My review.

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The last movie of this genre I watched had Christopher Lee as the Werewolf Hunter. In this movie, the Werewolves engaged in a periodic orgy in which a newly converted nubile female would would be converted into a wolf-like form to have repeated dog-like copulations with a male vampire-wolf counterpart under the observation of the king and/or queen vampire and a dwarf. Or something like that. I came in during the middle of the movie and never quite got it. But it was obvious, and this is always true in traditional vampire and werewolf movies, that the Catholic Church is very much in the business of killing the vampires and any spare werewolves that happen to be around.

So there are two things to know about vampire and werewolf movies. 1) There is always a Christian/Good vs. Satanic/Evil dichotomy, and the Christian/Good side always wins; and 2) There is always some kind of dumb theme such as werewolf sex orgies or the old guy in the castle inviting over the young couple theme or something in between. There are exceptions to this, but these two characteristics mark every vampire movie or book I’ve ever seen or read up to but not really including Anne Rice.

Twilight is post-Rice. The soul is mentioned, eternal damnation is hinted at, but there is clearly a great deal of uncertainty about an afterlife, no mention of god, and the prevailing philosophy seems to border on agnosticism among the vampires, werewolves, and in-the-know humans. We do not see a priest in either movie. Only the vaguest historical reference to the church is made (one of the vampires and his father were vampire hunters for the church, in the old days). That’s the movie. In the books on which the movies are based there is, I’m told, a lively discussion on the matter of god. religion, hell, etc. and there is a great diversity of opinion.

The socially appropriate response to Twilight and New Moon is, of course, to reject them and ridicule anyone who might watch them. There are certainly things that can be criticized (understatement of the month). But it is worth pausing to examine this reaction. I posted on my Facebook account that I was watching the DVD of Twilight, and the next day, I posted that I just came back from the theater having watched New Moon. The most common response was “why.” Most of the comments were snarky, funny, and I certainly appreciated them, but what I realized is that most commenters did not appreciate what I was doing watching the movie. I was watching a teenage movie with my teenage daughter. It’s not like I have to watch every teenage movie she might like, but now and then we go to a movie together and that’s what we did this time. (Watching the DVD of Twilight was my prep for going to the theater to watch “New Moon” … obviously.)

I found the overall negativity about Twilight interesting. First, it is obvious that all of my friends on Facebook are movie snobs. They probably think Leslie Nielson movies suck too. Huh. I am not a movie snob, which makes me a much much happier person, I assure you. I hardly ever regret spending the seven bucks entry fee. Movie snobs must be very unhappy people, going to all those movies then complaining about them later.

Of course, most of these people are not really movie snobs. They are just caught up in the cultural norm of not liking certain things, or more exactly, not failing to have certain kinds of negative comments about certain things. The thing, the comment on the thing, or the relevance of the comment (the “thing” about the thing) are never important. What is important is that you know what the comment is supposed to be and when to make it. Like grammatical rules. Social interaction has a grammar, it turns out. But that is another blog post, for another time, I think.

The point is that Twilight and New Moon are in fact teenager movies, as were all of the other pre-Rice vampire movies ever made. Twilight and New Moon are made more for female teenagers and sensitive males (we met some at the theater) including kids who want some serious monster action mixed in with their romance. Earlier vampire movies were made more for adolescent boys (and their immature 20-something counterparts) who liked a little gratuitous animalistic sex mixed in with their Gothic god vs. Satan themes.

Putting it a slightly different way: I’ve hardly ever seen a vampire or werewolf movie that did not have some significant element …. like most of the movie in some cases … that made me cringe. Twilight and New Moon made me cringe because of the teenage angst and the whole “how long before they kiss” thing. I did not cringe because of absurd orgy scenes, because of god-Christian-crossy-holy water themes, because of overacted Transylvanians or because of exploitation of dwarves.

So on Balance, Twilight and New Moon enter the panoply of movies about vampires and werewolves with two thumbs up from me. Relatively speaking.

Added:
Buffy vs. Edward (Thanks Ana)


See also this review of Twilight.

Comments

  1. #1 becca
    December 5, 2009

    What’s your take on Interview with the Vampire then?

  2. #2 Gabby
    December 5, 2009

    I didn’t see that on your facebook page but I can appreciate what you’re saying.
    Still… I wanna make fun of you a little.

  3. #3 Greg Laden
    December 5, 2009

    Becca: I’ve not seen the movie. I’m not sure I’ve seen any of the Rice-based movies other than a few scenes. I have read most of Rice’s vampire books, and could probably comment on that. I mostly enjoyed them.

    What do you think about Interview?

  4. #4 bad Jim
    December 5, 2009

    In the last season of True Blood, a thousand-year-old vampire decided to commit suicide by sunlight. As he waited for dawn on a rooftop, he asked Sookie, the heroine, “Do you believe in God?” It seemed like an odd question for a magical creature.

  5. #6 Todd
    December 5, 2009

    The movies are okay, but I loved the Twilight books. To be honest, I don’t really understand the level of animosity towards them.

    I am certainly not the typical Twilight fan though. I’m a queer male atheist who was raised in the mormon church.

    I am also a huge horror fan, so my taste in vampire fiction usually leans toward “Let the right one in”, “Lost Souls” by Poppy Z. Brite, or the “30 Days of Night” graphic novels.

    I have heard people criticize Twilight as pushing mormonism, but I just do not see it. And, my distaste for mormon theology is strong enough that I cannot watch “Battlestar Galactica”.

    Sure, the characters do not have sex until marriage, and there is some talk of a soul in the books. But, that’s it.

    I also understand the reasons why feminists don’t like the books, I just don’t agree with them.

    I love old Hammer films and Christopher Lee. I agree with you that there was way more christian theology and morality in those movies than in Twilight.

    To me, it just seems like our society often dismisses anything that is aimed at girls as being trivial or stupid. There are a great many horrible movies out there aimed at teen boys, but they just do not get the same level of animosity.

