I got a DVR this summer, and I’ve been really enjoying it. Too much. It was a terrible idea to purchase. Wonderfulterrible. It sure makes for more time wasting, but also more efficient time wasting, because no commercials. Y’know.
Anyway, it also makes for noticing when embarrassing things are on television so that you can record them – you know, just in case you’re really bored. Because you don’t have enough hours of television recorded already. And that is how I ended up watching the entire Twilight saga recently.
My history with Twilight is as follows: saw the movie New Moon in theaters with my sister because she begged me and because you shouldn’t really make a new mom sad. I had never read the books or seen the first movie, but whatever. When you live in society and pay even half attention to things, you know how to participate in conversations about Twilight or To Kill a Mockingbird without having read them. A few years later, in grad school, I had to read Twilight. So I got the first two installments, albeit out of order, against my will. And I felt done.
And then a few weeks ago, I accidentally told my DVR to record the other four movies. I say “accidentally” because I must have had a stroke for a minute or something. I figured I could skip the one I had already seen. Just as I tell myself I watch Say Yes to the Dress to analyze rich people culture and to make fun of vapid people who think a $3000 dress is a steal (because then it’s only $500 an hour to wear), I told myself watching Twilight would be good research for the screenwriting class I’m taking. That is legitimately how I approached the first one. It’s actually fascinating to see how hard good actors work to try and make a bad script turn into a good movie, and they can’t. This sounds maybe quite pedestrian and like I should have done it years ago, but I don’t think I had ever actually paid so much attention to a film before and really parsed out the difference between writing, acting, cinematography and direction. So that was interesting. I like to think I watch things as critically as I read them, but there is still a lot of learning to be learned in that area.
I think what made me want to keep watching was the weird way that I “hate” Kristen Stewart for no reason. I’m really not into celebrity stuff, and I don’t mean to sound snobby at all but just to say that I truly don’t have any desire to read Perez Hilton or know much about anyone. Yes, I like seeing a cute baby picture if two attractive folks have a baby, but I’m over it pretty fast. But in days when I did care a bit more about that stuff, I remember having a passionate dislike for Kristen Stewart. Now I actually think she’s pretty neat, from the little I’ve read of her in interview quotes and the like. She puts up with a lot of shit from people who don’t even know her, and that must suck a lot.
Yes, Twilight does terrible things artistically – and with regards to creepy as fuck, unbalanced romantic relationships. But Angel watched Buffy when she was sleeping too, and that’s when David Boreanaz was skinny and unnerving, long before he gained his Seeley Booth body, so let’s not pretend Twilight does anything new there. There is quite the oeuvre of literature and film works that have deeply disturbing romances in them. I actually found it interesting to watch the movies after having read this scholarly article in school, in preparation for a paper on Judy Blume’s Forever…: “Virtuous Vampires and Voluptuous Vamps: Romance Conventions Reconsidered in Stephenie Meyer’s Twilight Series.” The author uploaded it in its entirety (not sure if it’s different at all from the version I read from the journal), so you can go ahead and read it, but tl;dr the whole saga is notable for how it turns romance conventions on their head by positioning the boy as the one who just doesn’t feel ready to have sex and the girl as the one who’s pressuring the guy to do it. That really is interesting, truly. Additionally, I find it interesting – after watching the full saga of movies and seeing the full arc – that Bella is presented as a character who doesn’t fit in and doesn’t know how to play the game, and that’s why she is so determined to become a vampire – because it’s a world she finally feels she belongs in. And yet another thing she is entirely sure of is that she is ready for sex. I like that. You don’t see that in girl characters very often. Bella has no second thoughts, no moralizing about what sex means, because she knows herself and what she wants, and she has the safe sex thing down. Were she not dating a vampire who can’t procreate and whose only seeming infectious disease is one that can only be transmitted by dubious biting (the Whedonverse is the only one that has presented me with a believable and thorough explanation of siring a new vampire), I’m entirely sure that she would have a pack of condoms on hand and an appointment at the gyno set up for next week. Feminism!
In the book, Bella is an obnoxious shell of a human who falls down way too much to actually be alive and without brain damage. But since Stewart is not a shell, she plays the slow gaining of self-confidence pretty well. There’s being a bit lost and ambivalent in the world and feeling like you don’t belong; there’s depression and thrill-seeking to feel alive; there’s wanting what you can’t have; there’s finally finding what you think you’re supposed to be doing and being frustrated when everyone stands in your way and tells you you’re wrong for wanting it; and there’s being vulnerable enough to admit that once you’ve made it to where you belong, you still need help and support adjusting to your new life. It’s not a bad character arc.
Some other smaller successes: Robert Pattinson, who apparently understood nothing of what he was saying, had a great Portuguese accent. And that Christina Perri song, which I was already a fan of, was really, really perfect for the wedding moment and the story as a whole.
There is plenty about the whole thing that is still sillypants and problematic, and a lot of the other actors are not talented. But I give Stewart and Pattinson props for making the best of what must have been an overwhelming experience and for actually making me feel like they had built real characters in the end.
So here’s to actually experiencing things before judging them. I think I’m now at a point where I can be totally ambivalent about Twilight. I feel no more need to be judgey, nor to make fun, nor to read the rest of the books, nor to watch the movies ever again.