The Twilight phenomenon is one that has passed me by, as my requirement for books is the same as movies: a minimum of 2 explosions, 3 weapon fights, and 1 hottie (decapitation may be substituted for any of the previous). But it is a cultural phenomenon nonetheless and while the Twilight movie wasn’t directed by Michael Bay (the greatest living director of our time) when Rifftrax announced they would be providing commentary on the movie I decided that at last I could experience the latest brick on the foundation of Western culture. Note that I haven’t read the original so most of this commentary will be just what I’ve gleaned from cultural osmosis.

The first issue is one that frequently plagues Hollywood: everyone is too beautiful. Bella is supposed to be cute, maybe even homely but in a very ordinary way. It is her scent and mojo that attract the god-like Edward. However, she is played by the quite attractive Kristen Stewart and is surrounded by “ordinary” people far more lovely than the average. The Cullens are said to be unearthly gorgeous but how can the audience tell without a contrast? Why is Bella so preferred (by everyone, not just Edward) over her outgoing, bubbly, buxom friend? As Mike points out, in any normal high school, Bella would be getting Jessica’s table scraps, not the other way around.

But what about the vampires? [Digression Warning!] The problem every fiction story dealing with vampires has had to face is why aren’t the vampires in charge? In I Am Legend the vampires are and the sole remaining human becomes their “boogeyman”, the monster that kills them during the day. In the Buffyverse, vampires are so self-absorbed and petty, that they can’t cohere enough to threaten the status quo. Indeed, some of the worst threats are vampires strong and charismatic enough that they unite a sizeable force of invincible blood-suckers. Supernatural has the vampire as an endangered species, hunted to near extinction by trained humans (now there’s an idea: a story in which an EPA bureaucrat tries to get vampires onto the endangered species list. Write it up and turn it in on Monday). In Twilight the vampires can only be killed by dismemberment and fire. Something which their demonstrated speed and strength make nearly impossible, so why aren’t they running the world? Edward mentions that everything about him functions as “lure” for humans. Why then hasn’t a vampire ascended to office in every country carried there by a fawning press and jubilant crowds? (idea for a movie: Obama is really a vampire – the cuddly kind – plot to be worked out later) What military or force could hope to stand up to a vampiric squad?

In fact, this isn’t a movie about vampires, but kryptonians. The entire story is little more than a fan fic answering the query: How does Superman love Lois? The desire for a normal life, the secret identity aspect, the enhanced powers all strive to make this movie little more than Smallville: the Motion Picture. And like Smallville, the movie has many intriguing premises in orbit of a boring, pedantic plot. For instance, Carlisle Cullen’s a vampire whose day job is doctoring. In a hospital. A place known for having many bodily fluids, one of which is blood. That’s not a bit player, that’s the premise for a hit TV show (just imagine if Gray’s Anatomy had vampires), yet he keeps getting shoved into the background, making us wish we could be watching him instead of the two principles.

However, this story is supposed to be a romance so perhaps I should be judging by romantic standards. Since there is no montage with the two of them (including a scene where Edward wins Bella a giant teddy bear at the fair) I gave the movie an F on romance as well. Much has been made about how stalkerish Edward is, but Bella comes off equally predatory. But the biggest shock is how conflicting the movie’s messages are. Edward comes to Bella’s father to formerly request the right to date her, after he has spent some time in her room. Warning to all guys: even if you’re doing nothing but talking, being in a girl’s room is inviting a death sentence from her father. At the end of the movie, the battle Bella endured is covered up with the excuse that she “fell down some stairs and out a window”. A cover story used so often by abusers that I laughed when it did not invite more scrutiny. True, Edward didn’t really abuse her, but that the family or community wasn’t suspicious of it makes one wonder if they are passive aggressively expressing their dislike of Bella. Again, another interesting premise is lost, where Bella tries to convince others that she is not, in fact, being abused despite their convictions (where they are correct that something is wrong, but incorrect about what it is).