    I mean, come on, like the Transformers movie was a work of genius.

  6. #7 Ana
    December 5, 2009

    Cool that you added that link, Greg, but I think it belongs on a separate post – you don’t talk at all here about the aspects of the movies (books) to which it pertains. If this were my blog ;) I would change the post title to ‘Skeptic and Atheist MALES…’, or ‘Egocentric Males’ or whatever, because I could never say that any female, skeptic or otherwise, ‘Should Be Happy’. Kinds makes me wretch, that title up there, actually…

  7. #8 ana
    December 5, 2009

    kindA retch
    :P

  8. #9 Greg Laden
    December 5, 2009

    Ana, did you see the DVD version or the theatre version?

    I thought the video nicely counter balanced my review exactly because I only addressed one or two aspects of the film.

    The idea that this is a male perspective is …. so 70s.

  9. #10 Ana
    December 5, 2009

    You know I haven’t seen the movies, Greg – I told you so when I sent you the mashup. Call me whatever you want, but what I meant by my comment was that I’m not so comfortable compartmentalizing, and while the skeptical atheist in me might be happy about the somewhat lesser role of the Church in today’s vampire stories (but really, I’ve never cared for vampires), the woman in me will never be so happy and she resents being told that she ‘Should’.

  10. #11 Greg Laden
    December 5, 2009

    Now … a little less distracted than I was a moment ago.

    In my usual over-the-top subtlety I made two big errors in this post. First, I totally failed to directly and overtly address numerous issues about these films that have been widely discussed elsewhere, and which, frankly, I thought would dominate my own view of the film once I actually saw it. (Which reminds me: I’d appreciate it if anyone saying anything good or bad, or more importantly, specific, about the film(s) tell us if you’ve seen the film(s) or not. That would be helpful). And it did to some extent. Julia and I had a bit of a running commentary about several aspects of both movies, as well as jokes about some of the critiques. But on seeing the film, I realized the two or three points noted above … that became the point of this review.

    So, my first error was to not write about what readers might expect to see or assume would be there or even want to see. I wrote about the parts I wanted to write about instead, and ignored everything else.

    And of course, when I call that an error, I’m being really sarcastic. (But I did add a link provided to me by Abigail Southworth on facebook, to a review that is less tongue in cheek and oriented towards the usual criticism. I’m not endorsing that review having not read it yeat, but it comes well recommended.)

    The second error in subtlety was contextualizing my review (with respect to the above) in one sentence only and at the end. See last sentence. No, actually, READ the last sentence. I’ve added the bolding subsequent to posting this, and I added the word “relatively” to the title.

    Now, I eagerly await the production of a movie about a vampire where the vampire is not a stalker.

    Oh, sorry, being sarcastic again….

  11. #12 Greg Laden
    December 5, 2009

    Call me whatever you want

    I only want to call you my friend.

    I totally get what you are saying about compartmentlaizing. I guess my point here and on FB about snobbery is about that exactly … (and I’m probably being OT with the snobbery thing, but really I do get annoyed at most people’s opinons about movies for some reason) … the point being that I can and do compartmentalize popular culture not so much to enjoy it but to understand it and in the end survive it. So I’d rather not support a movie that had one good part but a highly objectionable other part, but I do very much want to understand a book and a movie that my progressive liberal atheist daughter is into. And in this case, in so doing, I found out a positive feature of the film.

    No where do I say I like vampire/werewolf films very much. I’d much prefer Zombie films. But again, and this is where relativity comes in, in the two films I saw, no virgin were tied to staked and raped, no townspeople were manipulated for the fear of god, there was no intermingling of violence and sex. For a vampire/werewolf film that’s not so bad. The main character is a female who is strong, if angstful. She defeats the vampires and socially controls the werewolf. That surprised me.

    Now I’m going to go read that review I linked to.

  12. #13 Greg Laden
    December 5, 2009

    The review is interesting and mostly makes valid points. It does leave a lot out, some of which I alluded to. The review more or less takes the course of least resistance in declaring the film simply bad in most respects. It asks for elements to be added that in some cases would be nice, but also asks for things that one really can’t ask for.

    The main valid point made by Rodriguez, IMO, is that Bella (the female) does not react at all to Edward (the vampire) stalking her, or at least, she does not react much, and certainly not enough to be memorable. Later (not noted by Rodriguez, strangely) Bella exploit’s Edward’s stalkiness to bring him back from his self imposed exile by doing dangerous thing that she might need protecting from.

    Rodriguez’s comment that The message of the film is that true love conquers all through near-complete passivity on the part of the female partner. If you love him enough and don’t resist when your boyfriend doesn’t respect your boundaries or has violent tendencies, the movie suggests, everything will turn out wonderfully. is partly true, but for the part about everything turning out wonderfuly (it is actually turning out tragically, apparently). Also, this paragraph reminds me, it is interesting that it is the werewolf that makes the point to Bella that she should not hang around with monsters.

  13. #14 Dana
    December 5, 2009

    @Todd – I don’t think the book were “pushing” Mormonism, but they were definitely full of Mormon language & ideas. I was brought up Mormon, myself, and I think that my recognizing certain ultra-Mormon tendencies in the book was just a case of “it takes one to know one.”

  14. #15 Stephanie Z
    December 6, 2009

    I don’t see many movies because I don’t like many movies. They just aren’t what I’m looking for in my entertainment. And that includes most of what people talk about when they talk about “good movies.” I generally find myself resenting how manipulative those films are.

    A campy vampire flick though? That I’ll usually go see. I groaned through the first two Underworld movies but don’t begrudge my time at all. I did, after all, go see the second one. Sober.

    I don’t have any interest in seeing the Twilight films, but it doesn’t have anything to do with whether they’re “good movies” or not. The romance doesn’t appeal; I don’t want to spend more time in high school, even in a movie; and hairless teenage boy bodies pimped as sex objects completely trip my pedophilia meter, no matter how their muscles look. There would almost certainly not be enough enjoyment for me to offset the troubling themes.

