Thursday, March 13, 2014

Choose Death: Revisiting TWILIGHT's Junky Delirium.

"I wanted to fly / she made me feel like I could...." 
- Neil Diamond  ("Shilo" - song about his imaginary friend /childhood anima])

"But we can fly... with these!" -  John Lennon
(showing heroin pills [?] to Yoko  - John and Yoko: A Love Story - TVM- 1985)

"You're like my own private brand of heroin"
--Edward Cullen (to Bella

"When you're on junk you don't drink" - W.S. Burroughs (Junky)

"I never drink... wine." - Dracula (Bela Lugosi)

"My name is Bela Lugosi... I've been a morphine addict for twenty years."
-- (Martin Landau) - Ed Wood

Bella, flanked by sober, aging air-breathers

Vampirism is every young girl's dream, presuming, that is, that she's smart enough to realize her 'fairest of them all' Snow Whiteness will wither to mirror-mirror aging diva tantrums before she even knows what hit her. If she be fair of feature--and self-confident enough to see that there is, indeed, a lovely young woman in the mirror looking back at her--and if she be wise enough to know that if she's ever to bid surcease time's incessant wrinkly pawing, she cannot help but crave any drug or face cream that might slow mortality's downward spiral.

Small price to pay, killing off your inner Snow White via the junky huntsman, if it means no wrinkles, or baggy eyes, or weight gain, ever. The writing on the mirror-mirror - 'sic transit venustas'.

And if there's no such thing as vampirism or eternal youth, well, some drugs come a close second.

Slowing time to a crawl, killing the appetite and sleep cycle, certain addictive drugs give one the feeling of invincible confidence. Slipping off the leaden coat of teenage insecurity with ease, we slide beyond the mortal concerns of human body maintenance; drugs, love, and vampirism replace glazed-eyed homogenous breather-eater lockstep with an unending thirst, but it's worth it... for some of us. Some of us never feel comfortable in our own skin until we puncture it. If we have to keep puncturing until we're track-marked to open sore ribbons, well, the alternative is worse. For some of us, the thought of living an extra ten years as a senior citizen is a fate literally worse than death. To watch one's Twitter following stagnate, one's zeitgeist fade, the glint of desire going out of the eye of passers-by on the street, surely this is what they mean by 'the living dead.' 

And even more ironic: by the time we know how to use what we've got, it's gone. We realize only when it's absent that something was, once, present. Whether that's an illusion ("happiness is never experienced, only remembered" - old AA proverb) is immaterial. Our minds tell us it would have been possible to hold onto that feeling if only we'd looked harder for the right soul collecting crossroads-dwelling devil.

For the first four films of the Twilight saga, despite her moral boy coterie's protestations, Bella wisely wants to get undead while she's still got that pale flawless skin (her mothers' already shows the results of age and prolonged sun), and that is just one reason why I believe the series so subversive. Bella chooses death. She subverts the fairy tale maturity myth; she jams a crowbar into the wheel of her own maturity. Her saga dually functions, not as  coming-of-age story, but a kind of alcoholic-addict flash-froze fantasia wherein the enchanted bower is returned to with a clear conscience. She's hip to the banality of 'the right choice' as are we, through her eyes. You can argue she merely chooses Edward (Robert Pattinson) and death goes with the deal. 

You can argue Edward is a pretty creepy specimen (old enough to be her great-great grandfather, stalking her and watching her sleep all night after climbing in the window) but he's not really meant as a real person: he's a Jungian archetype, a daemon lover / arrested animus projection --her unconscious mind's ego. Their wedding in film IV represents a union of Self akin to the weddings at the end of fairy tales, i.e. a unification of conscious and unconscious drives into one full awakened human being ready to bring themselves fully into the larger social order as a genuine asset. BUT in Twilight, this unified soul is deliberately stunted, warped, turned carnivorous and threatening to the larger social order. The Twilight saga doesn't reflect the move from bleak Cinderella attic to magic pumpkin coach to married princess -- which would mirror a girl's transition from child to adulthood (the beast becoming the prince)-- but the reverse. Bella moves from sunny Phoenix AZ to the ever-cloudy Forks, WA, like Cinderella choosing to move out of the sunny castle and back to her cozy attic. 

