[caption id="" align="alignleft" width="203" caption="Cover of Eclipse (The Twilight Saga, Book 3)"][/caption]
I am having one of those mornings. Sleep-deprived, headache, huge and important work deadlines hanging over me, but all I can think about is vampires and werewolves. In other words, I too went to see the midnight showing of "Eclipse" last night with my daughter and a few friends.
This third in the series of films about Stephenie Meyer's runaway best seller Twilight series is sure to be a box office success, especially with women (of various ages) and the primary draw continues to be the rather formulaic romance of the books coupled with some serious objectification of young male bodies- especially Taylor Lautner's.
Eclipse is a complicated book and the movie doesn't shy away from much that is complicated about it. In this iteration of the epic romance that is Edward (Robert Pattison)and Bella (Kristen Stewart), the romance is triangulated and tested by Bella's real feelings for werewolf Jacob (Lautner). In the book and in the movie it is clear that Bella loves both men/monsters. That is a complicated message in the romance genre. The heroine should be like Bella- plain, ordinary, kinda boring- and then lifted out of her world into a more extraordinary experience by the love of her man. But in Eclipse our heroine has a vampire and a werewolf, both of them so extraordinary looking as to continue to bring sighs and screams from the audience and both so completely and totally devoted to her that they never ever notice other women. Ah, the power of fantasy. No wonder romance is the best selling genre of literature.
And yet, there are undertones of male sexual violence throughout the movie and the book that young girls who read them are struck by. This is the book where Jacob forces a kiss on Bella, a scene inspiring tee shirts that say "I want to La Push Jacob off a Cliff." It is this book that divides young girls into Team Edward and Team Jacob. Edward is the opposite of Jacob. Edward would never force a kiss onto Bella. In fact, the upstanding young vampire refuses to have sex with Bella until they are married. In a scene that elicited laughter from one of my friends but no one else in the audience, Edward tells Bella that they cannot have sex until they're married because he is worried about her soul! Say what? Eternal damnation for premarital sex? Is that in the Bible? Perhaps it's part of Meyer's Mormon beliefs? Who knows, but it is yet another sort of sexual danger lurking in the books and the movies. Have sex and your lover may rip you apart because he is so strong. Have sex and you may be damned eternally.
To add to the sexual danger that young girls read about in the books and see in the movie is the rape scene that begins Rosalie's (Nikki Reed) life as a vampire. The young and naive and fully human Rosalie falls for a man who organizes a gang rape of her. Rosalie is left for dead on the street. It is then and only then that her vampire father, Carlisle Cullen (Peter Facinelli) saves her and yet, in her mind, damns her to an eternity as a monster.
With all these messages about sex as dangerous and men as violent beasts, you would think that Eclipse could not possibly be a sexy movie. But it is. The bodies of the werewolf pack are lovingly filmed, their bare, brown, and hairless chests often glistening with sweat. Bella and Edward kiss slowly and often seem to be on the verge of shoving their hands down each other's pants. And yet, the movie remains as virginal as Bella. It is through violence that the climax happens, a series of scenes of vampires fighting with an occasional werewolf thrown in. In the denouement- where the vampire Victoria (Bryce Dallas Howard) comes after Bella after years of hunting her down- you can hear the audience sigh in relief. As Victoria and Edward battle to the death, there is a release of the movie's sexual tension into blood and gore.
And what could be more romantic and more American than a movie that combines bloodlust with a ridiculously uptight message about sexual lust? Violence is unavoidable. It happens. Men are violent beasts. Vampires and werewolves are violent beasts. But sex and passion can be avoided, at least until marriage. And by the way, if you do have sex, it just might kill you and damn you for eternity.