This issue was honestly behind me, but then I re-visited the movie (thanks Rifftrax, some movies DO have it comin’…) and with the release of the second film installment upon us (in much the same way that H1N1 is "upon us") it brought back all of the thoughts that plagued me before. I am not a fan of this franchise, and there's no way anyone could mistake me for one especially if you’ve talked to me or read my review of the first movie. But there are a few things that generally irk the shit out of me when it comes to all things Twilight that go beyond the quality of the film. The movie(s) will factor in though since it was my first exposure to this media juggernaut that has the kind of undeserved popularity rivaled only by Dane Cook. So bear with me as I elaborate point-by-point here. I do fear redundancy as many of the things that don’t add up have a tendency to overlap. However the intention behind this note is simple. This is the end. I plan to address every aspect to this franchise as thoroughly as I can, and then be done with it once and for all. This isn’t meant to invalidate your position in any way, but chances are I will likely cover whatever there is to discuss. With that said, here we go…
For starters, I figure that providing a list will help in keeping track of things. It’ll also help you jump to a segment in case you don’t wish to read everything I have to say (btw, a little insulted…). They are:
1) The film adaptation is a Cleveland Steamer, period - Why do I say that? Is it because of my opinion of the source material? No, not at all really. I say that the film is trash because it only appeals to those in the preexisting fan-base and no one else, and that alone makes it a shitty adaptation. A good adaptation of a property does more than please the converted. It brings what made the material appealing to a new audience, and pulls them in expanding the audience. Twilight not only doesn't do that, but doesn't seem to have any interest in doing so. The marketing says differently but the movie itself is modeled in a manner to please only the initiated. There is even a cameo appearance from the author (I won’t tell you where since the movie practically points her out for you) that adds nothing to the film and would matter to no one but the die-hard fan (before you think to harp on the Stan Lee cameos in Marvel movies, know three things – one: you’re right, two: this is a tu quoque argument* that proves nothing, and three: he’s actually earned it). Everything from the pacing of the narrative to the shallow casting and subsequent performances point to a lack of interest in making a generally good movie. If you weren't a fan of the books, then this movie practically gave you its ass to kiss. Well, fuck you too movie...
As if that weren’t bad enough, the movie itself has no true merits in terms of quality. Due to the built-in popularity that this abrasion already had, Robert Pattinson has gotten a lot of credit for what is truly nothing short of a piss-poor performance. He spends the entire movie middling along while making facial expressions that only convey an underlying date-rapist or the possibility that reading the script may have made him throw up in his mouth a little. As you hear the dialogue the latter possibility becomes more and more realistic since every other line is so noticeably awful that most of the actors are incapable of hiding their shame. “And so the lion fell in love with the lamb?" “Like my own personal brand of heroin?" Since when has heroin come in “brands?" And who the hell makes such a comparison in the first place in reference to someone they are attracted to? Have you ever seen a drug addict before? That is not a correlation you want to make. “That’s my monkey man?" “You better hold on tight, spider-monkey?" “James knows you would never leave Bella?” Really? How? Damnit, if a grade-schooler wrote this shit I would be embarrassed for them.
The movie does manage to improve upon the source material in some ways, most notably in the way of ethnic diversity. Though it feels a bit stereotypical and insulting that the future valedictorian is an Asian kid and the kid that is nearly responsible for the vehicular manslaughter of our “heroine” (more on that later) just happens to be black. It really doesn't help matters when the prom rolls around at the end of the movie, and everyone has a date except the black kid. Aside from that, the movie wisely attempts to introduce the James, Laurent (they made him a blacula), and Victoria characters earlier and also adds a fight sequence that was bypassed in the novel for the sake of creating some sense of conflict. Though the additional action sequence was used heavily in the ad campaign, not only does it only constitute less than three minutes of the total two hour running time but it’s poorly executed and underwhelming. So even in spite of the effort made to improve things, this movie falls quite short of legitimately being good. If there were anything redeemable about this movie it would be the likelihood that the franchise won’t go very far. If something as established as Narnia can’t make it, Twilight will hopefully die after the second trip into that world. Then again, fans of this "saga" have been all too happy to accept turds to begin with and Summit Entertainment has no problem with supplying more (see Push and Knowing for proof...)
