Tag Archives: vampires

New Moon, Same Old Bella

It’s no secret that I’m a Twilight fan. The books allowed me to joyfully indulge in cheesy, fluffy escapist fantasy. And the movies are no different. The first movie in the Twilight “saga” was enjoyable the same way campy b-movies are enjoyable. The effects were bad, the makeup was bad, the script was REALLY bad (er…. “spider monkey?”). It was low budget, and it showed. I giggled my way through it.

This time around, the producers understood what they had in hand: a money machine. So, they threw a little budget at it, changed the director and… voila! New Moon is a very different kind of movie. The special effects are great, especially when the werewolves come on the scene, and the dialogue is actually funny in parts. I mean, on purpose.

Unfortunately, no amount of budget or talent can change one element about the book/movie, an element that will plague the whole series like an itchy nose on a date. The only thing holding this story back from crossing into awesome territory is this: Bella is a freakin’ annoying character.

The title of the movie refers to a new romantic presence in Bella’s life: her friend Jacob Black, a member of the local Native American tribe who, according to legend, are descendants of werewolves. Well, it turns out that, once again, the legends contain more truth than fiction. Jacob becomes a member of the werewolf pack, a group of young men who have inherited the ability to turn into wolves and hunt – what else? – vampires. With Edward gone – claiming not to love Bella, but really leaving because he thinks that he poses too much of a danger to her –  Bella turns to Jacob for comfort, companionship, and safety. Of course, his feelings develop romantically and she is confused. Should she stay loyal to her one true love, even in his absence? Should she try to love Jake, for all his wonderful abs – er, I mean – qualities?

Kristen Stewart told The New York Times that she plays her role by pretending that Edward has a real human affliction, like a heroine addiction, rather than that he is a vampire. So, if we follow that logic, this is a story about a girl who is in love with a heroine addict. While tortured boys do have a certain appeal, her devotion to him is completely – and dangerously – romanticized. He’s hot, his attentions make her feel special, but he also has a barely contained impulse to kill her to drink her blood. While that adds a certain level of tension to the story, it makes one wonder about the self-worth this girl has when her boyfriend is the dude who, in response to the question “How can you stand to be this close to her?” responds through clenched jaw, “It’s not without difficulty.”

Add to the list of evidence for her lack of self-esteem, the ultimate red flag: she’s suicidal.  She goes for rides with strange, sketchy guys, she dives off cliffs, she crashes her motorcycle, then insists, “I want to go again,” while bleeding from the head. And all because she craves the way Edward somberly appears to her when her life is in danger, wagging a finger in his fatherly way.

Truthfully, there’s no need to wonder about her self-worth. I know it’s zero. Bella tells us in so many words in the climactic scene. After tracking Edward to Italy, she flings herself upon his bare, pale, shimmery chest in order to stop him from exposing himself in a crowded square, then tells him that he can leave her without guilt. She whines, “[Your loving me] didn’t make any sense… I’m nothing.”

When Bella says that there’s nothing left after Edward leaves, she’s kind of right.  But that’s not because that’s how love is.  That’s  because she focused on him to the exclusion of everything else, especially herself.  I shudder to think of the young women who might think that it’s normal – and even a sign of ultimate love – to feel that nothing is left when the guy is gone.

Dear, dear Bella. This story does not have a happy ending for me. This is sad. Ending up in a relationship in which you revere and idolize your boyfriend while telling yourself that you aren’t worthy of his affection is not healthy or romantic. Go be with your friend Jake because, while he is also irrationally obsessed with protecting you from harm while he could be doing something more fun, he at least wants to hear what you have to say and wants you to lead your own life. Or, better yet, develop a hobby OF YOUR OWN. Go out with some of your friends. They are very nice and cute. And, amazingly enough, they will still give you the time of day after you wasted three months of your senior year sitting at a table by yourself and staring into space.

Some would argue that a character from a movie need not be a role model for girls and, to that, I say, “Thank goodness.” But I don’t think anyone can deny that there are many girls out there who think Edward Cullen is just peachy and that a boy who watches you sleep, tells you what to do, and leaves you out of the decisions concerning your own life is the boy of their dreams.  And, to them, I say “That’s gonna get old fast.  ‘Specially when said controlling fella is immortal.”

