The actress who plays the ambivalent Bella really nails the dazed, depressive vulnerability of this demo of teen girl, jerky head movements conveying emotional confusion, lips permanently parted trying to form words for feelings she can't sort out:
and she has it right down to the borderline sleeve:
Personal aside: in my life, the borderline sleeve meant two things: the girl would like me, and I would regret it.
Thing is, the movie might be for teen girls, but it was watched by a lot of other people. Opening weekend, half the audience was women over 25.
Perhaps it reminded these older (?) jaded women of a more honest love, where a man was willing to devote himself entirely to the woman. All of his history and all of his development are just prelude to this love, to this relationship. And he's willing to be a man, he's going to be the strong one, he's going demand full devotion back, he's going to be jealous but never lay a hand on you; he's going to respect you, care for you, he's going to pay for all of the dinner and yes, he's going to drive, dammit.
Men are wusses. Got it.
But let this movie serve also as a warning to the women who felt it touch them: if you actually meet an Edward Cullen in real life, quickly contaminate yourself with the AIDS virus-- because it is already too late to run.
Here's the basic problem with the movie vis a vis the longing women in the audience: vampires don't exist.
Duh, you say, I don't want a vampire, I want an Edward Cullen.
Actually, you don't, here's why.
Take the movie and delete any scenes-- and there aren't that many anyway-- in which Edward shows supernatural powers. You will think this an odd directoral maneuver, but I promise you it's quite revealing.
Doing this changes the movie to the story of a boy who says he's something, but the objective audience never gets to see any evidence for it. He convinces this lonely, awkward, identity-less girl that he is a vampire, and he does this not with proof but by force of personality. They then act out the rest of the same movie.
Now what's the movie about? It's about a guy manipulating a vulnerable girl.
The movie then becomes exactly what it really is already, though confused by the distraction of vampirism. She's looking for a boy to be a man for her, in the absence of a father for that role. But it's 2009-- there aren't any such men, because the existing young men weren't raised to be men, they weren't raised to track accepted roles. Because the fathers checked out on them, too, emotionally if not physically. So the best any boy can come up with-- lacking any model for identity-- is to make it up.
Edward seems always ambivalent: on the one hand he's a vampire, on the other hand he loves her. "You don't know how much I want to kill you." That's touching. He spends the first third of the movie enraged/disgusted/infatuated with her.
The explanation in the movie is that he's a vampire and she's an innocent. The explanation in real life is that she's searching for something that gives her meaning, and he's faking it. He never hated her, he was never disgusted by her. You get distracted by the vampire photo on the cover, that part is irrelevant.
Here's an example. In the early part of the movie, brooding/dangerous Edward tells Bella, "I don't think it's a good idea for us to be friends." This is supposed to show his ambivalence towards her, which some also take as a sign of his disrespect of her. Except that when he says this, at this point in the movie, they aren't actually friends. In fact, she wasn't even talking to him-- he literally ran across the parking lot, came up behind her, and opened up with that statement.
Anyone other than me ever been 15? You only do that when you want to start being friends. It's a move. He has no ambivalence at all.
Here's another example: he (again) sneaks up behind her-- after eavesdropping, mind you-- and says all broody, "what's in Jacksonville?" and she says, "How did you find out about that?" To which he responds, even more broody, "you didn't answer my question."
Most people's response to him would be to stab him in the eye, who does this jerk think he is? And hence I can see why some audience might see him as a disrespectful misogynist. However, I'm not sure girls are aware of this, but if there are any honest men reading this blog they'll know-- it's also a move. He doesn't actually want to know what's in Jacksonville,-- he just wants to talk to her. He's not annoyed she didn't answer his question; what he wants is to convey the impression of a deep, brooding intellect who doesn't have time for "games." (Not having time for games is itself a game.)
She doesn't stab him in the eye because he knows she won't stab him in the eye. He acts like that and says that because he knows she'll respond like that. He's performing scripted dialogue, he's trying to get her to say her part that he wrote for her.
A few scenes later-- yup, sneaks up behind her again, ladies, if a guy comes up behind you and says, well, anything, then he wants to bone you-- he says some brooding/dark things and then says, "...it just means if you were smart, you'd stay away from me." Oooooh. That statement is factually correct, as it stands. But what he meant is, "I'm very mysterious, even though I'm not. Can I touch your boobs now?"
"Your mood swings are giving me whiplash." Ah, so you've been paying attention to me.
Vampires don't exist, so there's little danger in 15 yo girls falling in love with them. The real danger is a 15yo boy tries to emulate Edward. You take a semi-lost 15yo boy, he looks around and perhaps he's written off the cheerleaders or the prom queen because he figures they're out of his league. He has an instinctive pull towards someone like Bella, pretty but attainable, attainable because she's semi-lost herself. And the boy says to himself, if I want to get a Bella, I guess I have to be an Edward.
