Wednesday, April 29, 2009


I finally got around to watching Twilight. A teen romance movie isn’t normally of interest to me–especially a chick flick like Twilight. Of course, Twilight has a twist on the ordinary teen-themed romance.

Beyond that, it’s has a cult following, and it’s sometimes useful to take the temperature of the pop culture.

The film is shot in the Pacific Northwest, and makes a point to exploit the local scenery, so that lends it a certain idiosyncratic appeal for Northwest natives.

For a modern movie to, for, and about teenagers, it’s remarkably free of gratuitous sex and language.

The film plays into the stereotype of the Pacific Northwest as a place of perpetual rain. As a rule, that’s actually not true. It’s not so much the amount of rain, but the number of overcast days, that’s distinctive to the Northwest.

However, the town of Forks, which is situated on the edge of a rainforest, lives up to the reputation–even though the film actually shot in Oregon.

The movie derives its moody, languorous tone from misty, dewy shots of the rainforest, river valley, and the seashore.

Edward Cullen is played by a foppish looking actor. I guess the only thing that saves him from being a complete dandy is his vampiric superpowers. Apparently he’s irresistible to adolescent girls in the audience.

Edward has a “family,” which gives new meaning to the whole concept of alternative families. The Cullens are “vegetarian” vamps, because they feed on animals rather than people. This plays on the modern theme of the gold-hearted vampire with a conscience. It also plays on the modern theme of daytime vampires.

Bella Swan is played pretty well by a teenage actress. There is also a pleasant American Indian actor who plays a Quileute. Oh, and, the Indians are werewolves. I'll never think about the noble "savage" in quite the same way.

Apparently there’s a sequel in the works, where Bella is forced to choose between vegetarian vampires and Indian werewolves. What’s a girl to do? Life has gotten a lot more complicated than when I attended high school. In my time, thankfully, the boys didn’t have to compete with werewolves and vampires for the affections of the fairer sex.

The film has a funny scene in which Edward introduces Bella to his “family.” When vampires invite you do dinner, you never know if you’ll be on the menu. But they behave themselves.

There’s another funny scene involving a baseball game, where the Cullens make full use of their superhuman powers. It certainly livens up the pace of America’s national pastime.

There is also a subplot involving nomadic vampires. This is somewhat extraneous to the core of the film.

When it comes to movies about werewolves and vampires, “realism” is a term of art, but even on its own level there’s something unrealistic about a 108-year-old vampire who’s infatuated with a 17-year-old girl. Wouldn’t he find her a bit provincial? Wouldn’t he be pretty worldly by now? However, the film sacrifices realism at this point to cater to its market niche.

I also don’t know why werewolves and vampires would be mortal enemies. After all, vampires are supposed to have a special affinity for wolves.

In some ways the film is a throwback to those Victorian romance novels. The dashing young nobleman who falls hopelessly in love with a woman below his station in life. He wants her, but he can’t have her. His family would never consent. Will they elope?

The heart of the film centers on the star-crossed romance between Edward and Bella. They both want each other, but they want different things from each other. This creates the equivalent of sustained sexual tension.

I say “equivalent,” because it’s not quite the same thing as sexual tension. She’s human, but he’s a vampire. His interest in her is more carnivorous than sexual. He’s fallen in love with a steak.

And beyond that impediment, he’s basically a walking corpse. He has the touch and skin-tone of a cadaver–since that’s what he is.

So that creates a point of tension. While the physical attraction is overwhelming, it can’t be physically consummated, for they are ill-adapted to each other. They can gaze longingly into each others eyes, but they can’t give physical expression to their feelings. Not in a mutually fulfilling fashion. The passion is there, without the natural outlet.

As such their relationship becomes an unintended metaphor for homosexual attraction. Two (or more) “lovers” who are fundamentally ill-adapted to each other. It leads to a perennial state of emotional and sexual frustration. Any attempt to “consummate” the illicit passion is mutually destructive and self-destructive. Conflicting appetites. Passions inhabiting the wrong bodies.


  1. As such their relationship becomes an unintended metaphor for homosexual attraction.I can't help but see their relationship as a metaphor for Stephanie Myer is a Mormon...but as a movie, you may be right.

  2. Steve, I'm wondering if you've seen "Knowing", that movie with Nicholas Cage and directed by Alex Proyas. It brings up some interesting themes regarding determination vs. randomness. And it neatly throws some typical Hollywood cliches out the window as well.

  3. I'll wait until "Knowing" comes out on DVD.