In line with teenage girls to watch "Twilight"
I have risked, and possibly have suffered, complete emasculation.
I went to see the latest cinematic installment in the “Twilight” series.
But that wasn’t the real danger.
I didn’t trudge into the Eltrym looking glum, a reluctant prisoner shackled to my wife’s affinity for saccharine love stories.
I wanted to be there.
Truth be told, I suspect I was more excited than Lisa was to see Bella pout and Edward wince and Jacob flex.
And with that admission the last dollop of testosterone drips out, to stain the ground behind me like the trail of a slug.
I’m a “Twilight” fan.
I’ve read all four books, some more than once.
I’ve watched every movie.
I am, in essence, a 13-year-old girl.
Not that this is any revelation for me.
I own a Bay City Rollers album, after all, so I’ve already established a certain, well, juvenile and effeminate standard in my pop culture proclivities.
I feel no need, though, to apologize for enjoying the fictional saga created by Stephenie Meyer.
It’s a ripping good yarn.
Which is enough to satisfy me.
Oh sure, Meyer’s no Hemingway.
(Not even an Anne Rice, a more apt comparison, what with all the bloodsucking in common.)
I think Stephen King — who has a passing acquaintance with writing fantasy novels — got it pretty much right a few years when, in comparing Meyer to J.K. Rowling, he described Rowling as a “terrific” writer and Meyer as “not very good.”
But then King himself has endured similar barbs from critics’ pens over the decades. And his defense, often as not, is that in novels, story is paramount, and anyway, there are only so many Faulkners out there.
(One fewer than there used to be, actually, as Faulkner himself died almost 50 years ago.)
Meyer certainly didn’t tread on new literary ground with “Twilight.”
Yet the story, as simple as it is, rests on a solid foundation.
Its pillars and cross-pieces are concepts which for most of us are both familiar and beloved: love, loyalty, sacrifice, the triumph of good over evil.
The vampires and werewolves add to the allure, to be sure.
(Edward’s and Jacob’s chiseled abs contribute, as well.)
But these are merely garnish to the wholesome meal. You don’t sell 100 million books if the mythical creatures between the covers never act in ways that we ordinary humans can not only appreciate, but also aspire to.
The aspect of the “Twilight” series that seems to me most compelling is the relationship between the Cullens (the “good” vampires, who drink the blood of wild animals) and the Quillayute Tribe’s werewolves, whose duty is to protect humans from vampires.
The presence of Bella — a human who marries Edward Cullen and eventually becomes a vampire, but who is also the object of werewolf Jacob’s affection — strains this relationship.
And yet, despite their instinctive animosity, the two groups combine their considerable abilities to defeat vampires who have less humanitarian aims.
I don’t mean to suggest that “Twilight” has any sort of deep meaning, or that Meyer has fashioned an allegory for racial harmony.
But each time the Cullens and the Quillayutes exchange their thank yous after a successful coordinated campaign against a horde of nasty bloodsuckers, I sense the great power that such simple gestures can have.
And the humanity.
Ultimately, of course, it’s romance that has made “Twilight” such a profitable franchise.
And I’m not immune to the attraction — even if I don’t revel in the Bella-Edward bond with anything like the emotion that millions of teenage girls have invested.
(I don’t have any posters on my wall, either, so there.)
Yet it seems to me passing strange that the series hasn’t lured a greater number of males.
“Twilight” isn’t so devoid of masculinity as I’ve implied, what with the references to leaking testosterone and all.
I would think most men, no matter their disdain for the many extended, devoted eye-locks between Edward and Bella, would like to emulate the vampires and the werewolves.
I wish I could outrun a car and topple an old growth Douglas-fir with a single punch, for instance.
Also, the vampires (when they’re not running) drive fast cars.
And the werewolves (when they’re not all hairy), ride cool dirtbikes.
Really, if you can withstand the soap opera-like interludes, “Twilight” has something of the sensibility of a program that airs on, say, CMT and prominently features rigs with lift kits and Confederate flag decals in the back window.
At least that’s what I told myself while I was waiting in line for popcorn, surrounded by moviegoers, none of whom looked like she’d recently come from a monster truck event.
And it is, in the main.
Yet I reacted with no small surprise to the rating for the movie, which debuted Thanksgiving week.
Really, Hollywood? You couldn’t resurrect the Muppets and still maintain a G-rating?
The reason for the upgraded rating is described as “mild rude humor.”
I haven’t seen the film so I can’t say how rude this humor is — or even if it’s humorous.
But I do know that this gang of characters managed to delight a couple generations of kids without resorting to any brand of humor that could conceivably earn a PG rating.
Look, as an adult I’d get quite a good laugh from listening to Statler and Waldorf drop a couple of S-bombs into their curmudgeonly commentary.
But leave that for the special features disc in the DVD package.
Whatever the “old” Muppets’ humor might have lacked — and I can’t think of what that might be — an extra helping of rudeness certainly wasn’t it.
Yes, a couple of inferior but well-meaning sequels have been produced since Charles Schulz’s program aired in 1965.
But the owners of the franchise, to their great credit, have recognized that the original emerged fully formed, and that, even 46 years later in the age of CGI and Pixar, it neither needs embellishment nor, indeed, could survive much tinkering.
A few generations of Americans, I’d wager, would feel truly bereft were they to miss this show for even one Christmas.
I certainly would.
Nothing else, no TV special or book or song, captures with such resonance the essence of my childhood.
I mean nostalgia, of course, but also something more than that.
I could say that “Charlie Brown” retains its power because it is at once clever and funny and poignant. And because, even though it doesn’t talk down to children, neither does it seek to appease their parents by inserting adults-only jokes every now and again, the way so many modern “kids movies” do.
All this is true.
But defining the enduring magic that Schulz captured is beyond my meager abilities.
Probably it is best not to try.
Surely it is enough that, even decades on, a simple 30-minute program can effortlessly erase all the years that have passed, as if they never happened.