Monday, November 23, 2009

Twilight Time Warp: Stuck In A Moment

Love is forever...after marriage

I've found Christopher Knowles's interpretations of the "Twilight" phenomenon – that it is heavily rooted in Mormon/Christian culture and traditional ideas of courtship/marriage – very provocative. Certainly, he is not the first writer to make this connection, but he summarizes the situation very succinctly.

Of particular interest is the possible explanation he offers for why comic book fans are so angry about young hordes of teenage Twilight fans "invading" their conventions:

"And of course Twilight has brought armies of young girls into cons, infuriating the older male fans. Almost as if armies of Christian families had descended on formerly Gnostic or Neoplatonic shrines in the Roman era. It's fascinating how many of those aging male fans are objectivists or militant atheists and/or skeptics, and how many of them are unmarried and childless.

If demography is indeed destiny, then the Fanboy as we've known him may be entering his own twilight."

Ironic that the girls were screaming in the 1950s for Elvis Presley's unrestrained sexuality, his promise of passion as enshrined in his gyrating hips – and now they scream for the antithesis of sex, the palid and proper Edward Cullen. Certainly, both figures possesses great, if not epic, hair. But completely different vibe.

If we are indeed, as some have pointed out, currently in a strange analogue of the 1970s, is the fan-worship of such clean-cut figures as Edward, The Brothers Jonas, etc. really the equivalent of the worship of the Brothers Cassidy (Sean and David), Leif Garrett, and the rest of the Tiger Beat crew?

After the Summer of Love matured into the Summer of Murder and Manson's flower children were either incarcerated, burned out, or training to become the soulless businessmen of the 1980s, America needed a more wholesome set of young entertainers. Enter The Carpenters, the brother and sister team who in their cheery-and-chaste companionship had about as much real sexual tension between them as Edward and Bella. A legion of "clean" teen idols followed.

Go back in time and you will see the same phenomena happening in the late 1950s, as a number of rock icons (Chuck Berry, Jerry Lee Lewis) get busted for various indiscretions & Elvis enters the army. We see the ascendancy of that upholder of good Christian values Pat Boone, and of the Mickey Mouse Club school of Entertainers of Tomorrow.
Elvis, Tamed
This all means, if the Timewave Zero theory of repeating returns is accurate, that all the Twi-mania will settle down in a few years, as its stars, and the other teen idols that currently fill the pantheon, attempt to do as many outrageous and "adult" things as possible to kill the golden goose and become "serious" performers. I anticipate with glee the Pattinson sex tapes, his upcoming Vanity Fair photo shoot where he frenches Adam Lambert and JUST DOESN'T CARE DAMMIT!!!

Eff Bella

But this shift will not fully take place until Republicans/Conservatives are back in power in some form and there is something left to rebel against in contemporary society. I mean really, what do teenagers have to fight against in a status quo that gives them condoms in school, frowns on restrictive rules and regulations, and generally says that they are OK just the way they are? Certainly, I am not arguing against any of the aforementioned phenomena. I'm just saying that the evolutionary drive in the human animal seems to be wired in adolescence to rebel against something. Anything. Even sex.

And so the girls rebel, participating in the chaste bacchanalia that is Twilight. The "Punk-Rock" ethic of saying "fuck you" to TPTB has become Palinized. Sarah Palin is more hated by the status quo than Charles Manson, and meanwhile "Uncle Charlie" sits, well-groomed and grandfatherly, in a cell in Corcoran espousing a program of environmental awareness not that much different from Al Gore's.

"Uncle Charlie"

This is the biggest irony of all, the one that those who incessantly complain about "Twi-tards," Sarah Barracuda, Glenn Beck, and the rest of the usual suspects just...don't...GET. The targets of their hate are the rebels, get it? These Conservative icons are the current moment's equivalent of Marilyn Manson's assless leather Nazi pants. These are whose names you mention in polite company and elegant dinner parties if you want to get a rise just for the lulz. It used to be that a girl masturbating with a cross was considered the most blasphemous image to be shown on film. But if you really want to piss people off in the mainstream media now, have a girl in a movie just hold up a cross. Punk rock/Jesus saves! Whoooo!!! Tellin' it to the MAN!