In that sense the series is more a tragedy, wherein unresolved past issues come burbling up to drag our heroine back down, like Antigone, she chooses certain death as a kind of inflexible protest/affirmation of power. She's an embodiment of Joseph Campbell mantra: "When falling, dive." Bella is a Snow White who makes the conscious decision to go back to sleep because she can't be bothered with an awake Prince Charming's cumbersome breathing, snoring, bathroom issues, and beastly eating habits, not to mention all the boring functions one must smile through when one is royalty. Her demon lover demands no attendance at such things; plus he never plays X-Box with his loud buddies all day, or whine when he doesn't get his own way. He doesn't even have a TV. He reads books!

And the idea that Edward has nothing else in his life to do other than read, and to stalk her, protecting her always, is creepy sure, but also relevant to the daemonic animus. The ego to the dark half of our minds, the animus/anima slumbers while our daily waking egoic consciousness goes about its day; it then arises at night to take the ego's place, forcing 'us', the ego, to watch its little plays and dramas i.e. dreams. The anima/animus is the one who literally has no life without us. There is no sun or blue sky for the anima/animus. It can only run loose when we're asleep (or, if we're artists and writers, performers or mystics or schizophrenics, i.e. truly awake). 

Edward's daemon lover archetype ancestry stretches back to the grim roots of myth itself; the roots reach down deep to Eros and Psyche and up through the Romantic poetry of Keats and Shelley, the daemon undead druggy lovers of Coleridge, the Bronte sisters, Poe, La Fanu, and Stoker finally up to the Anne Rice 90s before climbing up to the ultimate teenage Gothic animus, and a vivid portrait of a junky or alcoholic in the early stages of withdrawal, Edward. His reactions to her when they're first paired together in science class are the most accurate depiction of early stage withdrawal I've ever seen. And I should know. He reacts to her like I react to sitting next to a whiskey highball when I'm cranky and irritated and everyone around me is laughing and drinking and I know that just one big sip from that person's glass and I'd be laughing and no longer miserable, and since the glass is right there, offered to me, each minute of not downing it is hell + compounded interest. 

I recently re-watched the entire 5 film Twilight series as it was all playing on one cable channel or other last month, and after the entirety of around 12 hours of film it definitely holds up, especially if you really like dark purples and sad chick music. And lastly, it's great because, for me at least, it's guilt-free, there's no objectification of the female body; rather, we have a rare example of the 'female gaze' sd ythr the sole sex appeal on display comes from the shirtless boys. The fact that the sex appeal of these young men does nothing for me compels me to realize that maybe my vague discomfort is how most women go through their movie watching life, enduring vast stretches of unconscious sexism and objectification, not to mentions gunfights. In Twilight: New Moon Bella goes to the local cinema with her mortal, age-appropriate friend Jessica (Anna Kendrick) and coming out laments how crappy the film was, mainly as there's "No hot guys kissing anybody." Imagine, a film daring to lament such a shallow thing! Then I remember Dracula again. I remembered Bela Lugosi commenting on how Dracula appealed mainly to women:
 "It is women who bear the race in bloody agony. Suffering is a kind of horror. Blood is a kind of horror. Women are born with horror in their very bloodstream... It is women who love horror. Gloat over it. Feed on it..." 
And also, in a way, it is the woman in me, my own dream lover anima, my ego's dark unconscious shadow, who loves Bella as a projector screen for herself, for each anima and animus has their own inner daemons to work through, and so it goes, in fractals either direction. My anima rewards me with dreams of paradise (which for some reason is a cavernous basement with concrete floors and VHS tapes on benches and vague memories of having a fling with my friend's hot young mom, who is not the same mother who actually lived there. Her husband's always away--if I can find my way down there and pick a romantic shallow pool, she meets me. I wake up thrilled, longing to recapture my memories of this hidden underground sanctuary. Other times, this basement looks like a cross between some secret room in a Vincent Price movie, the basement lair of Hammer's THE REPTILE, the presidential bomb shelter at the end of TERMINATOR 3 and Bellevue's old hydrotherapy room. Either way, it is my happy place.

