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Friday, January 30, 2009

THE TEEN CULT FAVOURITE: Look beyond the mesmerizing glare to the message of Catherine Hardwicke's TWILIGHT!

We've all been there. You read the book or played the video game and now even if the movie sucks serious [insert rude comment here], you will still pledge alliance to it. The most recent being Twilight, following such popular trends as Harry Potter and High School Musical. I read the books, grudgingly, after being shut out of most conversations with my friends because I didn't have an opinion on Edward Cullen. But do I ever have an opinion now!

I had high hopes for this movie because the trailer was really interesting and because I didn't really like the book, I thought the movie might give it a chance. The really sad part is that it didn't. The concentration seemed to be on the atmosphere of the film instead of the characters and plot line. The acting was good at some moments and really, really bad at others, which made me question the editing and choices of the director. The plot doesn't really begin until about an hour into the film and the secondary character seem unnecessary in the storyline. The Cullen family seemed to be in the movie because they are in the book and you can't cut them out, though there nothing significant about their characters that impacts the story.

I felt like it was really difficult to understand Bella's character, not only because of her obsession with Edward, but because of her dismissal of her father who is nothing but nice to her, if a little distant. Kristen Stewart's performance is typical of a misunderstood teenage girl gone wrong. She is so entranced by the Cullens that she brushes off the quirky, interesting characters at her high school who seem to genuinely want to get to know her. She is a teenage snob obsessed with the grass on the other side, which does not give a good name to the teen romance or teen movies in general. The teenage stereotype is one too-cool-for-school or good-natured fun whether it be with friends or family, which makes it so easy for critics to smash them to pieces. Teens are depicted as one-dimensional characters who deal with problems without thought or care, which personally, I find insulting. If more movies were made about the different people trapped in a teenage body dealing with teenage circumstances, than it may come to be more respected. Success has come in movies like Juno and even Superbad, and performances by people like Ellen Page and Michael Cera.

This movie did fabulously well at the box office securing the sequel to come out next year. But it was nice to know that some people were noticing aspects beyond Edward Cullen's otherworldly appeal to the disturbing portrayals of l
ove that are being put into the minds of young girls today. A great summary of my basic problems with the series in general was written by blogger otahyoni in her review of the book :

I'm not going to go into the disturbing way Bella and Edward's obsessive relationship is portrayed as true love, or how borderline abusive it is, with Bella's complete lack of self outside Edward and Edward's controlling, emotionally unstable behavior.

Blogger avadriel has a similar attitude and some great insight into the problems of the series in her review. This is an attempt to save my readers from a rant about my somewhat feminist opinion of the love story, but I also think these are worth reading for a critical view into the scary phenomenon (scary for its popularity and the reasons behind it). But it was not just bloggers, another criticism I really respected was, again, by trustworthy Roger Ebert, who just can't seem to understand women. This review proves Ebert's wisdom and insight into human nature which is really interesting to read compared with his skill to recognize a film for what it is. But I will end in the way Ebert has taught me. Fans will love this movie just as they loved the book and rightly so. My only suggestion would be to investigate what they love so much about it and take a more critical stance as to why, because the results might give some surprising personal insight.

Favoiurite quote: "Well, since I'm already going to hell." - Edward Cullen
Chemistry level
: 4/5 I think the fact that he wants to kill her, even kills some of the chemistry even on a subconscious level. Otherwise, their attraction is, admittedly, interesting to watch.
Best performance
: Billy Burke's quiet, contemplative, and somewhat distanced father of Bella, Charlie Swan, is right on the ball. He is so likable that when Bella treats him badly, it makes it very hard to like or sympathize with her. I felt bad for him for having to deal with such an angsty, self-obsessed brat.
Most Awkward Moment: When Bella and Edward admit their feelings for each other. It's not all in the performance, even the blocking makes me cringe. Their pained faces are about an inch from each other as they admit these deep, dark emotions that is so unbelievable. I just don't believe the intensity of the feelings they have for each other, and they way it was visually presented on-screen didn't help.
Lack of Realism: I can't understand why Bella puts up with Edward's mood swings: "Your mood swings are starting to give me whiplash". Who is honestly attracted to, nay, obsessed with someone who plays mind games? Should she stay away or do you want to be friends? Please pick one. If the guy doesn't have enough confidence in himself to convince you to go out with him, his chances in real life of getting a date is slim.
Cullen Family or Fork's High Students: The high school kids were normal, seemed nice and knew how to have fun. The Cullen glared at her and brushed her off with cool disregard (no pun intended). So why, I ask, did the Cullen family hold such appeal? Maybe the same reason Edward did. I still wanted more of the kids who humped trees to get her attention and called her Arizona. The Cullens paled in comparison (pun intended).
Edward Cullen, Hot or Not?: I like Robert Pattinson. I think he's really interesting and he brought a lightheartedness to the character that wasn't in the book. I also respected that it wasn't an arrogant performance because the character is so beloved. But how is one to create a facial expression of wanting to suck human blood exactly? Sadly, it turned out pretty comical.


