7.14.2009

Shedding some Twilight on the matter

Instead of doing the Globe's cryptic crossword tonight, I've spent several hours trying to decipher and expand upon Justin's Twilight review from a couple of days ago. Here's what I've got so far...

Twilight would have been better if it wasn't specifically about vampires but was instead simply an allegorical reflection on and about America. It was too obvious and the source material would have been more effective had it been presented in a more subversive way. I think that's what the first line means.

“...perpetuating the sublime's violent repression of desire without the concomitant moment of release.” means absolutely nothing to me. I gather this is a reference to the sublime/beautiful aesthetic concepts advanced by Burke but I don't know how it relates to (or what) a concurrent “moment of release” is. I'm not sure how many 14 year old girls read 20th century philosophers either. Could it be that the film was a populist adaptation of a populist series of books and not much else or is there something more going on here? I can't imagine that the director/producers set their sights much higher than that but stranger things have happened.

I'm also confused how Twilight's cuteness undermines the history of cuteness (or that there even was one). Is it overly cute and not cute enough? It also, apparently, “trades a coming of age story for the effect of Buffy reruns”, but I'm not sure what that effect is. I kind of thought Buffy was a coming of age story of sorts too. What exactly is being traded? I'm not sure what we gave up or what we got in return.

The last sentence is a real doozy. Who doesn't get to judge the particulars? The viewer or the characters? “...the reason which was to be the means of satisfying human ends becomes its own end” Is this a reference to the character's motivations? “What” becomes its own end and how does that effect and/or alter the character's ultimate goals? Isn't the whole Twilight thing a quasi-religious call for youthful sexual abstinence in the first place and therefore -by definition- it's about the happiness that this brings?

Joe's followup comment about not understanding the bulk of the review elicited the response; “this is the same old argument against popular american film, culture and media. nothing short of a analysis of the culture industry put forward by Theodor Adorno if you're interested.”

OK, I'm interested. Firstly, I'm a little unclear if “the same old argument against American popular film” stemmed from Joe's comment or was intended to advance the idea that further analysis of Twilight would benefit and augment the original review. If I recall, Adorno's philosophical premise maintained that capitalism was reinforced by culturally and intellectually stunted mass-marketed entertainment intent on keeping the masses passively satisfied. Twilight would seem to fit the bill here rather nicely but beyond this, are there other elements of this specific film make it more or less typical of the kind of film Adorno was warning us against? Twilight doesn't seem any more or less stupid than most films aimed at 14 year old girls, but perhaps I'm missing something here.

I love analyzing films for their cultural significance. What a film says – sometimes even accidentally – about society (and therefore by extension, us) makes for fascinating and rewarding contemplation. To me, a breakout populist film like Twilight is particularly interesting because it is aimed at a specific (and atypical, for a story about vampires) demographic. Vampire lore's 100 plus year history gives one pause to consider just how strange the underlying appeal of this mythical creature is. He's dead and yet alive, drains the blood of his victims and yet is often presented as a noble and romantic figure. Twilight seems to have defanged the beast and repackaged the lore in a way that 14 year old girls have taken to heart. At the risk of moving the discussion away from the likes of Burke and Adorno, isn't that the more intriguing and thought-provoking consideration here?

This is by no means the first attempt at pitching vampires to a younger audience but it might be the first time they have been aimed at a pre-pubescent one. The darkly sexual has always been front and centre in vampire stories, so much so that Anne Rice, a hack writer of no particular literary talent, managed to become an industry giant by moving the stories thematically closer to their sexual underpinnings. The Twilight series seems to have inverted Rice's approach and pushed the sexuality away from the core of the stories, giving them an innocence that masks the inherent sexuality of the vampire himself. From that perspective perhaps Twilight is more subversive than it appears at first glance. Is this an acknowledgment of a basic sexuality in youth or is that reading too much into it?

Thoughts anyone?

Sporgey

6 comments:

Captain said...

Mass culture falls victim to its pre-ordained fate inasmuch as it adopts its law and simultaneously obscures it. Mass culture treats conflicts but in fact proceeds without conflict.

the coelacanth said...

scott? can you interpret please?

the coelacanth said...

scott, many interesting points here, and i'll have to stew over some of them before i comment further, but i felt that i should say i really like this post because it shows that it is indeed possible to raise the level of discourse without requiring others to possess/hastily attain a PhD in modern philosophy/media studies/literary criticism/crypto-linguistics. and for that, bravo!

Captain said...

te he he

Captain said...

I like the ambiguity of a vampire's threat. Is it "pure" hunger or their victim's own sadomasochism? Does anyone know the history of their dogmatism?

Britarded said...

Try telling Wesley Snipes he's an S&M freak. Also, lets stick to the plan and write some readable film reviews on here? Anyone?