Maybe I am prejudiced; Dracula is my favorite horror character. Bela Lugosi is my favorite horror actor, and next to William S. Burroughs, also my favorite junky. And even Bella's name conjures his memory. So it's sad that so many critics I normally respect tow the sexist party line when discussing the Twilight series, never seeing past the 'teen phenomenon' hooplah. Meanwhile these critics respect, some even revere, the more boy-friendly Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings/Hobbit, and Star Wars sagas, which have twenty films between them (so far) and about that same number of  lines spoken by women. Unless they're princesses to be admired from afar, to be kissed before they turn out to be your own sister, and so forth, women seem to be unwelcome in these franchises, yet these films get way more respect in general critical consensus. I can only guess Twilight's detractors are nerds who've never done drugs, or had more than one girl or boy interested in them at the same time, if ever. Don't blame Bella for that, dipshit!

If you're like me, with a loud, bothersome anima who withholds great sentence structure and inspiration from your writing on a whim, then you know she loves movies that feature crazy women she can project onto; and so you know she will reward thee with vast acres of flowing prose when she gets to lock onto an Angelina Jolie in Girl Interrupted or a Natalie Portman in Black Swan, or a Catherine Deneuve in Repulsion, or even Anthony Perkins in Psycho. (Right at the moment I wrote his name, Bogie says "You're a good man, sister" on TCM behind me - synchronicitous!)  Twilight's rife with such crazy feminine energy. My anima loves that it is not life-affirming but a solid romantic mood poem-- tortured as Edward Burne-Jones trying to score laudanum at the strip mall-- and an exoneration of the death wish underwriting everything from self-cutting and anorexia to just partying like there's no tomorrow or even just sleeping late and missing school, going from rainy day "Gloomy Sunday" blues to hooking up with a pallid junky and getting involved in 'the life,' understanding what that means, fully cognizant of all that will be lost, yet nonetheless daring to answer 'not to be' when Hamlet asks his mortal question. To not only dive but to choose to fall, that is the only way we can prove to ourself we're actually free not to.

Only rubes would think such a choice is evil, and that one should dutifully bow to the demands of the life-choosing next-stage animus, the mature woman's bossy inner-father. The woman's demonic lover turns to paternal inner critic and lecturer. Under his rule, she endorses sanctified institutions without question, trusts doctors, school principals, fathers, husbands, and politicians over her own better judgment or her child's tearful tales of abuse. Belittling her husband, mistaking the vehemence of her emotional response to a stimuli for its importance, this new animus argues over SUV parking spots at the kids' soccer practice, feels the need to remodel the kitchen, run for PTA appointments, hire babysitters scrupulously, monitor her children's friend choices, and even approve her own gradual arrival at an assisted living domicile. Tradition and boredom are championed as worthy in themselves as her staid animus gives her a feeling of total belief in her pro-patriarchal stance. We can see women dominated by this stage of the animus in the Tea Party: Michelle Bachman, Sarah Palin, and Ann Coulter let their animus possess them even at the expense of their own gender's liberty. It's just as much about being 'captured' by the animus now as it was at the Edward stage, only now its not interesting. It's only near the final 'second childishness' stage of Shakespeare's seven ages that the younger daemon lover animus returns, to shepherd these 'healthy' choice-making woman into the void. This is even pictured in New Moon, wherein Bella dreams of being all super old and Edward as young as ever, waiting patiently all this time for her to be done with the 'living' he so wishes for her. 

To understand the beauty of Bella's rejection of this fate requires perhaps the mindset of the addict, living in a world of fantasy and altered perceptions, the sort of girl who stays upstairs reading fantasy novels when the sun's out or the one who's depressed and in misery until a hot older drug dealer and his drugs combine to sweep her off her feet. They commit to their daemon lover, refuse to let him go, to consign him to dreams barely had anymore. Sure the choice to stick with this demonic animus is not healthy but who cares? The women who choose to keep their daemon as their animus are our romantic heroines in the truest sense; forsaking the daemon may allow them to exit the fantasy and enter the social order (to upgrade animus projections), but who needs another normal well-adjusted girl? Not the readers and seers and livers-in of fantasy. 
"Many myths and fairy tales tell of a prince, who has been turned into an animal or a monster by sorcery, being saved by a woman. This is a symbolic representation of the development of the animus toward consciousness. Often the heroine may ask no questions of her mysterious lover, or she is only allowed to meet him in darkness..." - Marie-Louise von Franz