  1. I love how this was titled 'The Teen Cult Favourite' because the following for it really is scary. Given I'm a Harry Potter fan, so I know how crazy a large fan base can get. However, the difference I found between the two genres was similar to the one you found; the sickeningly obsessive love story. Don't get me wrong, I'm a sucker for a sappy-romantic love story, but this was not based on love; it was an obsession with the unknown and how far the main character was willing to go to feel like she belonged with Edward. It was also a quest to claim how beautiful he was in comparison to her, and how she would never be able to measure up.
    This girl needs a dose of self-esteem STAT.
    Twilight essentially teaches young girls that if they don’t like who they are, that’s okay. You don’t have to like yourself; because a big, strong, intelligent, handsome, rich man is going to come along and sweep you off your feet, and everything is going to be okay again. Anyone else find that kind of scary? Why couldn’t the story teach teenagers to be happy with who they are? Why can’t it teach them that instead of striving for perfection, embrace your flaws, because they too are a part of who you are. It takes light and shadow to make a beautiful picture, and if Bella truly loved Edward, she would have found his flaws, and loved him despite of them.

  2. I wish I had the space in my blog to get more into it but this was stated perfectly. I feel the exact same way and am so happy to have it in writing on my blog, even in the comments. I wish people discussed these aspects more and why it is so popular among young girls. If this is what they think the ideal love of an ideal man is, than this generation needs serious therapy. I'm no doctor but next to your recommended dose of self-esteem, I might add some self-preservation, compassion and some wise, female guidance. Ebert says it beautifully; older women are too smart to fall for this love story. I only wish they would bring their insight to the table and talk about it with their daughters.

  3. I actually found Ebert's review to be highly uninformative. When I read it (and you'll have to bear with me as my memory is a tad fuzzy) I couldn't help but notice that Ebert had no idea what he was talking about when he was telling us the plot. For a man that's supposed to be the 'best' movie reviewer in North America, he dropped the ball just a tad, in my opinion. It's either that, or he's been so hyped that I couldn't keep my high expectations of him from making me notice this flaw.
    His other points are valid, and I agree with them whole-heartedly, but his review of the plot could have been better. I understand that you can't give away the plot without spoiling the movie, but telling people who haven't watched the movie or read the books something that's very off doesn't seem like a good review to me.

    Now on to the movie itself. I saw the movie three times, much to my chagrin. It was very two dimensional. There was nothing to discover a second or third time through. The only characters with any personality were the secondary ones (being the Forks High School students, Charlie Swan, and Billy Black). That makes for a bad movie, IMO, when the main characters who are on-screen for 90% of the film don't have enough presence to hold your attention.

    I can only hope that young females who read the books/watch the movie(s) realize that some things require a pinch of salt to be 'enjoyed'.

  4. I must say that I thoroughly enjoyed the movie and the books (expect the second which I found to be out of place) but I do agree with a few things you mentioned. The first being that there are a few times where the acting was not as well as it should have been. I also believe that some of the scenes where not done well, but I suppose that could have been from their low budget.

