Friends and neighbors, I’ve come to tell you this: there is discontent stirring across the land. Yea, behold, upon yon Facebooks the cry has gone out: “Why do you hate everything, Warpig? Why do you criticize the things I like?! HAVE YOU NO HEART NOR SOUL?!”
(The answer is “No, I don’t.”, as it turns out. But that’s beside the point.)
Today I shall answer their pleas and shall NOT heap criticism and scorn upon a work of fiction. But they’re not going to like it.
Let’s talk Twilight.
The “Twilight Saga” is one of the most vilified-yet-beloved mass market success stories maybe ever. Scorned by millions, loved by millions, it’s reached a level of pop culture prominence second only to Harry Potter. The books were hits, the five movies were hits, and since I would never read the books, and the movies were available for $2 a pop in HD, I decided to buy the lot and immerse myself in the cinematic Twilight experience.
The first thing about Twilight is this: It’s a series of Paranormal Romances written for teen girls. That’s what it is, that’s what it’s supposed to be. Criticizing it for being a Romance is like criticizing the Spider-Man movies for having Spider-Man in them. Sorry, folks, but that’s just insane. The problem is, most of the criticism of the Saga is, at its core, whining about a Romance novel that features actual romance.
“SHE MADE MUH VAMPIRES SEXY!” Look, I’m a big proponent of monstrous, inhuman vampires, and have been ever since I stopped worrying and learned to hate the “World of Darkness”. I got sick of vampire eroticism long before “Urban Fantasy” novels stopped fetishizing bloodsuckers and turned to angels for all their superhuman beefcake needs. So, really, I get this complaint. But it’s STUPID. It’s a Romance novel. THE MALE LEAD IS SEXY. The male lead is ALWAYS sexy in Romance novels.
More, vampires were ALWAYS about the sexy. The very first vampire novel, Carmilla (from which Dracula was derived), was all about a sexy lesbian vampire trying to sex up a Victorian hottie. Lots of movies followed in this vein (Ha! I kill me.), up to and including the Hammer Horror films, which often featured sexy vampire babes being all sexy and nekkid. Then there was Lifeforce, the central monster of which was an insanely hot space vampiress seducing all the gents while being totally nekkid. Like almost the entire movie. Vampires were ALWAYS sexy. Get over it.
“SHE MADE THE VAMPIRES SPARKLE!” Now, I don’t understand why she did this. Makes no sense to me. Yet, she’s not the first. In Jim Butcher’s “Dresden Files”, an entire race of super super sexy vampires of sex, lust, and sex actually glow. GLOW. Like fluorescent lightbulbs or something. (AND IT’S AWESOME.)
Considered next to the rampant violations of the vampire canon that prior Vampire Horror works have perpetrated, sparkling is a pretty minor thing. Yes, it’s more than a bit twee, but it’s a book WRITTEN FOR TEENAGE GIRLS. So some twee-ness is pretty much de rigueur. Their Trapper Keepers sparkle, their makeup sparkles, their vampires sparkle. QED.
Then there’s the pathetic whine lodged by nearly everyone on the Left: “The real message of Twilight is ‘Men really want to have sex with pretty women so they sometimes have to restrain themselves to maintain their moral decency!'”
I know this comes as a great big shock to the Left, but men (as a general rule) find women attractive. Some of them—crude, sick bastards, the lot—actually want to engage in physical affection with women. They even seem to actually enjoy it! (The men, I mean. Of course women never do.) And men can behave in pretty bad ways to secure the attention and affection of women. This is generally considered to be a bad thing, and noble men don’t do it.
This is, I am convinced, the core objection many have to Twilight: Young Adult books are veering more and more towards sexual deviancy, and vampire novels have long set up shop in the “Explicit Perverted Sex” district, but Twilight dares to be decent. It dares to feature an honorable man who refuses to take advantage of a woman who’s totally smitten with him. In fact, he insists they—THE BIGGEST GASP AND SHOCK OF ALL GASPS AND SHOCKS—wait until marriage to consummate their physical desires. And it drives the counterculture mavens UP THE WALL.
I’m not saying the movies are great and moving cinema. They’re just not my cup of tea (because I, unlike the target audience, AM NOT A TEEN GIRL). Nevertheless, they have their own sweetness and charm. The dad is a good guy who love and protects his daughter, the mom (who divorced the dad long ago) is flighty and kinda self-centered, and the Cullens, the vampire coven, are creatures afflicted with a curse who try to behave decently, and even do some good in the world.
This is OFFENSIVE. It is WRONG. You must never show people struggling to do the right thing in the face of their own limitations, temptations, or afflictions. SELF CONTROL IS BADTHINK.
The movies have their share of weaknesses, many of which can be traced back to the books. Yet, despite what many have held, they are not wholly without merit. They are decent, touching stories, and that is vanishingly rare in this fallen world, rare enough to merit benign neglect rather than overweening scorn from all allies of decency.
Plus—and I just have to get this in here—the final battle of movie five is actually really epic. It’s a full-blown Gothic Superhero brawl between rival vampire factions (Marvel’s Civil War, but with bloodsucking creatures of the night), with a mess of werewolves thrown into the bargain. Powers get trotted out, bad guys die by (bloodless) decapitation, and dozens of supernatural creatures kick the snot out of each other in spectacular ways.
If only because of that one scene, I feel my time with the five movies (four of which were “Extended Cuts!”) was not wholly wasted.