 Reality is seldom operating anywhere close to a teenager's inner state. Myths are truer than reality in that sense; they are not at all sentimental, for as Jung notes: "Sentimentality is a superstructure covering brutality" (i.e. John Ford). Myths are terrifying because they unveil that which was hidden for a reason. They are beguiling, addictive; once the light is shown over that shadowed corner of the psyche, the grateful prisoner chained in that corner rewards you with hordes of little treasures its stolen from you on the sly ever since you chained him there (usually around your first day of school): bottles of endorphins and dopas and artistic inspiration its fermenting for just such an illumination. Gradually he gives out less and less for more and more liberty to run rampant in your psyche, doing more damage, costing you jobs, friends, and lovers. There's no line between being rewarded with one's own stolen treasures and mistaking them for gifts and being held hostage in the zone between a daemonic dream lover's ardent wooing and crippling drug addiction, the result either way is a delirious Stockholm syndrome high if you know how to treat the agonies and despair of withdrawal as just another kind of masochistic kick, the muscle ache and burning skin just love 'not given lightly' by your inner whiplash girl child in the dark. Similarly, alcoholism, self-cutting, eating disorders, drug addiction all carry a similar loss of control. In the first film especially human blood is the ultimate narcotic for vampires, the 'vegetarian' diet of animals just barely keeps the Cullen clans satisfied. Being around Bella, for Edward, and not killing her, is as hard as it would be for me to have just one drink. The impossibility of moderate drinking for me (I'd consider keeping it down to seven drinks a night a triumph of self control).

"The pain was my only evidence he was real." - Bella 
Enlightenment doesn't occur from sitting around visualizing images of light, but from integrating the darker aspects of the self into the conscious personality. -- Jung
Blood, the life, love: over the course of five films Bella never has a single real hobby other than desire for Edward, anything else engaged in just a distraction; bringing junked motorcycles onto the reservation for Jake (the werewolf) to fix isn't because she likes him romantically but because the image of Edward shows up whenever she does 'something stupid' - i.e. crashing into a tree. Her various death-defying attempts conjure the spirit of Edward saying "Bella, don't" - trying to wrap her in his overprotective shroud, playing the latter stage animus in place of the dream lover (as above, the promise to return at her death bed). But Bella's misery wobble framing steadies around Jake and Stewart shows she's a far better actress than given credit for, as she modulates brilliantly from pale, shocked jiltee, to anguished grieving misery, to playful and sharp-witted, as often happens when one can tell the person they're hanging with is in love with them, and is therefore a captive audience. Bella's using Jake, really, as exploitative in her way as the first poison-brained white trader to swap furs and bear skins for two-cent trinkets. And using someone to get over someone else is not cool, yet how else are you going to do it?

And that's why Bella is so great both as a character and as Stewart's performance: she is not just one person, she has many facets and not all of them are admirable but Stewart plays the less admirable as if they were admirable, which is admirable in itself. When geeky mouth breathing classmate Mike (Michael Welch) finds out she's been dumped, he awkwardly asks her out to a movie with a romantic title like 'first kiss' or something and she snaps, "How about 'Face Punch' have you seen that?" as if she just made it up to send him a clear signal she's not into him.  That Face Punch turns out to be a real movie hardly matters to the brilliance of the scene--its refreshing savagery, it's code of small talk revealing the elaborate complexities of trying to keep clueless guys from hating you while spurning their advances. It probably wasn't even a real movie before she mentioned it. She creates the future before her like a reverse wake, like a zipper uniting the conscious and unconscious halves of psychic jacket, Edward and Jacob zipped together into androgyne Bela.

