Ok, I can’t quite believe that I’m going to attempt this. Perhaps I should start with a disclaimer. I love Gothic fiction. I’m a big fan of the horror genre in film. I particularly love vampire flicks, and I like my vampires to have fangs. I’m interested in film. Interesting film. I’m interested in literature. Interesting literature. I consider myself a feminist. I say all this, and I could say so much more, as a kind of begging for forgiveness in advance. Because, what I’m about to do, and I can’t quite believe it myself, is offer a kind of apology for The Twilight Saga. No. More than that, offer a reason for its popularity. And more than that, suggest that, despite its deeply suspect ideology, it’s not so bad really. Bear with me, readers.
I ought to make it clear, I haven’t read a single word of a single one of the Twilight books. I don’t intend to. I probably wouldn’t like them. Which is fine. I’m fairly certain I’m not the target audience anyway. I have, however, over the past couple of weeks, watched all five of the films. I thought it was about time to have a look at just what it is, precisely, that has been preoccupying the kidz over the past few years. Or at least, that’s what I tell myself. My initial reaction was one of horror. The wrong kind of horror. I watched the films in the wrong order, starting with Breaking Dawn: part 1, which with its unflinching pro-life subtext (actually not so much of the ‘sub’) left me fearing for the ideological hearts, not to mention the psychological, and indeed physical, well-being of our teenagers. And then there’s the stalking, controlling, coercive boyfriend. And the mind games. And the ‘no sex before marriage’ clause. And the heroine seemingly free from any agency at all. And Wolfy (sorry, Jacob) imprinting on a new born babe – I’ve tried like mad to rationalise this one, but really, whichever way you look at it, it’s just creepy. And. And. And…
And what about adding to the body of Vampire mythology? Harmless ‘vegetarians’? Repeating high school ad infinitum? Driving around in Volvos and Mercedes? Living in (unaccountably affluent) peace in a Scandinavian style lodge? It’s not that this is all a bit off canon, so much as this is all a bit lame. And then there’s the sparkling. Sparkling, I tell you. Vampires don’t sparkle. They chow down on your neck with bloody great fangs. They exist as a metaphor for sex, repression, fear, desire. They offer a safe space for transgression. They explore the other. They explore the id. They DON’T BLOODY WELL SPARKLE.
But then maybe that’s the point. Maybe Edward, in all his toothless, sparkling glory is so non-threatening that the sinister undercurrents of his behaviour are rendered utterly meaningless. Maybe the adolescent and the pre-pubescent fans buy into the unreconstructed gender fantasy because it so clearly is fantasy, and requires so little exertion on their part. Maybe, surrounded as they are by a hyper-sexual, disposable culture, the innate conservatism of The Twilight Saga offers some breathing space. Maybe they just fancy Robert Pattinson. Or Kristen Stewart. Maybe they’re frightened of growing up, and they find something reassuring in Bella and Edward achieving a state of stasis while still teenagers. Or maybe they like waiting ’til the final film for Bella to actually get some muscles – a kind of delayed gratification.
Or maybe I should give up the ghost and direct you to this biting Buffy/Twilight mashup instead…
Thanks for the reminder that Real Slayers Stake Vampires. Especially if they sparkle.
Google ‘real vampires don’t sparkle’ and click on images. Go on, it’s fun.
Many thanks to Shannon for the lightbulb moment. Cheers.
Readers of this blog will know that I recently chalked up a sustained absence from facebook, for which I felt duly smug (and, incidentally, to which I may return as my reactivated facebook account is fed on a daily basis with such sheer banality that it is increasingly a relief rather than a struggle to limit my usage). What I didn’t ’fess up to was that during that 37 day abstinence, I discovered LOVEFILM Instant. Technology will pull you in one way or another.
Now I have, on occasion, used LOVEFILM Instant in a grown-up, and well-reasoned sort of way. I’ve caught up on some films that I’d never have bothered to see at the cinema: Source Code, despite its schmaltzy ending, was kind of fabulous. But I have to be honest here: LOVEFILM Instant, for me, is really all about Buffy.
Of course, I loved the show the first time round. Who didn’t adore Willow and by extension first Oz, and then Tara? And with looks so utterly preposterous yet inexplicably cool, when Spike rolls into town, mowing down the ‘Welcome to Sunnydale’ sign on his way, who didn’t secretly want to be him? A heady mix of the ridiculous and touchingly human, amoral yet vulnerable, moronic but somehow insightful; this was a Vampire we could all fall for. And how we did.
10 years on from the emotional roller-coaster of that last ever episode, I have lost hours, no days, maybe even weeks, to the void, and LOVEFILM Instant is to blame. Every single episode, right there, ready at a tap of the touchpad. And when you build in all that extra buffering time to the Buffyverse, (my broadband, it would seem, ain’t all that broad) well, that’s a lot of time. I wonder how it stacks up against my last few years of facebook use? Whatever the maths though, I reckon weeks lost to the Buffyvoid are, when all is said and done, weeks worth losing. Because, this programme stands the test of time. In 2013, Buffy seems better than ever. Quirky. Straight. Tragic. Comic. Light. Dark. It’s all there in those 40+minute episodes, across the arcs of each season, all the way from ‘Welcome to the Hellmouth’ to ‘Chosen’. But what really does it for me, is the sheer scale of well drawn, central female characters. How often do we get to see this on screen? Recent British TV pales by contrast: the current season of Being Human is sorely disappointing. Can that ghost actually be said to possess a character? That is not rhetorical – please, somebody, tell me. Nor metaphysical. And what about the last season of The Hour? Is it possible to believe that that ineffectual, quivering-lipped, poor excuse for a boss actually heads up a crack, cutting-edge, current affairs programme? And don’t get me started on the wan’n’wistful-pseudo-French-pseudo-marxist-wifey who rocked up out of nowhere – all Jean Seberg crop and no trousers. What the hell were the writers thinking? Were the writers thinking? Here’s to Detective Inspector Sarah Lund. And please, please, please can we have some more kick-ass women on screen? Oh, and bringing back Spike wouldn’t hurt either.
Update: series 5 of Being Human got better. Not quite series 4 better, but it was a hell of a shame to see it go. The ghost improved. A little. But female characters remain the weakest on the show. Still, bring back Tom and Hal. Please.