Thursday, December 1, 2011

The Weak Last Gasp of the Evening's Dying Light: the fucking Twilight Post Begins

As I have probably written here before, I like bad things. So it should probably surprise nobody that I've read the entire Twilight series, and enjoyed it very much. The most difficult part, in fact, was the terror that somebody would see me reading it. To that end, I prepared a short speech explaining that, after having spent the past month immersed in Andrea Dworkin, Ayn Rand, and Graham Greene, I was entitled to read whatever silly thing I wanted, to celebrate the fact that I hadn't yet blinded myself from the sheer horror of it all.

I shall acknowledge and move past what all Twipologists claim: they're light, they're fun, they're guilty pleasures. "Guilty pleasure" is a particularly useful phrase, because at times our beloved narrators manage to evoke authentic feelings of guilt and shame. Usually these are phantom travellers carried by nostalgia. I shall 'splain.

Think, for a moment, about your adolescence. Think about the very dumbest thing you ever did. The thing you are most embarrassed about, that you can laugh at when it comes up in conversation, but that you know better than to spend a lot of time thinking about. Remember how sensible you thought you were being? Remember how noble, how strong, how brave you were? Remember how utterly apocalyptic every (saner) alternative seemed to be? Think about that frame of mind, your brain pan filling up with water, an odd yellow-filter placed over your third-person memories. Think about what a stupid, self-indulgent little shit you were.

The people in Twilight live in that place all the time.

(I assume that anyone reading this is an alien researching human civilization. If that is, in fact, the, did you ever go to the wrong place. Seriously. Go ask your thesis advisor if there's still time to pick a new topic. If you are a human who doesn't have this kind of memory of their adolescence, I wish you congratulations, and ask to subscribe to your newsletter. Finally, if you are currently an adolescent...shit, just try not to commit and violent crimes or die, ok? Good fucking luck.)

I didn't go to high school, so the dominant narratives presented to me by American popular culture are enacted by actors in their late 20s pretending to be teenagers having an experience I missed. Nonetheless, these high school narratives reliably provide some of that guilty nostalgia. Twilight is a concentrated form. If Buffy is weed and My So-Called Life is alcohol, Twilight is black tar heroin.

So, the shittier it is, the more embarrassed you are to be reading it as a more-or-less literate adult, the more fun it becomes. I don't think this qualifies as reading it ironically. I had a blast reading these books. It's just that it's the kind of blast I had watching James MacAvoy pushing a gun barrel through a man's face in Wanted.

And most of the time, the writing is sufficient to take you where you need to go. Generally, it ranges from competent to slightly-less-than, with one notable exception: the authentically interesting chase scenario that comprises the first book's third act. The trouble is, well, it's a chase. And you know what medium does chases really, really well? Film. A 2-hour film of the last third of Twilight would be one of the more interesting and ambitious vampire stories we've seen in a while. But in prose, it blurs in with the rest of the story, saddled as it is by a narrator who can't see most of the action and spends the climax unconscious. And in the film--yes, I have seen the first three, and in my defense I cite the existence of Rifftrax--it's completely wasted.

That said, Twilight could have been a lovely sprite of a novel had it ended with Edward losing control and tearing apart his one true love in a shower of blood, bone, and sinew. There's some humor in that ending, and some justice, and a sick kind of romance. Because vampires can certainly be effective stand-ins for superheroes, but their defining characteristic is that they will fucking kill you.

So ends the first post, because I'm pretty sure I should make some dinner. Stay tuned, imaginary readers, because if you share my disappointment that Edward jerked his story off its moral rails, the sequels will make your eyes bleed.

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