Spinifex director Susan Hawthorne meets Bella and Edward and is not convinced by what she sees...
On a recent flight I had the chance to see the film Twilight. I’d heard about Stephenie Meyer’s book, heard mixed reports, some damning, some complimentary. Since watching the movie I’ve been thinking about how to process this strange phenomenon.
I’m trying to put myself in the mind of a youngish reader and wondering if it might be a kind of revenge against the permissiveness of the previous generation. Is it about wanting to go back to traditional values, a rejection of feminism and critiques of colonisation? But, then my feminist self intervenes and asks why would any young woman want to participate in the male protection racket offered by this film? First the father won’t let his daughter stay out later than 4pm; then the pasty-faced Edward wants only to marry her and protect her; and then Jake is just more of the same. What explains the phenomenal success of this book with young women? There is an element of the gothic; and vampires do create a kind of adolescent frisson.
And then there’s the violence: the serial killing going on in Seattle soon followed by what can only be called a massacre in the forest.
Almost all the dialogue in the movie is like cardboard and sotto voce. It’s also incredibly boring, most of it of the “what will we do?” kind. While this is a perennial question of youth, it does nothing for plot or narrative.
The most interesting character in Twilight is the mother, the kind of mother who looks like she managed to do something with her life and has now headed for the sun. She comes across as a real person. Meanwhile, the father is not coping with his teenage daughter and just wants to control her.
Then there is the local tribe, the Native Americans, who do more than dance with wolves, this tribe knows how to turn into wolves. My reaction is what is this racist, exoticising crap doing in this movie?
So here we have it – a story that makes young women fear their bodies and have an extraordinarily narrow view of sexuality. You would never know that feminism had ever critiqued every part of the framing narrative. Sex is evil, it is one-dimensional, allowed only for procreative purposes and it makes the surrendered wife seem almost tame. Indigenous peoples are strong but might put themselves forward as a sacrifice for the greater good (nothing new here). Bella and Jake – the woman and the native – both get to offer themselves as sacrificial lambs, while the vampires (those pasty-faced ones) hunt.
In my twenties, I read a great deal of fantasy, most of it mind expanding. This is of the mind-narrowing kind and I wish its popularity would quickly wane. At one point I thought, maybe it’s ironic, meant as some kind of generational joke against people like me, but more realistically I can’t but conclude that it is racist and sexist, mind-numbing violence.