Bear, Thom Yorke, The Killers, Band of Skulls, Black Rebel Motorcycle Club, St. Vincent & Bon Iver to write some of the best songs of their career for this movie’s soundtrack. And following some flap about a Paramore song not being used in the last movie, they are all used to ‘heighten’ the drama, rather than scoring the credits. Seriously, where does Paramore get off complaining about anything? They’re the poor man’s Evanescence at best so just calm down, you’ll get your royalty check. Anyway, the soundtrack coupled with the sort of rhythmic arbitrariness of the action gives the film the feel of one long music video. Sometimes, as in the bike building montage and the wolf-hunting scene where Graham Greene gets his (poor Graham Greene…he didn’t ask to be relegated to minor roles in teen movies) it’s just distracting and weird. Other times, like when Bella jumps off a cliff (and don’t I love typing that) it works. Actually, let me say that that scene where’s she trapped under waves and hits her head on a rock culminates in the film’s best moment. The shot of Kirsten Stewart between a ghastly Edward just before being pulled from the water while the chorus to Grizzly Bear’s “Slow Life” plays is legitimately very well done. But that’s kinda it.
One thing I’ll say about this movie: it’s depressing as shit. Everything from the cinematography to the endless round of heartbreak for Bella to the music to the conclusion is all super murky and seems designed to make you sad about the future. The movie is so grey and so hopeless that I wonder how anyone could have left the theatre feeling good about themselves or romance as a concept. When Edward asks Bella to marry him just before he bites her and makes her a vampire I got flashes of a supremely empty and horrid existence for both of them, then credits roll. I felt like I’d just been to a joint funeral, which is, doubtless, not what they had in mind. And yet despite it’s flaws (and Christ has it got them) I didn’t hate this as much as the last one. It’s a touch more competent and doesn’t feel quite so silly; Chris Weitz has a bit of experience with silly action films (his Golden Compass was embarrassingly received). The one thing that stopped me from hating it is embarrassingly personal. I’ll spare you the specifics but let’s just say when I wasn’t asking Taylor Lautner just where the hell his shirt went, I was shouting things at my computer screen like “where’s your self-respect, you wombat?” and “Stop being so fucking pious and dramatic, you shitheads!” But really I was talking to myself. Being able to mope in unison with Kirsten Stewart, the queen of stammery moaning and looking doleful was unexpectedly therapeutic if for no other reason than I finally saw just how pathetic I’d become that I now sympathized with characters so broad and insulting that every movie cheerleader in history had organized a letter-writing campaign asking them to stop being such stereotypes.
The whole ordeal of watching and researching these movies has left me sad and tired. Sad that better movies are overlooked in favor of these two very silly and very sad affairs and better books are overlooked in favor their despicable inspiration and tired of telling people not to support anything bearing the Twilight name. How they’ve enchanted so many people to the point of unhealthy obsessions is really beyond me. I remain totally immune to the supposed charms of the books and films and have begun using them as personality red flags. Perhaps I’m being unfair,but you weren’t going to like me, anyway so I’ll just keep on telling people that not only are there better movies, better vampire movies, better vampire movies about the frustration of dating and teen angst, but there are better vampire movies about the frustration of dating and teen angst that don’t totally disregard every piece of fiction ever written about vampires and which center on kids not yet old enough to articulate half the shit the kids in this film do. I hear your “only a movie” argument and your “I just want to stare at beautiful guys” argument too, to which I say “bullshit” and “google image search.” Do not support something based on a fundamental hatred of humanity and a preposterous concept of superiority based on a set of beliefs a child might dream up. Supporting Twilight is allowing yourself to be counted as complacent and supportive of a manipulative and deceitful bunch of people who not only want your money but want it to make sure two people who love each other can’t get married. But in the meantime don’t fuck anyone and boys who throw you into walls and leave you with no word really love you!!! Did you even consider your abusive boyfriends feelings when you tried to kill yourself? For shame! No but seriously don’t support this franchise. If you have to watch it, steal it or you’re part of a machine powered in equal part by hate and your money lobbying to take away personal freedom from kids growing up scared that moms using Robert Pattinson to turn up their libido will then vote yes on Prop 8. Fuck you, abstinence. Sex is being used a weapon to take away freedom so I say to you, kids living under oppressive religious households, have sex freely and with whomever you please, boys and girls, just be safe and don't have kids! Viva La Revolution!