*- it's a "You too" argument. A perfect example would be if someone tried to invalidate your opinion on matters in general because you like Twilight. In other words, it's a logical fallacy when employed incorrectly.
2) The Vampires in this narrative suck, and not in a good way... - I don't even know where to begin. What it seems like to me is that Stephanie Meyer, not taking the time to do at least SOME research on the mythos (a fact that she is proud of for some reason), decided to compile what little knowledge of vampiric traits that she knew while making up some of her own for the sole purpose of constructing a vampire that was safe for a teenage girl to date. That's why Edward has a "family." That's why vampires can survive on animal blood. That's the only reason why he attends high school. If that were the only thing that pointed to shortsightedness on her part, then I wouldn't mind it at all. As the author, she has every right to re-interpret vampires however she pleases. But let's look at the traits that these vampires display. They don't have fangs. Their ice-cold skin is as dense as marble, and they have superhuman strength and speed. Their eyes practically glow either red or yellow depending on the blood they drink, and they have heightened senses of smell and sight at the least. Also, sunlight doesn't kill them but rather makes their skin sparkle like diamonds. So, where's the downside? No, keep looking...I'll wait. Oh, and sometimes they have special powers such as telepathy and precognition. And becoming a vampire somehow makes them good-looking...Still looking for that drawback, huh?
Well, you can stop. There is no real downside to being a vampire in this reality seeing as how Meyer turned them into all-powerful killing machines with nothing to keep them in check other than themselves. Humans are all at the mercy of these walking disco balls, and for no good reason. They don't have to drink human blood to survive, which makes the ones that do little more than super-powered sociopaths. The fact that one of them can survive on animal blood proves that there is no excuse for any of them to kill people to feed. If humans could defend themselves this wouldn't seem so poorly thought out, but they can't…or rather it is depicted as though they can’t. The truth of the matter is that humanity didn’t even have the potential means to kill a vampire in this reality until the twentieth century with the advent of the machine gun. What does this mean? It means that for centuries humans had no real means of killing a vampire in order to defend themselves, but more importantly it means that these vampires have no reason to hide AT ALL. If Edward Cullen was the oldest vampire and we know he’s not, then that would still mean that vampires have been around for 107 years. Imagine spending over a century hiding from a pine-cone. It's the same mentality...
The reality is that their traits are all dead giveaways of their inhumanity. The only way these "vampires" could go unnoticed in society is if no one ever brushed up against one on a subway, never looked them in the eye, or they all conveniently manage to disappear whenever some clouds dispersed during the daytime without ever being noticed throughout the history of their existence that spans over centuries. Does that sound stupid to anyone else but me? It should because it is really fucking stupid. And so is the argument given to excuse this fact when you give it some more thought. I’ve consistently heard the “It’s fantasy, it doesn’t have to be realistic” argument, and I’m saying here and now that this claim is a swimming pool full of bullshit. To believe that requires a complete lack of understanding of the concept of fantasy, so if you buy into that this next passage is a breakdown.
I guess defining “fantasy” and “reality” would be a good place to start. Since this isn’t about getting into existential debates, let’s just go with “fantasy”. The Wikipedia entry for the term includes this passage:
“The identifying traits of fantasy are the inclusion of fantastic elements in a self-coherent (internally consistent) setting. Within such a structure, any location of the fantastical element is possible: it may be hidden in, or leak into the apparently real world setting, it may draw the characters into a world with such elements, or it may occur entirely in a fantasy world setting, where such elements are part of the world.
