According to the box office, the film release of Stephenie Meyer’s New Moon (the second book in the Twilight saga, in case you’ve been on planet Jupiter) brought in a whopping $140 million this past weekend. $12.50 of that belonged to me.
With Meyer on Oprah and throngs of hysterical teenage girls waiting hours to catch a glimpse of Edward (Robert Pattinson), my curiosity was peaked. So I hooked my husband into a Sunday matinee. It was a strategic move. I figured we’d be safe from the lovesick crowds of Goth adolescents while the sun was at its highest. Not so. Apparently, the sunshine only makes this new vampire generation sparkle. (Duh.)
Surprisingly, the theater was packed with women and men across the demographic spectrum. In front of me was a single woman with a toddler in her arms. No significant other or friend by her side. She held the fidgety baby girl the entire two-hour movie. Behind me was a family of four, the dutiful father offering popcorn and sips of Coke to his adolescent daughters. My husband and I were sandwiched between an older couple and two college-age women.
A teensy bit of background on my experience with the Twilight saga: I read them all in a fever pitch of a week. Yes, four books, seven days. There. It’s out. Now, I don’t have to blackmail my husband into silence. He watched me do it with disbelief. I watched me do it with disbelief. But I wanted to know what had captured the nation’s imagination, and I refused to be in the dark regarding this vampire craze. One of my writing mentors told me that the worst kind of writer is an ignorant one, and that’s Gospel truth. So I was already planning to read the books when one of my close friends with respectable reading taste called me up to say she’d just finished, and they were “scrumptious.” That was the word she used and went on,“Like chocolate cake you just can’t turn away, even if it’s so rich and sweet you nearly vomit.” Well, after that description, I bought the books immediately. Whether I liked them or not isn’t the point of this blog. The point is, like J.K. Rowling, Meyer got millions of people into the bookstores, and for that, my hat is off.
Further explanatory information before I return to my movie night experience. I am a sucker for Romeo and Juliet. I read Shakespeare’s full text in middle school and swore I’d never, ever get over it. I cried for a day straight. My mom thought I needed counseling. I read it again in high school, and I was the psycho girl sobbing to hiccups in the back of English class. I acted in our high school’s play production of it and memorized the lines that weren’t even mine. The 1968-movie version makes me ache, physically. I can’t watch it. The 1996 version with Leonardo DiCaprio did less damage. I mean, I could hardly be as emotional when Mercutio is dressed as a tranny and a group called The Butthole Surfers sings overhead. (Note: I still cried at the end and bought the soundtrack.) I say all this so you know that anytime anybody channels anything remotely related to Romeo and Juliet, I’m a goner.
Stephenie Meyer has explained that New Moon was inspired by Romeo and Juliet in much the same way that Bridget Jones’s Diaries is a take on Pride and Prejudice. The Shakespearean similarities in New Moon are more than obvious. Bella and Edward discuss both the book and the 1968 movie at the novel’s onset. I’m always excited when classics are championed by something in popular culture. But I do believe New Moon‘s plot and characters rode the coattails of a much deeper and more resounding love story. Wise move on Meyer’s part. It gives the Bella-Edward connection more believability than the reader would normally allow in such a tale.
Now, to the movie. With popcorn in hand and not an empty seat to be found, the opening credits rolled. Dead silence. Bella (Kristen Stewart) started us off with a five-minute dream sequence. Then Edward appeared. I kid you not, the audience erupted in 15-year-old squeals. My husband and I laughed. The father behind me laughed. The old couple beside me laughed. Unbelievable! The same reaction occurred later when Bella, on a disastrous motorcycle ride, cuts her head and jacked Jacob (that Lautner kid must’ve done hourly shots of Creatine) sweeps off his shirt in one Harlequin romance motion to blot at the wound. Yes, a whole shirt for a head cut. Gratuitous? Perhaps, but again, the audience coo-ed. The little girls behind us oh-my-God-ed and the father mimicked, “Ay Dios mio” that lacked their adoration. I’ll admit, I said, “Oh my God” too when the camera panned the Italian countryside near the city of Volterra. (Having spent some time in the Tuscany region, my exclamation was for an entirely different reason.) Then there were the audible sighs each time Bella and Edward exchanged breathy, awkward, I-want-you-but-I-can’t-have-you-without-taking-a-bite kisses. My husband attempted one such Edward-esque kiss, and I couldn’t help but laugh so hard I spit in his face. That’s as real as it gets.
All this said, I’d be lying if I didn’t admit that the lovestruck teen in me wasn’t stirred. I believe the saga’s magnetism lies in the timeless ‘I can’t live without you’ theme. As cheesy as it may be, everyone wants to be loved—to love like that sometime in their life. And if you’re one of the lucky few who has, then the reminder is a bittersweet pleasure. Meyer’s books get criticized for not being high literature. Okay, so the Twilight love is completely unrealistic, completely unattainable, completely superficial, and completely outrageous when taken too literally by readers. (I.e. Asking Robert Pattinson to bite you; asking your boyfriend to bite you; asking anyone to bite you!) However, I understand the appeal (of the books not the biting).
This story is an escape to a world where the impossible is possible—where even if the man of your dreams lets you down, he’ll make it up in some valiant display of love. Under the safety and spell of sentences, words, and block lettering, we slip away from the misfortunes of reality: the wretched economy, the swine flu, healthcare debates, friends gone bankrupt, brothers and sisters in Iraq, lonely tables, lovelessness and sadness. And in a page turn, we’re there with Bella, desperately in love with a super-beautiful, super-perfect superhuman who has chosen us. From that angle, it ain’t a bad place to be… but it isn’t real and never will be, and that’s the tragedy in true Aristotelian definition.
I’ll give it this, the movie did an excellent job portraying the book. It stuck to it precisely—even down to the werewolves’ jean shorts, which my husband found particularly distracting and ridiculous. Nonetheless, it was entertaining. Hollywood deserves kudos for adhering to the original literary work, and Meyer deserves kudos for introducing a new generation to a Shakespearean masterpiece.
Hours after I’d left the movie theater and just before drifting off to sleep, my husband turned to me and said, “Romeo, Romeo, wherefore art thou Romeo… what’s the next line? Nobody ever knows the next line.”
“Deny thy father and refuse they name. Or, if thou wilt not, be but sworn my love, and I’ll no longer be a Capulet,” I said and sighed aloud.
I can’t help it—gets me every time.
Yours truly, Sarah