I had a whole other topic prepared for this week's Girls on Film, but to follow that plan would ignore the large, sparkling elephant in the room. I'm sorry, but I've got to write about New Moon. I'd been planning to hit a screening sometime mid-week -- a nice and early matinee that would free me from the headaches of super-excited fans under 18 (which goes for any cinematic fandom for the pre-to-teen lot ... Harry Potter? egads...).
But then I read Eugene's aside in his weekly Box Office report: "Along these lines, I wonder if the egregious objectification of men in New Moon's marketing campaign is a victory for feminism. I vote yes." While I don't equate my feminism with show-me-yours-too ideology, it brings up a really good point that really hadn't occurred to me before: Twilight isn't just a rampant fangirl phenomenon of pent up adolescent and homemaker lust. It's a female skin flick for the younger set, both in marketing and execution.
And no one seems to know how to react to that.
For the women-folk, it's old-hat. We've grown up with neverending waves of objectification. Being a kid of the '80s meant daily waves of David Lee Roth wiggling around bikini bodies, Tawny Kitaen writhing on a sweet ride, and Madonna cupping her pointy boobs. (Elton John being one of the few to provide some balance.) This was matched with Hardbodies and a myriad of movies showering skin upon the masses and breeding the likes of Carmen Electra, Shannon Elizabeth, and Megan Fox.
Skin... It was, and still is, everywhere. It's just always been of the smooth and feminine variety. We're used to seeing women de-robe, jump into the shower, and slowly rub themselves down, watching a film pause and linger on a woman's curves as they change, or seeing contrived plot points that require mass amounts of female flesh.
And now we've got the female version of skin flicks merged with a virulent fandom, which means a pervasive spreading of all things wolfy, vampy, and skin-laden. One sheet upon one sheet, clip upon clip get released of boys taking off their shirts and displaying their rippling muscles, whether they're carefully honed or painted-on washboards.
Of course, in the book it's mainly utilitarian. Those wolves run at a prime 108 degrees, and at those temps, who would want to be hindered by shirts and layers of clothing? (Add that with the fact that these guys continually lose their clothes when they need to wolf out quickly and I'd be hoofing my wolf-changing butt to the nearest nudist colony.) But on the screen -- it's all-out gratuitousness. Sam strolls out of the woods half-dressed with Bella in his arms and no one says: "Where's your shirt, you freak?" Jacob walks through the rain half-nekkid, he jumps in Bella's window half-nekkid, he does almost everything half-nekkid. And then, of course, Edward wants to show off his sparkly chest to a whole bunch of people while they are delighting in their supposedly vamp-free Italian town. On the page, it's an easy way to get himself killed. On the screen, it's an easy way to tap into teenage lust. New Moon is a complete pec fest.
And it's led to a lot of backlash. Today alone we've watched a video of a guy leading a huge mass of people into a fake vampire screening just because he's fed up with the fandom. Sparkle rants are hitting a fever pitch. The Twilight-phobic are fed up with the skin everywhere, and it's led to a lot of hostility and animosity while revealing a rather amusing double standard.
Men are finally forced to face the fact that prudishness isn't the only reason why rampant skin on the big screen can be annoying. The Twilight Saga is forcing them to see lots of male skin and lots of hunky men tantalizing the womenfolk. In this cinematic franchise, the men are the commodity, the physical object of desire, and it's played up to the nth degree. It's the first real opportunity to see how annoying rampant fandom of skin fluff can be; how "perfect" embodiments of men on the big screen can taint real-life expectations. The tables have been turned.
While the most die-hard fans will disagree, The Twilight Saga isn't a paragon of great writing and cinema. It's shortcomings often overshadow its better points. But it is a series that has given a much ignored group a fiscal and social voice. Just as its easy to throw a big "prude" label on those who gripe about female skin and male-dominated characterizations, it's easy to toss off everything written about Twilight and New Moon because it's supernatural romance for the femme folk. We might not like or agree with Stephenie Meyer's world. We might think sparkling vampires are the most idiotic thing out there, that Bella is portrayed as a weak heroine, that Edward is some psycho stalker -- but really, they're no different than the many other films that have come before with weak characters and crazy plot points. The change is in the reaction.
Why are we shocked that fangirls are in love with a tumultuous romance? It's certainly not the first nor last. Nor is it the first where a girl and boy have done really stupid things in the name of love. New Moon itself invokes the holy, star-crossed power that is Romeo and Juliet. I'm beginning to think that the shock isn't in the object of desire, as much as it's easy to deride it, but rather in how that's manifesting in the world.
Meyer and her fans have led a path towards male objectification and a pretty loud and impossible-to-quiet female voice (that smashes opening night records) and the world is not used to it. I might wish it was inspired by fare more worthy, but that can come with time. Right now, it looks like the world has to adjust to the realization that superfluous skin can be universally alluring and universally annoying, and the idea that girls aren't innately destined to sit quiet, be polite, and not make a fuss. There is a fuss -- it's just not from the sex we've grown to expect.
While I don't see New Moon stopping those slow-mo action shots of large breasts bouncing on the beach, at least it's made one distinctive point: Anything that's one-sided and pervasive as all holy hell can be downright annoying. The masses just have to realize that straight girls have finally found their slow-mo beach scene, and have the fiscal power to make it popular.