I leave you with a very funny Twilight-inspired song that I found on Jezebel.com:

I wrote this post for the Girls Leadership Institute’s blog Woosh! Check it out already.

Vampire Confessions

Vampire

Hi. My name is Shannon. And I like vampires.

Let’s not forget the werewolves, witches, and shape shifters. I am confessing to all my darkest secrets right up front. Let’s have nothing but truth between us.

Some people blame their mothers for their character flaws. Well, I blame my daughter. After Winnie was born, I lost my taste for well-written prose – the kind of Literature one can read on the subway with head held high – in favor of what I will generously call “fluff.” We were engaging in marathon breastfeeding sessions, sandwiched between infinite marches to nowhere in Prospect Park. My couch developed a mysterious dent the size and shape of my bottom, and the gravel paths boasted grooves that fit my stroller perfectly. During that time, I just couldn’t find the mental energy to engage with the latest Toni Morrison or Michael Ondaatje.

That was my life. Couch, park, couch park. The proverbial door, then, was open for a vampire named Edward and his wisp of a girlfriend. Understand, this all happened before Twilight was TWILIGHT! Before the Comican craziness. Before vampire fang necklaces were all the rage. (Fang necklaces?? I am appalled! And, yes, I secretly want one.) Propping that book on my knee or on the handle of the stroller got me through some dark days. My daughter got a heck of a lot of “tummy time,” meaning “hush-little-baby-and-stay-on-the-blanket-while-mommy-finishes-this-chapter time.”

Turns out that Bella was just a gateway drug. After her came Sookie. Then Mercy. Then, pretty much anything I could get my hands on. Amazon.com kindly pointed out that I seem to be interested in “paranormal romances” (THANK you, customer profiling!) and the site suggests many lovely titles that I check out by the cartload from the library.

All the while that I am wandering around with my latest obsession tucked under my arm, just hoping for a moment or two of reading time, I am becoming increasingly worried. I am wondering what this all means about me. So many aspects of my life have changed lately. I no longer work full time, which means no more pats on the back about how well I do my job, no more paycheck to spend as I see fit, no more community of supportive colleagues. I don’t have the time, money, or energy to spend with my friends the way I used to, so I always feel like I am either trying to catch up with their exciting lives, or making excuses for why I’m not around much. On top of all those losses, I worry that I’m losing my smarts. I worry that all this reading of low-brow books means that I am not as smart, interesting, or worthwhile as I was before.

And yet, even while I fret about my intellect, or lack thereof, I can not wait until my next chance to dive right into the fantasy book du jour. Somehow, I have re-captured a delight in stories that I hadn’t felt since I was a kid. I no longer sneak a flashlight under the covers, but that’s exactly how I feel when I’m engrossed in a book in the middle of the night and everyone else is sleeping. I know that I should turn out the lights, but I have to keep reading – just one more chapter! It’s a joyful and familiar feeling.

I’ve heard people say that the best career choices have to do with what we enjoyed as children. Well, what I always loved as a kid was this: reading and writing. I used to stay in bed pretending to be asleep on the weekends, while throughout the house my family went about its business – never suspecting that I was kicking back two books before breakfast. Some were quality books – the Anne of Green Gables series was and is my absolute favorite – but many more were the same kind of silly, predictable trash I am enjoying so thoroughly now. The kind of book in which the girl has to choose between the rogue and the upstanding gentleman. (And she chooses the rogue every time.)

I’m starting to think that this lust for trashy books isn’t much of a change at all; I’m just returning to my roots. In addition to inhaling all the reading material I can get my hands on, I’m also writing more now than I have in all my previous adult years combined. (One of my many projects is my own vampire novel, a fact that I had not admitted to more than two people before now.) It all makes me feel as excited and full of life as I did when I was a kid writing reams of stories to show my parents, teachers, and classmates. How had I ever lost that love of stories, that hunger for words? Oh, yeah. I was busy reading Literature.

I’m having a blast, and I think I owe it all to vampires.

Photo credit goes to: http://www.flickr.com/photos/usonian/