    I also agree that there are a lot of young girls that have an obsession with Twilight and especially Edward. However, I have to disagree that the book/movie is putting a disturbing portrayal of love into young girl's minds. I think that most realize that the entire book/movie is unrealistic and therefore not a realistic portrayal of love. It's about vampires so I mean of course it's unrealistic, but I think that most separate fact from fiction. I cannot say "everyone" who reads Twilight realizes it is not real because there are some young girls who are taking the book too seriously, and you are right that is disturbing. I think that once they get over the book, which will happen fast when something new comes along, their ideas on love and what it is will change. But besides that I really enjoy reading your post, it made me look at the book from a different view.

  5. Ebert's review does not lack in any way. It's one of my favourite reviews of his EVER. There is a vague plot overview spread throughout the review because he's very aware that the movie has NO plot until the last twenty minutes or so. A plot summary is impossible for this kind of movie, so he stuck to the most important parts, dissecting Edward and Bella's characters and relationship. This is something I wish I could of done in my review, but am glad to address it in comments.

    THANKS Lacy! I really appreciate your comment and am so glad you could read my post with an open mind. I can't say I agree with your opinion on the obvious fictitious nature of the love story, but I really hope you're right. I think the age group that this is directed to is very vulnerable and gullible. Stephanie Meyer believes this love story herself, so I'm not surprised that her audience does as well. I wish writers would write more responsibly and with more awareness while also creating a great world of fantasy.

    NOTE TO TWILIGHT FANS: Believe it or not, I am actually a quasi-fan of the series. I really enjoyed the rest of the series and am devoted to the character, Jacob (who I would add to LUNAR-WOLFPIGGY's interesting secondary characters). And my opinion of the movie was not near as harsh of some people that I know. I will rent and by the movie on DVD. I really expected more from the writing, directing and editing so that I would become a full fan, but it didn't happen. I will stay positive and still hope for greatness from it's sequel, New Moon.

  6. Hmm, I've only heard good things about this movie, even from other guys. But I found your post very interesting. I'll definitely keep this in mind while watching it (some day ;] ). Now I know both sides of what people thought. Yey!

  7. This is popular with the guys?? I would never have guessed that. All the guys I know are threatened by women's intense love for Edward Cullen. But true fantasy film lovers are loyal to anything in their genre and this movie is a little dark. I encourage people to see it wholeheartedly. Just think about it critically too.

  8. Eh, I guess I should clarify. The guys I know who were forced into seeing it with their girlfriends said: "yeah, it was alright."
    Considering that they probably *were* threatened by the lovey-dovey stuff, I'd say that's "good things to say". :D

  9. I get what you're saying. True enough! Please let me know what you think of it when you see it, I'm really interested in a movie-loving guys opinion. Especially a horror guy's because it might just hook you for that reason.

    And thank you so much to everyone who commented on this post! It's become pretty popular. It's an obsessive topic for me that I love discussing so keep it up, I'm with you all the way!

  10. Okydoka! I've watched it a while back, and forgot to come back and say what I thought. :0

    As I recall, it was alright enough. Though it felt a little flat, and [your criticisms], it still managed to be enjoyable. I think what I liked most was the awkwardness between Edward and Bella before they finally admit to their feelings and whatnot. It was funneh. :)

    Interesting take on vampires, what with the... sparkles and sports and etceteras. Somehow the love story didn't seem to upset my movie-loving-guy senses. :D Maybe because of what was mentioned somewhere above: it wasn't so much love as obsession. Could be that it was said impurity of the 'love' that allows male watchers to say "it was alright".

    The action (when it happened), I'm foggy on now. I think I remember it being somewhere in the range of 'cool' to 'dece'.

    I probably won't watch it again, unless 'encouraged' to by someone else, but I don't regret watching it. And heck, I might rent the rest once they make their way, in turn, to the cheap-rack. ;)

  11. Yay, Pierre! I love that you saw their relationship as obsession, because that is exactly my point.
    So guys don't mind it because the love story is impure?? I'm not entirely sure. I would suggest that the whole thing is based in sexual attraction (see Ebert's review) and that is something a guys could totally relate to. It's not so much the love as it is the sex, no matter how many teenage girls misinterpret it, and that is something guys can connect to.
    I would recommend you also go see New Moon, when it comes out. I'm actually excited about it, new director, new story, less Edward and Bella nonsense and my favourite...Jacob and the werewolves. I might just write my first post in a year about it, if I have thoughts to share.
    Please be good New Moon! I am rooting for you.