So while this movie and book series may not be the affront to God and humanity that Kidz Bop or D:LT are, it nonetheless remains a sad, sobering lesson on wasted potential. Now if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got to get back to work on my fanfic where Sam & Dean hunt the Cullens right when Edward has fallen in love with Izzie while interning for Dr House. I’m right at the part where Batman arrives with John Conner…

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  1. OverlordDan on 23 May 2009, 09:23 said:

    Heh! I hate how everyone in a movie is drop dead gorgeous when they should be fugly. Great article!

  2. Puppet on 23 May 2009, 09:45 said:

    Even though they may look better then average, their personality’s make them look like giant slugs.

  3. Steph the Phantasmagorical on 23 May 2009, 10:03 said:

    LOVED this.

  4. Artimaeus on 23 May 2009, 10:18 said:

    I’m also annoyed at how hollywood refuses to cast unattractive girls, even when the character is supposed to be unattractive. This is probably worst in the show “Ugly betty,” whose title character, contrary to the title, isn’t particularly ugly, and even that is due mostly to her costume (the actress that plays her is actually quite good-looking). The lesson being that, in hollywood land, you make an unattractive character by outfitting an attractive actress with glasses and braces.

    Well, as for the whole president vampire thing, I think it’s unlikely that America would elect a serial killer, no matter how attractive and charismatic he…

    remembers Andrew Jackson.

    Nevermind… That’d actually be an interesting twist on the historical fiction. America’s founding fathers were actually vampires. It would explain how Ben Franklin managed to keep an active night life well into his sixties (particularly in Paris, if you know what I mean).

  5. Nate Winchester on 23 May 2009, 10:46 said:

    I’m also annoyed at how hollywood refuses to cast unattractive [people], even when the character is supposed to be unattractive.

    The 1 exception: Ron Perlman. Who’s awesome and talented enough to get work. I think some voice actors might also be less than attractive but… you know, hard to tell through cartoons.

  6. Artimaeus on 23 May 2009, 11:42 said:

    It applies more to women than men. I can think of plenty of unattractive male actors. Even when he was young, did anyone really think Jack Nicholson was attractive?

  7. Nate Winchester on 23 May 2009, 11:44 said:

    Katy Bates. Rosanne…? Actually a lot of unattractive women can make it if they’re comedians. (some would argue whether julia roberts or sarah jessica parker belong on the attractive list)

  8. Artimaeus on 23 May 2009, 12:13 said:

    I guess that’s true. Male comedians also don’t need to be as pretty to make it.

    Those two? I don’t know. Thy have distinct faces, but they’re hardly ugly either. Besides, once someone stars in a film called “Pretty Woman”, it’s hard to say they’re unattractive.

  9. Devin Monahan on 23 May 2009, 12:19 said:

    This article was great, loved it. And Artimaeus, you can’t say Jackson was all bad.
    It’s called Jacksonian Democracy for a reason.

  10. Nate Winchester on 23 May 2009, 12:29 said:

    I’d also like to say in regards to Jackson et al, don’t you sometimes wish you could vote for a really badass president?

  11. Artimaeus on 23 May 2009, 12:59 said:

    Lol, I’m not bashing Jackson by comparing him to a, powerful, charismatic vampire. The opposite really (though he did kill a lot of people).

  12. swenson on 23 May 2009, 20:33 said:

    Heh, all your premises sound amazing, Nate! Can’t wait for those movies to come out in theaters!

    And yeah, the movie was horrible. Not saying the book was good, but compared to the movie… well, at least in the book, you can pretend Bella’s face changes expression. In the movie, you’re stuck with Kristen Stewart’s perpetual “meh” look.

    At least Taylor Laurent is kind of hot. If he didn’t have that awful wig and such shiny, shiny teeth… if we were judging by teeth alone, he’d win the most-vampire-like award.

  13. OverlordDan on 23 May 2009, 22:17 said:

    Artimaeus: Ugly Betty I took for a joke, since its supposed to be a “normal” attractive girl working in the modeling buisness, so she is ‘ugly’ in comparison to the unreasonable standard of beauty in her workplace.

