Monday, November 5, 2012

Me and Twilight: A Shameless Love Story


I never thought I would like Twilight.  And, I guess, in fairness, I don’t like it. 

I love it.

It wasn’t always like this.  In the beginning, I felt differently. 

Basically, I’m a book snob.  I majored in English Literature as an undergrad, and am working on a Master’s degree in the same.  I read the Pulitzer Prize winning novel every year.  A favorite childhood story my parents tell is the time I picked The Scarlet Letter as my library book—when I was ten.  I use phrases like “the contemporary canon” in complete seriousness.  I read manuscripts for a literary agency, and I spend more time than is probably good for me determining what literature is “worthy”, and what literature is “unworthy”.

When the movie opened in 2008, I became slightly interested.  I had my Twilight-loving friend, Shiloh, sum up the story during a cab ride from Brooklyn to JFK.  After her explanation of the appeal, I had to concede that it sounded interesting.

Interesting, but, still stupid.  

I like to market myself as an easy going gal, but, the reality is, I take myself far too seriously.

Literature is important to me, so I take that too seriously as well, and these books are clearly below my aesthetic standards, a fact which I make no secret to friends who'd read them and liked them. 

And then, this happened:

Friday, August 7, 2009, 11(ish) pm
Betsy and Larry’s Living Room
Lakeville, Connecticut

My good friend and sometime yoga instructor, Susanna, and I have been half-joking about watching Twilight for a few months.  After dinner, Susanna’s 17 year old niece, Hannah, orders the movie from On-Demand.  Susanna and I look at each other in mock excitement as the opening credits begin.  The voiceover begins “I never gave much though to how I would die…”, and I get the distinct feeling of immersion, that I’m falling into something.  I chuckle derisively, but, also nervously.  Susanna and I both gape at Bella’s first encounter with Edward, in the biology class, but, for the most part, fall silent as the movie weaves its web. 
       
It ends, and Susanna and I stare first at the rolling credits, then at each other.  “I wanna watch it again,” I say.  Susanna nods in total agreement, and Hannah begins the movie again.  She makes it an hour in, and then heads off to bed.  Lightweight, I think.  The second showing ends at three in the morning, and Susanna and I shift in our respective sofas to look at each other in amazement.  “I loved it”, she breathes.  I agree.  We head off to bed, though I remain awake for a long time in my room, wired, looking out the window at the Connecticut night.

Saturday, August 8, 2009, 8:30 am
Betsy and Larry’s Living Room
Lakeville, Connecticut

I wander downstairs to find Susanna up with her small son, Van, and a third of the way through the movie.  I am appalled.  Not that she’s watching it again, but that she started it without me.  I complain bitterly and sit down.  We’ve finished by the time our hosts, Betsy and Larry, call us for breakfast.  After breakfast we lounge by the pool and giggle about the movie, amazed at ourselves.  I start to talk, hoping that I’ll discover the reason I like it so much.  I talk and talk until it begins to sound like I’m justifying myself, and I wonder if Susanna notices.

I decide that I’m glad that I watched it.  I’ve been mocking it for so long (and those trailers with Robert Pattinson stopping that minivan didn’t help), and now that I’ve seen it, I can be more specific in my derision.  I love it, I decide, ironically.        
           

Saturday, August 8, 9:00 pm
Betsy and Larry’s Living Room
Lakeville, Connecticut

My husband, James, and Susanna’s husband, GK, arrive from New York.  Neither Susanna nor I have mentioned the movie to either of them.  Over dinner, we casually mention that we watched the movie….three times.  They both look at us, thunderstruck.  You have to watch it, we implore.  I attempt to explain the story’s headiness; it doesn’t remind me of being in high school, but makes me feel like I’m there, right there.  But there’s something about what I’m saying, it’s too much explanation.  I use phrases like “narrative pacing” and “story immersion” to prove that I’m better than it.  I’m talking around the fact that I actually love it, and I can hear it—the slight note of desperation in my explanation—and it’s making me nervous.  James and GK are wary, but, we have the movie for 24 hours, so we start it up again.
       
GK chuckles derisively, and before I can help it, I shush him.
       
At this point the logic flaws are becoming clear to me, and I’m getting a little tired of it.  I feel like a traitor to my first impression.  I’m glad I’m coming down from my Twilight high, but I miss that wide-eyed devotion I’d felt Friday night, when we’d watched it back to back.  My feelings are…complicated.  I keep one eye on James and the pained look on his face.
         
After the movie, James is cagy about his feelings. 
       
GK is more direct, “It was stupid.”
       
I go back home to Brooklyn and admit to my Twilight loving friends that I am no better than them.  After months of derision on my part, this is a bitter pill to swallow. 
       
Shiloh crows when I tell her.  The headiness of the weekend in Connecticut has worn off, and I feel pretty ashamed of my lapse in judgment. 
 
Sunday, September 27th, 2009
My Living Room
Brooklyn, New York
            
I’ve had no further contact with the movie since Connecticut, and am fine with that fact.  Shiloh gives me Twilight on DVD for my birthday. 
       
James rolls his eyes when he sees the package.
       
I watch it again.       
And I’m back in.       
Big time.

