Occupation: Girl

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And yet, somehow, I never finished my master's degree
Okay, so. I saw Eclipse again, because my mother wanted to see it (as she always does), and because this time I could take notes on the scene order (We Do Not Speak Of It). And I feel like I'm a little different from a lot of people in that I can compartmentalize a lot of things. A lot of people--in this case, Twilight fans--will start out liking, say, Edward, for whatever reason, and because they like him, proceed to defend and rationalize everything he does from then on. I'm the kind of person who will take each thing--and this goes for real life as well--and judge it individually. "Saving her from a speeding van, okay, yeah, that's great, that superhero shit, everyone loves that; okay, this cold-shoulder I DON'T KNOW WHAT YOU'RE TALKING ABOUT stuff, he's being a dick but I see why, in terms of narrative arc, it's happening; saving her from a roving gang of attackers, that's kind of hilariously contrived, but more superhero shit, Vampire Volvo of Great Justice, rock AH GOD SNEAKING INTO HER ROOM TO WATCH HER SLEEP WHAT IS WRONG WITH YOU OH MY FUCK NO." I take it as it comes, and I critique it as it comes. And I think this is why people who like Twilight have been known to hang out here and not hate me, and yet, why people who hate it haven't felt the need to stage an intervention yet.

I also think that people's reactions to various points in the series--not just the ~*saga*~ as a whole, but specific elements--says a lot about them individually. A sparkly Rorschach test, if you will. And I think it's interesting to talk about these points, because it may help critics understand why the series resonates so strongly with people. I'm just very lucky in that I can pick out specific elements ("Alice is AWESOME") and leave the rest by the side of the road, no harm done. So, because I think it says a lot about me, I will tell you which scene in Eclipse I had the strongest reaction to, and it is: "I would be courting you."

Look, my kink for the old-fashioned is not a revelation to me. I am ridiculously Team Vampire Bill re: True Blood, because he had me at "May I call on you at your home Sookehhhhh?" (And, once again, in the spirit of compartmentalization: I am Team Bill in Those Early Scenes. There's a lot of really, really ugly stuff that happens later on in the books and/or show. I don't feel compelled to make excuses for later scenes or include them in any sense of appreciation.) I can't help it. It is a weakness. Chivalry is incredibly attractive to me, and yet I know it originates from a very antiquated, medieval, women-as-chattel mindset. But there are a lot of things that we've kept the best parts of and left the rest behind. Maybe what I'm thinking of is a quintessentially Southern mindset anyway--I love it when people hold doors for me, and I love holding doors for other people. It doesn't have to be about condescension.

So, this scene, for those of you who did not go see the movie, is when Bella tries to get her premarital freak on (again) and Edward shuts her down (again), explaining that things worked very differently in Ye Olden Days. (The book refers to it as "an Anne of Green Gables flashback.") So instead of getting it on in the bed that HE bought her, by the light of the candles HE lit, to the strains of the soft music HE turned on (Sparkles, WTF?), he would rather be "courting" her. Now, IN MY DEFENSE, I am modern enough to be rather dismayed by the prospect of "long walks with chaperones," and I laughed out loud at "iced tea on the porch." Like, somehow that just tipped the scale from "quaint" to "cheesy," I don't know. And I don't want anyone to ask my father for my hand because I don't belong to him, nor are you going to haggle over how many cows he includes in my dowry, but even beyond that, I have been estranged from him for twelve years, so that point is just super-extra not-happening for me. But regardless: the whole point of the whole "courting" business is to take things slowly. And I think that is very, very attractive to a lot of people. I remember when (she said, leaning on her walker) there was a whole Cosmo-approved rule of thumb about sex on the third date, and the code for "bring a toothbrush" was, "Come over to my place, I'll make dinner." (And even then, as a teenager, I remember seeing this over and over and thinking, "But... do we have to? Is this third-date thing iron-clad? Crap.") But over the last ten years, casual or even immediate hookups (which, as a term, can cover a range of activity) seem to have become pretty common; we get articles about the influence of porn aesthetic on pop culture and panic-stricken studies about how THE TEENAGERS ARE HAVING THE ORAL SEX OMG NO. So if a more casual approach to sex works for you, as a consenting adult, that's great. I'm glad that people feel more open and comfortable with their sexuality, less restricted--particularly women. But if you're younger, shy or less experienced, the social expectation of it can be terrifying. I said something like this way, way back the first time I wrote about Twilight:

I know that it's women who are supposed to be the mysterious sex--"What do women want?" and all that--but I personally found boys to be just as enigmatic when I was a teenager. I mean, yes, boys want sex. But it's not as easy as that--okay, you're a teenage girl, you give in, now you're the school slut, or the thrill is gone and he moves on because you're both, you know, teenagers and probably not ready yet. The real question on a girl's mind is, "What, other than sex, is he thinking about? What, other than sex, do I have to offer someone I'm crazy about?" And if you're a teenage girl with low self-esteem, the answer you're going to come up with to that second question is going to be, "I don't have anything, because I'm not pretty or special or worthy, so if I don't want to immediately put out, I have nothing, and I have no chance." The obvious answer being "sex" actually makes it harder, because you've got that looming in front of you, and maybe a kind of despair--are you going to have to give in if you want a boy to like you? What if you aren't ready? What if you're scared?

And I think this is why you see a lot of girls feeling drawn to the Edward Cullen character, for all his high-handed fuckwittery, because this is someone who is willing to take it slowly. In fact, you can push him as much as you want--you can push it all the way to the edge of how far you're willing to go--and he's still not going to give in. It's liberating for the shy or inexperienced (right up until the point it becomes frustrating as all hell): Edward's the training wheels on your bike.

And when Bella finally gets him to take the training wheels off, all hell breaks loose. (Which is something we did not yet know, back in 2008 when I wrote that first entry.) The fact that she enjoys the bed-breaking and wants more--and eventually has a very fulfilling sex life as a vampire--this says to me that it's not so much intended as a cautionary tale about the dangers of female sexuality, really. In its own way, the last third of that book is a strange celebration of female power and desire, on the understanding--Meyer's understanding, not mine--that they have a "proper," post-marriage place. In fact, I would argue with Owen Gleiberman that the movie series is not a return to the male gaze; it is a very strong assertion of the female gaze. Look, you saw New Moon, and if you didn't, I'll catch you up: Bella spends 80% of the movie in three layers of shirt and a parka, while the camera lovingly watches Edward jaaaaames deaaaaan across the parking lot in indie-rock slo-mo, and Jacob administers shirtless first aid with the finesse of a Chippendale. In Eclipse, the Jacob fan service is so prevalent that a character actually asks, "Doesn't he own a shirt?" (This is immediately followed by competitive embracing, which sounds like it ought to be added to the next Olympics.) The not-sex scene (which is just before the "I would be courting you" part that I'm trying to get back around to) focuses almost entirely on the unbuttoning of Edward's shirt. These are movies that understand that their primary audience does not need or want to see Bella's goods, and they know exactly what their audience is there to see--they're there to see the same things Bella wants to see. That's the female gaze in action.

And if it makes male viewers uncomfortable or disdainful: we, as women, have been living with the male gaze as the cinematic default since pretty much forever. (I apologize in advance for talking about this pretty much entirely in heterosexual terms, but I don't really feel like I'm qualified to talk about anything else here; I'd love to hear a different point of view. There's something to be said for homoeroticism in the "Let's sit in this tent and talk about who's better for Bella" scene, but that's a different discussion.) Is there a reason the camera has to be up Megan Fox's ass (okay, I'm exaggerating. Maybe) in the second Transformers movie? While she's crouched over a grrr-manly motorcycle, no less? Or, more to the point, the reason is because it's hot. But who finds it hot? Maybe this is going to surprise you, heterosexual guys, but I suspect most of the straight women sitting beside you are not getting a whole lot of enjoyment from Megan Fox's ass. And you know what? I do like looking at beautiful women. Hot women being hot, in fact. She's pretty hot in the first movie, even. But there's that, and then there's... the camera up Megan Fox's ass. Guys, you having to sit there and watch the camera ogle these two guys is what life at the movies is like for us.

(I'll stop and note a fun irony here: only the first movie, the one with the least fan service, was directed by a woman. The other two, even the second movie, the one that's so blatant that audiences actually laugh at the more gratuitous shirt-doffing, was directed by a man, and, as far as I know, a straight one at that. But, behind the camera, Chris Weitz adopts the female gaze because that's the audience he's been told to play to. A gendered gaze is a whole thing, something you can consciously change from the default we're used to, turn off and on, once you know that it's there. I've heard it argued that the camera's point of view is inherently male, but I really believe these movies prove otherwise.)