    …Is what I would say if I watched the show at any point. Heh heh X/

  14. Rocky on 23 May 2009, 22:32 said:

    One trend I’m noticing throughout these books (and the subsequent film) is how indistinguishable each character is to the other.

    Being currently occupied with my own story, one of my primary areas of focus is an attempt to take each major and minor character and do one simple thing: distill them into a self-contained, distinct sentence. I’m trying to make Character A stand apart from Characters B and C by giving Character A one or two traits that cannot and will not be found in any other character present in the story. And I’m not just talking about a brunette amongst redheads.

    But I’ve noticed nothing unique about any of these characters in Twilight. The vampires are god-like in their beauty. Bella is average. Other people are average. Bella mopes and whines. Eddie stalks and pines. Then they swap. Then they go back to where they started. Aside from their names and shoehorned significance to the overall “plot” of the Twilight Saga, I see nothing that prohibits one character from being swapped with another that would result in absolutely no change.

  15. falconempress on 24 May 2009, 01:53 said:

    hmm, that is a fic I would like to read.

    Anyways, great article:) Thank you:)

  16. Steph the Phantasmagorical on 24 May 2009, 02:25 said:

    Well, I think it’d be different if they were swapped around in the vampire/human way.

    If book-Edward was (were?) human, he’d probably be teased to death for
    a) being a sensitive guy who talks about his feelings waaaaaaay too much.
    b) for smelling really good, like he uses girls’ deodorant.
    c) thinking he’s like psychic or something, so he might be always in the counsellor’s office. Or he’d just go around with a perpetually haunted look on his face
    d) for playing piano instead of something cool like guitar (don’t misunderstand me- piano is my first love. I’m just saying for a guy like that, piano wouldn’t help his case.)

    But he’d still be a bit of a snob who thinks he’s too good for people. And if each one of his crushes had woken up one morning to find him in her room, I’m assuming he’d be a bit of a jail-bird, as well. An emo one, cause he’s very pessimistic. Oh, yeah, he’d also be teased for being emo.

    Then vampire-Bella would swoop in to Forks and hit on him because even though he was human, he’d still be gorgeous in her eyes. Hmm, Bella The Succubus… Interesting. Anyway, so he’d be powerless to resist her because she’d be gorgeous (as a god-like vampire)and ‘pretty-smelling’ and then Bella would probably bite him in the throes of passion at the first opportunity so that she could have him forever.

    And instead, they’d fight a lot when they weren’t kissing and stuff because Edward would be convinced that he’d lost his soul, and all he’d‘ve gained would have been even better looks.

    But he’d still be happy, cause then he could get back at everyone who ever thought mean things about him.

    Bloodbath, here we come. Man, this description of Edward makes him sound schizo.

    So yeah, I disagree with Rocky. Try THAT fic on for size…

  17. Nate Winchester on 26 May 2009, 18:00 said:

    Steph, there’s SO much potential in Twilight I want to cry every time I think about it. Heck just at it’s basic (the idea that Bella is mysterious to Edward, thus his interest) is potential lost because Bella just isn’t that interesting.

    BTW: I’d like to give a huge shout out and love to Jet from agony booth.

    Yes this is the same Jet that reviewed Eragon. Assuming we can keep kitty from eating her, she should definitely have a high, honorary rank from II.

  18. RandomVisitor on 26 May 2009, 18:11 said:

    Hmm that actually sounds like an interesting story (the one with Sam, Dean, Dr. House and Edward all in the same sentence). I’d read it x)

  19. Nate Winchester on 26 May 2009, 20:46 said:

    Just saw a commercial for The Vampire Diaries on this season of the CW.

    Let the discussion of this vs Twilight begin.

  20. Nadia Tal on 29 May 2009, 19:57 said:

    TV Tropes has what you are looking for-
    (don’t know how to make links)

    Nicholas Cage is ugly and a terrible actor. He is in Hollywood.

  21. Magus on 22 December 2009, 13:24 said:

    You forgot the best part: Charlie’s moustache.