So, Twilight was released last Friday. SQUEEEEEEEEEEEEEE!
Sorry. There are some teenage girls in here who won’t shut up about Edward … SQUEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE EDWARD OMG OMG OMG SQUEEEEEEEEEEEEEE!
ANYWAY. Apparently every high school in the Hudson Valley was missing its female students Friday afternoon, because they were all at the showing of Twilight …TWILIGHT WHOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!
OK, they’re gone.
Twilight, based on the first of the incredibly popular series of books by Stephenie Meyer, tells the story of Bella (Kristen Stewart), a 17-year-old girl who recently moved to tiny Forks, Washington, to live with her father. After some initial new-girl awkwardness, she finds a group of nice, incredibly diverse friends and becomes BFFs with them in about fifteen seconds. But the friends aren’t the point – they’re mainly for exposition about the creepy, very pale group sitting a few lunch tables over. Those are the Cullens, and one of them – Edward (Robert Pattinson) [SQUEEEE!] is irresistibly attractive to Bella, mainly because he stares at her a lot.
Eventually, Bella notices things about Edward that suggest he’s not your typical emo kid, even though he has the hair for it. He never shows up on sunny days. He doesn’t eat. His skin is ice-cold. Oh, and he stops a car from smooshing her with one hand. Seventeen billion years after a normal person would have figured this out, she realizes that Edward is, in fact, a vampire, and so is the rest of his “family.” The Cullens, however, consider themselves “vegetarians,” since they don’t eat people – only animals.
Edward and Bella fall in love – the kind of love that involves staring at each other and breathing heavily for what seems like minutes at a time, giving you ample opportunities to contemplate your Milk Duds or the fact that Bella doesn’t close her mouth for a solitary second. Not in the talking sense – her mouth is partially open throughout the entire movie. It’s distracting. However, the couple never has sex – they barely even kiss – because Bella is, at her core, a tasty vampire snack and Edward’s not sure he can eat just one of this metaphorical bag of potato chips.
SUCH a tasty snack that she attracts the attention of another group of vampires, particularly James (Cam Gigandet), and the chase is on. Running ensues, Bella avoids being lunch, love triumphs, they all go to the prom.
There are some good points to the film. Director Catherine Hardwicke (who directed the excellent Thirteen) has a good eye for creating atmosphere, particularly the overcast Washington sky and the final battle scene, which takes place in a cathedral-like ballet school. The movie really does look good. But the rest is … not so good.
The performances are wooden. Pattinson speaks every line like he’s on the verge of vomiting. Stewart’s main job here is to look pretty and in peril, so it’s tough on her when she has to, you know, act. The rest of the actors aren’t given things like character development, so the actors become a largely forgettable ensemble. The exceptions: Peter Facinelli as Carlisle Cullen, the head of the Family Undead, is quite nice and plays his part with a cool, controlled, dry sense of humor. And Billy Burke as Charlie, Bella’s dad, does good work with what little he’s given.
There’s some clever vampire stuff, too – they play baseball in storms so the crack of the superhuman-powered bat is covered by thunder; when Bella comes to the Cullens’ house for dinner, they prepare her an elaborate spread (even though they don’t eat) to make her feel at home.
But there’s the bad part of the movie, and then there’s the almost dangerous part of the movie. To be frank, Edward and Bella do not have a healthy relationship, and their romance should not be made to be appealing to the tweens that are Twilight’s audience. Bad boys and forbidden romances have been the drug of choice for teenage girls since before Romeo, but this story struck me as more insidious.
Think about it. Think about if your teenage girl had a boyfriend who refused to talk about himself. At all. One where she believed that only she could see the good inside. A boyfriend that told her, repeatedly, that he wanted to kill her. That she should stay away, because he’s no good. A young man who sneaks into her room nightly, for months, to watch her sleep.
Twilight tells girls that this is what love looks like. It’s forbidden and dangerous and always on the brink of violence.
Of course it’s just a movie. It’s just a fantasy. But, since most of our readers here are mothers, let me ask – when you go to the grocery store and see every Photoshopped and airbrushed fantasy staring out at your from the magazine covers, isn’t there a little part of you that whispers, ever so quietly, “Look like this?” “Have this dress. Be this thin. This is what you should want to be.” Well, Twilight tells teenage girls, “This is what you should want to have.”
Don’t believe me? In my showing, when Edward tells Bella that he’s been hanging out in her room, uninvited and without her knowledge, watching her sleep, there was an audible “awwwwww” from the teen-heavy audience.
In terms of other questionable material, there’s only a little. Edward and Bella have a steamy makeout session in her room when she’s wearing a t-shirt and panties. There’s adult drinking and a shotgun makes an appearance, though Charlie is just cleaning it. Bella’s mom asks her if she’s “being safe” when she hears that Bella has a new boyfriend. The prom has a gambling theme. Bella’s leg gets broken rather gruesomely and the final battle between Edward and James gets violent, bloody and dismembering-y.
I’m not saying that teenage girls shouldn’t see this movie; it wouldn’t really matter if I were saying that, since they’re going to see it anyway. But if they go, talk to them about how good boyfriends don’t view you as food. Make sure they’re confident enough in themselves to kick a guy to the curb if he’s breaking into their room, and that real love isn’t dangerous.
And then go rent the first season of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. All the vampire goodness, with the added bonus of intelligence.
Donna Jefferson is publisher of Chesapeake Family magazine in Maryland.