(I wish I’d thought of that. It’s really a joke from techie comedian Chris Hardwick. Respect!)
So the second movie in the TWILIGHT trilogy, NEW MOON, just broke opening day box office records but it didn’t beat THE DARK KNIGHT’s opening weekend record, to the relief of nerds everywhere as if this was some kind of fantasy footage box office competition. Ask any Hollywood movie executive and they’ll say it’s irrelevant whether they personally like it or not – they’re just relieved that there’s still a movie franchise left that’s putting bums on seats, and better yet, it’s grabbing a demographic that’s hugely difficult to catch since the success of James Cameron’s TITANIC: the teenage girl audience. Producers may not like TWILIGHT, but they certainly wish they were the ones who first optioned it.
I suppose you could say that the trend is entirely of the times: boys have zombies, girls have vampires. I wonder what kind of semiotic meaning there is in this. Liking zombies generally doesn’t usually entail wanting to be a zombie but to be able to kill them and survive the Zombiepocalype. There may be some unconscious reaction to the prospect of societal collapse in the wake of economic collapse and having to fight off faceless hordes here. Zombie stories are about the possibility of surviving against the zombies while other people are fucking up and getting eaten.
It seems fair enough: teenage boys need their “Rarrrrgh! I am powerful and virile enough to kill everyone!” fantasies, and teenage girls need their saccharine romantic fantasies just as much. What’s disturbing is, does it have to be this fantasy?
I always thought the attraction to vampire was tinged with S&M, since the bloodletting and drinking symbolized violence and pain, the thrill of transgressive, dangerous sex with evil bastards. Anne Rice certainly knew about that subtext, since she had written S&M novels under a pseudonym before she started her vampire novels. When vampires were popular in the 80s, the subtext involved AIDS, the prospect of Sex equaling Death. There has since been attempts to create a popular vampire franchise, the most successful being BUFFY and her spinoff ANGEL, which were smart about metaphors about adolescence being Hell and female empowerment. ANGEL had inventive metaphors about moral atonement and witty analogies of Los Angeles as Hell. Post-BUFFY, attempts at vampire shows were a lot less successful. MOONLIGHT, a watered-down version of ANGEL on another network got cancelled without even a full season pick-up.
The biggest difference TWILIGHT has with previous vampire stories is that it’s entirely fuckless. It’s about abstaining from intercourse for as long as possible in order to prolong the romantic agony. The TWILIGHT franchise tweaks the vampire figure into something more tame and watered down: he’s not particularly dangerous, survives in daylight, and he sparkles. Teenage girls like sparkle, I guess. But the biggest difference with TWILIGHT is that it’s not about fucking at all but the swoony-moony, sweet pain of yearning rather than consummation. That’s how it’s tailored for teenage girls who are still working out their feelings about sex and find here a safe place to explore their romantic wiring. Here they have an emo Bad Boy who’s nice to them, who could hurt them but restrains himself not to. That tens of millions of teenage girls all over the world is revealing and you either hope this is something they’re going to grow out of lest they spend their adult lives going after emotionally abusive and unavailable men. I wonder if this points to some background of abuse in the girls who really like this fantasy. What’s really disturbing is the adult women who love this fantasy. In order for it the work, the girl has to be passive and constantly in need of protection and rescue rather than be self-sufficient and proactive. This proves Feminism still has a very long way to go. Alas, chaps, if your wife or girlfriend is obsessed with the TWILIGHT fantasy more than just liking it, you might want to seriously examine your relation and their emotional stability.
If the first TWILIGHT movie was the TRIUMPH OF THE WILL of teen girl romantic fantasies, NEW MOON is the Nuremberg Rally of teen girl romantic fantasies. It takes the abstaining yearning into deeper realms of female masochism and self-destructiveness when the heroine starts deliberately putting herself in danger to re-experience the thrill of being rescued by Twilight the Vampire. I’m still trying to suss out what TWILIGHT’s appeal means semiotically… is it preparing teenage girls to seek abusive fuckheads as protectors when society falls apart? I hope not.
TWILIGHT makes me really glad I don’t have a teenage daughter as I would have to work really hard to teach her not to be a submissive doormat who’s into abusive bad boys and even then I would be unlikely to succeed.
Meanwhile, if you really want to piss off a fan, just say, “So it’s about girl who’s in love with a vampire named Twilight, right?”
Here’s my favourite commentary-spoof of TWILIGHT:
Stocking up on pointy wooden sticks at firstname.lastname@example.org
© Adisakdi Tantimedh
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