Sunday, May 09, 2010

Imitation of Life

I'll admit right from the start -- all I know about the Twilight thing is that it was a bunch of books written by a Mormon housewife, about some teenybopper vegetarian vampires. And now it's a bunch of movies that get adolescent girls (and, weirdly, their mothers) wet. Have I got the general thrust of this, erm, cultural phenomenon? Very well, then. Can someone explain this to me, per favore?

When Oprah Winfrey called all Twilight fans in April to submit stories about how the hit supernatural series changed their lives, Maria Mele knew she had to e-mail the daytime talk show host.

I've said it before, and I'll say it again -- Oprah Winfrey has probably done more than any other single person to turn Americans into a moony-eyed claque of simpering morons. From giving Sarah Palin far more face time than she deserves, to endlessly cultivating this sort of fan-club nonsense, Oprah's efforts in toto conveniently elide for her housewife cult the important differences between self-actualizing and self-indulgence, between knowing and understanding oneself, and merely flattering oneself for every fart and bunion.

Really, and not to get too heavy about it but there it is, it's the difference between being a spectator and being a participant in one's own life. Getting Oprah's favorite brand of bath beads at Occitane doesn't make you any better or happier, it just makes you an easy mark, because you'll shell out thirty-five bucks for a jar of pleasantly-scented sand and soap.

Back to the actual sentence, and what it really means if we take a second and think about it. Now, I know what it's like to be a fan -- it's just pure fun to be a fan of something, to enjoy the thing, whatever or whoever it is, in all its facets, turning it like a coveted jewel, finding nuances that only you can really perceive. This is a fine thing -- when you're in eighth grade. When you're an adult, it's kinda weird, moreso when it's clearly something aimed at, well, eighth-graders.

There is a transformative power to art in all its forms, of course. That's what makes it art. Thirty years on, I still recall the first time I heard Rush, or Zeppelin, or Pink Floyd's The Wall. I had only heard R&B, country, and AM classics (what would now be called "oldies" on your local niche-market station). I had internalized the conventional song format, and bands and albums like those quickly changed the way I heard and thought about music and the role of the musician.

Similar perceptive changes occurred the first time I saw the work of Magritte, or Kandinsky, or local hero Sal Casa. Or movies, ranging from Goodfellas to Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, can have a profound effect on how you perceive form, motion, composition, or even the medium itself. That's pretty damned cool. But it's not "life-changing", so much as simply expanding the scope of things that you consider interesting or creative.

None of that, near as this outsider can tell, applies to the Twilight movies/books/franchise merchandise, no matter how much the Twi-tards wish it so, no matter how many babies [rolls eyes audibly] get named after the characters. It's just a love story with vampires, two of the most overworked themes in books and movies. This is nothing more than the sort of gushy fandom that is tedious enough in teenaged girls, but inexplicable in adults. Pattinson is a good sport for taking part in these goofy events, but let's face it -- he could have taken a dump on their front porch, and they would have put it in a jar. It's worse than sad, it's kind of disturbing.

1 comment:

Bob Hopeless said...

I've been of the opinion for some time that screen and TV writers need to impose -or have imposed on them- a moratorium on stories about vampires. And serial killers. And vampire serial killers. As a life long "fan" (yes) of the horror genre, the success of this kind of candy ass bullshit is annoying, although I don't let it be much more than a minor annoyance. Nor have I been happy with other developments in the genre- like torture porn, endless franchise sequels and, well, pretty much any other development since about the 70's.