Punk Rock

The fundamental history lesson is this: IT ALL COMES BACK AROUND, AND IT ALL FLIPS TO ITS OPPOSITE POLARITY. This always happens.

This is the nature of reality: it is an eternal game of Pong, between the poles of Left and Right, Yin and Yang, Black and White, Communist and Capitalist, Religious and Atheist. Each side defining themselves in relation to the Other.

Those Who Know, they understand how to quietly step to the side and to observe the entire absurd dance from a distance. And they do. And sometimes they even make good money off of it, these "Polarity Profiteers."

As for me? I do it largely for the lulz.

BONUS: Man, 41, just finds out that his real dad is Charles Manson. No joke.

"My hero is Gandhi. I'm an extremely non-violent, peaceful person and a vegetarian. I don't even kill bugs."


  1. I love these thought provoking posts, Val. I know I was among the many to quickly pass snooty judgment against the Twitards, but seeing the phenomenon as a cyclical cultural thing really makes sense.

    I wonder if I'll be able to handle it when things swing back around to a more extreme sexual rebellion from this chaste one.

  2. I always marked a bit of the anti-Twilight vibe to (1) the typical fanboy reaction to anything that violates continuity ("He SPARKLES? Vampires don't sparkle!") and (2) it's seen as the greatest example of Hollywood's encroachment of San Diego. Had the Twi-Hards been showing up at San Diego, Dragon*Con, etc just because of the books as part of fantasy-related programming, I doubt it would be the vitrol you see with it being a buzz from the movies.

  3. Not really a comment- just kind of saying that, hey- the last week or so of posts have been pretty awesome. Good stuff.

  4. I think some of the Twilight hate comes just because the whole series and movies just aren't very good. They hit the right note and became popular, and now are successful movies without even having to try. It can be hard to sit by and accept that it is so popular when there are libraries full of better stuff out there.

    Plus its always more fun to rail on the most popular stuff.

    No reason to pass judgment on screaming teenage girls though, the children are the future :)

  5. Anonymous2:03 PM

    I'm a big fan of your blog and especially these recent posts, but I just can't let the phrase, "Manson's flower children" go unchallenged. Those few misguided souls who followed Manson represent the youth of that era no better than Al Qaeda represents all Muslims today

  6. I just fell in love with your blog all over again.

  7. You had me right up until the Palin bit.

    I would agree that Beck is a rebel, but Palin, not so much. I feel that Palin is really a continuation of more of the same (as is Obama, but I doubt many fellow liberals would agree with me).

    Twilight is simply _not for me_. Just as the Harry Potter books aren't for me, even though I like the movies. But that's okay.

    I never thought of the Elvis connection until you pointed it out.

  8. Except what about the 80s? How hard-core were NKOTB? And Kirk Cameron, for god's sake, who was on the cover of every damn Tiger Beat when I was a kid.

    The difference is between teens and tweens. I teach middle school and high school girls, so I will now proceed to broadly generalize my kids: teens get excited by sex; tweens are scared of it. Twilight fans are all ages, but the Twilight screamers are tweens. (Um, and moms, but that's a whole other armchair psychoanalysis.)

  9. Firstly, can I agree with the earlier commentators by saying the last few posts have been truly excellent. Keep this stuff up!

    Now on to the disagreements ;)

    I'm afraid that I just don't agree that hordes of screaming girls follow Twighlight because of it's mormon/christian subtext. I think they do so in spite of it.

    Edward is moral lesson hidden behind a classic anti-hero 'bad boy' image. A lamb in Wolf's clothing I suppose: on the surface he appears mysterious & dark. 'Proper' though he may be, you shouldn't get involved because he's dangerous. I actually think your comparison of Edward to Elvis is spot on for the same reason. Elvis was indeed an upholder of good Christian values, but this message was hidden behind a smouldering image that the establishment feared and dstrusted, initially at least.

    Twighlight - and this has been pointed out by others far more intelligent and elloquent than I - also taps into the primal storytelling of fairytales - Edward is the handsome Prince swooping in to save Princess Bella and what little princess doesn't fantasize about being saved?

