The idea of vampire romance literature has always appealed to me about as much as a prolonged visit to the dentist; avoid if at all possible. Unfortunately it was not possible, so I settled down to watch New Moon in a mood that just about matched the warm and slightly flat Ginger Ale I took in with me for sustenance. Things did not improve. I usually come out of the dentist feeling better than I walked out of that movie theatre. At the very least I don’t feel as nauseated.
In the interests of full disclosure let me say that I don’t like dark movies. For my sins I once watched Wuthering Heights and I hated it with a passion. I’m not used to chick flicks either. Among six brothers my vote doesn’t carry a lot of weight.
I would give a plot synopsis but I have a word limit to stress over so here is my cheat version, and all you anti-Wikipedia snobs can do your own research. The real cheat sheet? The film is Romeo and Juliet without the poetry or tragedy.
Oh, all right, here’s a short summary: The lovers Bella Swan, now 18, and Edward Cullen, the high-minded vampire, forever 17, are cruelly separated thanks partly to a member of the Cullen clan who gets a whiff of Bella’s blood. Eventually, believing she is dead, Edward sets out to commit suicide but is saved by the intervention of a Cullen friendly to the couple. The movie ends with the distant sound of wedding bells and the promise of a, ahem, new life for Bella.
Aside from dark music and guys with male stripper physique who keep yanking their shirts off, there are a few highly disturbing trends in the movie that are worth discussing.
Call it an unfair stereotype, but some teenage girls are known for being prone to drama queen syndrome: “The world will not end in 2012, it will end right now. As I stand here. I will DIE if I don’t get my way. Do you HEAR me?”
In Bella, that is intensified and blown out of any sense of proportion. Her boyfriend moves away, to protect her from himself and his family because they are vampires. So she gets depressed. Not just ordinary depressed but really, really disturbed depressed. Like waking up every night screaming from nightmares disturbed depressed. For far too long.
Then she finds out that when she is in danger she sees visions of her love, Edward. Now she is not only clinically disturbed she is also terminally self-destructive as she pursues life-threatening activities in an attempt to see her visions of Edward again. In the end she almost dies jumping off a cliff and through a complicated chain of circumstances ends up being reunited with Edward and getting her heart’s desire as a result of her attention getting semi-suicide attempt.
The perfect model of the perfect path to true love? The school psychologists are going to have a ball with this.
The other disturbing element is the portrayal of the men she ends up having relationships with, Jacob and Edward.
Jacob (he of the male-stripper physique) is one half of a superman. He looks like he’s on way too much steroids but is very handy in the garage. He is, however, mostly a fairly sweet guy, although he gets harder as the movie progresses. As he becomes a werewolf. Still, even as a werewolf he loves Bella and tries to protect her.
Edward the vampire is the other half of a superman. He is controlled, intelligent, unnaturally powerful, caring, and (apparently) sexy in his own way. Personally I find guys who look like they are wearing white face powder and red lipstick so far out there on the creepazoid meter that they are repulsive and disturbing.
Frank Miniter in The Ultimate Man’s Survival Guide gives us an insight into the Twilight males: “…the image of a hero has shifted in our modern age to a man who is flawed, dark, and mysterious. We are reluctant to accept a heroic calling. These days purity and virtue are, to say the least, questionable. Cincinnatus, Galahad, and Roland have been replaced by anti-heroes such as Dirty Harry, Jason Bourne, and Rambo.”
Well, Edward and Jacob are flawed, dark, mysterious, and pure and virtuous and somewhat heroic all at the same time. They are mainly good guys, although Edward admits to having killed people, and Jacob says that he was “once a good kid” (rough quote); both have dangerous inclinations they aren’t sure they can control.
The whole movie takes place under a stifling atmosphere of greyness. Both boys have a sinister edge because of who, and what they are. They are irrevocably “other”. There is an atmosphere of mystery and darkness about them and the worlds they live in.
The tantalizing lure of evil is half the charm; all the “normal guys” in the movie are portrayed as unbearably geeky or weak.
What an amazing portrayal of the ideal man.
And it’s worse for women.
Bella is obsessed. She is obsessed with her boyfriend and her uncontrollable, unreasoning, all-consuming love. She cannot stand the thought of growing old. She cannot live without Edward so she risks her life in foolish stunts. In the end, without any real “I was wrong” moment, without any meaningful repentance and forgiveness, she gets what she wants. She will lose her soul (potentially) and become a vampire so that she can live forever with Edward.
Jacob and Edward are perversions, yet they are made out to be good perversions. They are the heroes, but they are tormented, tortured ones. On the one hand they are warriors of good, on the other hand their very natures are the encapsulation of demonic evil. You cannot tell whether this sinister streak makes them repulsive, or if it makes their victories over their deepest passions more profound. The movie is very adept at merging and blending evil and good, redefining the traditional boundaries of goodness… and safety.
Why is New Moon so popular?
Well, like other successful chick flicks, it ticks all the boxes for the female psyche — everlasting love with a handsome hulk who is caring and understanding and a good listener. But the Twilight world’s creepy popularity may be due to the fact that it reminds girls, in a foggy, perverse and soft-porn sort of way, that there can be romance without sex, that true love sees the inner person, not just the body, that real men are attracted by chastity, not wantonness. The sad thing is that so few girls believe that this is true.
New Moon would probably do for an evening out if you enjoy dark movies, but don’t expect anything much in the way of good morals or important life lessons. Unless you are planning to date a vampire.
Rebekah Hebbert is a Canadian homeschool graduate who blogs at MissMarprelate.blogspot.com