The Twilight Saga and Eclipse

I just finished The Twilight Saga: Eclipse, and I must say I’m quite impressed. It’s miles beyond the twitchy, barely cohesive first film in the saga (directed by the equally twitchy and floofy Catherine Hardwicke), which played only for extreme die-hard fans. I didn’t hate it, but in comparison to its sequel, The Twilight Saga: New Moon, Twilight pales. New Moon was enjoyable, Robert Pattinson wasn’t in it much, so the brooding emo is at a minimum. There were fewer awkward acting moments from Kristen Stewart (who is a decent actress, but unfortunately Chris Weitz, New Moon‘s director continued some of Hardwicke’s crazy choices and had Bella stammer and stutter throughout–she does do a good job of playing numb in the wake of Edward breaking up with her).
Taylor Lautner, who only had about 5 minutes in the first film, buffed up like his literary counterpart, allowing him to keep the role. We’re glad he did. He’ll be a great actor, I think, because he brings life to the film in contrast to Bella’s depression and Edward’s sullenness. Moreover, I hated the character of Jacob in the books, but Taylor Lautner made me love him. He’s so honest about his love for Bella, which comes across better onscreen, while Edward is all quiet and smoldering–a tortured soul, writing dark poetry in his journals–Jacob acts.

Then, we bring in the likes of Michael Sheen and Dakota Fanning, and they just steal their scenes with their quiet, well acted menace.

I think that New Moon the movie was better than the book! Mainly because they streamlined Bella’s Edward withdrawal in a wonderful one scene montage (that didn’t feel awkward in its montage-ness) and moved on to the relationship between Jacob and Bella–how he heals her and ultimately falls for her. This brings the good message for teens that it may not be the greatest idea to only have one person in your life, that you can have a friend in addition to the boyfriend/girlfriend–and that’s ok!

All that to lead up to: Eclipse was great. I think it’s certainly the best of the series so far. The stammering was NO MORE! Director David Slade has discontinued the overly angstiness of the dialogue, with less twitching and stuttering from our lead actors. They held long, meaningful conversations without digressing into full on languish mode.I appreciated even more attention to detail from the books, down to the back stories of the Cullens, the subtle change in their eye color as they get hungry (only seen once at the beginning of Twilight, I think), the destruction of the vampires during the battle–which is epic, by the way; there’s also some good humor, and much better characterization, particularly with side characters, not just the leads.

I’m also happy they tied it all together with what was going on in Seattle, using the material from the recent novella, The Short Second Life of Bree Tanner. This made the film more cohesive, not just having a stark, separate climax at the end, but building to it (this novel did this better than the previous two books, but the movie took it to a whole new level). The tone in Twilight was just blue and cold. The subsequent films have been warmer all around, mainly because of Jacob’s presence, I think, which is a nice visual reminder of the dichotomy of the worlds that are clashing around Bella.
Taylor Lautner continues to shine. He’s strong, yet emotionally vulnerable toward Bella. He kisses her and she punches him in the face–breaking her hand, which is what you get when you punch a werewolf…When he brings her home, her dad, Charlie, asks her what happened Jacob says,

“I kissed Bella. [long, beautifully timed awkward pause] And she broke her hand. [Another long, beautifully timed awkward pause] By punching me in the face.”

The testosterone-y competitiveness  between Edward and Jacob comes out bigger than ever, to humorous ends at times. There’s even an, “I’m hotter than you” line, which works well!

There’s certainly a more in-depth discussion of the way that teenagers should be viewing these films and reading these books. This is NOT the ideal love story–let’s move away from the “he’s a vampire or werewolf” argument, because those are certainly there for the fantastic and the hyperbolic metaphor for danger inherent to fantasy. Edward is selfish with his love, he knows he isn’t good for her, and he knows that she would be safer and have a more full life with Jacob, who loves Bella blatantly and unrepentantly, but he can’t live without her–which sounds romantic, but he literally will kill himself if she isn’t alive.

So, he tries to kill himself when he thinks he’s lost her–what does that say to our teens? Edward started to make a good choice in New Moon by leaving her so she would remain safe, but this led to ruin because the immature 17 year old girl can’t live without him. Jacob says at one point, “[paraphrase] If you’d stayed away for 6 more months, she would have been happy. She would have been safe”

Bella is, I think, a somewhat typical teen in that she’s a people pleaser–but this is to her detriment. She cannot stop from doing what she thinks everyone wants of her, putting herself in danger, making stupid decisions, all in the name of love. Much of the events in the previous books and movies stem from a stupid decision she made in the first book.

