On “Twilight,” “New Moon,” and “the Hallmark of Immaturity”

THE TWILIGHT SAGA: NEW MOON
“I think the ears are tastiest.”

THE TWILIGHT SAGA: NEW MOON
“Me, I prefer the chin.”

THE TWILIGHT SAGA: NEW MOON
“I’m a forearm man, myself. And things just taste better when the girl’s has helpless as this one.”

Yes, like it or not, New Moon is here. And last night’s midnight opening show set some kind of all-time box-office record for such arrivals. Basically, ticket-buyers told Hollywood: WE WANT MORE OF THIS. And so, that is what moviegoers will receive. Except what’s coming will be even worse because it will be even more derivative. (If somebody wants to pick up a worthwhile vampire story, get your hands on the rights to Robin McKinley’s Sunshine, which is actually worth reading.)

So, how’s the movie?

I turn to the discerning Steven D. Greydanus:

You can see why 14-year-old girls eat this stuff up. That the Edward Effect is no less potent for many of their mothers seems troublesome.

Twilight and New Moon are essentially uncritical celebrations of that overwrought, obsessive passion that is the hallmark of immaturity—passion that wholly subordinates all sense of one’s own identity and elevates the beloved to summum bonum, or even the sole good; passion that leaps as readily to suicidal impulses and fantasies as to longing for union.

That’s the best reason to read Greydanus’s review. But you’ll get a good chuckle if you check out the comments below.

Very disappointed by this review. It’s not very useful since you obviously don’t really like this series. So it’s just you more showing why you don’t like it. But I guess that’s okay since you know people who this is aimed at will watch it and love it anyway, LOL.

Yeah. Golly. What’s wrong with you, Greydanus? Don’t you know that if you find any fault with these stories you’re automatically disqualified as a critic? You must love the movie… even before you see it… to be useful.

More troubling is this reaction:

Twilight is just plain evil and I do not want any part of it put in my brain. My friends and I use our brains for worthwhile pursuits not garbage pick-up. (We are an award winning robotics team.) … Oh, by the way, Pattinson looks creepy and I hope my future husband looks nothing like this very icky sicko.

Um… no. The Twilight stories run in the tradition of Beauty and the Beast stories. They’re misguided, but not “just plain evil.” There are redeeming qualities to be found in stories of young lovers who try to cope with their destructive impulses, and stories of monsters who try to overcome their wicked appetites.

Further, the commenter has decided that Pattinson is a “very icky sicko” based on the fact that… what? He’s wearing monster makeup.

But who am I to argue with somone on an award-winning robotics team?

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  • Martin

    That some people will think less deeply than other people is inevitable.

    That they’d be proud of it is deplorable.

  • http://www.myfriendamysblog.com Amy @ My Friend Amy

    Gossip Girl is garbage?

  • http://www.tinaannforkner.com Tina

    Point taken, Steven. I am running over to read it now. And thanks for responding. I’m kind of surprised and impressed you would do so.

    Tina

  • http://decentfilms.com SDG

    Tina,

    Thanks for your comments on my review.

    To clarify, my comments about the potency of the Edward Effect on moms, I was speaking specifically to the “Twilight Moms” phenomenon, not to all moms who might see the film or read the book, particularly those who do so with a critical eye. For more on Twilight hysteria among moms, see my accompanying article as well as Laura Miller’s excellent Salon.com piece.

  • http://www.myspace.com/girlandpiano Laina B

    I don’t believe the response Twilight is receiving is over-dramatized or unfitting. One of the key differences in the Twilight debate, as opposed to previously mentioned Teen TV shows and films, is that… “It’s so obvious that GOSSIP GIRLS is garbage” (RH) while Twilight runs, “in the tradition of Beauty and the Beast stories….there are redeeming qualities to be found in stories of young lovers who try to cope with their destructive impulses, and stories of monsters who try to overcome their wicked appetites.” (JO) We are not talking about unjustly picking on one of the many unhealthy teen influences equal to the rest. We are recognizing de-constructive qualities set in what had the potential to contain positive moral lessons. Not to mention the fact that we are talking about record breaking box office sales. This is not just another teen movie, this is a major influence of present pop culture.

    Beyond bad acting and poorly written books, I think we can never underestimate the influence pseudo teen romance has on our culture today. I’ve seen Twilight several times, (my friends and I like to watch it as a comedy) so Im not claiming to be the ideal movie-goer, but if as an adult you can sense the over-dramatized, DIRE romance based on sexual tension and mystery, (a sense of mystery based on something potentially dangerous and harmful, ie killing vampires) then what kind of an affect on the unexperienced psyche of a hormone-raging teenager? Not to mention, as has been very well articulated in other’s posts, the scores of middle-ages women who fully embrace the fantasy of such a high-charged, dangerous affair.

    I tend to observe but not enter into discussions which take on moralistic fights against hollywood movies or teen novels, citing “The Church’s position on…” because I would expect nothing less from those sources. (not to slight this topic of discourse in any way) But I do believe a mediocre attitude often overlooks the way we are forming not just future generations, but OURSELVES. This is not a Christian anti-witchcraft/anti-church debate, as in Harry Potter or The Golden Compass. BEYOND RELIGIOUS VALUES OR PRINCIPLES, this is about the way we perceive and portray love, sexuality, and expectations in a purely human sense.

  • http://thewesternworld.blogspot.com Ryan H.

