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Published on Mommy Tracked (http://www.mommytracked.com)

New Age Romeo & Juliet.

by Meredith O'Brien

 

*Warning, mild New Moon spoilers.*

 

Boil it down to its very essence and it comes to this: The Twilight series [1] is a tale of angst-ridden young love which makes the lovers feel as though they would absolutely, literally perish without the other. It aspires to be a Romeo and Juliet for the 21st century, albeit with vampires, werewolves, cell phones and Linkin Park [2]. Don’t ask Twlight to be anything else other than a tragic teen romance or you’ll be wasting your time and your analytical skills.

 

When my editor asked me to write a column about the latest film in the Twilight saga [3] – New Moon [4], which romantically inclined young gals (plus their moms) have helped propel into the box office stratosphere [5] -- I was skeptical. In fact I think I might’ve even rolled my eyes a little. Although my 11-year-old daughter has already voraciously consumed the first three of Stephenie Meyer’s Twilight books on which the films were based – she hasn’t yet read the final installment, Breaking Dawn [6] – I had resisting jumping onto the vampire love story bandwagon, though many of my peers have already professed their affection for Edward Cullen, a vampire in love, and Bella Swan, a besotted teenaged human.

 

“What is it about this series that sparks so much passion?” I asked myself as I begrudgingly moved the first Twilight film to the top of my Netflix queue. “It can’t be the vampire thing, can it?”

 

For the past week -- when I wasn’t celebrating Thanksgiving, driving around my state visiting family and baking pies -- I immersed myself in Planet Twilight. At first, I thought I’d be able to write this column after simply watching both films. But, as I left the theater after seeing New Moon, I felt as though I needed more. All this Twilight mania demonstrated by the “Twihard” fans existed before the adorable Robert Pattison signed on to play Edward, the frozen-at-17 vampire who wants to literally consume AND love Bella, so the ferocity of the fans’ enthusiasm must be about more than simply lusting after a young heartthrob in a movie. Thus I turned to the written page, as most of the time the book’s better than the movie anyway. On Thanskgiving eve, I plowed through the 563-page New Moon, the second book in the four-book series, and wound up having dreams of pale-faced vampires who looked like they were pulled directly from a GQ photo shoot and kept asking my husband if he’d be willing to give up his soul for me.

 

I think I get it now.

But first I feel compelled to dispatch with the much-too-serious, over-analysis of the young adult series. There’s been all manner of criticism calling Twilight an anti-feminist franchise [7], lambasting it for having the lead character (the FEMALE lead, as everything swirls around HER) revert to a near-catatonic state in New Moon after she was dumped by the love of her life and how she was willing risk of her own physical and mental well being [8] to satiate her desire to feel close to him. The fact that Bella saved Edward in the second book/movie doesn’t appease those who point out that she’s just a rube whose wish is to give up her soul in order to be with Edward for an eternity and that she herself always seems to need rescuing [9]. Folks looking for a dramatization of NOW policy statements, Oscar caliber performances in the films and Shakespearean caliber writing in the Twilight books will be sorely disappointed. But then they’d be missing the whole point.

 

Speaking of Shakespeare, while reading New Moon, I noticed something that was briefly mentioned in the movie: Romeo and Juliet references. They were so omnipresent in the book that when I finished New Moon, I re-read the play about the anguished young adults from Verona who, after a wee, small courtship, decided to get married in secret, even if that meant they’d have to potentially leave Verona, their feuding families and everything they know in order to be together. I re-read those famously exquisite lines, absolutely saturated with heartfelt expressions of love and affection, the kind which only youth, unchastened by time and life and experience, can utter. To see Romeo and Juliet ultimately take their own lives following a disastrous misunderstanding makes one’s heart break for them.

 

As adults, including the Twimom fans [10], you see what a waste Juliet and Romeo’s suicides were, that the teens’ passions and actions were naively shortsighted. The same perspective can be applied to the first two Twilight installments; we see that young Bella doesn’t appear to thoroughly appreciate the ramifications of forgoing her humanity before she starts begging to be turned into a vampire to be with the man she loves. However when you’re a teen in the grips of romantic fervor, no one can tell you anything and you won’t listen even if they try because the adults, whose perspectives have been made cynical over time, couldn’t POSSIBLY understand.

Watching the Bella-Edward love story play out, to see the 17-year-old (actually over 100 based on when he turned into a vampire) express his devotion, to see that he’s willing to die if Bella’s no longer in the world, the Twimoms can recall with fondness those days of being adored by an infatuated boy who sees nothing in his world but you. Their days now filled with ferrying children around, work, all things domestic and something as quaint as a love life that seems as though it’s been put on the backburner, moms can recall the days when romantic love was everything by pouring through the thousands of pages of Twilight books and hours of feature films, like they’re taking a little vacation, albeit with those pesky, bloodsucking vampires and irritating werewolves.

 

Why is Romeo and Juliet considered the gold standard for romantic tragedies, even when its protagonists are but love-sick teens? Because it makes us remember that time in our lives when passion -- not practicality and responsibility -- was everything. Don’t get me wrong, the Twilight series is not Shakespeare, not by any means, but after spending several days in this world, I now get why its fans are so zealous and why thirty- and fortysomething women figure prominently among them. The young girls want to be loved like that, in an end-of-the-world kind of way that blots out the sun. As for the Twimoms, they just want to escape to a fantasy unmoored from the daily grind of their lives. A trip to Planet Twilight can definitely lighten their mood. Plus Pattison’s not bad on the eyes either.

 

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Also on Mommy Tracked about Twilight:
Rescue Me [10]
Oh No. Not Twi-Moms [10]
Vampire Moms [10]


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