    That said, if my niece wanted me to see one of the films with her instead of going with her friends, that would change the equation completely.

  15. #16 Andrea
    December 6, 2009

    As the parent of a teenage girl, I have to wonder what you think about the messages beyond religious issues that the movies and (especially) the books are sending. Stalking is a sign of true love. Kidnapping your girlfiend for her own good is acceptable. Co-dependence is healthy. If he leaves you with bruises, but only by accident, it’s okay…

    Most of the objections that I’ve heard to the books center around those particular issues (as well as the author’s fanatic promotion of mormon ideals of abstinence, fetishized virginity and female passivity)… It’s kind-of odd that the mere absence of Catholicism earns this series relatively positive marks from you…

    It really has nothing to do with being ‘snobbish.’

  16. #17 Isaac
    December 6, 2009

    Does it help that the muscle rippling teenage boys are in fact 200 years old?

  17. #18 Stephanie Z
    December 6, 2009

    Isaac, no more than it helps to know they were almost certainly waxed to get that hairless.

  18. #19 Greg Laden
    December 6, 2009

    Andrea, I usually react to a phrase like “I have to wonder what you think bla bla bla” with something uncharitable, but I put that aside to read the rest of your comment. But I was not impressed.

    As I have stated, I agree with many of the criticisms of this movie that have been made by people who have actually seen it. At the same time, some of the critiques are formulaic and inaccurate, though for the most part those are minor quibbles. But sloppy criticism can be more damaging than helpful sometimes, and certainly making strong judgements on hearsay without clearly specifying the basis of one’s judgments is also unhelpful. (BTY, you have not stated that you’ve seen the movies as requested.)

    The series did not earn “positive marks” from me. The movies (I have not read the books) earned a snarky note of confidence for a limited set of reasons. Perhaps you have never seen a vampire movie. Please consider the context.

    As to how I manage this as a parent: I avoid telling her what she can’t do, and I engage in doing things with her at my encouragement (I don’t wait for her to ask, but rather, we have active engagement in various aspects of each other’s lives) and we learn together, talk about what we experience, and generally kick ass.

  19. #20 luna1580
    December 6, 2009

    i realize you are making a point to review the films, not the books, but if you take one look at twilight-fandom you will notice these (mostly) young people went to see the films after reading the books multiple times, basically no one -other than a dragged along parent or date- is viewing these films without the books in mind.

    so, if you support the films, by paying money to see them or drawing positive attention to them, you are really supporting the books by default.

    and the books are poorly, poorly written pro-abstinence morality tales that are also extremely sexist. how can a blog community that freaks out over the word “shrew” let anything about twilight get a free pass?

    i see you have already been linked to skepchick’s take above, and here is a piece with internal links to some more serious thoughts on “the lessons” of twilight:

    http://www.slashfilm.com/2008/12/05/how-twilight-is-destroying-america-and-harming-our-nations-youth/

    and here http://www.cracked.com/funny-36-twilight/ is a humorous-but-none-the-less-accurate description of “the lessons” from the whole series, including such gems as:

    “If a guy dumps you and says he doesn’t love you anymore, he doesn’t mean it. All you have to do is beg and destroy your life to prove that you really love him, and he’ll come right back and love you even more!”

    and: “If a girl says she doesn’t love you, just keep sexually assaulting her. Eventually she’ll realize she likes it.”

    and finally: “It doesn’t matter if he hurts you. He only did it because he loves you.”

    maybe none of this is apparent in the films, but as the films are not viewed in isolation from the books by 99% of their audience it seems ridiculous not to mention these points.

    twilight is hateable because it is sexist and misogynistic on top of being written with less finesse than most short stories penned by actual middle schoolers…..

    (p.s. maybe the catholic church fails to figure into the twilight universe because stephanie meyer is a devote mormon who doesn’t care much for the pope, not because the films are taking vampire metaphors out of a religious realm…..)

  20. #21 Greg Laden
    December 6, 2009

    Luna, thanks for the links.

    You are right in that I have no opinion on the books, having not read them. I expressed a narrowly defined opinion on the movies which I have seen. I’m sure that all the criticisms you outline here are worthy of consideration.

    how can a blog community that freaks out over the word “shrew” let anything about twilight get a free pass?

    This is not a community and the day Scienceblogs tells me that I can’t post an opinion on something is my last day here.

    BTW, did you see the films? (People are not following the roolz!!!)

  21. #22 luna1580
    December 6, 2009

    greg, i would argue that the collective authors of science blogs and the regular multi-blog readership constitutes an informal community, if it didn’t it would be possible for things like the “shrew debacle” to get both written about and commented on at multiple blogs here.

    i was not implying that anyone should ever tell you what to write, more attempting (poorly it looks like) to show my surprise that more readers and writers here hadn’t commented on the undeniable sexism in meyer’s works if they had bothered to comment on twilight at all.

    no, i didn’t see the films. i know that breaks your rule, but paying to watch them would break my rule about not supporting twilight in any form. and i have to say that i’m almost as offended that such poor writing has become such a phenomenon as i am about what the “saga” “teaches” its fans.

  22. #23 luna1580
    December 6, 2009

    oops, -wouldn’t be possible-

  23. #24 luna1580
    December 6, 2009

    p.s. greg, be sure to read the 30-some comments after the slashfilm link i gave above, they really show what is going on here.

    (and “twi-moms” -you know, the one’s who read their kid’s copies of the books and fell more in love with edward than with any real human in their lives or age group? are perhaps the freakiest part of this whole odd fandom. the response to twilight shows us so much about our current culture and the lives and minds of some women, and this is much more interesting to me then the films as movies could ever be).

  24. #25 Greg Laden
    December 6, 2009

    Luna, it is sort of a community, but only in the sense that a particular neighborhood is a community … common objectives or interests may bring people in a neighborhood together more easily than people across town, but there may be people who don’t even know each other.