I can really only think of one or two heroines in film who measure up to that level of realistic fuckerwithery: Scarlett O'Hara in Gone with the Wind and Cathy in Wuthering Heights. Out of touch critics in the house can't rear back like startled horses over those ladies' behaviors as they do with Bella's, because they're old established literary classics, written by, not surprisingly, female authors. Each has a character smart enough to act like she doesn't know how smart she is, who slouches and mopes and takes advantage of seeming obtainable but is really quite grandiose and fierce, who plays coy and clueless about how much various boys are crazy over her: a total of traits that, in the rom-com world, would be the purview of bitchy villains, not protagonists. They each have two boys madly in love with them, one wild and dangerous and one anemic but reliable. The twist in Twilight is that the wan, pale anemic one is the unreliable love choice -- the vibrant anima mundi-reflection of the Jake / Rhett / Heathcliff is relegated to the lesser mortal bin, the wolf boy; Edward's name even sounds like Edgar, who marries Cathy and becomes as subjected to her capriciousness just as Jake is at the mercy of Bella's in Twilight. 

It's this reversal I most resonate with, because Bella is more than just one of a series of female-penned wantons daring to reappropriate the gaze, she is also one of the 'hurrah for the next who dies'-style lost generation, the Lucy Westerna rather than the Mia Harker. She is the modernist woman 'who chooses death,' realizing in it a truer choice (as in free will) than the one of life and health and mortality because among other things it's a choice that gives her a chance to stare down her fears, to embrace the demon and daemon, to ride over the cliff and into legend rather than get old and fat. Such women include Evelyn Venable in Death Takes a Holiday, Kate Winslet in Titanic, Assumpta Serna in Matador, both chicks in Thelma and Louise, Ava Gardner in Pandora and the Flying Dutchman, Dietrich in Morocco and Dishonored, Sherri Moon Zombie in The Devil's Rejects.  Only by deliberately choosing to act against their own 'best' interests---with gaggles of men and authority figures trying to talk them out of what they're planning--can these romantic feminine characters be free. Whether that freedom lasts another week or a few seconds is irrelevant. Freedom is beyond such things as time. Sooner death comes, the sweeter the terrifying narcotic immediacy of the remaining life (see: Twilight's Cinematic Ancestors). The movie ends either way, so why not go for broke?

Twilight's reversal-of-logical-maturation metaphor is emblematic of death and addiction but also to the solitary life--that of the writer, a life spent largely with the unconscious, getting to know, as it were, one's second undiscovered second psyche through allowing it as free a reign as possible at the typewriter. The risks are many: madness, depression, and spirals of self-destruction. The animus might not even come to see you. It might disappear for months, absent from all dreams, writer's block. All good free-flowing inspired poetic 'flights of fancy' come from this daemonic other. That's why my favorite of the five Twilight films has been New Moon, mainly because the brilliant intertextual use of Bella's birthday to invoke a range of age-related fears and longings (including the dream where she's super old, perhaps the most honest and strangely honest metaphysical rendering of birthdays since 2001), and a high school English class assignment, Romeo and Juliet, which contextualizes both Bella's various adrenalin-rush seeking self-destructive behavior (she becomes, as her human friend says, disapprovingly, an adrenalin junky) as well as the more obvious (and fascinating) 'rescue' of said animus, preventing it from dissolving and reforming as the next phase of adult maturity takes over and the buzzkill 'always right' tea party drip, the safety-first counselor moves in: "Bela, stop."

Addicts surely relate, but even more cogently than Romeo and Juliet, Twilight's arc of Bella's pitiless insistence on becoming a vampire reminds me of Antigone, wherein she chooses to disobey the king's order and bury her slain brother, knowing full well his burial ensures her death. This loyalty to the dead to the point of a conscious, clear-eyed choice against one's own life, reflects the way feminine contrary fearlessness conquers even fate. You get to tell all the smarmy idiots who 'just want what's best for you' to fuck off; you can place your head in the lion's jaws with no fear:
"I shall lie down
With him in death, and I shall be as dear
To him as he to me.
It is the dead
Not the living, who make the longest demands:
We die for ever… "  -- Antigone 
For Romeo on the other hand, there's just grief fueled by brashness. Rather than Antigone's (or Bella's) cool detached insistence on 'forever' with her love, consider Romeo's coffin-side sonnet:
"... I still will stay with thee,
And never from this palace of dim night
Depart again. Here, here will I remain
With worms that are thy chamber maids. Oh, here
Will I set up my everlasting rest,
And shake the yoke of inauspicious stars
From this world-wearied flesh. Eyes, look your last.
Arms, take your last embrace. And, lips, O you
The doors of breath, seal with a righteous kiss
A dateless bargain to engrossing death."
Bella meanwhile finds herself the target of a tracker dirtbag vampire in the first film, and must face him but yet "can't begin to regret the choices that brought me face to face with death, they also brought me closer to Edward."

