The film only opened on Friday, but I have already had it up to here with the cinematic incarnation of Stephenie Meyer’s massively-selling doses of what should probably be called “teen fangst”. I can’t honestly claim to have read the entire book on which the movie is based, but I’ve read enough – for reasons which I’ll get to shortly – to be able to label it as sub-Anne Rice hokum, aimed at undiscerning teenagers with no literary taste, in search of something undemanding to read in between updating their MySpace profiles and writing really bad poetry. It’s not “bad”, per se: though quotes such as “He unleashed the full, devastating power of his eyes on me, as if trying to communicate something crucial,” might make you think otherwise. But it’s just phenomenally mediocre.
Which may explain its popularity. Cinema can be phenomenally successful without sacrificing art: Lord of the Rings would be a great example there, and if you look at other winners over the past twenty years, they include such box-office successes as Gladiator, Forrest Gump, Titanic, Dances With Wolves and Silence of the Lambs. However, the list of best-selling books over the same period is basically Harry Potter and The Da Vinci Code. While I confess to enjoying the former [and even the latter, to a certain extent], any similarity they may have to Great Literature is purely coincidental. Even further down the list, where you find things like The Bridges of Madison County or The Lovely Bones, you won’t find Nobel or Booker Prize wnners.
I will admit that a copy of Twilight can be found in TC Towers. It was bought for a curious Chris earlier in the year, and she did read it, though doesn’t like being reminded of the fact, and pulls unpleasant faces whenever the author’s name comes up. It’s particularly galling to her, I think, that the idea is one of those “Why didn’t I think of that?” ones. Not that vampires at high-school is exactly ground-breaking. Josh Whedon would be quick to remind you, he took the whole “high-school as hell” metaphor to its literal interpretation, beginning with the movie in 1992. All Meyer has really done is take the Buffy-Angel scenario seriously, and beef up the drooling adjective count by several orders of magnitude.
It has some local resonance too, as Meyer lives her in Phoenix – just up the road in Cave Creek, actually – and went to the same high school as our kids. But perhaps most irritating is the fact that she’s a Mormon. Not that I have anything against Mormons, as such. But there seems something sacrilegious about one of God’s chosen people using the undead to make serious bank. Though it is easy to see the parallels between Edward and Bella, and the restraint they have to show in their relationship and the sexual restraint preached by the church. The irony is that Meyer was inspired to write the books by a dream – just as Joseph Smith was inspired to start the religious faith by a dream…er, divine vision. Why can I get to have dreams that generate quite the same level of revenue?
Typically, it was Trey Parker and Matt Stone who provide the most fitting commentary on the current fad. In the latest episode of South Park, the local Goths get upset at all the vampire wannabes that start showing up in school because it’s become cool. They abduct the leader of the vampire cult, and send him off to the most horrible, and miserable place on Earth.” That would be, according to the response, Scottsdale. Living in 85254 [Scottsdale zip-code, but legally in Phoenix] I am not inclined to argue. In the end – and I hope I am not spoiling this for anyone – they destroy the wannabes by burning down their lair. Or ‘Hot Topic’ as you or I might know it.
Still, in protest at the dumbing-down of the vampire to PG-13 sexlessness, we will be watching an example of the genre tonight – and one about as far from Twilight as can be imagined…
Screw you, Stephenie Meyer!