    I think you are right to point out the lack of interest in Twilight. The phenomenon is talked about a lot more in other areas of the blogosphere. Part of that may be because this, ah, shall we say “community” [ :-) ] has a fair number of “skeptical” bloggers but they are mostly a) medical or climate change and b) male. The Sb mainly feminist bloggers write mostly about career issues. Thus, we may be more likely to see something on this film on Skepchicks.

    I just want to add this: My main reaction to the film has to be understood in the context that I expected it to be uredemibly vapid. I had heard the criticisms of the books regarding Mormonism, etc, but I had also heard criticisms of Narnia and Harry Potter, and frankly didn’t pay much attention to these critiques of Twilight. I had heard about the sexism, of course, and expected that as well. So, when I saw redeeming qualities (as I say … no one was dismembered while being raped, or whatever, and the non-churchy part of it) I thought it worthy of mention because these things seem to have not been noted before.

    It does not break the rule to have not watched them! (or read the books) I just think that people should mention if they’ve read a book they are commenting on or seen a film they are commenting on. OI also do not mean to say that oe can’t comment on a film one has not seen. It’s just important to know.

  25. #26 Greg Laden
    December 6, 2009

    Luna: I did read those posts and comments.

    One thing that is clear: There is a lot of confusion between the books and the movies. I take your point that this is all one phenomenon (but no, I don’t think I’ll be educating my self further on this by reading the books!) … but cogent evidence based arguments do require some level of accuracy to be valid. One commenter notes, for instance, that Bella and Edward marry so that they can have sex, but as far as I can tell, in the movies, the plan is to marry so that Bella can become a vampire. NOt that one is better than the other, or worse, or whatever, but it is simply true that what is going on in the books is not the same thing as what is going on in the movies with respect to one of the common critiques.

    A few other interesting things emerge:

    1) A lot of teenage girls are simply saying that they liked the books/movies.

    2) The arguments against the books/movies, suggesting that they are damaging, have a very similar form to most arguments I’ve heard in the past about the damaging nature of things teenagers are doing.

    3) Everyone seems to have forgotten, since we are critiquing an actual story (book/movie) and not a philosophy or movement of some sort, that all these bad features people are pointing out apropos Edward are … well, stupposed to be there. Edward is a vampire. They stalk, they manipulate. The vampire, in every vampire story ever written, takes control of the minds of their intended partners. As a story, if we wanted this to be a better set of lessons for teenagers, Edward could stay the same and Bella could be more Buffy-fied. I’m just sayin.

  26. #27 Stephanie Z
    December 6, 2009

    Greg, have you read Saberhagen’s Dracula books?

  27. #28 Greg Laden
    December 6, 2009

    I have read some. I read The Dracula Tape about when it came out, and at least one other one, not sure which.

    By the way my absolutely favorite Dracula book (and possibly vampire book) is The Historian.

  28. #29 Greg Laden
    December 6, 2009

    In the above comment, I should have said “In every vampire movie I’ve ever seen” … and in almost every vampire book every written with only minor exceptions. In fact, the lack of a mind control feature of a vampire would be notable. In Twilight, the mind control and mind interaction features are diverse.

  29. #30 Elfie
    December 6, 2009

    @4 – that story arc in True Blood felt fake all the way through. It was too obvious that we were watching a 2000-year old vampire’s wisdom through the lense of a shallow 35-year old writer. Waaaay too cliche.

    And I can’t stand the say they pronounce “Sookie” on that show. I keep hoping they finally kill her off just so we don’t have to hear “Sookie” in a southern accent ever again…

  30. #31 Aquaria
    December 6, 2009

    Haven’t seen the movie–won’t see it, either.

    1) I’m not a movie snob. If I were a movie snob I wouldn’t have watched the Hana Yori Dango film (okay, so I’ll watch anything with Matsumoto Jun in it–sue me!). My problem is that I don’t like most movies at all. They’re usually stupid or sexist or just plain boring.

    2) I’m sodding vampired-out. The genre has completely jumped the shark for me. It’s been done. And done. And done. I’m sorry, but enough is enough!

    3) The main boy character in Halfwit–er, Twilight–grosses me out. He’s not merely unattractive to me; he’s repulsive. If I don’t pay to look at vomit, why the f would I pay to look at that tosser?

  31. #32 gwen
    December 6, 2009

    ….I’m just not into the ‘helpless clueless female’ needing rescuing or being abused by the strong young man.The whole concept seems to be a bad example for impressionable young girls.

  32. #33 Penel
    December 6, 2009

    How people can possibly comment on the books or the movies without seeing them is very strange to me …
    Why can’t people take the books as they are meant – they are fiction, fantasy – a girl falling in love with a boy – he is the perfect boy, he just happens to be a vampire – which she finds out after she has fallen for him. Don’t all girls want a boyfriend who feels protective over them, who is strong, who desires them more anything (but will abstain to protect them – in one way or other). And the reverse is true, Bella risks her life to save Edward’s (in Italy) because she loves him more than anything. I don’t think SM wrote the books for any kind of social comment, everyone is taking them far too seriously IMO. I love being able to discuss the books and movies with my friends, my sisters in law, and my nieces (14 and 11) – I am a 39 (very happily)(athiest)(self employed) married woman (who generally does not enjoy the vampire genre), and not at all embarrassed about having read them all and seen the movies. Why would I be – everyone is far too cynical about love nowadays, which is a great shame, after all, what is life about, if not love ?

  33. #34 Donna B.
    December 6, 2009

    Haven’t read the books, haven’t seen the movies, don’t intend to do either.

    With that out of the way, it seems to me that some are mocking the abstinence part as bad because it is supposedly Mormon based… am I reading that wrong? I’m not saying it was said outright, but sort of implied.

    If I’m right, that’s not something to mock. While I would never have depended on my children (they’re all grown up now) to never have sex before marriage, it is an ideal that is not bad, as long as one remembers that ideal part.

