Originally published November 24, 2008
Sometimes, I really hate pop culture for reminding me that I’m getting old. This weekend was one of those times. On Friday, the Twilight movie came out and, capitalizing on its literary counterpart’s as-yet untapped potential, quickly became the bane of my existence. That thing is everywhere. And they are already threatening me with a sequel and the prospect of having Robert Pattinson’s Medusa-haired visage seared into my retinas for all eternity. Ok, enough, I get it: I’m old and un-hip, and hence I will never understand the immense cultural significance of the Jonas Brothers, or the entertainment value of Hannah Montana, or the Byronic appeal of Pattinson’s sparkly vampire lover. Wait, did I say “Byronic”? Oops! I meant Disney-after-dark. Or something like that.
But see, I’m old enough to remember a lot of things. Like the last time teenage girls swooned in darkened theatres en masse, watching Jack surrender his icy grip on that apparently-too-small piece of wreckage for the sake of the apparently-too-hefty Rose. Like the last time vampires were dangerous to teenage girls’ purity vows on the big (hello, emo Brad!) and the small screen (hello, broody Angel!). And the bad thing about remembering is that, inevitably, the earlier incarnations of these clichés – sacrificing romantic hero, bad boy-with-a-cursed-but-noble-soul – were so much better. Now, you could say that this is just my nostalgia talking. But, I assure you, it’s not. Characterization aside, they were better because, if nothing else, the actors had charisma to spare. All of them went on to entertain me in new and better ways, making me (and everyone else) mostly – and quite improbably – forget these earlier, stereotypical roles. And if you can say the same about Pattinson a decade down the road, I will eat my hat.
Maybe I’m being unfair in picking on a young actor simply for signing on for a role that tries really hard to be iconic. But I don’t think so. He had to know what he was getting himself into and must have, on some level, thought that he could meet the challenge of being, in fact, iconic. Of course, some people can spite the cynics and the nay-sayers, and rise to that kind of challenge with aplomb. But, then, this guy is no Daniel Craig. It’s pretty safe to say that, whatever he brings to the role of blood-sucking paramour, it isn’t particularly unique or (oh, the blasphemy!) particularly memorable.
But the real reason why I find Twilight so incredibly annoying is not its cliché-infested concept, idiotic characters or groan-inducing source material. That’s pretty much par for the course for any entertainment product aimed at an adolescent audience (look, we’ve all been there and there’s no shame in admitting that artistic merit doesn’t really factor into decision-making at that stage of the game). But it’s beyond my comprehension why so many adults are falling for this bulls**t. Yes, it’s all about wish fulfillment, blah, blah, blah. I get it – average girl stumbles around, has crush on super-hottie-McHotterson guy, he secretly and inexplicably falls madly in love with her, but they can’t be together due to some random, mostly made up reason, so they talk about their feelings for a few thousand pages, and then some unimportant but vaguely dangerous subplot pops up, but wait, love triumphs, the end. It sounds like every romantic fantasy I ever had – in high school.
I have to say that my standards have changed a little since then. For one thing, I like at least a hint, however subtle, of realism in my wish fulfillment; that’s the key to dreaming (or selling) the impossible — making it seem like it is only just slightly (maybe a hand’s-breadth) out of reach, or in other words, plausible. And sure, getting the unconditional love of some total hunk remains pretty high on the list of priorities, but I think these days I’d like to see that love manifest itself in ways more tangible than longing stares, after-hours stalking and breathy declarations of undying (or undead) devotion. I’d also like my (ideal) life to be drama- and danger-free, unless you count discount shopping as a hazardous activity. Another thing: if its course doesn’t run smooth, it’s probably not true love, kids. Love isn’t supposed to hurt, and it sure as hell isn’t supposed to be some form of assisted suicide. And, oh yeah, it’d be nice if the guy wasn’t just a walking fashion plate. See, what you eventually learn with age is that pretty ain’t very interesting, even if (and perhaps especially if) it lasts forever.
I can’t be the only person whose daydreams – and, by implication, needs and insecurities – have changed in a decade of adulthood … right?? As we grow older and hopefully wiser, our dreams and hopes surely change … or do they? Is this just a ‘girl thing’? Do we, deep down, forever hold on to the self-image developed during our identity-defining years — more likely than not, high school? Are we forever doomed to dream of the day the Jordan Catalanos of our youth stop leaning against random lockers and finally — finally! — notice us? Please say it ain’t so!
Anyone? Anyone? Bueller?
Editor’s Note: it seemed appropriate to dust off this post now, just as the trailer for Fifty Shades of Grey has been released. If you had told me in 2008 that we would see a day when Hollywood would be knocking off some anemic, second-rate modern Valentino, I would have scoffed. “Surely, we will not be sinking that low.” Huh. Well, it’s not the first time I would have been wrong, nor will it be the last.
Also, I am conflicted about Jamie Dornan, AKA non-vampiric Sparkles reboot. On one hand:
On the other hand, he looks like the Hollywood version of a dorky accountant in that movie trailer. Why? And it makes me think that what Fifty Shades of Grey really needed was this:
I’m not saying Jamie Dornan is the poor man’s version of Henry Cavill … except that I totally am. Because I’m a shallow, shallow beyotch. I’m sure they’re both very lovely people.
Also also, and speaking of Sparkles, does anyone else see a certain resemblance in the new MAC campaign?
I am going to hell.