Stephenie Meyer: covert feminist?


It's been one day since the opening of "The Twilight Saga: Eclipse" and so far it's grossed around $70 million (though that's still less than "New Moon"). My question: "why?"

It certainly isn't for any literary or cinematic merit, but it would be naïve to think that's ever the case. So it comes down to one painful truth: women of all ages love the vampires.

As for guys, as far as I know, no heterosexual men get off on the female vampires. Nor do I see any evidence of gay men having much interest in the undead of either gender. It's the girls who are into it. Not just the tweens, but the "Twilight" moms and women you'd think had more sense and better things to think about, like Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) in her questioning of Supreme Court Justice nominee Kagan.

Is it just the vampires? What about Taylor Lautner and the hot, shirtless boy werewolves? Surely their appeal might be "eclipsing" that of cheese-faced hunk Edward Cullen (Robert Pattinson)? Mere puppy love, I'm thinking. There's a scene in "Eclipse" in which Bella is scratching the ears of her lycanthropic stalker beau Jacob (Lautner) in big bad wolf mode and he almost rolls on his back with delight. I expected him to start marking his territory. No, this is not an equal relationship nor one that will last. The werewolves might be a cuddly distraction, overgrown stuffed animals, but vampire love is for keeps.

I can maybe see why the younger set is turned on. In part it might be the allure of sexual titillation without the fear of consummation, the same kind of thing that has inspired Beatlemania and the frightening effect of idols from Frank Sinatra to Elvis to Michael Jackson and the latest boy bands. They know that Edward might explode like a orgasmic bloodsucking lethal firecracker, but they also know that in a series of books written by a Mormon housewife he never will. The guy is, literally, a statue.

But that's not all that's driving the older set nuts. Maybe it's the fact that Edward is a good provider - after all, he is offering eternal life, beauty, wealth, even kids, all at the price of sucking the blood of a few mountain lions. What sensible woman would not find him an appealing mate?

Maybe so, but vampires were sexy even before the bowdlerized "Eclipse" version, when they were unapologetic evildoers and malignant parasites, back in the days of Bram Stoker's novel "Dracula." Nor were they good-looking. Even the grotesque spectre in F.W. Murnau's "Nosferatu" (1922)  had a way with the babes.


And then the revenants  just got better looking through the ages. From Bela Legosi,


to Christopher Lee,


to Frank Langella,


and even weird looking Gary Oldman


in Coppola's version of the story. Now every vampire is a GQ cover boy.

But even the ugly ones are chick magnets.Could it be the vampire power that lures them in? It seemed to work for Henry Kissinger.

Or maybe it's empowerment. One thing about "Twilight" that doesn't get much attention is that Edward is Bella's ticket out of the dead end of Forks, Washington,  where she is virtually a desperate housewife tending to her dumbass dad, who might as well be her deadbeat husband. She has no other prospects but to fall in line with the rest of her non-vampire, dullard classmates, or get married to lumpen, abusive Jacob and become a good squaw like the pack leader Sam's docile, scar-faced wife Emily.

Or she can become an all-powerful vampire herself. What to choose?

Could "Twilight" be a covert, subversive, feminist text?

That same theme of teenaged female empowerment injected fresh blood into the vampire genre with Swedish director Tomas Alfredson's "Let the Right One In" (2008),


which  gave the power to those who most need it - preadolescent and adolescent schoolgirls tormented by peer pressure, bullying, gender role models, and burgeoning hormones. So let's see how Matt Reeves's "Let Me In," the upcoming Hollywood remake starring "Kick-Ass"'s  Chloe Moretz, scores when it opens on October 1.

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