Romeo is seeing death as a negative, of value only to make life's fleeting moments extra sweet, like Edward he finds life precious only via absence. He's a hothead. World-weary flesh? Unlike Edward, Romeo's never been anywhere; his flesh isn't weary from anything but navel-gazing. His act is merely one of youthful grandstanding, a poseur. If he'd just suffered a few beats more he'd be there when she awoke. Rather than Antigone's or Bella's cold, logical insistence, their refusal to judge death as negative, to back down even with death's teeth at their throat, their measured, carefully-thought-out resolve, he acts purely from cowardice (afraid of the continued pain of loss) and impulse.

Sure Bella needs a hobby, or interest in something, other than Edward, but neither she nor Antigone are living in 'reality.' They are in a story, a myth, they're only one aspect of unified whole. That's the fundamental mistake of so many movies: they think they must somehow reflect 'reality' and set a 'good example.' Just look at the roster of Oscar nominations and you see it -- the moralizing, the historical heft, the inspiration. Who needs it? Only the bourgeoisie, who love to hear their New York Times-instilled opinions validated in a way they hope will elevate the under-educated.

Shakespeare and the Greeks are lionized by the Academy largely for being so long dead. They never cared for setting good examples or reflecting reality, rather they cared for myth, which is a deeper truth of the psyche, a recognition of the impossibility of a fully known Self. The bourgeoisie let these subversive messages pass since they carry the patina of the museum and the text book. And for all their grants and memberships, the bourgeoisie are not ones to scratch below the surface to the subversive undertow of myth. Reflecting the sum total of the unconscious and waking selves, the dream of night and the reality of day merged in the titular time, through symbol and archetypes and and performance, myth is the only language the unconscious speaks. In dreams and in narratives woven from shadows on the cave wall, myth guides us towards fuller consciousness, acceptance and incorporation of dark energies as well as light.

Like the best myths, Twilight cares only for sleep, for chasing the phantom shadows of the romantic animus into the forest depths, and kicking the dull rescuing woodsmen to the curb. Bella fixes herself to Thanatos like a lamprey. She stays true to her animus' original projection. Stephanie Meyer's series is a success because it understands the dimensions and limitations of the anima/animus persona so keenly, and understands as well that there's no truth left in waking reality unless the unconscious depths of the ego are nourished, and listened to.
"Who looks outside, dreams. Who looks inside, awakens" - Jung
In recognizing themselves in their airbrushed pale-skinned phantom Edward animuses, Twilight fans find the same thing that once hypnotized legions of Garbo lovers in the death dream silent theater of the 20s. Their desire for Garbo was so perfectly transmuted onto the screen their love wasn't the male proprietary gaze but something both pre and post-sexual, even pre and post-maternal. The image of her projected face awoke something in their unconsciousness, leaving the rest of their waking reality and relationships seem like vague shadows by comparison (the wives of these smitten men were known as "Garbo widows").
... the animus is also sometimes represented as a demon of death. A gypsy tale, for example, tells of a woman living alone who takes in an unknown handsome wanderer and lives with him in spite of the fact that a fearful dream has warned her that he is the king of the dead. Again and again she presses him to say who he is. At first he refuses to tell her, because he knows that she will then die, but she persists in her demand. Then suddenly he tells her he is death. The young woman is so frightened that she dies. Looked at from the point of view of mythology, the unknown wanderer here is clearly a pagan father and god figure, who manifests as the leader of the dead (like Hades, who carried off Persephone). He embodies a form of the animus that lures a woman away from all human relationships and especially holds her back from love with a real man. A dreamy web of thoughts, remote from life..." - Marie-Louise von Franz

