There was a rush to the box office last weekend to see the new vampire movie, Twilight, based on a book by Stephenie Meyer.
In a teen version of Harry Potter-mania, good, red-blooded American girls are devouring Meyer’s lengthy, modern, Gothic tomes then sprinting to see the story unfold on the big screen. In the story, Edward, a sullen vampire boy likes Bella, a sullen, non-vampire girl. No spoilers here.
The Twilight Saga, a series of four novels, occupy the top four Amazon spots under fantasy, romance, science fiction, and spine-chilling horror. They are also in the top five for all bestsellers in any genre. Someone named J. K. Rowling stole the #4 spot with some new book. But she’s so last week.
I had the thrill of picking up four teenagers who had watched Twilight at the multiplex Saturday night. They screamed much of the way home. I don’t know why since they never finished a sentence.
“Didn’t you think Edward was so…eeeeeeeeeee.”
“That part where he was all sparkly…”
“What was that? He’s so cute, aaaaaaaah!”
“I wonder how they’ll show what happens in the second book when they make the next movie?”
“Why, what happens?”
“EEEEEEEEEEE! You haven’t read book two?”
“Well, tell me, I want to know.”
“You don’t want to know. Oh my gosh, she hasn’t read it. EEEEEEEE!”
At this point, I pulled over to pump some gas and regain my hearing.
I haven’t read the books. My daughter borrowed them one by one and returned them in a flash to her impatiently waiting classmates. I asked a mom friend who read the first book if it was appropriate for our eighth and ninth-grade girls. She said, “Yes, if you enjoy unbelievably derivative plot-lines, ham-fisted writing, and deadly boring, unoriginal fiction.” She compared it to eating food that’s already been eaten.
But she’s not 14.
No one said that the Twilight series was original. Why, we had Gothic plot-lines and romance aplenty in Dark Shadows, the late 1960s/early-’70s soap opera about the vampire Barnabas Collins who, if I remember correctly, found time to be quite the ladies’ man about the estate. I was nine and watched because I thought Quentin the werewolf was cute.
Later, I saw Frank Langella as Dracula on Broadway. I was a teenager and I swooned. If there had been the expression “mad hot” back then, I would have used it.
Of course, Ann Rice got everyone heated up with her Vampire Lestat series in the big ’80s. But it’s not just our desire for lusty vampire fare every decade or so that is causing this ghoul/mortal love story to skyrocket in popularity and profit.
Edward is a nice boy, a “vegetarian” vampire whose family has agreed to drink only animal blood and spare the humans they live amongst. That may not sound very vegetarian to an actual vegetarian but, for a vampire, it’s a huge effort. And it means so much to his girlfriend Bella.
I noticed my daughter and her friends were checking out a website called “40 Edward Cullen Characteristics Every Guy Should Have.”
It seems that girls are hoping for a little romance in the future and, consequently, the chivalry we thought was dead may be forced to reanimate like a thirsty vampire on a moonlit night.
Some of the characteristics that make Edward so great are predictable from a teenager’s point of view: He can drive 200 kilometers an hour and is “inhumanly attractive.”
But there were surprises on the list.
Apparently, the perfect guy should:
be too much of a gentleman;
be really smart;
smell extraordinarily nice;
have eyes only for you even if he is surrounded by hot girls;
stand in front of you in a protective way when you are in danger;
give you his jacket when you are cold;
love you for what you are inside, not for how you look;
sparkle in the sunlight;
have a nice family;
always pay for everything;
have been pretty much single since 1901;
hold your face while he kisses you.
This strikes me as somewhat old fashioned and, as a mom, I love it. Not a word about his pants sagging two feet below his underwear waist band or he must grunt like a dolt instead of speaking in clear sentences.
But do boys like Edward Cullen exist only in fiction or in the realm of the undead?
As the mom of three young boys, I hope not. Meanwhile, our girls can dream. And real boys in their age group might want to sneak a copy of Twilight and learn what girls expect of you.
— Susan Konig is author of I Wear the Maternity Pants in This Family.