MovieBob - IntermissionThe Problem With TwilightMovieBob - Intermission - RSS 2.0
Folks, I've reviewed all three of these movies, read and blogged about all four of the books and have written about the phenomenon previously, and time and again I keep coming back to one inescapable fact: The whole thing just creeps me right the hell out. And not in the way a vampire movie should.
First things first: From about Carmilla on, vampires in western fiction have been more or less all about sex. There's probably an article (or fifty) in and of itself to be had from that, but in the shorthand math, bloodsucking = copulation. Twilight definitely treads this basic ground, with its torrid, instinct-driven central affair set up as both a supernatural predator-prey mating dance and a more conventionally obsessive teenage romance. The metaphor branches out from there: Bella's other paramour even gets so jealous he turns into a giant, vampire-hunting werewolf (subtle!).
The main story turns on a single element - Bella wants to be a vampire because her boyfriend Edward is, but he doesn't want to turn her because ... well, that's where things get wiggy. See, in Twilight's mythology, there's basically no built-in disadvantage to being vampire. You don't have to sleep in a coffin (you don't have to sleep at all, in fact), the sun just makes you shiny, you're essentially invincible to everything but giant Native-American werewolves (and even that's situational) or stronger vampires and sometimes you even get plot-specific superpowers like mind reading or telekinesis. Crosses? Garlic? Holy water? No effect. You get to keep your reflection, and you don't even have to kill humans - animal blood works just fine. Just stay off the Naughty List of "The Volturi" (short version: boss vampires) and you're pretty much set for unlife.
As such, Edward's boilerplate "I can't change you, I wouldn't wish this on anybody" reaction changes up the metaphor pretty significantly. In the 90s, when all sex metaphors became AIDS metaphors by extension, this was the default trope of the good guy vampire character. But in Twilight, there's not much of a down side to hang that on, so what's the angle?
Well, do the math. If vampirism = sex, Edward - the vampire - would be "experienced" and Bella - the human - would be a "virgin," yes? We're told that what Edward loves about Bella is her humanity (i.e. her virginity). His pastimes include watching her sleep, lavishing her with opulent gifts and taking borderline-stalker steps to protect her lovable human fragility. But no biting - aka no sex - because then she won't be, well, for lack of a better word, pure. Because, as we all know, women are progressively worth more the less sexual knowledge they have. Oh, but he'll acquiesce on one condition: marriage. Once you're "my property," it'll be okay for you to be "sullied" - so long as it's by me and only me.
Where have I heard that before? Oh, right - the Middle Ages.
Whether intentional on the part of author Stephenie Meyer or not, Twilight amounts to a modern day, vampire-garnished resurrection of the patriarchal virginity worship that's characterized (and continues to characterize) some of the lowest and most shameful points in human history. Sexual desire - in women - is bad and must be tamed, controlled and owned by a husband. And in case that's all still too subtle, Edward helpfully dots the i: He doesn't think he has a soul, and by extension a vampirized Bella wouldn't have one either. Think about that. Her soul. Her entire esoteric higher existence. Loss of humanity/virginity = loss of all worth. Remember, girls, sex is bad, wanting it is bad and having it will make you bad ... unless he puts a ring on you first, then it's okay.
Oh, and remember Jacob the werewolf? He's pretty unhappy to see his unfortunately platonic best girl-buddy entertaining all those nasty impure impulses - though for an entirely different reason: He and his wolfpack are honor-bound by ancient tribal law to run down and kill vampires, aka the species Bella is engaged (quite literally) to join. Remember, vampirism = sex. So, honor-bound to take out female acquaintances for losing their purity? Well, at least thatdoesn't have any troubling real-world relevance ... oh, wait, yes it does.