The mistake most Hollywood films make is to misinterpret Franz's "dreamy web of thoughts" as a condemnation, and to make sure their films have no such permanent mistakes on the part of their heroines. But kids need to see their dreamy webs onscreen. They don't need to see a realistic depiction of the maturation process, they see enough of it already. They don't need the visibly uncomfortable gym teacher creeping even into their most private reveries to caution them about protection. Before it shifts gears, the anima unconscious is aggressively contemptuous of goodness and safety, and even sexual gratification, and all the other mundane biological and sociological aspects of becoming an adult. The more one tries to eliminate all danger from their lives, to replace the perfection of the dream lover with some drab human orgasm grabber and baby haver, the farther away death becomes in their field of vision and the staler and duller real life grows. Their animus takes charge, gets bossy, obsesses about the letter of the rules and regulations, pointing out with glee the sinners and rule-breakers, sparking the pyre and laughing in paroxysms of self-righteous sadism.

And so it is not surprising that Twilight draws such rabid hostility from critics, their own mature animas pouring on the venom to convince them going back to the ex-animus, the daemonic lover as opposed to the scolding moralist. If they'd had a good therapist they might know enough to question their initial hostility, as I do in the opposite camp. I know my love of the series comes partly from rueful experience as an alcoholic, an experience seldom satisfied by contemporary myths. In the beginning I loved alcohol so much, I worried my friends, who'd been drinking long before me. I never even picked up a drink at all until high school graduation. It was such a perfect match it scared them. I almost killed myself a dozen times over and had to stop drinking altogether after a paltry 13 year-run. But I regret nothing! And if heroin had been offered to me, or speed, I probably would have gone for that, too. Now it's cigarettes. Every time I see some woman on TV with no fingers or throat or hair croaking her warnings about smoking through her tubes I just mute the sound like I'm sure Poe's Prospero wishes he could have done that striking clock chime in Masque of the Red Death. But these are the choices we make. And if more people made conscious choices to destroy themselves in these slow and pointless ways maybe our world wouldn't be so gruesomely overpopulated, or our country wouldn't be going bankrupt from too many old people draining Social Security. It's only when we're no longer afraid of death that we collectively can truly be free, and take the crowbar out of the spokes of the circle of life. In this sense, Twilight is like a lone dark spot in the unending light, or a light in the darkness --there is, after all, no difference in the end, a Yin/Yang split only works in conjunction with the other.

We see a bit of Western Civilization's knee-jerk pro-life jingoism in New Moon, wherein Edward dumps Bella, and flees with family in tow, hoping she moves, grows up (turning her essentially into an 'Edward widow'). But Bella learns she can get him to appear in a vision by risking her safety through typical teenage bad choices, forcing him to move from  demon lover to paternal but neglectful lecturer, telling her to turn around, to not get on the motorcycle, to not jump off a cliff, etc. He's not meant to be the stern authoritarian, that's supposed to be her next animus. It's great because we hate Edward for causing her so much pain. We relish with her the chance to bother him by remote control through such disregard for personal safety, forcing him to reveal a stern buzzkill authoritarianism that is utterly without effect or genuine authority, i.e. she recognizes that authority as a voice in her head rather than gospel. The adult animus turns so many women into dour nags, mistaking their dream lover's stern authority as gospel truth. Bella rejects that animus out of hand, forcing Edward into the role.