    As for the outpuring of fan-hate for Twi and it's followers, I'd say it's as much about the geeks percieving the 'Normal's' coming along and invading their sacred spaces as anything else.

  10. I don't want to come off like I'm disrespecting your views, either.

    You've caused me to take a second or third look at Palin and not dismiss her so casually.

    Because in doing so, I'm doing the same thing the Obama's critics did back in 2008.

  11. Anonymous8:26 PM

    I disagree with Knowles' interpretation. I don't think either side of the Twilight debate either actually knows or cares about the religious angle.

  12. "I don't want to come off like I'm disrespecting your views, either."

    I didn't perceive it as disrespect, Hysan.

    Personally, I would much rather have Obama as a president than Palin. That said, I feel both are sort of larger-than-life figures that many different people project many different ideas upon. They are icons. Who are the real Obama and Palin? Can we separate out the Icon from the person? Many people try, and come up with a multitude of contradictory conclusions (of various degrees of merit). But are they working with the real person, or their projections upon the Icon?

    Personally, I think the next president will have an almost libertarian leaning, not quite left or right. Very possibly somebody from an initial "entertainment" background. Reagany. And so this person will seem like a break from "business as usual." A true rogue/maverick, something that people like Palin try to brand themselves as, but I don't quite see her in particular really pulling off.

    But even Maverick may be yet another icon, another archetype.

  13. Another excellent post, tho I'm going to disagree with you on a couple of points.

    1) I don't think the Palin supporters/tea baggers represent a rebellion; rather they are the last reactionary old guard, trying to keep things as they were (or perhaps more properly, as they wish they were). They're like the old school gangsters in THE DARK KNIGHT; they don't realize what the Joker (the true rebel) knows instinctively: That things have changed, changed forever, and can never go back to what they once were.

    2) Prior to the 1960s, monster/horror movies were about society banding together to defend themselves against the malignant Other. Sometimes the Other was sympathetic (Frankenstein's monster), sometimes the Other had admirable traits (Dracula), but ultimately the Other was a threat to everyone in the society and so the society had to stand together to defeat it.

    NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD was released in the gestalt of the late 1960s and as such took root in a growing counter-culture. While it still took two decades for zombies to achieve ubiquitous pop culture status, today they are seen as the society that threatens to individual. They are ferocious, soulless, mindless consumers, the ultimate product of modern values, and as such, the individual finds him/herself as the Other who is pursued and threatened on all sides.

    Vampire movies, particularly those following in the footsteps of LOST BOYS, offer the audience a chance to identify with a new and (in the context of the films) better society than the one they are in. Throw in a big slab of romance and it's no wonder TWILIGHT has become such a phenomenon.

  14. My main problem with Twilight is that it flies in the face of all mythology, and I dont mean the sparkle bit.
    Vampires represent excess. Sex and Violence. Edward shuns both. Twist the normal routine of sunlight, garlic, and wooden stakes and I'll just shake my head but change the foundation of the myth as a whole and I will wish bad things on you and your children.
    Then you can get into the idea that Twilight is essentially a boy-band, put together by producers and focus groups to appeal to as many people as possible. Create licensed memorabilia in every every form imaginable, even some that aren't, and shove it down everyone's throat. That's when I really get annoyed.

  15. TWILIGHT flies in the face of vampire mythology the way THE GODFATHER flew in the face of gangster movies. (And, no, I am not saying they are works of equal artistic complexity and value.)

  16. With respect to Twilight, most of the kids at the conventions are probably not and certainly do not feel like the popular kids in their school. As analyzed and set forth by commenters on this blog in the past, in Twilight the new attractive misfit girl idolizes the cool kids and becomes one of them. Whereas in traditional such films she comes to realize the shallowness of the people she is hanging with. In Twilight she is just as vapid and shallow as the cool kids and chooses to stay with them.

    Then there is all the Mormon propaganda weaved in as well.

    And Ayn Rand was probably 75% right in her philosophy anyway. Fuck all the "libertarians" - 'I have my money, go fuck yourself' men - who pick and choose from her philosophy to begin with.