    Abstinence as a substitute for sex education is incredibly stupid, and that’s not what I’m talking about.

  34. #35 Greg Laden
    December 6, 2009

    Donna, I don’t know. There is no sex in the movies, but there is no abstinence either. One assumes that the kids are getting it on but that they left it out of the scenes for the ratings. Honestly, there is no Mormon Abstinence theme in the movie. The “I’m saving sex for marriage” is not there. It may have been replaced by “I’m saving my vampireness for marriage.”

    I might actually question that it is in the book as well. As bad as these books and movies may well be, the critiques of the movies are not accurate. For instance, it is claimed in one of the links above (by, it seems, the only person other than me who has actually seen the movies) that Edward falls for Bella for her beauty and the implication is that she must become a vampire to preserve this. But this is clearly not true. Bella is the only person Edward has met who’s mind he can’t read. This seems to increase his stalkiness, but it also is why he is interested in her. When Bella later confronts him with the fact that she is aging, after she has a dream about this, and says “What happens when I look like a grandma” he says that this does not matter to him.

    So yes, this is all fucked up, but key specific points about the way in which this film is fucked up are being glossed and ignored, almost fictionalized as they are passed among people who are being uncritically skeptical and not using the primary source. Next thing you know we’ll be hearing about how the earth is getting warmer due to human-released nitrogen, and everyone must get vaccinated in order to keep away the bogey man.

    Of coruse, if I am seen as defending the stupid films or the books, I will be thrown off the cliff like Piggy so I quickly add: “Those movies were really sexist and horrible as are all movies Elevntee!!!11!! times TEN!! How dare I watched them!!!11!!”

  35. #36 Barn Owl
    December 6, 2009

    So what did your movie snob friends expect you to do, Greg? Refuse to see the movie, and forbid your daughter from seeing it? Let her see the movie with friends, and then miss the opportunity to have a dialogue with her about the series?

    Re: vampire films, my favorite is Herzog’s Nosferatu, the Vampyre – definitely preceded the “vampires-as-extraordinarily-attractive-individuals” meme. Klaus Kinski is not an attractive individual to begin with (though his daughter Nastassja is an entirely different matter, of course), and there’s a general theme of decay and disease throughout the film.

    The irony of older adults on Facebook being snobs about anything is fecking HI-larious, btw.

  36. #37 luna1580
    December 6, 2009

    about the sex-or-lack-there-of, greg you made a good point earlier -all westernized vampires from the gothic/romantic literature and later films are associated with some form of stalking/manipulation/possession of their victims or intended victims, edward is nothing special here. (although it’s a bit unique that readers like penel above see him not as a classic vampire-monster who’d be expected to do nasty things like stalking, but as “the perfect boy, he just happens to be a vampire” and “perfect boys” aren’t usually stalkers………)

    but it’s also recognized that in this same literary tradition vampirism -most importantly the actual bloodsucking act- was a not-so-subtle symbol of sexual acts. if you couldn’t write a novel that victorians could discuss in mixed company because it contained explicit sex scenes, you could always cloak the seduction and taking of the lady -often the virgin upper class lady- in the vampires uhm, cloak. neck biting was a more “polite” way to get the passion of a good sex scene into your book. so, in this respect, twilight is also giving us nothing new with “vampirism is a metaphor for fucking”.

    but edward is a “vegetarian” vampire! he resists eating bella and any other human animals, which is pretty much the vamp-lit equivalent of wearing a promise ring and actually meaning it…… so even if the books and films don’t mention explicitly that the characters are avoiding giving in to human hormonal passions, it’s obvious to readers out of their tweens that they are doing just that in vampire metaphor. in the twi-world edward resisting feeding off of and then turning bella is precisely the same thing as him refusing to give in to a sexual desire for her….. in the vamp-lit metaphor for life every time you talk about blood-lust you’d be talking about regular lust-lust in any other literary genre.

    from this perspective the books are strongly about resisting sexual temptation, edward has got to be the first vampire pop-hero who doesn’t even devour human victims. no regular sex and no blood sucking = some sucky, wimpy vampires, who must have been written that way for a reason.

  37. #38 lawguy
    December 6, 2009

    My wife and I tried to watch the first one. After watching it for two and a half hours, it turned out that the movie had only been on for 27 minutes. It was possibly the most boring movie I have ever seen. Nothing happened.

  38. #39 Leni
    December 6, 2009

    I haven’t seen the movies or read the books. A friend was a fan of the series and we discussed it quite a bit though. She liked the stories, but was very put off by the creepy relationship for the usual reasons.

    In my opinion, the Buffy vs. Edward mash-up illustrates exactly what is wrong with Twilight. I love that video. The first time I saw it I laughed until I cried and found myself yelling “Get him, Buffy! Stake the fucker!” and cheering at the end when she does. And I say this as an enormous vampire fiction fan. But I’m in it largely for the camp and gore and fighting. The romance stuff mostly turns me off.

    I’m ok with portrayals of bad relationships and the like, but I can’t get past the creepiness of the Bella/Edward thing. And Greg, I think you’re wrong about the saving of vampireness for marriage. In the books, they don’t have sex until they are married. You might think sex is implied, but it isn’t. Note in the review below, the author points out that Meyers has explicitly stated that she “draws the line at pre-marital sex”. She doesn’t supply a source or a direct quote, so take it for what it’s worth. Seems about right, though.

    This is a quote from that review:

    Now that’s a real fantasy: a world where young women are free to describe their desires openly, and launch themselves at men without shame, while said boyfriends are the sexual gatekeepers. Twilight’s sexual flowchart is the inversion of abstinence-only/purity ball culture, where girls are told that they must guard themselves against rabid boys, and that they must reign in both their own and their suitors’ impulses. But even while inverting the positions, Meyer doesn’t change the game. Purity is still the goal. Men, or vampires, are still dangerous and threatening while females are still breakable and fragile. Intercourse still has the potential of resulting in “death,” just as it once relegated women to a social death. The only difference is the controls are handed over from the teenage girl to the guy–who happens, in this case, to be totally responsible and upright.