Within a given work, the elements must not only obey rules, but for plot reasons, must also contain limits to allow both the heroes and the villains means to fight; magical elements must come with prices, or the story would become unstructured.
American fantasy, starting with the stories chosen by John W. Campbell, Jr. for the magazine Unknown, is often characterized by internal logic. That is, the events in the story are impossible, but follow "laws" of magic, and have a setting that is internally consistent.”
To summarize, fantasy and realism are not mutual exclusives. Lord of the Rings exist in its own reality, but has such a rich and immersive structure that written and spoken languages could be spawned from the work. There is even a Klingon translation of the Bible, and there’s no doubt that they don’t exist. Well-written fantasy can construct a narrative that immerses the reader thoroughly enough that the world of the story seems real in a sense. Realism is not a recreation of things as they are in the real world, but a matter of believability. Aspects of the story need to make sense within the world in which it takes place, and that test is failed several times in the Twilight franchise. Saying “it’s fantasy” as an argument is a cheap cop-out. A decent writer could make a believable story based in fantasy, but we’re not dealing with a decent writer…
3) Stephanie Meyer is not a good writer at all...at. ALL. - Yes, I'm saying that as someone that has not nor has any interest in ever reading her work. And I stand by that statement because if she were truly any good then her work wouldn't have plot holes, forced conflict, or plot contrivances that someone could spot from 5 miles away without ever having read a single sentence.
Ever since I first found out about this story I've asked one question from the outset: why would these vampires go to high school? The real answer is obvious, but the reason given in the book and movie is always parroted by fans: to blend in with society. This doesn't hold up at all for a couple of reasons. One: the traits of these vampires would make it impossible for them to blend in with ordinary people. Two: they don't try nearly as hard as they should to blend in at school or in general. It's as if these people never heard of make-up, but then again they don't have skin as much as they do a shell. That being the case, how the hell would kissing Edward not hurt Bella? It'd be like licking a flagpole in the dead of winter, and I think enough people have seen A Christmas Story to know how much that sucks. But back to the high school thing, the only reason for it is so Bella can meet Edward without Meyer having to stretch the imagination to craft a scenario where they could otherwise meet. At 107 years old, there's nothing for this guy to gain from going to school repeatedly unless he's really stupid or stalking prey. Meyer didn't write her characters with any real flaws, so he's doing neither thus making this twice as bizarre, or dare I say, fucking retarded. The amount of trouble it would take to produce the phony documentation to enroll these chuckle-heads in high school over and over again is hardly worth it when all that needed be done was for these characters to think their way out of a paper bag. In the course of a century these people should've heard of home-schooling or even met a high school drop-out or two. Or, get this, someone that looks younger than their actual age. What a novel concept to a vampire...
Sadly, this is only the tip of the iceberg that is shoddy storytelling. To go back to the high school for a second, the Cullens and the Hales are all stand-offish and off-putting to their classmates. That does nothing to help the claim that they wish to fit in because if they did, maybe they would try to find friends outside of the family. If you went to school with a group of pasty kids that kept to themselves, it wouldn't take very long for it to become a point of discussion among the student body. The fact that Meyer doesn't seem to understand that shows how bad a writer she really is. Then again, she has no concept of human thought processes, reactions, or motivations. I won't go into that or the lack of conflict, or plot-convenient events that drown this saccharine narrative in a heap of horse-shit for now. I have other grievances...
4) This is NOT a love story. - I could go on for days about just how warped and shallow the relationship between Bella and Edward really is. But I think I'll simply start with the shallow nature of this "relationship" because it really needs to be specified that these characters are not in love despite the constant and obnoxious attempts to continue telling us that they are. And the beating of that drum is persistent. Edward tells you, Bella tells you, and Stephanie Meyer won't stop telling you which points even more strongly to her lack of talent as a writer. Good writers show. They don't have to tell. The problem is that everything in this "narrative" that is shown only points out the fact that these two characters have no true compatibility.
