The DVD selection at our small local library isn’t what you’d call expansive and leans more to the popular than the classic. A few nights back, I was heading home to face a mountain of laundry screaming for my attention and decided that I was okay with popular. I had heard a great deal about Twilight, both the book and the film, and decided it couldn’t be any worse than The Princess Protection Program which I had watched early in the week with the kids. Relative to its genre, the movie was more than half bad— interesting storyline and a plot that keeps you (or at least me) hooked till the end. I did, however, feel more than slightly self-conscious when explaining to Jim what I was watching. In an attempt to keep myself from looking like a total loser who sits around folding laundry and watching teenie bopper flicks, I decided to call it “cultural observation” and make a post out of it. Therefore, you the reader can benefit from my wisdom (or suffer through my folly).
If you don’t have any teens in your life and haven’t heard of the Twilight series, the basic premise is this: Bella, a young woman who has recently moved to live with her father in Washington state, becomes intrigued by and then falls madly in love with Edward, an aloof outsider who initially repels Bella’s attempts to befriend him but continues to pop up just in time to come to her rescue. Eventually it is revealed that Edward as well as his “foster” parents and siblings are vampires. Edward desires to save Bella from the monster within him and thus tries (and fails) to prevent her from getting too close. Now I realize that this sounds like the plot of myriad love stories, and in many ways it is just a new spin on an old tale. But isn’t that what draws us to so many narratives? We identify with the thread of narrative that runs through these stories, which also often runs through our own lives.
Whenever I have a strong emotional response to a film, which was certainly true in the case of Twilight, I become very suspicious of that film. The female heart is so susceptible to manipulation, I must keep my guard up lest I find myself in the garden taking a big bite of something that Forked Tongue over there said would do me some good. There is definitely some heart string pulling in Twilight and if Maggie was old enough to watch it (or read it) I would want to have some long talks about what true love means. We see Bella wanting to give up the very essence of who she is, a human, in order to be with Edward. Certainly I have experienced to varying degrees that feminine tendency to lose perspective in my relationships, both romantic and otherwise. There is something seductive in the idea of submerging to the point of drowning. Ironically, as soon as we have finished plunging head first, we seem just as likely to deeply resent any call to submission and spend the rest of our lives trying to fight our way to the surface or get out of the pool all together.
Back to the point at hand, my head is still aswirl from trying to dissect this movie. Whatever it is selling, it has certainly inspired a great deal of head scratching on my part. Head scratching is a good thing, right? Despite our desire (or at least my annoyingly predominant desire) to categorize everything into neatly assigned species and subspecies, there is something to the postmodern idea of gray areas and ambiguity. In the end the most compelling part of the story isn’t the love story but Edward’s inner battle. Something in his struggle against his very nature resonates with my own grappling against the flesh. I have faith that in the end, the monster won’t win out and that all will be made as it should be, including my heart. But there are many days when it feels as though the beast in me has been unleashed, as Johnny Cash would say. All I can do is hold on tight and hold out for dawn. I suppose we all have hearts that are living in the twilight, waiting for the dawn.
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