    I think she’s onto something. I think the fact that Bella gets to indulge some sexual feelings, even though she must constantly suppress them to “save her life”, is a huge appeal for teenage girls.

  39. #40 Leni
    December 6, 2009

    I forgot to mention that Bella doesn’t become a vampire until after the pregnancy, which comes after the marriage. It’s not really about saving vampireness for marriage. I’m not sure what it is, but it is definitely secondary.

    And Greg, do you know about the Jacob/baby thing? If you know that’s coming and the very idea of it doesn’t creep the eff out of you, you are a man with a stronger stomach than most ;)

  40. #41 Yahzi
    December 6, 2009

    Have you people already forgotten Buffy?!?

    Curse your fickle heart, viewing public!

    (Buffy the TV show. Not that horrible movie – no one ever, ever means that horrible movie when they say Buffy.)

  41. #42 Greg Laden
    December 6, 2009

    Luna [37] … right, all excellent oints. Now, this point about veggie vampires is an excellent example of an analysis based on the story’s actual components. I had been thinking along similar lines, and contrasting that possibility with vegetarianism being a mere device to avoid the messiness of the vampires constantly having to eat people. Rice deals with this as well, in two ways. She has Louis eating bunny rabbits and such for a long time, and later in the series, she simply give vampires the ability to stop eating once they reach a certain age (several centuries).

    But, one has to admit that the idea that “the books are strongly about resisting sexual temptation” while quite possibly true comes out of an analysis that may be unrealized in the thinking or discourse of the 13 through 17 year olds.

  42. #43 Greg Laden
    December 6, 2009

    Leni: I’m not wrong about the saving for marriage thing. In the movie, they save vampireness for marriage and sex is not mentioned at all … that is the entire point of the last scene of the second movie, and it is utterly explicit. It is said that they do things differently in the book, that it is about saving sex for marriage. I have not read the book. You have not read the book. The review you quote is not the book! The review mentions a derivative analysis by someone else who read the book. I’m starting to think this is more made up than I originally expected that it was. Plese, please, don’t make me read this book! No!!!! No!!!!11!!!

    Oh, sorry, lost it for a moment there… Anyway, it may well be true that this is about promise keeping or whatever, and that would not surprise me, but I have not read a review of the twilight thing by someone who explicitly claims to have actually read the book and who says this. Nor have I read a review of the movie that did not get key parts wrong in such a way that demonstrates expectations that clearly derive from the general “throw the book under the bus” trope floating around out there, or that does not simply love the book for all those usually stated reasons. I could ask my daughter. I may not.

    There’s a pregnancy!????!????

    Oh, crap, I just asked Julia about the sex thing and YOU ALL HAVE IT ALL RONG!!!11!!! Totally. Huh.

  43. #44 luna1580
    December 6, 2009

    greg, i’m actually really curious about what your daughter thought about “the sex thing”. did she read the 4th book yet? about the spine cracking pregnancy and the whole “imprinting” on a newborn thing? and more importantly, did meyer lift her ideas about “vampiric pregnancies” from the show angel? ;)

    yeah, a pregnancy, of a vampire “half-breed” infant who grows from embryo to term at a pace that nearly kills bella, who is not yet 19 herself, and then rapidly becomes “17 forever” at which point she herself can marry jacob the werewolf who has been romantically in love with her since the moment she was born…….

    totally all about normal romantic relationships where the women are making mature choices without being at all dependent on what the guys want/need….

    i did read parts of the first book (but never bought it), but was so bothered by the poor writing that i’ve gathered the rest of the plot from other sources.

    people shouldn’t hate twilight just because it’s “the thing to do” these days, but i really think there are many legitimate reasons to dislike it, and seeing it everywhere doesn’t mellow these reasons away.

    a kind of awesome thing is that the actor who plays edward has said he hates the character, and chooses to play him as a guy who hates himself (extra-extra angsty, i guess?), and he made a bet with the actor who plays ron in the harry potter films where the penalty for the loser was they’d have to read all the twilight books.

  44. #45 Greg Laden
    December 6, 2009

    Yes, she’s read them all and of the bits you mentioned, she says it’s “interesting.”

    Vampire stories are always horror stories. This sounds like it gets to a level of horror that is not prenumerated in the beginning.

    I wonder if Twilight is doing too much work here. It is a story. Many people are demanding that this story take on certain roles in educating our children, as to how to approach life. It might be too much to ask this of a series of books and films about vampires and werewolves!

    On the other hand, as Twilight rockets to immense popularity, we have the problem that THE fiction based role model package is not the ideal one. But you can’t fix that by complaining about it or telling the kids that it is bad (that is guaranteed to backfire). Rather, taking the discussion to the kids can be useful and productive.

    At the same time, and more importantly, there shold be more better stuff out there as a source for kids to get into, and maybe even be the next blockbuster. Where is the political energy in that direction? IN a less ost hoc-more pro-active direction?

    I asked my daugther what the most disturbing thing she read this year or so was, including twilight, catcher in the rye (they just read that in school) etc. She said without hesitation “Kite Runner.”

    Kite Runner is about rape and retribution, and it is all about and among men. The women are all background in the first half of the book. Kids across the country are being assigned Kite Runner. It is imperfect. Where is the critique?

    One has to ask: Is the critique of the Twilight series also a faddish obsession? Probably not. But it might be a little like recycling your plastic bottles. We need to recycle the 90 percent of the bottles that we currently don’t recycle. But if we did that and nothing else on behalf of the environment, we’d still destroy the planet.

    I guess I advocate a bigger picture approach.

  45. #46 Stephanie Z
    December 6, 2009

    My particular preemptive action in that direction has been sitting on someone else’s to do list for more than a year.