And maybe the male gaze in movies contributes to female sexual anxiety. Are we supposed to look like that? Are we supposed to be hot enough to crouch over motorcycles in a scrap of denim? What if we're not hot enough? Do guys want anything else? Are we just flat-out doomed? No, says Twilight! You may wear fifty parkas and a really unsexy knit cap pulled down to your ears and hot guys will still fight over you! They will fight over you harder than ever! (At which point guys in the audience sit there and go, "Are we supposed to look like that? Do girls want anything else?" Etc. I'm not sure if I should feel glad that the male audience is getting a taste of its own medicine, or sorry that any of us have to taste it at all.)

In fact, the not-sex interlude ends with Our Hero saying, "Stop trying to take your clothes off." ("Oh, do you want to do that?") Speaking of which, the book and movie versions of this scene are actually a bit different. In the book, Bella realizes that Edward wants to "protect his virtue" (and laughs at him for it), and he says that, since he has no soul (or so he believes), his virtue is all he has left. In the movie, she says something about "you make me feel like a villain trying to steal your virtue," and he says, no, no--he's trying to protect hers, because, if she's going to lose her soul for him, he wants "to leave one rule unbroken," I think is how it goes. And then he goes into the whole "courting" speech. But leaving out "I want to protect my own virtue" actually changes the meaning of the scene, if you think about it. Because you know what? I was about to say, "I appreciate your concern, Sparkles, but you really gotta put out sometime," but Edward should have as much control over his own sexuality as Bella does over hers. If he wants to protect his own "virtue," you know what? That's completely valid. "Protecting" hers? Now it's presumptuous and controlling. These two characters abstaining from sex isn't the problem; Edward insisting on controlling her sexuality as well as his own is. He can say no to her, but he shouldn't be able to say no for her. In fact, every stupid, patronizing, infuriating thing he does in these books basically boils down to him making choices that aren't his to make.

SO WHAT I AM SAYING HERE, in this long leisurely ramble, is that the Twilight series reassures certain female anxieties. It's also got A METRIC SHIT TON OF PROBLEMS, about which I have railed over the last two years at some length. But those problems aren't going to help you understand why people are attracted to this series. (And I think the reason I write about Twilight so much is that I feel, for whatever reason, like I can explain--but not excuse--things that give people the raving WTFs.)

So. Uh. That went on longer than I intended. And I may have revealed more about myself than I meant to. But what I was trying to get at, eventually, is that--can't there be some kind of happy medium? Surely, if you are inclined to take it slow, there has to be a modern equivalent of "courting"? No chaperones (oh, God, no chaperones), but yes, you will get plenty of iced tea once I stop laughing my ass off because that's pretty much all we drink down here. But surely we can work out a process wherein someone says, "Look, I don't need you to be bent over a vehicle greased up in tiny denim. I want you for who you are, however you are, and I want to take the time to savor that before we get to the hooking-up part." It's not about a character (for most people) (I hope) (please put that cardboard standup down); it's about wanting something gentler and deeper and, in its own way, sexier than instant gratification: a slower burn.

You can keep that fugly ring, though. 

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Re: Sorry to hijack your thread...

That was actually one of my favorite scenes in the movie, that I felt Hardwicke really got right. You get that feeling that this is all so surreal to Bella, like, "Am I really about to say this?" and the different camera angles and shots contributed to the overall out-of-body experience that you HAVE to know someone is having when they're about to confront someone about being a vampire. I do like that in the scripts, Rosenberg puts a little more power into Bella's hands (even though I'd like to take Bella's hands and make her smack herself around for a while). But yeah, that's always been something that jumps out at me in vampire fiction, that he's really entrusting her with something huge and that moment is weighty and momentous and more than a little nerve-wracking for him...and in the book it just...WASN'T. Edward was never, ever vulnerable to her, which made his smug, high-handed treatment of her all during the books just that much more infuriating.

And while I'm getting all my gripes out, the other thing that made no sense is that in Meyer's universe, vampires have never had any weakness at all, can't be killed except by each other and the hitherto undiscovered species of shape-shifters from the Pacific Northwest who can chomp them. So why the FUCK was secrecy ever important to the Volturi? What was any human or even an angry horde of humans EVER going to do to them? Why aren't they running the planet at this point and breeding humans as blood cows? I know it's all about suspension of disbelief, but...help me out a little, at least make all the rules in your universe make sense. I'm still a logical human being, even if I do believe in werewolves and vampires and wizards for as long as it takes me to read a book or watch a movie.

Re: Sorry to hijack your thread...

