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The Kids Are Alright

March 6, 2010 7 comments

I have several friends whose opinions I respect who love the Twilight books and movies. Remembering that my pal Perry, a freak for scary movies, is a big “Twilight” fan, I sent a link to Lyta and her cuz’s assessment. Here’s his response . . . If only I had seaved Perry’s review of “Passion of the Christ” as a gorefest, so I could establish his bona fides as a horror enthusiast. / b

After reading Mr. Callahan’s review of the ‘Twilight’ phenomenon, I was astounded at his total missing of the point.  Or maybe it’s I who missed the point.  I’m open to that interpretation as well.  You be the judge.

Before we begin, a confession: you might say I’m a romantic or Romantic, sort of an old-fashioned Hubert Humphrey ‘bleeding heart liberal’ as Richard Nixon might have phrased it, or Ronald Reagan maybe.   I would like to respond to Mr. Callahan’s quickie review and also to the intro written by one of the 3 weird sisters.  First, Mr. Callahan and then on to the Sister.

You know, it’s very easy to slam ‘Twilight’ — the bad reviews are a dime-a-dozen — and here’s why: It’s a ROMANCE for christsake, and worse, it’s a romance for YOUNG GIRLS.  And what’s the history of the romance for young girls?  Look at the shrieking Bobby Sox Brigades that followed Frankie (Sinatra) in the 40’s and ’50’s.  His music was certainly to be dismissed and he has already been forgotten, barely a footnote in the history of Hoboken; check out the equally obnoxious legions of teeny boppers that ran after John, Paul, George and Ringo in the 1950’s and 1960’s.   We all know those guys never created anything with real substance or lasting value.  And let’s not leave out Chuck Berry or Elvis.  They faded into oblivion; no one remembers them.  So yes, Jody, Ms. Meyer’s work can also be dismissed, for like her comrades in that other genre, her writing will soon be forgotten, thankfully lost to history like that particle just beneath the surface of the water, you know, the one that pushes away the more you try to grab it.  Insubstantial, inadequate, piddly.

As you stated, Jody, adults DO like the series and you eloquently dumped us all into one category: Stupid.  Please let me tell you (without your articulate flair) exactly why we like it, or at least, why I like ‘Twilight’ and the books that followed.  One word: STORYTELLING.  Not just storytelling but storytelling perfectly paced with enough suspense to make you fumble to turn the page, to make you drop the book on the floor in haste to get on with the story and that one sure sign of a good book — you don’t want it to be over.   (BTW, staring into the eyes of your lover and “mouth-breathing at each other” not only makes for great sexual tension, it also makes for great sex.   Just thought I’d throw that in.)

Now, you seem to have a problem with the rules of vampirism.   (Quick aside: vampires are not real. They don’t really exist so they don’t have any rules).   Vampire lore can be traced back as far as ancient Persia and Babylonia.  Over the centuries every culture has modified the vampire to suit its entertainment needs and even political ends.  Of course it was Mr. Stoker who created the modern vampire myth borrowing from dozens of other myths and other cultures.

Each writer since Bram Stoker changed some element of the myth to make the telling more fun and to keep the reader on his or her toes, like: Michael Talbot’s ‘The Delicate Dependency’ and Rice’s ‘Vampire Chronicles’, both radically altered the myth as did Ray Garton’s ‘Live Girls’ and Sturgeon’s ‘Some Of Your Blood’.  Even Stephen King took a very different approach in his novella ‘The Night Flyer’.   Let’s not forget the truly strange look at vampire lore by Nancy A. Collins and Poppy Z. Brite.   Jody, it’s OK to change the myth and create your own set of undead rules as long as you follow them.  Your story has to be a closed system.  (It’s interesting to note that in ‘Dracula’ the light of day did not destroy the vampire – that was a Hollywood thing created much later.)

I’m not sure why you brought up Edward’s “sparkle” when Meyer broke vampire tradition in numerous and egregious ways.  In Meyer’s undead universe vampire blood is “venom” rather than the other-worldly ghosts of Anne Rice or the mysterious “virus” of ‘Dracula’.  Meyer’s vampires can have sex; Rice’s gave that up when they turned.   Meyer has created her own vampire world with a set of rules that she firmly adheres to.  Everything fits; everything works.  It’s a closed system.  Meyer is a genius storyteller with an attention to detail that would make an OCD jealous.

Jody, I’m not even going to address your take on the dialogue as my 6-year-old grandchild is funnier and more mature.  Sorry pal.

