Monday, November 23, 2009

I'm Not a "Twilight" Fan

but I have to say I'm struck, and a little perturbed, by the effect it's having...on young men.

They hate it. Oh, how they hate it - almost as much as their sisters and lady friends (and perhaps their mothers) love it.

Look at this ratings analysis of "New Moon," the second installment in the film franchise based on Stephanie Meyer's Twilight series. In particular, look at the breakdown of ratings by gender (and, to a lesser extent, age).

Now there's nothing particularly shocking about those stats. It's no secret that the Twilight books are wildly popular among girls and women, not so much among men. And when it comes to the movies, that male-female disparity is pretty much par for the course for female-targeted films - especially in the IMDB universe, where the voting demographic slants heavily male and under 40, and bad "chick flicks" tend to be rated much more harshly than bad action flicks. That's not to say that IMDB voters have bad taste - only that their tastes really do not favor movies focused on, or tailored for, women. (Take a look at the current "IMDB top 250," especially the top 25, and you'll see what I mean. Even though it's really not a bad list as far as it goes.) Vampire movies usually fare better, but apparently not movies about vampires who choose to brood romantically over misfit girls instead of biting and sucking them.

But there seems to be an unusual degree of hostility towards the "Twilight" phenomenon among many males of a certain age - i.e., anywhere between 14 and 40 - that's plainly reflected in the flood of "1" ratings from 60% of male IMDB votes (how many of these guys do you think even saw the movie?) and online discussion threads with titles like "ARE GIRLS REALLY THAT STUPID?" (Answer: Yes. Yes, they are. But you, my dear, are probably just as stupid in a different way.) And among fanboys in particular, who are disproportionately represented on IMDB, one senses real outrage that such a huge population of fangirls could spring up over something they perceive as so idiotic and so unworthy of being in the company of, say, "The Dark Knight," which "New Moon" for a while looked like it might unseat for the title of best 3-day opening. Imagine the chill that that prospect must have sent down many a fanboy spine!

Don't get me wrong: I'm not suggesting that "New Moon," which I haven't seen, is, in fact, as good a movie as "The Dark Knight" (though I continue to maintain that TDK is highly overrated), or even a good movie at all. The reviews, in fact, have led me to believe the contrary, which is why I have no plans to see it. Nor do I have any investment in the issue, as I haven't read a single one of the books; I've glanced once or twice at random pages of one or another of them and frankly been so repelled by the appalling prose style that I've never been able to read any further. (Meyer makes J.K. Rowling look like F. Scott Fitzgerald by comparison, and believe you me, much as I adore Rowling, prose style ain't her strong point.) But knowing what little I do of the premise of the series, I think I can understand the appeal it might have for impressionable girls - including the souls of impressionable girls that still lurk inside many otherwise mature and intelligent women.

And I think that the power of this appeal, as evidenced in the sheer obsessiveness of "Twilight"'s female fans, disturbs young men because they don't understand it, don't know where it comes from, and don't have a clue how to harness it. (Whereas their older fellow men in Hollywood, I'm afraid, understand only enough to make money from it.) Is the hysteria silly? Yes. Is it threatening? Well, I'll refrain from citing feminist chapter and verse on male fears of female sexuality, but I do believe it applies here. The "Twilight" case especially confounds men because what it sexualizes and romanticizes to the point of absurdity is, well, abstinence. Chastity. Unfulfilled desire. Not something that most young guys are likely to find compelling. Obviously I'm stereotyping broadly, but not, to my my mind, baselessly.

Ultimately what both amuses and annoys me about male backlash against "New Moon" - which echoes, in magnified form, a similar reaction I saw to the "Sex and the City" movie (admittedly, a very poor movie) - is how lacking in self-awareness it is. The same dudes who rail about how bad the movie is, and how dumb girls must be to fantasize about Robert Pattison or the werewolf-boy with the killer abs, see no irony in giving far higher ratings to the equally, if not more, terrible "Transformers" movies and fantasizing about Megan Fox. Maybe the difference is they know that Megan Fox is just Megan Fox. Somehow, though, I doubt it.


Blogger Dave said...

LOL!! I can't speak for all men but I'd say your comments are directly on point. Megan Fox is a good analogy. I'm sure many women have a latent hostility not necessarily to Megan Fox herself but to the "fantasy" of Megan Fox insofar as it's so ridiculously absurd. Likewise, boys like me think it's totally absurd that girls would swoon for a character like Edward Cullen who doesn't exist in real life. The fact that the books and movies are so bad and yet women flock to them anyway doesn't make the situation any better. Seriously, though, somehow I saw the first Twilight movie and it was bad. Very bad.

On the flip side, what some women tell me is that the appeal of Edward Cullen is not unlike the appeal of Lord Darcy in Pride and Prejudice. So I guess Twilight is loosely akin to Pride & Prejudice + Vampires. Given the appeal of Twilight plus the "Pride and Prejudice and Zombies" book, poor Jane Austen must be spinning in her grave.

P.S. On a completely unrelated note, you might want to check out the movie Red Cliff. Saw it this past weekend, somewhat predictable but entertaining.

6:07 PM  
Blogger lylee said...

I've seen some of the comparisons to Pride & Prejudice, too, and they make me wretched. Though I think Jane Austen might actually find all of this rather amusing.

I saw "Red Cliff" this past weekend, and while I'm not going to write a full-on review (for reasons I'll clarify later), I'll say a few words about it in my next post.

11:04 PM  

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