In the movie Bella says to Edward, "I can see what you're trying to put off, it's to keep people away from you, it's a mask." Adolescents love to talk about masks and fronts, "that's not the real you." Because if the mask isn't the real you, then there is a real you after all. Looked at this way, the real mask-- i.e. the fake identity-- is the one the boy is consciously putting off for her to discover, the brooding artist only she can see.
All of this is typical of adolescence and therefore normal. But to you >25 year old women who liked the movie, the guy you met who seems a little Edward Culleny is a fraud, and a dangerous one.
Bella says to Edward: "this stuff doesn't exist, it isn't real." He responds: "It does in my world." Yeah. That's the problem.
Here's a part of the movie no one else seemed to have any problem with: her acceptance into Edward's family. Edward's family is "perfect"-- rich, loving artists who play baseball in the rain. Edward brings Bella home to meet them, and they welcome her warmly with no reservations. (Only one daughter objects.)
Edward's father says, "she's one of us now." Well, of course, she's not, right? On some level Bella must know she's not one of them, she's someone else, right? For example, she already has a family, remember them? and she's not a vampire.
But if her identity isn't tied to these real things-- Bella is the main character of the story, but I'll bet you don't know her last name-- then it's not a big leap for her to become one of them.
It's not hard to see how a girl like this gets lost-- her parents either don't exist or are near perfect narcissists. Her mom has decided to roam the country with her baseball player boyfriend. On a phone call, the mom asks Bella if she has a boy in her life, and Bella says yes. Here are the next three questions, word for word, that the mother-- 2000 miles away but still parenting!-- asks Bella to best characterize the relationship: "is he a jock? Indie?... Are you being safe?" I almost expected her to ask if he voted for Obama. Are these really the most illuminating questions you ask a 17yo with her first boyfriend? If she said he was a jock, does that give the mom any real understanding into what that boy might be like, what he might mean to her? Of course not, but the boy's not real to the mother, so she can't imagine him as a person with his own existence. She can't really comprehend her own daughter's existence outside of her own.
Meanwhile, Dad is physically present in the way a quark is physically present, it's there, I guess, it does something but God only knows what.
So when a young girl's family is this hazy, it is natural that a teen might fantasize about hooking up with a more defined family-- even if it's made of vampires.
For you middle aged folks, the analogy is 80s sitcoms. There was always a friend coming over the house, and that friend was almost an extension of the family. Skippy could walk in without knocking, and mom was always happy to cook him breakfast. She counseled him, hugged him; he'd open the refrigerator like it was his house and no one shot him. I used to think, wow, doesn't Skippy's real mom mind he's never at home? But I wasn't mature enough to understand that the fact that Skippy could be away all the time meant precisely that she didn't care. The friend's real family was loose and uninvolved. So he found a new one.
In the final act, bad vampires are trying to kill Bella, so Edward brings her to his family for protection. Edward's father says, "I'll defend her like family." That sounds awesome, but here's a bit of reality: any father who so readily admits a stranger to the family at the risk of death to the other actual family members is whacked.
But that's not how a young girl might see things, because she's not just hiding out in her BF's house, she's becoming part of his family. I sympathize with this kind of magical thinking in a teen with no strong family bonds of her own, I really do, I have no beef with your fantasies. My beef is with the boy who thinks nothing of putting his family at risk in order to save his girlfriend. And even that's not as romantic as it sounds-- any guy who would do this is doing it for himself, not for the girl. He's not doing it because he doesn't want her to die; he's doing it because he doesn't want to live without her.
The movie-- and the boy-- are already showing that established family bonds can be quickly restructured to suit the passions of the boy. He's willing to alter reality and family for what he wants. What if his passions change? What if she gets fat? What chance does this kind of a relationship have long term? Zero. Here's my point: we are raising those exact kids right now.
No one hands kids identities anymore, no one says, "this is who you are, now start acting like it." You're a man, here's what men do; your last name is X, that's who you are. Etc.
What we're teaching kids is to make it up as they go along. So they do. Or, they just morph into someone else's life.
The patterns will stay: she'll go on to have those kind of relationships, because that's the method she's learned to get that kind of passion. And he'll go on to pretend he's somebody/something-- different each time, perhaps, but each time with conviction-- because that's how he's learned you score a chick. And why would he learn anything different? His parents aren't any kind of role model in this regard. TV is death. No one reads books-- except Twilight, apparently. Even porn is infested with MILF nonsense, obviously directed towards middle aged adults. Those narcissists are so focused on their own world that they only have the imagination to fantasize about people who are already exactly like their wives; but they are too disgusted by themselves to penetrate them. Easier to fantasize that someone else is doing it.
Tell me, please, how can any teen boy respect or learn from an adult who not only bookmarks porn, but bookmarks MILF porn?
Twilight is an accurate depiction of the moves and sensations of first time love. By second time love, by age 30, there should be some maturity.
This is what it looks like when you don't.