  46. #47 Greg Laden
    December 6, 2009

    When people do that you have to keep bugging them.

  47. #48 Ana
    December 6, 2009

    ‘Kite Runner’ *is* disturbing, but that is the whole point! It exposes the utter tragedy of violence and suffering. ‘Twilight’ romanticizes it, and makes it desirable – Bella says: You can’t help but hurt me? Please can I have some more?

  48. #49 Greg Laden
    December 6, 2009

    True. As I’ve said to you in private, I think the main shortcoming of twilight(s) is that vampires and werewolves are creepy and the separation between creepiness and teenager real life is insufficient, or even erased. In the old days, I don’t think people were worried that Lon Cheney or the original Bella were serving as themselves or in their relationships with their victims as bad role models.

    On the other hand, kids can understand this if they are informed and mature. In the words of Julia (14): “It’s a book. I’m a teenager. We teenagers don’t care as much as you think we do. We spend most of our time NOT reading Twilight. I have not seen very many movies with a good role model for teenage girls. Who would want to see such a movie? People are exploiting teenagers to make their points. There are more important things people should care about, such as the way that THEY serve as good role models. Or not. Do you think wasting your time on this blog makes you a good role model??!!?? Hahahaha!”

  49. #50 Leni
    December 6, 2009

    Greg wrote:

    Anyway, it may well be true that this is about promise keeping or whatever, and that would not surprise me, but I have not read a review of the twilight thing by someone who explicitly claims to have actually read the book and who says this.

    I’ve discussed the book with people who’ve read it. Adults, not teenagers. They have said that the relationship creeps them out despite the fact that they like the stories. These are not Twilight haters. This criticism is common enough that I have to wonder why you think it only comes from people who haven’t read it. It comes from some of the series fans! Further, the author of the review I linked to says that she read them:

    The lure of the books is so strong, even for feminist media critics (I devoured them more quickly than vampires catch their pray), that it’s disturbing to resurface and ponder how retrograde Meyer’s world is.

    Greg wrote:

    It is said that they do things differently in the book, that it is about saving sex for marriage. I have not read the book. You have not read the book. The review you quote is not the book!

    Sorry, but I don’t buy that this distinction between the movie or the book significantly addresses criticism. And, you know, I haven’t read the Bible either. That doesn’t mean I don’t know what’s in it.

    I find your comparison to Kite Runner baffling. Kite Runner is supposed to horrify you, not make you want to date some Taliban creepo.

  50. #51 Greg Laden
    December 6, 2009

    This criticism is common enough that I have to wonder why you think it only comes from people who haven’t read it.

    Leni. Listen. You just told me that you have heard from people who say they read it bla bla bla. So once again, we have a statement from someone (you) who has not read it. The criticism is very very common. And the facgt that the criticism comes from people who have not read it is almost exactly as common. So, yes, we have to wonder about this, don’t we?

    I’m not suggesting that this is not creepy. I’m suggesting that it IS creepy. We are probably not disagreeing here. But I’m not prepared to tow the non-critical non-skeptical line whereby I buy into a growing conspiracy of rhetoric that is being pass around from one person to has not read the book or seen the movie to the next. And I find it hard to understand why you would wnat me to.

    Sorry, but I don’t buy that this distinction between the movie or the book significantly addresses criticism. And, you know, I haven’t read the Bible either. That doesn’t mean I don’t know what’s in it.

    Sorry, no go. I gave a very specific example, on consultation with my daughter who HAS red the books, of a difference between the books and the movies (a very clear and demonstrable difference) that is in relation to one of the main critiques. I don’t understand why you would not find the basic facts to be relevant to a criticism.

    The fact that you have not read the bible but are prepared to tell me what is in it does not exactly endear me to your methods!

    I find your comparison to Kite Runner baffling. Kite Runner is supposed to horrify you, not make you want to date some Taliban creepo.

    I did not make a comparison to the Kite Runner. You are not really paying much attention, are you? Well, I suppose that fits with “I know someone who read this book therefore I can tell you how you are wrong in your opinion on it.”

  51. #52 Steph
    December 6, 2009

    Do you think wasting your time on this blog makes you a good role model??!!?? Hahahaha!

    That made me laugh. Out loud!

  52. #53 Leni
    December 7, 2009

    Leni. Listen. You just told me that you have heard from people who say they read it bla bla bla. So once again, we have a statement from someone (you) who has not read it. The criticism is very very common. And the facgt that the criticism comes from people who have not read it is almost exactly as common. So, yes, we have to wonder about this, don’t we?

    Maybe if it only or even primarily came from them, then yes. The fact remains that the same criticism comes from people who have read it and have seen the movie. Including people who like it. The review I posted came from someone who read the book. So have lots of others. Maybe it is faddish, but that in itself doesn’t make the criticism incorrect.

    I’m not suggesting that this is not creepy. I’m suggesting that it IS creepy. We are probably not disagreeing here. But I’m not prepared to tow the non-critical non-skeptical line whereby I buy into a growing conspiracy of rhetoric that is being pass around from one person to has not read the book or seen the movie to the next. And I find it hard to understand why you would wnat me to.

    I didn’t say I wanted you to toe any lines. I don’t. I just disagreed with you about your assessment that this film should please the secular crowd.

    Sorry, no go. I gave a very specific example, on consultation with my daughter who HAS red the books, of a difference between the books and the movies (a very clear and demonstrable difference) that is in relation to one of the main critiques. I don’t understand why you would not find the basic facts to be relevant to a criticism.

    Yes, I know you gave an example. I just didn’t think the distinction was terribly significant. At least not enough to redeem the story (or the movie, rather) in any meaningful way. Partially because of the point that luna made earlier about the bloodsucking being a stand-in for sex. It’s pretty much same ol’, same ol’.

    The fact that you have not read the bible but are prepared to tell me what is in it does not exactly endear me to your methods!

    I know enough to tell you that, for example, Genesis is not an accurate description of the history of life on this planet. Am I wrong?

