Bella and the pantsbulges - The Snow In The Summer or So-So

23 November 2018
Ten years of Twilight

Ten years since the first Twilight movie "hit" the "screens". What's it done for pop culture?

Twilight was a movie by women, for women. Directed by Catherine Hardwick, written by Stephanie Meyer, screenwritten by Melissa Rosenberg, starring Kirsten Stewart, and watched by young women the world over. It's too rich for men and their fragile, sensitive nature.

How has this inflected the world? Twilight had (has?) a passionate fanbase, and was part of a low-key culture war. Raged against it were a very loud and very boring tribe of man-babies. These pathetic creatures would shake their tiny fists and cry because (gasp!) it's a successful film that (shock!) isn't aimed at macho men.

Just by existing, Twilight is a feminist statement: anything written by women that makes men uncomfortable has a place in feminism. The Twilight fandom dominated the cultural zeitgeist for a few years, it was young women seizing control in a way that made older people and men twitchy.

Passionate fanbases have continued, so has sneering at them. The more masculine the original work, the less sneering there is. So there was lots of rage at One Direction (aimed at young girls), less at Game of Thrones (plenty of blood and gore, even if the women look like they'll win), and very little at Marvel's movie franchises (aimed squarely at man-children).

The choices we make...

There was a lot of grousing about the "anti-feminist" aspects of the films. Most of these come from the source material, which reflects Stephanie Meyer's peculiar worldview. Bella is seen as having no agency in her life, she's the homemaker, she pines for Edward, she's not complete until she's married, and so on. All of these are accurate critiques.

On the other hand, Meyer argued that the films show Bella making choices, and the consequences of those choices. At no point is she forced or coerced into making those choices, is the nub of Meyer's argument. Well, yes and no; we always got the impression that Edward was a master manipulator, and also fiddled with Bella's mind.

At times, Bella is a determined character; at times, she's a slave to Edward and Jacob's pantsbulges.

Throughout the series, Bella makes her choices, and Bella's choices are respected. Once she's taken a decision, everyone else defend it, they don't go back over the might-have-beens, and they certainly don't ignore Bella's choices.

This blog reckons that if you're going to give people a choice, sooner or later they will make choices you might not like. Bella encapsulates that very neatly: in our view, she'd be best off shacking up with Alice, and she'd do better with Jacob than with Edward. But this is the choice she made, and she has to last the rest of her days with it. The moral: choices have consequences.

Beyond the screen

Twilight taught young women to bond together, that they knew themselves better than old men. It's a shared language, a cultural connection to exclude as much as it includes. Team Jacob? Team Alice? Team Edward? Pick a side, share your arguments, and know that - despite your differences - all argue to the same point.

And there is fanfic. Of course there is fanfic. Much of it is better than the original. Heck, most of it is better than the original. Fanfic will face up to Meyer's appropriate of Quileute myths, deal with the nascent paedophilia in the final book, and the blatant religious symbolism. All works are problematic, some more than others.

The film has some moments to cringe, but it's got many crowning moments of awesome. Vampire baseball is one of them: a preposterous idea, but the action and the music somehow work. The scene where Edward whisks Bella up to the treetops looks astounding, it's simple forest-eye-porn.

We think that CBBC has essentially blanked Twilight. It's a little too mature for the 6-12 year-old audience, so no mention on Blue Peter, no pisstakes on Hacker Time, not even an homage on 4 O'Clock Club. They have ridden the zeitgeist, reviving Young Dracula for a couple of series, then exploring Wolfblood through two distinct generations. Both are better written than Twilight.

Grown-up telly preferred shows about zombies, presumably because any shambling idiot can write be one.

As for the on-screen talent? Robert Pattison (Edward) still acts. Taylor Lautner (Jacob) went on to do BBC3's Cuckoo, where he was a right laugh on set. Ashley Greene (Alice) has done TV's Rogue and Pan Am, and movies such as In Dubious Battle. Kristen Stewart (Bella) has chosen to do indie and alternative films - The Runaways, Still Alice, Clouds of Sils Marina, Personal Shopper - and is held as one of cinema's leading talents.

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