Friday, November 20th, 12:01 a.m.
Regal North Hills Stadium 14
Raleigh, North Carolina

I have traveled from Brooklyn, New York to Raleigh, North Carolina to see this with my best friend and fellow Twilight enthusiast, Annie.  I arrive two days beforehand, and we spend those days working ourselves into a frenzy for this midnight showing. 
       
We arrive at the theatre at 10:00 pm Thursday night clothed in Twilight themed t-shirts (“I [heart] Edward Cullen” for me, “Half Vampire” with an arrow pointing down to Annie’s very pregnant stomach).  We scramble (erm, maybe I sprinted) to get seats around 10:15 pm.  We are not the only ones early to arrive. 
       
Once the movie begins, the theatre becomes immediately silent, everyone straining to catch Kristin Stewart's oft-mumbled lines.
       
I leave the theatre firmly on Team Jacob and rationalizing fast as I can as to why this movie’s appeal feels a lot more legitimate and less ironic then the first movie.  The charm of the first movie is its awkward, angsty self-indulgence: the long, silent, close-ups of Bella and Edward staring open-mouthed at each other, the terrible music, the choppy editing.  This one is (man, do I hate to say it) good.  How can I feel intellectually superior to it and love it at the same time? 
       
I’m getting nervous.
       
I check my phone after the movie and see that James has called.
       
I do not call back. 

Friday, November 20th, 9:15 p.m.
Regal Briar Creek Stadium 14
Raleigh, North Carolina
       
Fearing they’ll sell out, Annie and I buy our tickets online and arrive early.  The theatre buzzes again, filled with 2nd timers like ourselves and the middle school/high school girls that couldn't get their parents to OK the midnight showing last night. 
       
The movie begins and I listen, really listen to Edward this time around, and by the end of the movie I’ve switched back to Team Edward, ashamed that I ever left.
       
Nervously clutching my intellectual and aesthetic standards as we leave, I mention to Annie that I think I might have liked it even more the second time.
       
I talk to James that night and pause when he asks me how I liked the movie.  I consider explaining how this movie is different, better, but, know my explanation will sound weak and vaguely desperate.  I dodge the question and talk instead about the crowds and the energy.  I use the phrase, “cult-like following”, hoping James will get that I’m talking about myself. 


Saturday, November 21st, 7:30 p.m.
Regal North Hills Stadium 14
Raleigh, North Carolina
       
Annie and I wait in line (at the very front, by the way) to enter the theatre.  We realize that because of the late showing on Thursday night, and the earlier showing tonight, we will now watch this movie for the 3rd time before it’s been out 48 hours.  We laugh, nervously, but I can tell we’re feeling slightly ashamed…and slightly proud.   
       
I return to New York two days later and James, all smirky, asks how the trip was.  My gaze shifts to a stack of papers with spent tickets from the Tribeca Film Festival resting on top.  I see an overdue notice from the Brooklyn library for The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle.  I look from my overcrowded bookcase back to James and I stop equivocating on the spot.  I tell him I like the movie.  I love the movie.  Case closed.

***

There were three more theater viewings of New Moon; twice more in New York (once with James, where he conceded it was head and shoulders better than the first), and once in Kalamazoo, Michigan.  A few months later he bought me the DVD.  I consider this a win.
       
Eclipse mania transpired in a very similar fashion, with the exception of souvenir cups Annie and I bought for $17.  It’s…not really worth going into.
       
There are lots of reasons to like these movies, and even more reasons not to.  I get why people call Bella an anti-feminist hero (I took Modern Feminist Literature, too, okay?), and that Stephanie Myers isn't God’s gift to prose.  But for me, these movies are about letting go; about not taking myself, and everything else, too seriously.  I haven’t read the books, my inner contrarian won’t let me, so, I guess I haven’t let go completely.  I’m not there yet.
       
However, if you make it down to Raleigh this month, you’ll see me at the midnight showing of the last installment of Breaking Dawn.  I’ll be the one holding a bag of jelly bellies, wearing the t-shirt that reads, J’adore Edward Cullen.  I’ll be sitting mid-theatre, slightly to the left, looking really excited for the movie to start, and not the least bit ashamed. 
       
Everyone needs to get swept up in something, and that’s what makes these movies good for me.  At least once, we all need to love something that’s not exactly good for us.         

Like Bella. 
       
And if things end badly for her, don’t tell me. 
       
I want to be surprised. 

6 comments:

  1. i love tradition. see you next week. and i don't miss that $17 at all.

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  2. I was very relieved to see that you kept our pact seriously and have not read the books. I wish I were going to see it with you girls.

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  3. boo on you, I still think we should have made this legit and you and Annie should have flown here for a midnight viewing in Forks. Ah well, have fun in Raleigh....watch it a million times for me....for tradition. Are you staying for Thanksgiving? If so, say hi to Raleigh Thanksgiving and buttermilk pie for me, we will miss it.

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  4. My first experience with Twilight was basically identical except i was with my spouse on an airplane. Also, as much as I l-<3-V-e the movies, i'm pretty sure Sean loves them more.

    Shiloh, you totally have to see it in Forks.

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  5. I love you. I love this post and your honesty. And I love the Twilight films like I love Rocky Horror Picture Show; only the manager of the theater would ban me if I started throwing hotdogs at the screen or danced in front of Edward and Bella crying out for orgies.

    I know. Profane.

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  6. Oh man, that was hilarious! Brilliant! I was actually laughing out loud. Bravo.

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