The work of Stephenie Meyer is a hot button issue at League HQ. I am not supposed to tell you that Jamie has read the entire series.
Or that she owns the Blu-Ray of the first movie. Or that she will see New Moon in the theater at least once, if not twice.
Anyway, as you can imagine, the Sparkle Vampire franchise is a pretty small sliver of Jamie's media intake in comparison with how I've said "I ain't reading anything but stuff about people in tights fighting colorfully-dressed, albeit ineffective criminals. Often on the moon.", which Jamie is very good about not nitpicking to death.
It's my official stance that Twilight is sort of stupefying in how it embraces and endorses behavior that seems abusive.
Look, I get that teen-age girls (and adults, in many cases) get all excited about broody, mysterious guys. But when they take you into the woods and talk about how they've killed people and how they can't help themselves when it comes to violent acts, saying "that's okay, we're in it together" is how women end up in half-way homes five years on.
That's not to say that Superman comics weren't (from about 1950-1977) almost entirely about Superman being an emotionally manipulative jack-ass to Lois. Those Silver Age and early Bronze Age comics are often a bit iffy (including the assumption that if Lois and Clark ever did marry, she'd quit working immediately. WTF? Earning potential, people.).
Now, I should qualify my statements around Twilight. I've only seen the movie, never read any of the books, and the version of the movie I saw was RiffTrax. And I may have had a few glasses of wine. I do not know Edward and Bella the way many of you will. I do not have the Barbie dolls of Edward and Bella that I saw at Target today, for example.
I just sort of wonder how something like Twilight doesn't just slip through the cracks, but that nobody really talks about the messages of the franchise to its target audience of young women when its become such a massive phenomenon. Reviewers like Lisa Schwartzbaum of EW.com, who normally take movies to task for stepping anywhere off the line from an ERA-era take on gender politics, seem to shrug off the ick-factor of a 108 year old dude getting hot and bothered by a 17 year old girl (who, I might add, has the personality of a mopey house cat), and who alternately threatens and baits her.
My theory is as follows: The Sparkle Vampire phenomenon taps into some of being a teen-age girl that The League so completely does not get that its loosely the equivalent of why guys don't blink at the absurdity of beer commercials (ie: If you drink Natty Light, you will meet women), at which women tend to roll their eyes.
Anyway, with the release of New Moon (which I mentioned on our Facebook account that I'd go see under certain conditions), I can't help but ponder the phenomenon afresh.
It's probably also worth pondering the emasculation of vampires in the post-Anne Rice era.
The physiology and habits of vampires as described in Stoker's "Dracula" are obviously far different. Its worth noting: in the book, Dracula did not burst into flames when exposed to sunlight. I now have no idea where that came from. Instead, he simply loses his powers and is often seen sleeping. He does not sparkle. Nor is he seen as being of particular romantic interest (and it seems that the appeal of Dracula's brides hits a bit differently than Edward's appeal).
But since Anne Rice took the romantic cues of the Frank Langella-starring Dracula and spun them out to historical fiction, and authors started pondering the "what-ifs" of vampirehood, removing the limitations and peculiarities of vampires seems to be a method of humanizing the characters while simultaneously doing exactly what's happened on shows like True Blood, and that's turn the very nature of the beast on its head.
As discussed after reading "Dracula", becoming one of the Un-Dead means a dissolution of the victim's personality. The nature of vampirism is seen through a very different filter if the taking of life becomes a choice (one that we know Dracula's victims are denied). Even Dracula himself has an expression of peace after our heroes drive a stake through his heart, and so there's the tortured nobility of the Twilight vampires if they have the option to just, basically, be super-anemic. But it certainly removes the whole "eternally damned" aspect of vampirism, and just makes it an inconvenience with nifty benefits.
Its an inadvertent side-effect that the lust for blood in Edward which is read as just plain lust can be read as a lust to do violence and winnow away the personality of Bella Swan as she gives up on friends and family to be with her man.
I don't think the movies or franchise are "dangerous", per se. But it is a reminder that for all the messages we get in health class about violent, co-dependent relationships, and what we can agree are things we wouldn't normally say were okay to see in a movie as an overt message, we're happy to put aside those stances when it comes to the right story. Buried under sparkly, handsome Edward, any suggestion of abuse or violence becomes coded or muddled, and its not hard to dismiss possible readings to that point as "not getting it". After all, nothing is more powerful than the lunch-table conversations with our peers who egg us on or who feel wrong when they suggest we're making a romantic mistake, and who is the better lunch-table buddy than Bella? Heck, the first movie tells us she's the dream lunch-table pal.
Anyhow, its an interesting phenomenon. Meyer is becoming as wealthy as Rowling as the sort of pop-culture juggernaut that seems self-perpetuating builds around her. The kids who grew up with Harry Potter can add sex to the mix, and a dozen or so imitators can pop up in books, one CW TV show, and a grittier take on the concept on "True Blood" (I've never seen either show).
Why vampires and why now? Man, I have no idea. Certainly it helps fulfill that angle that pop-culture critics kept insisting we needed out of the modern superhero any time a superhero wasn't "conflicted" enough. By jettisoning the concept of vampire as monster, and reinstating them into the equation as nothing but a tortured paramour, Dracula goes from hellspawn to unique-fixer-upper opportunity. Its not enough that with power comes responsibility, but the powerful pay for their "abilities" in obvious and direct ways, sort of how Singer's X-Men seemed to in the first outing (and which was melodramatically forgotten by the time Wolverine rolled around).