(Spoilers. If you care, stop reading this blog, it's for people over 18.)
Last night, (for shits and giggles with a couple of hard-core horror fans who mocked and howled the whole way through) I saw Twilight. It's a terrible movie in so many ways--if Our Vampires Are so Different that the sun just makes them sparkly and they don't hurt people, why is it even a bad thing to be super-strong and immortal?--okay, and why the fuck are they attending high school?--but I really just want to talk about the sexual politics.
I had heard that Twilight was "the one with the abstinence vampires," but that's not painfully explicit in the movie. It's true Edward and Bella don't fuck, but they don't make a big deal about "hey look at us we're not fucking" so whatever, it's not objectionable. There is one scene where they're making out on her bed and he suddenly leaps back with a horrified "I can't control myself," but it's not clear whether he's talking about sex or vamping out so, again, okay.
(Perhaps he was afraid of turning into Edwardus. Man, Buffy did it all so much better.)
Following in the grand tradition of vampire literature since... pretty much always, biting is the real sex. And a good 75% of the movie is Edward either saying or twitchily emoting that he really really wants to bite Bella. In fact, he straight up says that the reason he's attracted to Bella is that he wants to bite her. (It sure ain't her personality. The high school is full of people being friendly and accepting to her and she invariably grunts at them and wanders away mid-conversation.) Oh, but he mustn't.
Which is where the metaphor breaks down. Biting is a one-sided pleasure that destroys the passive partner. There's no safe biting, no consensual biting, no maturing and becoming ready for biting. Most importantly, there's no mutual biting. "Boys/vampires have to exercise restraint so that they don't selfishly take advantage of girls/victims by biting/fucking them" is a problematic message in so many ways.
Creepily, I think Edward's agonizing self-restraint is what's supposed to make him so dreamy. The movie sure plays all the scenes of him going "want... mustn't... ngghh... want... but I won't!" as money shots--the film climaxes with him denying yet another blood-drinking temptation--and I have a feeling that this is where teenage girls are meant to swoon. "Oooh, he's so repressed! There's a man who'd never allow himself to enjoy the things he desires! So romantic!"
I guess, in some bizarre way, the idea is to make abstinence--metaphorical and literal--sexy. To make a sex symbol out of a guy who won't fuck you. "I wish my boyfriend tormentedly refused to touch me!"
My only hope is that whatever Stephanie Meyer intended, the teenage fans' real motivation is "I'd totally crack that nut."
Also, Edward is just a plain ol' creep. He's supposed to be about 108 years old, but apparently he hasn't done anything with the last 107 of them. He's still attending high school classes, for Chrissakes, and he seems to have all the life experience and emotional maturity you'd expect of a 15-year-old. He falls in love with Bella about a week after meeting her and is teenagerishly obsessive and dramatic about it. You'd think a 108-year-old would've been around the block a bit more than that.
At one point quite early in their relationship, Bella wakes up and Edward is in her bedroom watching her sleep. Um, creeeepy. (Also, how'd he get in without an invitation? DAMMIT STEPHANIE MEYER WHAT KIND OF CRAPPY VAMPIRES ARE THESE ANYWAY.) Several times he follows her around for no damn reason, and several times he more or less kidnaps her. I don't require all my fictional characters to be moral paragons, but nonetheless I'm disturbed by the idea that Edward is being held up as the ideal teenage boyfriend.
Girls, girls! The awkward, broody older guy who follows you around and starts saying "I can't live without you" stuff in the first week is not dreamy! He is a Level III Offender. Don't get in the van.
P.S.: An unnamed accomplice who is a Pacific Northwest Native would like to add that he is not "descended from wolves," does not have a wolf or any other "totem spirit," that American Indian mythology does not consist of "anything you want to make up as long as it sounds naturey," and that American Indians are not, in fact, adorable woodland creatures that exist for your amusement.