    “…it is sort of funny that people are so upset about a couple of movies (and books) aimed at Teen girls.”

    Naturally, this isn’t the sort of thing that usually happens. But TWILIGHT’s popularity extends far beyond, say, THE SISTERHOOD OF THE TRAVELING PANTS, and that’s why it’s the center of conversation.

    “Where are the intellectual reviews and discussions about Gossip Girls?”

    It’s so obvious that GOSSIP GIRLS is garbage that I suspect many don’t feel it needs to be said. But I’m sure if GOSSIP GIRLS developed the widespread following that TWILIGHT has, there would be a similar backlash, and it would only be right. TWILIGHT is not necessarily unique. In and of itself, it’s not worth more venom than any of the countless other made-for-teen books that populate the shelves of local bookstores. However, its popularity has made it a very clear target. When I speak against TWILIGHT, I don’t just speak against it in particular, but against a culture that consistently chases after escapism.

    Of course, such commentary is largely futile–no matter how many decry TWILIGHT, it will still be a success–but such commentary is still necessary.

    “He seems to be making the assumption that moms are running wildly to movie theaters to get some kind of hormonal kick out of watching Edward and Bella grope each other.”

    Tina, this might not the case for you and many other. But I think your “we want to do it for our daughters” conception cannot be made universal. It’s very likely that a solid portion (maybe a minority, but a solid portion nonetheless) of the adult female audience has connected with TWILIGHT not out of interest in sharing something with their daughter, but for their own interest. There are countless adult women who are hooked on soap operas and romantic fantasies (it’s why the “chick flick” is so successful), and it’s clear that there’s a good portion of the adult female TWILIGHT audience that buy into it for that exact same reason. Let’s not forget that Stephanie Meyer wrote it largely as her own personal fantasy.

    You suggest that “telling little girls the movie is dumb and not enlightening is not a good way for moms to open the conversation.” Of course not, and thus your motives in wishing to check out TWILIGHT to open up that conversation are totally sound and honorable. But most mothers are not so discerning, or so interested in helping their children to critically engage with the material. Most of the adults I’ve met throughout my life have no better critical faculties when it comes to art and media than their children (it all boils down to “I like it”/”I don’t like it”). In most homes, questions regarding the merits of TWILIGHT will largely go unaddressed.

  • http://www.tinaannforkner.com Tina Ann Forkner

    I’ve already sounded off on Jeffrey’s FB page, but I guess I have some more thoughts. Of course it “matters what we call beautiful,” but it is sort of funny that people are so upset about a couple of movies (and books) aimed at Teen girls. Where are the intellectual reviews and discussions about Gossip Girls? I dare say everyone, including the intellectual crowd, is doing exactly what the publicity people for Twilight want us to do.

    I honestly liked the CT review, but as a Mom I must take a different approach. As for the Greydanus’ comment about moms: “That the Edward Effect is no less potent for many of their mothers seems troublesome.” That is a load of, well, I’m a mom so let me just say poop…and LOL.

    Come on! He seems to be making the assumuption that moms are running wildly to movie theaters to get some kind of hormonal kick out of watching Edward and Bella grope each other. Many mothers are going to see New Moon and reading the Meyer books so they can have some kind of discussion with their daughters. We all know our kids will see the movie at some point, possibly with or without our permission. And they will read the books. They’re kids. We want to be part of the conversation with them.

    Just keep in mind that those moms flocking to see New Moon might have a bigger plan; a plan to make their daughters think. Telling little girls the movie is dumb and not enlightening is not a good way for moms to open the conversation. We aren’t trying to raise robots, but many of us are trying to meet our girls in the crazy social atmosphere they are forced to live in simply because they are teens. How else should we do it?

    The movie isn’t for you. Maybe you all should let us moms deal with this whole teen Vampire thing while you focus on Invictus and 2012. We might not look very intellectual standing in line at the theater, but we might just have our own motives. LOL. LOL. LOL.

    Peace, dear friend.

  • http://thewesternworld.blogspot.com Ryan H.

    I’ve had so many arguments with folks about TWILIGHT. They inevitably respond with, “I don’t attack the films you like.” Or, even better, “It’s all just personal opinion.” When I at one point suggested to a friend that TWILIGHT had a very worrying portrayal of femininity, the response I received was, “Well, I suppose I just don’t think about things that deeply,” as if it just didn’t matter, and if one didn’t think about it that deeply, it didn’t matter. Of course, taste in film is inevitably subjective, nor should subjective taste be shunned; it’s a great thing to have a set of distinctive likes and dislikes. But that doesn’t mean there aren’t some kind of genuine standards, some kind of criteria by which these works must be held against and judged, even if we cannot ever entirely escape ourselves in doing so.

    The truth is, art criticism and analysis is an essentially moral endeavor. Art itself is not morally neutral (and that’s not a simple matter of the ideas in the work itself, either; just as a human being can have an honorable motivation and go about things the terribly wrong way, the same may be true of art). To engage in art criticism–or at least, art criticism at its best, rather than its worst–is to stand up and say, “Yes, it matters what we call beautiful. It matters what we call good. It matters what stories we choose to emotionally invest in, to cherish, and to reject.”

  • http://filmchatblog.blogspot.com/ Peter T Chattaway

    Re: that comment under Steve’s review, I cringe whenever I see people “LOL” after their own statements. Since when did laughing at your own jokes (or, worse, non-jokes) become such an acceptable thing?


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