To some, it’s a burden. To others, a blessing. No matter what side of Forks you fall, there’s no denying the cultural impact The Twilight Saga has had over the course of its relatively brief existence.
Collectively, the first three films have earned more than $1.8 billion in worldwide ticket sales. And that’s not even scratching the surface of the merchandising numbers the Twilight
phenomenon produces. Small countries could sustain their populations for decades on the monies raised from the sale of Twilight
lunchboxes and Trapper Keepers, alone.
The latest chapter -- director Bill Condon’s Breaking Dawn, Part 1
-- is about to open, giving dedicated members of teams Edward and Jacob another opportunity to argue for or against sullen vampires and shirtless werewolves. And the release gives us a chance to lambast … um, discuss the Saga
in the weekly When Can I Watch column.
Truthfully, this will not be a column criticizing the wooden performances (Lautner!), the corny, pained reaction shots (Pattinson!), the soap opera-level line readings (KStew!) and the existence of vampire baseball. Say that with me one more time before we move on. Vampire. Baseball.
Instead, I’m going to focus, as always, on the red flags and green lights parents might want to recognize if they’re trying to experience Twilight with their own children for the first time. So, let’s glisten like diamonds in the sunlight and figure out when you can watch Twilight with your kids.
Red Flags: “I’ll just have to endure it.”
OK, so, for the benefit of the column, I attempted to watch the original Twilight through the eyes of a teenage girl – a stretch for this 37-year-old guy, but not impossible. Honestly, this approach helps one better understand why the angst-ridden franchise has connected with its massive target fan base around the globe.
Meyer’s best-selling behemoth of a novel, and director Catherine Hardwicke’s
literate interpretation, views all of the Twilight
talking points – new kid at school, first crushes, unrequited love, prom, divorced parents living on opposite sides of the country – through the prism of a teen girl’s diary. It captures the social awkwardness of the high school hierarchy, and injects cheesy genre pizzazz into the formula with an unexpected, undead component.
As you know, Twilight involves an ancient family of Abercrombie & Fitch-inspired vampires. But it’s hardly a horror film, and the “scariest” elements wouldn’t terrify a 10-year-old.
There are times when Meyer’s heroine, Bella (Kristen Stewart), appears to be in danger. But it’s usually in a Lois Lane kind of way … and we’re always confident that her Superman -- Edward Cullen (Robert Pattinson
) -- will arrive in the nick of time to save the day. Even late in the film, as the rugged vamp James (Cam Gigandet) hunts Bella like a fawn, Hardewick’s Twilight
leans more toward the softcore infatuations of a safe, PG, television movie-of-the-week than, say, The Lost Boys
or, more recently, Fright Night.
The quote above belongs to Edward, who tries (unsuccessfully) to transfer out of his Biology class because he can’t stomach the overwhelming attraction he feels for his lab partner. And isn’t that young love in a nutshell? At times, it’s so all-consuming that you’d do everything in your power to try and move planets to break its spell.
Yet the movie’s tone actually embraces Bella’s choice of abstinence, keeping the bulk of its killing off screen and leaving the steamiest of its teen romancing for later installments. To borrow the baseball analogy for sex – not Vampire Baseball; just baseball – Hardewick’s Twilight is first base. New Moon is second base. Eclipse is a triple, while Breaking Dawn – with its weddings, pregnancies and umbilical chord-chewing vamps – rounds third and sprints for home. But parents, it’s relatively safe to tread into the initial Twilight waters with your teenager.
Green Lights: “I am very protective of you.”
Why, then, does Twilight connect so deeply with its audience?
Because for most audience members, Hardewick’s adaptation of Meyer’s book acts as their first encounter with forbidden love, their first full immersion into unfiltered passion and unrequited love. It’s Shakespeare for the Sweet Valley High crowd. It’s a romance that’s rooted in classic storytelling, and one that often soars to the tops of trees. Literally. Edward and Bella sit in trees. It’s … romantic?
Maybe not. But there’s also the fact that Edward’s willing to sacrifice everything to be with Bella. He changes his entire existence – one he has endured for multiple lifetimes – just to be near her. Name me one girl who wouldn’t want to hear: “Your scent. It’s like a drug to me. You’re like my own personal brand of heroin.”
However, if you’ve seen deeper, more honest, more dangerous interpretations of Meyer’s rather simple storyline, then Twilight likely won’t move you. But if your valued memories of first loves involve hunky, brooding cover boys who glisten like a diamond in the sunlight, Twilight is your cup of steaming-hot, Type-A blood.
Something else struck a chord with me while revisiting Twilight for the column, though … and no, it wasn’t Vampire Baseball. I found a safe passage through Meyer’s juvenile prose by clinging to the relationship between Bella and her protective father, Charlie (Billy Burke).
Edward uses the above quote over dinner with Bella on their first real “date.” It’s sweet, and more than a little predatory. But I prefer to apply the quote to Charlie, who goes through the defensive motions of any dad unsure how to handle his child’s first passionate excursions.
“One of the best things about Charlie? He doesn’t hover,” Bella says in one of her insufferable narrations. Yet for all its faults, Twilight actually captures the valiant struggles a parent can encounter while trying to stay connected to their teenager. And I think several moms and dads enduring Hardewick’s film with their kids might be surprised at how moving this component of Meyer’s story can be.
Twilight is a soap opera aimed squarely at, and appropriate for, tweens – that preadolescent stage capturing kids in the 10 to 12-year-old range.
In a way, it’s similar to the Harry Potter franchise
, which started with material that was safe enough for all ages but matured with subsequent sequels. (And that, I promise, is the only time I’ll compare the Twilight
Part of the challenge might be staving off your kids if they somehow become hooked on Twilight and desire to see where the ballad of Bella and Edward goes. That’s where Meyer’s books could come in handy. But if it’s your intention to introduce your kids to Twilight through a visual medium, they’re probably old enough to handle the on-screen “action” – and the Vampire Baseball – once they’ve reached double digits.
If you’d like to read previous entries in the "When Can I Watch That With My Kids?" series, click right here. Some of the films covered: Star Wars, Back to the Future, The Goonies, The Princess Bride, The Monster Squad and Spy Kids, to name just a few.