A long long way off Topic - A Review of 'Twilight'

One of the audiences that museums are keen (nay desperate?) to attract is the elusive teenage audience, for which there seems to be no agreed 'plan' so to speak, although teenagers themselves are rigorously stereotyped as narcissistic, melodramatic, rude, obsessed with themselves and bodily functions.  Having been a teenager I can see the point however it strikes me as very difficult to appeal to persons whose hormones are all over the place and who probably don't know what they want themselves.  Which is why it is so interesting that other cultural providers seem completely clued into what teenagers want.  One example of this is the film Twilight, something of a cultural phenomenon since the last one (Harry Potter, Star Wars, Lord of the Rings...) although this one is unashamedly aimed at susceptible teenager girls who are in love with the idea of being in love with a handsome, brooding, unobtainable hunk, plus a bit of action for their (probably very bored) male dates.  Having read many reviews of this film which signified it was scoring very high on the 'crap-o-meter' I was rather disgusted with myself for being entertained by this film, even admiring the slow, very slow build up in the relationship between the two main characters; a pale and interesting (supposed) loner/Geek (?) Bella (who actually attracts a lot of friends despite her stand-offishness, it is helpful being pretty), and the object of her teenage crush (and probably most of the teenagers flocking to see it) a pale and interesting enigmatic, dare I say it Byronic, Vampire called Edward.  I liked the subtle honesty of this film - Bella doesn't seem to see herself as attractive whilst at the same time having such a high opinion of herself that she ignores every other boy's attempts to woo her.  Mind you, whilst the boys are nice enough this film taps into the prevalent idea that girls do not want 'nice' - they want the dark brooding man, the rude, obnoxious loner such as Edward.  Just as long as he is attractive mind!  I suppose it is the idea that there is a kind, caring person just waiting to come out.  This film does nothing to dispel that notion and revels in it, having our heroine do all the work to ensnare her beau whilst all he has to do is stand around, looking pretty, occasionally stalking her and watching her sleep at night.  Oh and he does save her life like an old-fashioned gentleman, opens car doors, formally introduces himself to her father... ahem you probably get the picture by now.  Even writing it down has me reaching for the sick bucket.

Nevertheless it is bizarrely compulsive viewing.  I find it hilarious that this film is so honest about the fact Bella is in love/lust with a serial killer, someone who likens his desire for her like being on heroin, although it seems to me that it is Bella who is addicted; for anyone who has read Dracula it is evident that the Vampire has a dangerous charm built in to attract victims so how far her love is 'real' is a moot point. Never does she question it either which makes it seem more real to me than the Dawson's Creek versions of teenager-dom and their endless blathering about the meaning of things.  Ironically, less real are the Vampires, which the film romanticizes to the point of lunacy.  No longer do they have any hideous traits left, such as withering in sunlight, losing their attractiveness if they don't drink blood etc. All that is icky is the fact that they drink BLOOD, but even this is conveniently dampened down in the film except at a key moment.  But in another way the film does turn the conventional romantic story on its head - Edward is apparently harmless, he plays piano, likes long walks blah blah however he is technically evil inside despite being 'good' on the surface.  I sort-of liked the tension this creates.  Perhaps he will get fed-up with being nice and go all Anakin Skywalker on us at some point?

So an appeal of the film is that it taps into the apparently universal desire for trauma which makes life meaningful.  Bella already has the divorced parents, the enforced move to a new school, an aloof Father and now she has the Vampire boyfriend to add to the list.  The film also makes much of the idea that Bella constantly attracts a stream of bad events, some induced by her own actions.  Like soap operas you wonder how so much can happen to one person whilst thinking that at least she has an interesting life... for what else is there to do in a small town except gaze wistfully at the mountains or into the amber eyes of your Vampire companion (of which there is a tedious amount).

As a story though the rest was pretty standard; the stoic, but somewhat misguided heroine who will do anything for her man, the cast of friends who are waiting in the wings to help her out (including here a Vampire family), random events of peril and a distant, aloof hero who is battling his own inner demons.  Even despite all this awareness I was still completely entranced by this film, which makes me feel slightly tainted and dirty, rather perhaps like the Vampires when they welcome (a rather ungrateful) Bella, a human after all who tests their will power enormously, into their home and everything starts goes wrong as a result.  What can I say except there is still a part of me that has never got past the teenage phase...

Like teenagers, Vampires think a lot of themselves and are obsessed with their own needs so like Lost Boys before it, this film is very cunning in bringing the two together.  The adults are practically non-existent, boring and embarrassing.  I am not sure what museums can learn from such blatant attempts to attract the teenagers like this; it is not exactly challenging nor is it subversive, suggesting that for all their posture most teenagers are actually very conservative, they just want to feel that things have been made especially for them and to cater exclusively for their desires.  Museums in all their authority are perhaps too symbolic of the adult world, into which some teenagers don't want to enter just yet (and maybe some of us never want to at whatever age).


Amy said…
I've often thought that perhaps museums should just stop trying to appeal to teenagers. I mean, that's like anathema to the 'yoof' isn't it? Try hard adults trying to look cool, and all that? ;) Perhaps it's time to accept that museums are not going to appeal to all young people all the time. Does anything? As long as they don't feel excluded from the museum environment, does it really matter that they'd rather not spend their time in one, when there's more exciting things to do like hang out at the bus stop drinking Diamond White straight out of the bottle? (Do they still make that?!)

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