Two other points, however, are worth mentioning.  Whoever wrote the intro seems to think that ‘Twilight’ isn’t scary and that Edward is a “good” vampire.   Sister, did you read the book?  If you did you’d know that Edward is indeed a killer, that is, before he joined Carlisle’s coven,  Edward drank human blood and killed humans to get it.  When Edward tells Bella that he’s a killer it isn’t just a plot device intended to move the love story along by highlighting their doomed relationship.  He’s telling her the truth.  In fact, of the Cullen clan, only Carlisle himself has never destroyed a human.  Only Carlisle is not a killer — he didn’t even help dispatch James leaving that to Alice for revenge sake.   The rest of Carlisle’s family are new to the “vegetarian” thing, Jasper being the newest and having the least control over his instincts.

Rather than injecting her own religious values into the character of Edward, Ms. Meyer is keeping true to the story when she makes Edward reluctant to have sex with Bella.  Edward is a 100-year-old male who came of age before he was turned and so his values fit more into the 19th century than into liberal 21st century values.  Besides, he was afraid that vampire sex might actually kill Bella.

As for ‘Twilight’ and the series not being scary — here we have decapitation, dismemberment, extreme violence, warring armies, bloodlust, torture and enough entrails to satisfy Hershel Gordon Lewis.  What more do you want?  One could argue that all this is only horror.  Have you ever been confronted by a wolf in the wild?  Ever jumped off a 1000-foot cliff or ridden a motorcycle at top speed?  Ever offered to die in place of someone you loved?

If there’s a weakness in the Twilight saga it’s in the downplaying of Edward’s notion of the soul.   I hope Ms. Meyer focuses on that as she continues the series.

I used to believe that ANY book that got kids to read was OK by me.  At 60 years of age I now slightly revise that statement thus: ALMOST any book that gets kids to read is OK by me.  And if the kids nowadays are reading Rowling and Meyer, then all I can say is THAT’S PRETTY DARN COOL — THE KIDS ARE ALRIGHT. — Perry Thompson

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WHERE THE WILD THINGS USED TO EXIST…

March 2, 2010 11 comments

The Modern Vampire?

The following piece was written by my cousin, Jody Callahan. (With a little editing/paraphrasing on my part.)   I decided to post it because I think it’s a damned good commentary on the subject.  I haven’t subjected myself to the “Twilight” movie.  (After reading Jody’s opinions I may have to see it, after all.) But I must admit to reading the books.  Mainly because a nice but misguided Barnes and Noble employee recommended the books for my son, and I often like to read what he’s reading to see what he’s interested in.  These books and movies seem like a backlash against real horror movies more than anything else.  The premise of the first novel is that Bella, your average misunderstood teenager, goes to live with her father, who she has never been very close to (geographically or emotionally).  She soon notices that there are several students in her new high school who are different from all the other kids.  (I’ll say.)  She finally realizes they are vampires.  But they’re good vampires (of course) who only drink animal blood.  One of these, Edward, becomes Bella’s vampire love interest.  He, naturally, is supernaturally handsome, charming, kind, restrained, modest, wealthy, worldly…there’s not even a mild undercurrent of bad boy or bloodsucker in him.  I understand that the writer of the novels the movie is based on, Stephenie Meyer,  is Mormon.   I can see where the concept of cautioning teenagers against premarital sex and advocating morality and virtue is appealing to her.   In this case why choose the format of the vampire/werewolf novel for this?  Just a currently popular vehicle for the message – I grok that.  This doesn’t make it any less annoying.   Of course, most of the main vampire characters in the novels are of such high moral character and such models of self-discipline, I have to wonder why Ms. Meyer didn’t choose a band of angels to come down from heaven and attend high school.  And the werewolves in the series… aren’t.  Not in the traditional horror movie sense.  They’re an extremely noble and loyal tribe of shape-shifting Native Americans who protect the area from vampires.  Politically correct werewolves, so to speak.

There is no doubt who the target audience is for the movie itself.  (At Christmas I saw a ten-year-old girl having a serious meltdown in Target because they didn’t carry the particular “Twilight” movie poster that she wanted.)  But as far as I know, with some exceptions, since when are vampire and werewolf novels and horror films appropriate fare for kids that age? (And for all you people who know me and know I’ve been reading Stephen King since I was twelve  – YES – I’m one of the exceptions.  As is my son, who I took to see “Blade” when he was five.  Some kids can handle real vampires and most, apparently, cannot.  In fact, at the time I took Will to see “Blade” I remember thinking about how his cousin, also five, was still afraid of the Wicked Witch of the West.  And that’s more the norm, I think.  And did my son like “Blade”, you ask?  No…he psychotically loved it.) 