What do I mean by that? Well, they don't have real conversations. Instead they moon over each other endlessly, or Edward lays out thinly veiled threats. They don't do things together either outside of watching Romeo and Juliet, but the only reason for that was to forcibly make the comparison between them and Shakespeare's star-crossed lovers. Ironically, anyone with a brain stem can tell you that Romeo and Juliet weren't in love either. They were a couple of horny, lust-driven teenagers, and there's no difference here. Love and lust are not the same thing, and at best these two share an unhealthy infatuation with each other. Then again, there's nothing about the relationship that's healthy. That it is presented as an ideal and Edward as the perfect boyfriend is a major problem. Truth is Edward Cullen is an abusive dick.
Let me clarify something right now so as not to confuse anyone. Abuse is not always physical. Abuse can be emotional as well as psychological, and that is the form of abuse of which Edward is guilty. He is a jealous, domineering, and manipulative person that has no other definitive traits to make him a remotely likeable or respectable individual. The fact that he is presented as anything other than the jerk that he really is points to what Ben Platt over at Something Awful calls "meta-stupidity." The problem isn't just that Edward destroys Bella's truck to keep her from seeing a friend. It goes beyond the fact that he is emotionally withholding, or that he holds all of the power in the relationship thus making it woefully unequal. The problem is that this is glorified by the author and fans alike. As Mike Nelson said of the two lead characters, "So she loves him for not killing her. That's healthy..." This is not to say that there haven't been plenty of awful relationships in literature as well as other mediums. Where Twilight takes the cake is in the thoroughly misguided presentation of this unrealistic, sexist, misogynist, and unhealthy relationship as anything but.
5) Team Edward or Team Jacob? I'm on Team Tyler's Van... - If there is one thing that anyone with a modicum of common sense or decency would have to admit it's that Bella Swan is an insufferable bitch, and as a Mary Sue that says absolutely nothing positive. She is weak, shallow, selfish, self-absorbed, judgmental, and such a poorly-written stand-in for the wincing, defeated Mormon housewife that created her that any woman that claims to identify with her may be fittingly labeled as a sociopath. Where am I coming from on this one? One of the side characters comes to mind immediately: Mike Newton.
Whether it be the book's description or the film version of the character, there's no denying that this kid is just an average teenage boy with unfortunate taste in women. When I watched the movie, I couldn't help but notice the amount of energy and effort that this boy put into trying to get the attention of this wet blanket of a young woman. From his perspective, Bella probably seems like someone that just needs some cheering up so he gladly tries time and again to provide a laugh or two. He doesn't even know that the rich kid that she chose over him is a wingless man-fairy that pisses rainbows due to his acute case of perfection. Then before he even has a full minute to digest his rejection, he unrealistically pairs off with the archetypal high school bitch in the underdeveloped and unimaginative form of Jessica. Even more proof of Meyer's lack of understanding human reaction as most high school boys don't take rejection that well. I should know. Not only did I hang out with them, I was one...
But it's not simply the way that she treated Mike that makes Bella the scar on the face of humanity that she is. No, the fact that she immediately judged and labeled all of the people she met in Forks before getting to know them makes her a thoroughly lousy individual. Bella suffers from a tendency towards false modesty which is highlighted by her assessments of characters that she truthfully does not know, and that these people had been nothing but nice to her makes it stand out ever more starkly. It speaks to both the low self-esteem of the character as well as the reader that sees this in themselves. It also coincides with her lack of emotional stability and neediness. Bella is a woman entirely defined by the men around her, and her acquiescence goes to such ridiculous lengths that she can't even drive her own damn truck. She doesn't even want anything more out of life than to get married and have kids right out of high school (great message to send to young girls, btw). Her life is so completely tethered to a male authority figure that she when there was no one to fill that void, she dipped into a suicidal depression. Devin Faraci of CHUD.com said this of her:
"If the Twilight books had been written by a man many of the grown women I know who love the series would have been disgusted by the appalling misogyny on display. Other, better writers have covered the series' Cro-Magnon take on sexual politics better than I could, but I will say that as it relates to New Moon these sexual politics essentially sink the movie. Bella's only emotional modes are horribly needy and annoyingly depressed; spending time with this character is torture. That anyone could relate to her on any level frightens me; I have to assume that it's Bella's utter blankness and emptiness as a character that allows girls to project themselves into her hollow shell."