    I did not make a comparison to the Kite Runner. You are not really paying much attention, are you? Well, I suppose that fits with “I know someone who read this book therefore I can tell you how you are wrong in your opinion on it.”

    Woah. Snarky much? I meant comparing the critiques of the book, not the content of the stories. You asked where the criticism of Kite runner was. If I misunderstood your intent with asking that, I apologize. In my defense, it certainly appeared as though you were asking why there isn’t the same level of criticism for the Kite Runner for being horrifying and not having much to say about women. Because that is pretty much exactly what you said:

    Kite Runner is about rape and retribution, and it is all about and among men. The women are all background in the first half of the book. Kids across the country are being assigned Kite Runner. It is imperfect. Where is the critique?

    I wold be more than happy to hear what you really meant, Greg, if you feel like bothering. If you don’t, that’s ok too, I’m not all that worried about it. I’m not attacking you and I’m not trying to be rude, so I’m sorry if it came off that way.

    Also, I think you might have a man-crush on Edward. I’m just saying ;)

    (PS That was an entirely light-hearted joke, in case it seemed snarky.)

  53. #54 Djinna
    December 8, 2009

    (Buffy the TV show. Not that horrible movie – no one ever, ever means that horrible movie when they say Buffy.)

    Speak for yourself, Yahzi. In my peer group, the movie Buffy is a cult classic that everyone has seen repeatedly, still regularly quotes from, and is greatly loved. The TV show is “that Joss Wedon show that no one we know has ever actually watched. But apparently it was on for several years.”

    (We’re mid-30s, but even people I know who are much younger think of the movie long before the TV show.)

  54. #55 Stephanie Z
    December 8, 2009

    The movie is a must-see, if for no other reason than that it contains the funniest death scene ever.

  55. #56 Greg Laden
    December 8, 2009

    Maybe it is faddish, but that in itself doesn’t make the criticism incorrect.

    I don’t think we’re too far apart here, but it is probably worth hashing it out.

    I’m sure the critique is overall fine, but it is easy to demonstrate that much of the critique is simply factually fast and loose. That is not acceptable as a skeptical exercise. It is roughly like convicting some guy of a crime you know he did not do becausae you figure he did some other crime. (something juries do now and then). (Not as bad as that, of course)

    I just disagreed with you about your assessment that this film should please the secular crowd.

    I never expected this film to please the secular crowd! I pointed out ways in which this film has elements that might be better than expecgted for the secular crowd.

    I just didn’t think the distinction was terribly significant. At least not enough to redeem the story (or the movie, rather) in any meaningful way.

    This comment and your last one speaks to the heart of our problem here. I think you think that I am pushing this film, that I like this film, that I’m recommending this film, or something along those lines. You’ve set a standard by which you are measuring my statements that is impossible to meet becaue it is not the standard I made my statements in relation to.

    It’s like I said “Hitler was a passable amature artist” and you say “You are so Rong! That does not justify all the evil he did eleventy!!!11!!” (only not as bad of course. For some reason I’m going worst case with my metaphors today…)

    Your point about the Kite Runner is correct, what you missed is that I was reporting the opinion of a teenager in reference to her interaction with the world of movies and literature, etc.

    Regarding the bible: there is a difference between being pretty sure something is true/not true and being qualified to be a voice in favor of a particular perspective.

    Back to the kite runner: Again, this is reflecting my daughter’s opinion: She’s saying that people are overracting to Twilight. The world of teenager hood is way more Meh about the whole thing. I think is saying that she is missing the crux of the feminist critique of the movies and books, and I’ve explained that to her, and she still says Meh. That’s the best I can do so far.

    I agree that the kiterunner is a whole nuther thing, though it is interesting that there is only one significant female character in the book, at most.

    Edward’s OK, but there are other members of his family that would interest me a great deal more….

    Stephanie, are you talking abougt the movie with Donald Sutherland? I think I’ve seen it but don’t remember much…

  56. #57 Stephanie Z
    December 8, 2009

    That’s the one. High camp.

  57. #58 Paul
    December 8, 2009

    I never expected this film to please the secular crowd!

    And the title of this post was…?

  58. #59 Greg Laden
    December 8, 2009

    The title of the post was

    Skeptics and Atheists Should be Relatively Happy about Twilight and New Moon

  59. #60 Leni
    December 8, 2009

    Thanks for the response Greg. And my apologies about the Kite Runner mix-up, I did miss that you were relating your daughter’s opinion at that point. And I didn’t think you were pushing the movie, really. Just being too easy on it. Well, that and you did give it two thumbs up.

    Regarding the bible: there is a difference between being pretty sure something is true/not true and being qualified to be a voice in favor of a particular perspective.

    I don’t think I was offering to be a “qualified” voice of anything except my own opinion. I certainly wasn’t claiming to be an expert of anything. However, my understanding of biological evolution (which hovers in the mid-high range of layman on good days) is enough to make even discussion of Genesis in the literal sense seem like an utter and complete waste of time. I don’t really view this as a bad thing. Course, I would rather stab my eyes out with needles than read the bible…

    Anyway, here is another picture you fellow Twilight haters might enjoy :)

    How Twilight Should Have Ended

  60. #61 Leni
    December 8, 2009

    Djinna:

    In my peer group, the movie Buffy is a cult classic that everyone has seen repeatedly, still regularly quotes from, and is greatly loved. The TV show is “that Joss Wedon show that no one we know has ever actually watched. But apparently it was on for several years.”

    (We’re mid-30s, but even people I know who are much younger think of the movie long before the TV show.)

    I’m also in my mid-thirties and I love them both. The movie is funny, seriously silly, but like the t-shirt says: Joss Whedon is my god.

    It’s probably unfair to hold Meyers up to either standard. She is so clearly out-classed.

  61. #62 violet
    January 16, 2010

    that really sucks for a interview!i mean for real duh needs to be more interesting that was totaly BOREING!

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