So, I have developed a strange, awkward, openly hateful relationship with the Twilight movies. To round off this mess in the spirit of it all, tomorrow I’ll be seeing Breaking Dawn 2: Stuff That Didn’t Fit into The First Part, and Also Jacob Staring at a Toddler He’s Gonna Marry.

Mike’s face is my face, about all of this.

The Twilight series is ubiquitous by now. (I recommend seeing the first movie, with Kristen Stewart and Robert Pattinson’s commentary track on, because I promise you, no one rips this franchise apart with the gusto they do.)

However, that doesn’t mean it can’t surprise you. I went to the midnight line for Twilight to interview people, carrying a list of ten signs your partner is becoming abusive or controlling (from a link at a Stanford student-help link that has been replaced with Tips for Teen Dating, but with points similar to this). I folded down the header and handed the list to people, asking them to identify which behaviors Edward exhibited. Each person agreed he exhibited 7 or 8. Then I showed them the header, explained the source and credentials, and asked how that fit in with the books’ image of Edward as romantic.

I interviewed nine people, ranging in age from 17 to 34. They were self-selecting in that they were seeing Twilight at midnight, but people who enjoy things can (and should) still be able to acknowledge why any problematic dynamics that thing presents are problematic.

The 34-year-old woman said that in reality, “some” of these behaviors wouldn’t be okay, “probably.” The 18-year-old with his girlfriend said none were acceptable in real life, making him the only person who disavowed the whole list in any capacity – though he agreed with his girlfriend that Edward’s exhibiting them was both necessary and romantic as real-life examples. (They’d taken romance tips from Twilight, and had dates where he watched her eat without eating. By then I’d already interviewed six people who said these behaviors were both okay and, to varying degrees, necessary. One woman said, “I wish a guy loved me enough to treat me that way.” A weird but consensual dinner was downright quaint.)

Twilight is hilariously bad, a knowingly-slipshod teen-paranormal franchise that’s kept an entire parody industry afloat since its release. It’s possible to watch them and laugh really hard. But it’s also very hard to treat them with the gleeful distance you can give any number of bad teen movies. In the unspooling of a text that repeatedly textually devalues the decisions and desires of women, there is a thread of real horror. It probably culminated in the portrayal of Bella’s pregnancy and everything surrounding it, which is an inescapable quagmire of psychological issues. Tomorrow, I get to witness the rise of Bella as Supermom.

It is all a mess. Twilight is the faux-romantic monster that stalks the night in pre-licensed hoodies. Tomorrow night, I meet it for the last time.

For now, if you want to be part of this strange journey, some links!

Ten Things You Should Know (written for Fantasy Magazine):

Twilight. “…in the book he spends two chapters asking her about things like her favorite color and her favorite gemstone, and it’s written like erotica, only it’s the erotica of being found super-interesting when you’re sixteen and not actually remotely interesting.”

New Moon. “After Bella and Edward break up, her moping is actually played out moment-by-moment in real time, so that by the time the plot moves forward, we’re exactly as sick of her as we should be after a fiscal quarter.”

Eclipse. “4. Howard Shore did the music. You’ll know because whenever Bella and Edward make out, it sounds like every pervert in the Shire is creeping up on them.”

And some longer reviews, with recaps and experiences in line (each more exciting than the movies that followed):

Twilight. The reason I stopped going to major theatres for these.

9:41pm: They’ve sold over two thousand tickets. Four theatres sold out. They opened another one. The guy looks really nervous. He has a walkie-talkie. It’s on, you guys.

…9:48pm: There’s a sound from the escalator. Squeals, and the thunder as of a hundred thousand things moving.

9:49pm: They have taken the bridge and the second hall. We have barred the gates but cannot hold them for long. The ground shakes, drums… drums in the deep. We cannot get out. A shadow lurks in the dark. We can not get out – they are coming –

New Moon. There was a stampede (not joking). Then there is the movie, which I recap duly, plus some more about the line interviews:

Bella decides to be a werewolf girlfriend with the same ego-swallowing gusto she decided to be a vampire girlfriend, even after she meets Emily, the girlfriend of the pack leader…Emily has a slashed-up face from that time she made her boyfriend angry and he turned into a werewolf and SLASHED HER FACE. Jacob explains this to Bella and wraps up with, “I couldn’t take it if that happened,” because his guilt would CLEARLY be the worst thing about SLASHING UP HIS GIRLFRIEND’S FACE, STEPHENIE MEYER, WHAT IS WRONG WITH YOU.


Then in the morning Jacob goes to join the fight. Bella doesn’t want him to, so she kisses him, but then he goes off to fight anyway, and Edward is not even mad that she kissed Jacob, because apparently a girl is never able to decide when she wants to have sex, unless she is deciding she wants to have sex with someone else, in which case that is something she can decide.

(At this point in the game there was a total freefall effect – David Slade directed Hard Candy, how did we get here from there? I wrote an article about it.)

Breaking Dawn. In which shit was not even funny any more; I tried to break down just some of the subtext at play.

This is perhaps the worst thing about Breaking Dawn: it has all the content of a horror movie with none of the context.

It’s…quite an experience, when you look at it all put together. Yikes.

Well, until tomorrow, then. Wish me luck! I’ll need it.