Well, I'm not proud to say it, but on the last two consecutive evenings, I've--willingly, non-regrettingly, even,-- set myself down in an easy chair, popped the top on a ginger ale, and hit play on a Twilight Saga DVD. Please, let me explain.
Pop Culture Phenomena have always held a certain fascination for me. As much as I can't stomach most of them, I hold a respect for them that seems to be lacking in most of my irony-drooling peers. Surely, by their very nature, PCP's tell us something about ourselves, our culture, our standing at this point in history, etc. Many times, what they indicate about the masses is somewhat discouraging-- Kesha, say. Other times, they represent reality in a skull-numbing way that higher art would never even begin to imagine representing, because it's so disappointingly unromantic (I'm thinking of The Bachelor/ette, here. As David Shields points out in Reality Hunger, this show "tells us more about the state of unions than any romantic comedy could ever dream of.")Anyway, close attention to PCP's can give one a glimpse at various profundities in play within the current zeitgeist.
Anyway, Twilight, certainly falling into the PCP category, has always particularly held a sort of intrigue for me, an appeal that I've never been able to verbalize in any satisfying way. I've mentioned this before, always in an offhand, defensive kind of way. The other person, hitherto more or less thinking me mentally competent, struggle to keep a straight face or else tsks openly concerning my feeble failing at life, never really understands what I mean.
I found myself recently with time and an inclination to rewatch the movies. Brittany and her family are vacationing, and I'm serving as their (quasi-) house-sitter for a week-ish period of time. I spend a couple to four hours at their house daily, feeding the animals and keeping them company, taking messages, getting mail, fending off intruders, etc. The work doesn't really require my being there for more than like half an hour, but I get to where I like the quiet and the aloneness. Then I start missing Brittany terribly, her absence apparent everywhere. As I lay on her couch the other day, I suddenly started jonesing (yes, actual, factual, jonesing) for Twilight, which up until that point I'd only seen in her company. It'd be a way of connecting with her from afar, and also, I came to realize, an oppurtunity to sit in an environment without walk-in awkwardness-potential, with a notebook, and finally figure out the mysterious pull the film has for me.
Let's get some things straight firstly, though. I do not think the Twilight films are great, or even very good, movies. They're full of cheese. Aching, anus-clinching dialogue. The action scenes (especially in the first movie) are somewhere around made-for-TV-caliber, and the scenes featuring the acting of T. Lautner will give you a horrifying skin condition. Close-ups for actresses not prepared or conditioned for close-ups. First takes that needed retook. Etc. I'm indubitably not infatuated with the films.
But, how bad are the films, really? Take them away from the malls-full of shrieking 12-45-year-old women. Keep in mind that unconditionally hating the films means being sucked into the same mindless cultural blackhole as obsessing over the films. You might see that they hold their own, honestly. They're unique. The cinematography is staggeringly great the vast majority of the time. Immediately recognizable. The sets are beautiful; the scenery is occasionally jaw-dropping. The movie makes me want to live in coastal Washington, in its gloom and snaking black, lonesome highways and moody sea and beaches and people coping with, interacting with, and loving even, all the above. Little scenes with regular people can be touching and subtle. Aesthetics. Just needs better dialogue and much fewer close-ups.
What maybe appeals to me the most is the small-town high-school interactions. It's something that I, being homeschooled but raised in a surely similar-to-Forks, WA- small town, with the Regular Folk and football games and conservative values, missed out on but was basically close enough to taste. High school with all of the bullshit and drama and aches and loves that linger the rest of your life that I'll never really know and can only construct in some weird, misconstrued facsimile. The thing with Twilight is that the high school and teenager stuff seems so artificial, so lacking in something key, yet beautiful in its misunderstanding. It's something similar to the images that play in my own head. It's a representation that I need to be real, so as to feel that maybe I didn't miss out on so much and didn't need the experience. Don't say Hey, Matt, trust me buddy, feel lucky you missed that bullshit, because if you say that, you've missed the point. Because what I construct is sort of beautiful and miserable and I kind of need it. Twilight nails it to the little details, even. For example, no one in the movies texts or ever logs onto a social networking site. Not once. How beautiful is that? When someone wants something from someone else, they call them or go see them. It's just great.
So, there it is. I knew I'd understand it better when I got to writing about it. Whew.