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    Review: Teen Angst in the Twilight

    Vampires. They fascinate us. Whether it's Bram Stoker, Ann Rice, Josh Whedon or Elisabeth Kostova, writers keep finding ways to make the same old stories compelling, and we flock to bookstores and movie theaters or set our Tivos so we don't miss one gruesome detail.

    The latest, Stephanie Meyer's Twilight, is a tale of vampires who deny their monstrous urgings to live among mere mortals. Meyer dispenses with traditional vampire characteristics like aversions to garlic or daylight. These newer, trendier vampires wouldn't be caught dead spontaneously combusting in the sun. Instead, they just go all sparkly.

    As the movie begins, our heroine, 17-year-old Bella Swan, played by Kristen Stewart, has relocated from Phoenix to Forks, Washington, a town of just over 3,000, where the sun stubbornly refuses to shine for more than a few days a year, making it the perfect location for a vampire hide out (sun doesn't kill them, but they can't exactly go around looking like disco balls either). Enter Edward Cullen, played by Robert Pattinson, a super pale, super fast, super hot, 17-year old that Bella is immediately attracted to, even as he seems utterly repulsed by her. What follows is a heaping of teen angst, supernatural tricks, and a somewhat rushed encounter with a trio of vampires that are not so concerned with the moral drawbacks to eating people.

    I like vampire stories. Dracula is a classic, I never missed an episode of Buffy, and I thought The Historian, by Kostova, was an epic and fascinating retelling of Bram Stoker. Ann Rice is not my cup of tea, but there are several million people that disagree. For me, the best part of the vampire legend is the classic battle of good versus evil with vampires representing the hedonistic--sex, drugs, rock & roll--side of human nature that sometimes it is just too damned hard to resist. And it is here that Twilight falls short. The main vamps in the story don't seem to struggle all that hard to be good. And the evil vamps are one-dimensional baddies that get little screen time.

    But teenaged girls will love this movie. And since that is clearly the intended audience for both the movie and the book before it, I forgave the movie it's glossing over the eternal good/evil struggle and even it's frenetic and choppy pace. After all, it's hard to shove a whole book into a couple of hours, but the filmmakers had to know that fans of the novel would accept nothing less.

    The setting is green and lush, the people are pretty, and there are a surprising number of humorous moments, most of them when Bella's dad, played by a wonderfully understated Billy Burke, is on the screen. If you've read the book, you've already gotten all the character development you need so it's easy to believe in the love story, especially with the smoking hot chemistry between Stewart and Pattinson. If you haven't, you might want to spend a few hours in the library first. Knowing the story going in will help you to forgive the movie's flaws.


    A lot of the reviews I have heard are somewhat apologetic, but say it's just right for the young girls. I'm wondering if the lead characters are portrayed as we would wish our own 17 year olds would be. Curious, brave, good-hearted, true. Oh, and really smart (?)

    I suppose in the scheme of things teenage girls don't generally have films made to their demographic. Do they tend to shop more, or something? Is this a good thing?

    I think in the book, Bella is protrayed as curious, brave, good-hearted, true, and smart. In the movie, you just have to sort of assume she is. Edward isn't really 17, being a vamp and all.

    I grew up watching Jonathan Frid and Christopher Lee, and have usually enjoyed vamp stories, particularly the Nosferatu-inspired Shadow of the Vampire.

    I wonder if the Twilight vamps will resonate with anyone but smitten teens. One of the criticisms of the short-lived CBS series Moonlight was that they messed around too much with the legend. Vampire PI Nick was able to walk around during the day as long as he avoided too much sun. Moonlight had an involved back story but it didn't catch on with viewers (other than me).

    The Japanese Vampire Hunter D series of books and a few films has made a hero of the dhampir, the son of a still-potent vampire and his still-human wife. D has both the angst and strength of the vampire, but he's very much alive. In a distant future, he protects humans from an ancient but stagnating race of vampires. Unlike Twilight, however, VHD takes a fairly unromantic approach to sex. All the women pine away for him, but he is emotionally remote.

    Twilight is ultra-romantic, in the sense that love can make you deny what you are and be something else--something better. And now that I think that through, I wonder if that's a good message for teenage girls--as in don't worry girls, you'll find a boy who will totally subvert his real self because of your love for him and his for you. Yeah. That happens a lot.

    I wasn't put off with the removal of daylight as a barrier to vamp survival though. I sort of like the idea that vampires can come out in the day. It makes them harder to spot (unless it's sunny and they're sparkly) and it's easier to write a variety of scenes when you don't always have to put the vamps in at night. But the darkness and sunlight in the traditional stories are also thematic and that built-in tension is missing.

    Have you checked out True Blood? It's Showtime's new vampire series. It's definitely R-rated--lots of naked sex going on--but it's also quirky and hilarious. I like it so far.

    Actually, in accord with folklore, Bram Stoker let Dracula move around in the daytime (in a reduced capacity). It was Nosferatu that started the idea that sunlight destroyed vampires. But that idea seems to have caught on, probably because it plays into our fear of what may be lurking in the darkness.

    No to True Blood. Other than buying antennae and such, I refuse to pay for TV (even with naked sex).

    I must have forgotten that part. I read the book a long time ago. But there is something about night that makes horror stories much more intense. It's just not scary if something is coming after you in the daylight.

    Unless it's a bee. 

    Slate looks at the vampire code (It's more of a guide, really).

    And True Blood is all over youtube, or vice versa.

    Bzzt... "These newer, trendier vampires wouldn't be caught dead spontaneously combusting in the sun."  That is a double foul... Go sit in the penalty box for 10 minutes.

    I will.

    As soon as you see the movie.


    Yikes!  You said it is a teen chickflick!

    My ex makes it a point to keep up with her students' interests, and has read several Twilight novels. She used to make me watch 90210. Thank God for Jennie Garth.

    Is this an explanation of why your ex is your ex?

    No, I don't mind watching a few shows to be sociable.


    i already watched it 3 times in a row on friday and 2 and a half times on sat but then some effin nerd behind me wouldn't shut up so i spit on him and he threw his popcorn on me so i screamed and then i poured my coke in his lap and then i got kicked out but it was worth it to give his little wiener the deep freeze!!! Surprised

    PS I LOVE JOSH WHEDON!!!!!!!!!!! KissKissKiss i love him even more than levi. i'm so over levi. (he's hot and all but he's kinda not that smart Tongue out)

    but i'm still sad about sarah. but its ok b/c she'll be back soon and not with a creepy old guy next time. GOOOOOOO SARARHHHHHH!!!!!!!!

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