 Dracula  sure as hell wasn’t written for kids.  And granted it may seem a little tame nowadays.  But the underlying message is the same today as it was then:  Monsters will harm you…kill you if they can.  They’re evil.  It’s their JOB.  They’re not interested in your chastity…or your virtue…or your life.  Their goal is to rob you of all those.  So when did vampires stop being evil, undead bloodsuckers?  When did werewolves stop ripping people apart?   (And don’t even get me started on the love story angle of the “Twilight” series.)   Watering the subject matter down to guarantee yourself a larger, albeit younger, audience  just doesn’t cut it.  Shame on you – Stephenie Meyer.  In any case – on to Jody’s thoughts – seeing as how he’s the one who suffered through the film. ( Thankfully, he didn’t fork out the cost of a movie theater ticket  to see it.  Although, even at Netflix prices…I sense that it wasn’t worth the time.)

“Twilight”

Jody Callahan

I don’t know where to begin. Not that I have so much to say, but the movie is so forgettable it’s hard to get a hold on it as a whole – like some particle floating beneath the surface of the water –  the harder you try to grab it the more you push it away. Actually, that simile was more than this movie deserves. How about I go at this bullet point style?

· I can see how a 13-year-old little girl would go for this, because what does she know about anything? What disturbs me is how many grown-ass adults are into the Twilight movie and the books. (It’s as disappointing as back in MySpace days, when adults would list as their favorite books several titles from their childhood, one classic read from high school, Nicholas-fucking-Sparks, one from whatever minstrel representative of their particular political view, Harry Potter, and the Bible. This means to me that most people read shit if they read at all. Yes, I get that Harry Potter is for fun, but if I’m given a choice between an HP title and one appropriate for my age…)

· I don’t care how hot you are, staring and mouth-breathing at each other does not make for lasting sexual tension.

· I love horror movies. I love the lore. I love rule breaking. But you have to know, respect, and follow the rules with devotion and discipline before you can be worthy of breaking them. Vampires do not fucking sparkle in the sunlight. The light of day kills them dead. They don’t glint and glitter like a teen or twenty-something that insists on dressing like a “sexy” fairy for Halloween. Go find a friend who hasn’t seen the movie or read the books. Tell him that you came up with this new and awesome vampire story. Tell him your new take on the lifestyle of the undead is that instead of being burned to death by the light, they stand with their arms outstretched in the sunbeams like it’s a Creed video and sparkle like pretty diamonds. Then stand still with your arms by your side, because you friend is right to run up and punch you and demand that you apologize.

· Allow me to paraphrase some dialogue:
Edward: “I’m going to kill you.”
Bella: “You’re pretty.”
Edward: “Seriously, I will rip you apart and feast on your blood and entrails.”
Bella: “I drive a truck.”
Edward: “Are you listening?”
Bella: “Huh?”
Edward: “I’m a sexual predator and serial killer by nature. It’s difficult for me to not rape you to death right now and eat your dead, lifeless corpse.”
Bella: “You’re so complex and hard for me to read.”
Edward: “Forget it. Let’s just climb some trees in the next scene.”

· Is there anything a crippled beer-drinking Indian in a wheelchair can’t lend credibility to? Like the story that once upon a time in pilgrim days some vampires dressed as foppish dandies and killed a guy in the woods…

· Of course, God forbid the film show much of West Coast Indians, or their reservation at all. Instead, let’s whisk Bella away to her high-school-for- Abercrombie & Fitch-models who can’t be all that bright because they appear to be 25.

· Let’s see. Somewhere else in there the girl from “Up In The Air” put on a prom dress while Bella didn’t care. It was the closest I felt to the movie.

· Did they play baseball or did I dream that?

A bigger reason I can’t comment more on this movie is because it doesn’t matter.  I was too old for this film when I was 19.  It’s a movie about people wishing something more remarkable would happen, and maybe that’s the connection between it and its loyal following. And I’m being sincere. The romantic leads barely kiss. They were going to have sex but decide not to, and spend all their time wondering what it would be like if they did. At the end a bad-guy vampire wants to eat Bella “just because”, so the good guys go for a drive, get bored and have a “climactic” battle where no one really gets hurt except the bad guy. Then Bella and Edward go to the prom.

The only saving grace is that Kristen Stewart is getting notoriety for this. I think she can/will be great based on her performances in “Adventureland” and “Into The Wild.”

I’m gonna go find a cute girl and stare at her and mouth-breathe and see how far that gets me.

Jody