Wednesday December 14, 2011
Fountain of blood
POPCULTURE VULTURE By ELIZABETH TAI
If anything, Twilight: Breaking Dawn Part I is tolerable because it’s so pretty to look at. Nothing else.
THERE’S really nothing director Bill Condon could have done to make Twilight: Breaking Dawn Part I less wince-inducing than it turned out. Not when the source material was so hilariously bad in the first place.
Yet, despite its deep flaws (and boy are they many) Breaking Dawn is a finely produced movie, obscenely blessed with a budget that more deserving movies should have gotten. The much-anticipated wedding is a gorgeous affair – every detail is lovingly shown, from the white flowers that hang from the trees in thick cascades to Bella’s wedding gown with its intricate lace at the back. Then the happy couple is off to Isle Esme off the coast of Rio in Brazil for every young girl’s dream honeymoon. Complete with bed breaking (but chastely unseen) sex. Que the teen sighs.
Entertainment wise, if you can ignore the overwrought romance, awful acting and script, telepathic CGI werewolves and violent birthing scene (efficiently snipped away by our censors), Breaking Dawn is tolerable because it’s so pretty to look at. But the story. Oh, the story! What a painful piece of fiction! The chief problem I have with is that it conveys such twisted messages about love, sex and relationships to the eager masses – especially to the young women that consume it – that I just have to put out a community service message.
What’s so wrong about Breaking Dawn? Let me count the ways (warning: spoilers!):
That the love between Edward and Bella is considered ideal: The movies and novels would like you to believe that Edward and Bella are the modern Romeo and Juliet, so very destined to be together despite their different backgrounds. Yet the couple disappear into each other rather than remain unique individuals who complement each other. In fact, the Twilight series seem to say that it is okay to wrap your entire identity around your other half. And that rather than talk about your troubles in the marital bed, it is preferable to deny your young wife sex. Or that although marrying means not seeing your biological family ever again, it’s okay because he’s your true love. If ever there’s a couple in need of a marriage counsellor – they are it!
That a woman’s highest attainable goal is to marry her prince: “Who gets married at 18?” asks one of Bella’s friends who concluded that Bella must be pregnant to do so.
I almost wished that she was. Before the wedding, that is. Not during the honeymoon when Bella conceived a hybrid child which will proceed to suck the life out of her.
Bella is 18 – a crucial age where a young woman decides the direction her future would take and when she forms her sense of self. True, women in the past have married at that age or even much younger. But this is 21st century America where women have a number of options their predecessors were denied. We are not given any reason why Bella decides to make such a drastic decision, though in the book she only reluctantly agrees to do so only so that she could bed her beau. (For your information: Not a good reason to marry.)
I am surprised that Bella’s apparently well-grounded father – who is a sheriff, mind you – did not raise any objections to his daughter’s decision. The movie, at least, showed how suspicious he was about the whole rushed affair, though he didn’t even conduct background checks on her daughter’s future in-laws. Even her mum thinks it’s the best thing ever.
Marriage, says Breaking Dawn, precedes the goal of discovering who you really are before tying your life to a man or even getting a college education. It would seem that Bella doesn’t think much about her goals in life except to be with Edward. We don’t really know what Bella stands for, but we certainly know that Edward is her universe.
Painful sex is okay; pregnancy is frightening: Bella awakens after a night of passionate lovemaking sporting some painful bruises. She brushes it aside, saying that it is “okay”.
While I hope most level-headed people would be able to distinguish between what’s truly loving and what’s abuse, I’m afraid some would interpret that sex can’t be passionate unless it comes with bruises.
And it is true, pregnancy can be a frightening thing for young women. Not only is your body going through changes, you’re going to be responsible for delivering new life into the world. So, some critics say that Meyer is conveying the suppressed terror young women have towards nurturing and giving birth to a new life. Some say it is a pro-life propaganda, that although the fetus is endangering your life – its life comes first. But the extremes Breaking Dawn takes the birthing scene seems terribly unnecessary and gratuitous.
To get over unrequited love, find another one to replace her – pronto: Werewolves can fall hopelessly in love in an instance. This “imprinting” is done against their will and dictated by their genes, a really nice and convenient thing to have when you want to explain away difficult emotional tangles.
Jacob and fellow werewolf Leah lament over each other’s unrequited loves, wishing that they could “imprint” so that they could get over their lost loves. It would have been far more interesting and healthier if Jacob had gone off to discover who he was and realised that he can live without Bella. Instead, Jacob “imprints” with his former crush’s hours-old baby. It was as if Meyer handed Renesmee to Jacob like she’s some kind of consolation prize. Can’t get the Mum? How about the daughter then? There’s so much wrongness there I don’t know where to begin....
Inner peace comes in finding the right mate: I don’t know about you, but I find the Cullen family (or coven) disturbingly creepy. Don’t they seem like a vampiric version of the Brady Bunch to you? They are so content, there are hardly any fights and everyone gets along so very well with one another.
Yet, the vampires all have tragic pasts. Rosalie, for one, was brutally raped and beaten before she was turned into a vampire; Jasper forcibly conscripted, and Esme attempted suicide. They have had their lives violently cut short, had been ruthlessly used or had to even abandon loved ones when they become vampires. This should leave some kind of mark, but they’ve all found peace. Not through centuries of therapy, mind you ... but because they’ve found the perfect soul mate that “completes” them.
At the risk of sounding like Dr Phil, inner peace comes from wrestling and taming your inner demons. And it is a far healthier option to generate your own happiness instead of relying on someone else to provide that for you.
That it is okay for a grown man to helplessly and hopelessly fall in love with ... an infant: I hope I don’t have to convey just how wrong that idea is. When Jacob “imprints” on an hours-old Renesmee (expect millions of mothers to name their bouncing babies that) it was not romantic. It was hair-raisingly creepy.
■ You would think that Elizabeth Tai would swear off watching Twilight: Breaking Dawn Part II, but she can’t wait to do so because a) she’s a completist b) she just wants to see how awful it can get.