Friday, August 20, 2010

Twilight, Twilight...

...first star I see tonight. No, wait. That’s something different.

In response to a previous post, Twilight asked about the recent vampire craze in entertainment circles, citing the Twilight / New Moon / Eclipse saga as perhaps the most prominent example. (And no, there is no relationship between Twilight the blogger and Twilight the book / movie. I can attest the former preceded the latter.) I am flattered she asked for my take on the subject, so here goes.

Okay, we have a series of popular books, turned into a series of equally popular movies, featuring a young person who discovers a hidden world they never knew existed. This world involves supernatural characters with amazing abilities, danger, conflict, and some intense relationships. Of course I’m talking about ... Harry Potter.

Yes, in my view, the world of Hogwarts, Hermione, and Voldemort shares many characteristics with Bella and her heart throbs, vampire Edward Cullen and werewolf Jacob Black. In fact, one might think of the Twilight series as Harry Potter for young teen girls. They both involve wonder and amazement as a perfectly ordinary teenager is drawn into a fantastical world, finding both friendship and danger in equal measure, as evil characters try to kill them, and valiant characters with magical abilities band together to help good triumph over evil. These are elements that have been making for good story making since the days of The Wizard of Oz and Alice in Wonderland.

But there is one significant difference between Harry Potter and Twilight, which targets the latter at an older (and more female) crowd. The Hogwarts series is primarily about what it must be like to experience magic, while the core theme of the Twilight series is young love. Bella falls in love with a vampire, and he with her. However you slice it, this is forbidden love. Predator and prey. Vivacious teenager just beginning life, hooked up with an undead creature from a time gone by. The ultimate innocent who wants to fade into the sunset with a beau whose youthful appearance belies his true age and experience.

So what makes this work as a love story? That’s easy. We can find many themes straight out of the Harlequin tradition. I’ve already mentioned forbidden love. We also find out that Edward has incredible strength, powerful protective instincts, which he uses to protect Bella again and again. He can take care of Bella. And on top of that, this vampire is the sensitive type. He just loves to lie around in a field of daisies discussing his feelings.

Oh, and all the ladies in the theater gasped when Jacob first took off his shirt. That scene didn’t do a thing for me, but I’m sure it helped ticket sales. So we even have bodice ripping ... with a twist.

There is one part of the story, though, that makes me shake my head. You see, some of my family members like to relax to books on CD, and Twilight is one of the books I hear playing from time to time. I wince every time I hear this line (and forgive me for paraphrasing here): “He leaned in close and pressed his cold, marble lips to hers.”

That’s when I hear the ripping noise in my head, the sound of someone stopping a record by yanking the turntable needle roughly across the album’s surface.

Cold, marble lips? Are you kidding me? What hot-blooded young gal would get turned on by that? And even if the handsome face, manly strength, and caring nature had her hooked to begin with, what teenage relationship could survive the equivalent of kissing a cold, unyielding statue?

I happen to believe that Mother Nature has an incredible hold on our inner desires. When our internal fires get burning, we human types crave warm, moist, and soft. (And I know a hard man is good to find, but even the most ripped set of six-pack abs you ever saw is soft compared with a rock.) There’s a reason they call it steamy sex. So I don’t believe any teenage girl would be content for long with marble boy.

But here’s the great thing about fiction. I don’t have to believe it! The fun of reading a book or going to the movies is that we get to suspend disbelief and just enjoy the ride. I don’t believe in flying brooms or magic wands either, but I think the entire Harry Potter series is brilliantly conceived and realized. I can put aside my common sense and say “Okay, go. Thrill me!”

So in my final analysis, the Twilight stories and other recent vampire fiction are succeeding at capturing the wonder of millions. They are good entertainment. This is provable, since otherwise so many people wouldn’t enjoy them. My advice? Pop up some Orville Redenbacher’s, turn off that rational part of your mind that expects the world to make sense ... and just enjoy!
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