That's one of the things that just--"infuriates" is too strong a word for it, I guess. It's just a complete YOU ARE DOING IT WRONG for me, over-powering the vampires. They have almost nothing to fear, between strength, speed, and Jedi-mind dazzle. And even when they do have something to fear, like Victoria, Edward sits there and goes, "Look, calm down, it'll take five minutes." It's just a complete lack of understanding in terms of how to create suspense. You have to give characters PROBLEMS in order to have any kind of conflict. In a weird way, this is why making Edward kind of a doof when it comes to girls in the movie actually helps, because at least it gives him some kind of weakness--emotional awkwardness and vulnerability.

(She also makes the mistake of giving them so much money that they don't ever have to worry about that, either. Which other writers do, too.)

And what I notice is, as far as the genre goes, hero vampires tend to have a lot of money and a lot of powers, because the author wants them to be unkillable (and not have to fuss about how they earn a living). Whereas villain vampires tend to have just enough power and money to be nefarious, but they have distinct weak spots so that non-vampire heroes can take them down. I mean, it's not written in stone, but notice how much more powerful the Cullens are than, say, Dracula. DRACULA. And that's because Dracula has to be killed, but the Cullens have to stay alive ("alive") at all narrative costs.

I mean, for that matter, notice how Edward is somehow strong enough in the second movie that whichever Volturi guy it was could only begin to crack his face, but Emmett's running around punching newborns' heads off in the third movie. That's not even internally consistent--but it's necessary, because if the movie rules were consistent, Our Hero would be a pile of rock salt by now.

Re: Sorry to hijack your thread...

And if movie rules or Meyer Universe rules were consistent , Alice would have Seen that Victoria had DECIDED to make a *last-minute* decision to find Edward and Bella. This "holes in Alice's vision" thing was soooo...just...STUPID. I mean, she's watching Victoria specifically, so why wouldn't she have seen Victoria's decision to make a vampire to make the army? WHY YOU DO THIS TO ALICE? She neutered and bedazzled my vampires, now she's crippling Alice's Gift for a plot point. Just BE CONSISTENT, GODDAMMIT.

I mean, we can sit here and pick apart the plot holes all day (like, LITERALLY) but really, when it comes down to it for me, it's all about the execution - did she make the characters "real" people to me, did she tell an engaging story, did the characters talk and relate to each other realistically for that particular narrative framework? And for Twilight, the answer is....kinda??, but only sometimes. But when I can find more wrong than right with a story, when I'm not lost enough in that world when I'm reading it to put aside my more analytical nature, it's just a dud for me. I don't have a problem with the premise of the books, but there was nothing keeping me going after Chapter 2 of Twilight except the thought "surely this can't get any worse..." and then ultimately it was a train-wreck-can't-look-away-from-the-carnage syndrome. I mean, I'm a HP Freak, and I can tell you 3 HUGE plot points that were never resolved in all seven books, and one of these days I'm going to have to track down JKR and MAKE HER answer my questions, but I will never, ever stop loving those books, because those characters were real, solid, flesh-and-blood people to me. And the funny thing is I resisted HP for so long, didn't really want to get into it, but when I did, I fell in love so effortlessly. And here, I wanted so much to like Bella & Co. more than I do, I tried pretty hard, but ultimately, Meyer just didn't make it happen.

And here's a funny story I've been telling people, you'll appreciate it...I also have a 4 year-old daughter who's in love with "Eggward" and after her big sisters got to go to the midnight show, she begged and begged to go see the new Eggward movie, so I took her to a Saturday matinee, only like 30 people in the whole audience. During that scene when Jacob and Bella kiss just before the battle, she stands up and SCREAMS "NOOOOO BELLA, WHAT ABOUT EGGWARD!?!?" She spent the rest of the movie scowling at Jacob and saying "I doan even wike Jacob, I doan wan him in this moobie!!" And I thought I'd die laughing...I had no idea I was raising such a Twihard. She is firmly Team Eggward...I may have to get her a t-shirt printed up. Apparently I have more teachable moments coming my way.

Re: Sorry to hijack your thread...

Since you walk your kids through the books, I'll err on the side of finding that adorable. What in the world did she make of The Leg Hitch, though?

Re: Sorry to hijack your thread...

Ah, The Leg Hitch. You know, I had no idea that was such a big deal, all the dry-humping, but oh well. She didn't catch the leg hitch, she had her face hidden in her hands because she can only tolerate so much kissing. Somehow she got the information that too much kissing makes babies (when she informed me of this, I found it too hysterical to correct her) so when kissing goes on for more than a couple seconds she closes her eyes, because she doesn't want to "see the babies come out." I guess that rules out movies 4 and 5 for her, but I'm not complaining.

Re: Sorry to hijack your thread...

I... well.

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