All the stupid decisions aside, let’s finish with: In NO case, ever. EVER. Will a teenage boy (which, remember, Edward is 110 years old…) stop the girl he loves from throwing herself at him. It. Will. Not. Happen.

As one who works with teens on a regular basis and who enjoyed the books, I have to step back and make sure that teens are reading the book with their heads on straight. It’s like getting dating (stalking?) advice from Romeo and Juliet–I mean, in both cases, the male love interest attempts (and in Edward’s case, he succeeds, for months before she notices and is COMPLETELY OK with it…) to climb into her bedroom through the window. I’m sorry, but that’s not the perfect example of an ideal love story.

It’s an enjoyable read, and a good time at the movies, but it’s not what our teens should emulate.

That being said, I’m rather conflicted, as it’s certainly not the worst thing out there, morally. Like I said before, Edward does say no when the hormonal teenage girl throws herself at him while on her bed. They don’t do more than kiss, heavily, yes, but that’s it. In the final book, Breaking Dawn, they have sex–after they get married. That’s been a requirement all along for Edward to go there with her, physically–something he’s reticent to do in the first place, because he doesn’t think he can control himself (a good, clean, metaphor, anyone?).

“I know love and lust don’t always keep the same company.” –Edward

So, essentially, I’m warning teens to do what I say with every book, movie, TV show: think, don’t merely mimic. Use your judgment. I’ve enjoyed these books thoroughly, they’re character-driven, and Stephenie Meyer has a way of manipulating my emotions in a way that I completely hated a character in a way I haven’t in a long time. They’re not Anne Rice or Laurell K. Hamilton–which is a good thing–they need a little work with pacing, and the climax of Breaking Dawn wasn’t. They have good morals behind them, but they depict a teen who doesn’t make a great life choice, much like Romeo and Juliet (which is taught in every school in the country) but what’s more–they’re engrossing.

I know there’s a lot of people who will bite their thumbs at these books (you know who you are!), but I think that, if our teens are reading them, and they’re becoming such a pervasive part of pop culture, we ought to be prepared to confront the ramifications of that by making informed decisions and discussing it with our teens.

Any comments or thoughts?


5 thoughts on “The Twilight Saga and Eclipse

  1. I disagree with your emphatic statement that no teenage boy will ever have the self-control to say no to a girl who throws herself at him. I know plenty of responsible teenage males who waited. I understand the point you are trying to make, but I tend to disagree with blanket statements that lump all teens together, because there are responsible teens out there.

    Having not read the books, I of course do not have a lot to add. However, I did actually have a discussion with another man about the Twilight series at the wedding I went to this past Friday. We discussed what we thought Twilight’s appeal was to specifically adult females. I will summarize our thoughts here.

    Bella is a largely blank slate character in that I don’t know that she will ever be included as one of the greatest literary characters ever written (female or otherwise). In this case, I assume that Stephanie Meyer perhaps meant to make Bella serve as a stand-in of sorts for the female reader. Don’t define her too much, make her typical, easy to relate too. Females in general tend to be more responsive to words than males who tend to be more responsive to visuals. So what Stephanie Meyer has done is recreated a somewhat quintessential teenage experience (which boy do I like?) and written in a very accessible way (teen fiction) and thrown in a relationship that has more emphasis placed on companionship than sex, which is safer of course and does not have as many repercussions (i.e. babies, STDS, etc.).

    I would hazard to say that the books speak to a void perhaps that is present in adult women, married or otherwise, who are perhaps seeking romantic companionship without the pressures of sex (although I understand this happens in the last novel). The reader gets emotionally stimulated in way that she is not in her relationship. This also applies to several guys I know.

    This is of course mostly hypothetical based on several interactions I’ve had with Twilight readers. I can appreciate your thoughts and adroit points (comparing it to Romeo and Juliet is rather clever) and of course respect your fondness for the Twilight Series. I don’t think I can ever bring myself to read them, but will read any and all posts that you may have on the subject.


  2. I can see your point with my emphatic statement. I too was one of those boys who held off, so I am negating even my own experiences with that line. However, I suppose I should reword that to say: The large majority of teen boys, with their raging hormones, would not stop a girl when she throws herself at him. Therefore, don’t play with fire. Act responsibly, because you cannot guarantee that your partner will.
    I do agree with Bella as a blank slate, which makes her a bit more relatable. This is one of the points which intrigues me. She is read as a completely empty character, but I think that readers are allowed and encouraged to fill in the gaps with themselves.
    As far as the sex, it happens in the final book, after they’re married and on their honeymoon. And it’s actually Bella who does the pressuring.
    I appreciate the books, basically because Stephenie Meyer does a great job of putting her readers on an emotional roller coaster.

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