And she is hollow indeed. Yet, not completely and there's still nothing positive to be found about her. While the narrative seems equally split between men that want to kill her and men that want to protect her, in either case they are enamored in a way to requires an incredible suspension of disbelief. That's where it becomes obvious that this girl is living the life that Stephanie Meyer wishes were her own.
The instant that the "plain and unremarkable" Bella Swan, whose very name is a contradiction of such a description, steps foot into her new high school, EVERY GUY SHE MEETS wants to be with her. Her father has no presence at all, she has just the right number of female friends to pass her suitors off to so she doesn't feel or seem like a bitch, and she just so happened to grab the attention of the guy widely considered to be the most attractive. And when he's not around, she has a stand-in who's a werewolf/shapeshifter to protect her. He's also emotionally unstable, but that's okay since she's really only using him anyway. This is all a good thing though since any random guy (human or otherwise) that she encounters always seems to want to rape or kill her (very telling when you think about it in the context of the author and her view of the world). The life of Bella Swan is that of pseudo-danger and peripheral threats that amount to what can only be described as anti-adventure since she is perfectly (there's that word again...) shielded from harm at every turn. It's perfect for the sheltered housewife that wants to take a step outside of her day-to-day monotony, but it doesn't make for much of a story...
6) About the story... - ...there isn't one.
7) Twilight fans sometimes seem determined to wedge themselves below Furries in the nerd hierarchy, and they've only themselves to blame... - I'm not gonna raise a stink like so many jackasses at Comic-Con did this year because frankly I think we're all better than that (or at least we should be...). But as it stands, most of the backlash Twilight has received is as a direct result of the actions of the fan-base. "Twi-tard" has become a commonly used term to describe the members of Team Edward and Jacob because they are a truly aggressively ignorant group. Yes, I know that is a blanket statement. I'm aware of the fact that this doesn't pertain to every fan, but when you try to defend this series as anything of value you're no better than the dumbass that claims the Autobot Twins were funny in Transformers 2. You don't want to be that guy...
A part of me honestly feels as though fans of these books were duped, and that being the case it really makes them victims of the culture. The unattainable bad boy that is hopelessly devoted to one special girl is a common fantasy, but it's just that: fantasy. The truth is that a guy like that is really just an asshole, and when you factor in the glorification of stalking and other forms of invasive behavior, there's really nothing left to defend. The toothless narrative is both unoriginal and uneventful, and it makes light of a criminal offense that has led to dangerous results in the past. As one writer on Cinematical said, "...I know better than most that the downside of fandom is that it can make you blind to faults that are staring you right in the face." Don't believe him? Talk to a Star Wars fan that likes the prequels. They're out there, and it's disturbing. However, the problem is that fans of Twilight don't just try to defend the books. They actively attack those who speak ill of a series wholly without merit or substance. On one of the many anti-Twilight forums that have spawned in the wake of this pop culture apocalypse, there is a legitimate section devoted solely to the negative interactions that people have had with fans over a simple difference of opinion. My review of the first film was flooded with comments (both positive and aggressively negative) from people that I had never met or even held a conversation with prior. I'm just a college student. Imagine the shit-storm that professionals have to deal with when they have the gall to call a spade a spade...
This is one of those instances where personal opinion can tread into error of fact. Is it wrong for you to like Twilight? No, but it is wrong to call it a "good" anything and even worse for you to attack anyone for disliking it when they give you valid reasons. Now that jerk that just hates it because you like it is still fair game...but you never heard me say that...