It's so bitterly fitting that even after the female director of the first film, Catherine Hardwicke, scored a hit both artistic and commercial and the film made zillions, she would be  replaced by a guy, Chris Weitz, for subsequent film, him borrowing a lot of her aesthetic sense  as well as all the animal and color symbolism. The first thing a film company does when they see a woman has made a hit film is to take over the sequel and kick her to the curb so she doesn't queer up this hit 'they've' lucked onto. I'll quote at this time a woman, from one of the few mainstream sites worth a damn, The Guardian:
"Twilight the film has been a massive success, but its audience is dismissed as fangirls, groupies, teenyboppers, airheads. It is sneered at by the same critics who misogynistically savaged Sex and the City and Mamma Mia, two other films made for women, with such blatant transparency. Strange that the belittling should be so vociferous; we women are the biggest group in the world, yet our viewpoint is ridiculed and denied, our testimony ignored. But that's the way it goes. The studios will use Twilight's profits to fund more films in which there are no decent roles for women, no women in major positions behind the scenes, no women directors. That's happened with Twilight's sequel: Hardwicke has been sacked and replaced by the guy who made The Golden Compass. The female gaze has been blinded yet again." -Bidisha, Guardian 2009."
I wouldn't go that far, Chris Weitz does an amazing job of preserving the female gaze, and there's still tons of mythic resonance on all sorts of levels, but there's also a sense of really picking up on what made the book and first film work - whereas to me the weakest of the series is Eclipse, which is directed by the dude who made 30 Days of Night - which makes sense as Eclipse is almost a sequel to that film as well as New Moon (I even lumped them together before I knew they had the same director in a post on the Nordic Circle rom-hor genre).  It's a fine enough film, with more action and flashbacks, as opposed to grand archetypal coming-of-age myth junky metaphor soap subversion and brilliant purple and mist scenery of the first two films. I should point out too that The Golden Compass has a young capable girl in the lead, boys to the side, wicked stepmother and a Catholic stand-in bad guy contingent similar to the Volturi in New Moon. Bad box office killed the chance for any sequels, alas, and the Christians backlashed it both for the anti-religion angle and, no doubt, the capable girl with powers angle.

It's a case again perhaps of deep-seated castration anxiety undercutting a lot of parents' good sense. But since when have fairy tales and myths had anything to do with sense? If they did, Red Riding Hood wouldn't even talk to the wolf in the first place, and all kids would be bored sick, and then probably have to go talk to wolves for real and get eaten and it would be your fault, mom!

There was a time when women screenwriters ruled in Hollywood, before the code came into effect, and talking to wolves was all the rage. But with the arrival of the code in 1934 came the feeling that, as now, telling women's stories is too important to be left to women. So stories of grandiose emotion and feeling were replaced by smug sermonizing where childish women are brought to heel, weened of their immature desire to be independent by endured humiliations at the hands of twits. Twilight dares to undo all of that, to go back farther than even the pre-code box office tallies can reach, down into the murky recesses of the Brothers Grimm, Mary Pickford and Lillian Gish, and pre-Inquisition alchemical magick, straight like a hot shot into the archetypal vein, the pulsing warm narcotic rush of the eternal feminine distilled and uncut, so primal it invokes knee-jerk revulsion from most men, a revulsion so deep they don't even recognize it, merely sense it as their chained-up anima kicking the floorboards, trying desperately to be heard among the macho ego din.

If, as Bidisha says above, the profits will be used to fund more male-centric films, well, we can only hope more films about women ruling the dark abysses of true myth will succeed at the box office. Snow White and the Huntsman and Black Swan did well by their women, even if directed by men, and even Disney has dared, for the first time ever, perhaps, to make an evil queen the star of a film, Maleficent (a very interesting name, as her own 'male-efficient' animus is already running the show). Starring Angelina Jolie with Art Deco cheekbones, it could be a bust of CGI 3-D boondoggle like that James Franco Oz, or it could rock. One can only hope it doesn't end with her falling in love with some doe-eyed dork prince and abandoning her witchy black magick ways so she can dote on him hand and foot, as is done, say, in post-code films like I Married a Witch and Bell, Book, and Candle.

I still remember when Jolie sparked bonfires with her Gia-Foxfire-Girl Interrupted power. We'll have to see if there's any of that blood left in her, or if her legions of biological and adopted kids have drained her dry. I'm happy she saved the world and all, but some of us just want to watch that world burn.

What's tragic isn't that we want it to watch the world burn, but that we have to clarify the 'watch' aspect to placate nervous censors, the NSA, common 'decency', and Batman. When we let life-affirming paternalistic morals rule even our dreams then our dark shadow hearts may have no choice to but to act out into the real, or worse, retreat --until all that's left are church socials, Lassie, freckled children, chaperones, white picket fences, and enough treacly strings to drive even a good girl straight to the devil. Isn't that why he set it up? Why he put the morals in and took himself out? The devil can't corrupt your soul when he's busy on the screen. His biggest triumph is convincing us not to put him there, not to project him out at all, just let him smolder unseen in his buried celluloid coffin like a sulky genie, until even the tiniest spark...

My alternative mix for the last two TWILIGHT movies.


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