Note: Since more people watch movies than read Nietzsche and Spengler, I have vowed to write a weekly movie review. Hold me to it, dear reader. Nag me if necessary. And send me your requests and recommendations.
Twilight: Eclipse is the third movie based on Stephenie Meyer’s phenomenally popular four volume Twilight Saga. I reviewed the first two movies, Twilight (here) and New Moon (here), and I was gratified to be contacted by several readers for my opinion of Eclipse.
First, some background.
In Twilight, Bella Swan (Kristin Stewart), the protagonist with whom millions of primarily white teenage girls identity, comes to live with her father in Forks, Washington, one of the rainiest places in the United States. She is a Junior in High School. There she meets the handsome and mysterious Edward Cullen (Robert Pattinson), who turns out to be a vampire.
Edward is in love with Bella, but it requires all of his superhuman strength and old-fashioned chivalry to restrain his desire to eat her. Bella loves Edward as well, and she is undeterred by his strength and dangerousness. Truth be told, it is part of his attraction. After some harrowing adventures, in which Edward saves Bella’s life, Bella asks Edward to make her a vampire too, so they can be together forever.
In the second movie, New Moon, a love triangle develops. Edward leaves Bella because he does not wish to make her a vampire and wishes to protect her from the inevitable dangers of associating with his kind. Heartbroken, Bella begins spending time with Jacob Black, an American Indian from the vicinity whom she knew from childhood. Jacob begins to fall in love with Bella, but she can think only of Edward. Oh, and Jacob turns out to be a werewolf. After some harrowing adventures, in which Bella saves Edward’s life, the two are reunited. Edward says he will grant Bella’s request to become a vampire, but on one condition: that she marry him.
In the third movie, Eclipse, the rivalry between Jacob and Edward is turned into a partnership as more harrowing adventures unfold, Jacob withdraws from pursuing Bella, and Bella accepts Edward’s proposal of marriage. That’s all I’ll say about the plot.
It is not hard to explain the popularity of these novels. The premise is imaginative and the stories are well-constructed. Unfortunately, the novels are executed in an excruciatingly padded and pedestrian manner, so it is best to just see the movies.
What is remarkable about the Twilight Saga is just how downright traditional and conservative it is. Advocates of feminism and sexual liberation hate it, and for good reason.
In my earlier reviews, I stated that I liked the Twilight movies for three reasons.
(1) Edward and Bella are remarkably mature, cultured, articulate, and well-mannered teenagers. Edward, of course, has been a teenager for a very long time. But Bella has not. The Twilight Saga teaches young people that being well-mannered and well-spoken and developing a taste for European high culture, is not incompatible with being young, attractive, and fun.
(2) The Twilight movies promote the aesthetic appreciation of whiteness, since both Bella and the vampires have very pale complexions, which heighten our awareness of the beauty and expressiveness of white features. This effect was strongest in the first Twilight movie directed by Catherine Hardwicke. The second movie, directed by Chris Weitz, and the present film, directed by David Slade, somewhat undermine this effect by giving the vampires a creepy, corpse-like pallor.
(3) Most importantly, the Twilight movies are anti-feminist, emphasizing traditional male and female roles. They are a return to an older form of literature combining chivalry and Gothic horror.
Edward Cullen and Jacob Black are not the silly, non-threatening, emasculated boys of contemporary fiction. They are powerful and dangerous. This power allows them to protect Bella from others, and their chivalry protects her from them.
Bella is not a “strong woman” in the ass-kicking, ball-busting feminist sense. She is fragile, uncoordinated, and frequently in need of rescuing. But she is strong in ways that feminists know nothing about: men will live and die and kill for her, simply because they love her and cannot live without her. When she saves Edward’s life in New Moon, it is not by feats of strength. It is simply by showing him that she, the one he can’t live without, is still alive.
Eclipse, however, revealed to me a whole new traditional dimension of the Twilight books, for the core of this movie is a defense of marriage and a critique of pre-marital sex. Bella echoes the popular culture’s attitudes against marriage, particularly against getting married young. But Edward patiently overturns these objections one by one. Moreover, I now see that in the first two books, Bella’s desire to become a vampire functions symbolically as a desire for her first sexual experience, and Edward’s initial refusal, and then his consent on the condition of marriage, is a rejection of pre-marital sex and defense of virginity.
In Eclipse, this all becomes quite explicit. When Bella’s Baby Boomer father tells her that he hopes that she and Edward are using birth control, her flustered and indignant reply is that she is a virgin. Clearly, she wishes that it went without saying. Kids today! Elsewhere in the movie, Bella and Edward are making out, and she tries to push it toward actual sex. He refuses. He wants to get married first.
Now, the very existence of books like the Twilight Saga is probably not remarkable. After all, there is a whole genre of Amish romance novels. What is remarkable is that they are immensely popular—so popular that Hollywood wants to make a few hundred million bucks off of them—and so popular that Hollywood dare not tamper with the basic message, no matter how it must grate against the reigning sensibilities in the film industry. (The only politically correct touches come in the casting of non-whites in minor roles that were written as white in the novels.)
There are two other small but important touches of political incorrectness in Eclipse. First, the vampire Rosalie speaks of the main disadvantage of being a vampire. Yes, she will be young and beautiful forever. But she will never have the pleasure of seeing her children and grandchildren growing up around her. It is not enough to praise virginity and marriage without making it clear that Bella’s inability to experience motherhood is simply tragic. Fortunately, it is a tragedy that the millions of young women who read these books and see these movies need not suffer. Second, the vampire Jasper reveals that before he became a vampire, he was an officer in the Confederate Army. For romance and chivalry, the Union just doesn’t cut it!
In my earlier reviews, I remarked that Edward Cullen and Jacob Black are what in the past were simply known as “men.” The fact that real men cannot show up in movies except as monsters is a measure of how far our civilization has strayed from nature. But the fact that women find these monsters so attractive shows that nature is stronger in the end. As far as I knew, however, this rejection of feminism was merely implicit.
Eclipse, however, reveals something even more unusual. The Twilight Saga is an explicit defense of virginity followed by marriage and motherhood and an explicit rejection of pre-marital sex and sexual promiscuity. These themes may be subtle in Twilight, but they become more explicit in New Moon and quite overt in Eclipse.
Thus the Twilight Saga is truly something remarkable: an across the board revolt against modern sexual mores in favor of tradition. A revolt by the younger generation against their permissive and degenerate parents in favor of tradition and against what passes today for freedom. (It came as no surprise when I learned that author Stephenie Meyer is a Mormon.)
From a racialist point of view, my only quarrel with the Twilight Saga is Bella’s relationship with the American Indian Jacob Black. But in the end Bella chooses a man of her own race. My initial instinct would have been to leave out the whole interracial romance, but have changed my mind. Young women today are being bombarded with pro-miscegenation propaganda, so perhaps it is healthier to acknowledge that such temptations exist but show Bella choosing her own kind in the end. (By the way, Taylor Lautner, who played Jacob Black, delivers another smolderingly charismatic performance. He has what it takes to be a major star.)
I highly recommend Eclipse. Nobody who enjoyed the first two Twilight movies will want to miss it.