Total ‘eclipse’ of the mind

Earlier this year, I was teaching an undergrad class a course on Gender. While discussing femininity and feminism, I asked my class to name one male and female they think of as the epitomy of masculine and feminine beauty. The idea was to determine how the concept of masculinity and femininity is socially constructed and male and female desirability is strongly attached to it and that  it evolves with the passage of time. As I teach generally hip kids, their idols were mostly western and their tastes represented that trend. Salma Hayek, Shakira and Beyonce were considered most feminine women by both the boys and girls, clearly indicating that concept of femininity has undergone a transition and blue-eyed blonde is no longer the pinnacle for beauty.

The boys in my class came up with the usual suspects as models of masculinity such as Brad Pitt and George Clooney with a mention of Ali Zafar and Salman Khan to add the local flavor. However, most girls swooned when they mentioned their heart’s desire and it was a guy named Edward Cullen. Now, I may not be a teenager well versed with the latest trends but I don’t exactly live in a cave and do managed to keep a track of things but I seriously did not know who Edward Cullen was. So I asked and was regaled in no uncertain terms how wonderful a character he is and how I have missed on the greatest thing since the sliced bread. Equipped with the background info, I asked my female students whether they liked the character of Edward Cullen or the actor, Robert Pattison, who plays the role. One of them gushed that she couldn’t distinguish between the two of them; she loved them both and everything about them.

Quite obviously I bought the “Twilight” and “New Moon” DVDs on my way back to witness the ultimate specimen of a gentleman. Needless to say, I was galactically gutted when I found out that he is, you know, kind of neither alive, nor dead. I mean back in the day when I was a teenager, we used to swoon over sun-kissed men with big shoulders who were alive and kicking. A pasty-looking, slightly effeminate, undead vampire is definitely not my idea of swoon worthiness, but heck, what do I know? I am not a twenty-first century teenager!

In the first installment “Twilight,” we have a sulky teenager Bella who likes this boy – the personification of undead romance Edward Cullen – in her class whose eye color keeps changing which basically lead her to believe that he is a vampire; how perfectly logical. Then we have a family of vampires (Edward’s family) who think they are vegetarian vampires because they do not drink human blood. In what parallel world, sucking the blood of cute furry animals makes you vegetarian? I am quite surprised that PETA stayed quiet over it.

In the second installment “New Moon,” the romance between the whiney (Bella) and mopey (Edward Cullen) runs into snag when one of his siblings wants to suck her blood so he breaks off with her and goes away. Bella’s friend Jacob, who is actually a werewolf – is there ever a woman who attracts more inappropriate men than our tragic heroine? – falls for her and now Bella is torn between two highly unsuitable men.

Because I am the type who would want to finish the things, I decided to watch the third installment “Eclipse,” against my better judgment. I am still not too sure whom Bella chooses at the end of the 123-minute saga where newbie vampires were wreaking havoc, trying to kill the heroine. The werewolves and the vegetarian vampires band together to save her – amidst the general lovesick atmosphere of the film.

Apart from the regular teenage romantic anguish, an army of well-groomed vampires, Bella’s whines, Edward Cullen’s cherry red lips and Jacob’s buff bare torso (Jacob was shirtless for most of the 123 minutes that even the character of Edward had to ask him whether he owned a shirt), there were a couple of things that need to be highlighted. I was in for a surprise when I saw a scene with a hint of “Brokeback Mountain” where the undead and werewolf get curiously intimate during a long night in a tent. Frankly, there was more honesty and chemistry in that one scene than the whole angst-ridden trilogy where Bella keeps panting after the total dreaminess of Edward.

Another thing we learn is that vampires are as big on hierarchy as European royal families are. There are some blue-blooded vampires called Volturi who prefer the Goth look and rule the vampire world with a rocker wardrobe. And of course, they decide which vampire stays in the state of undead and who gets to die the true death.

After I told my students that I had seen the films (the first two installments), the eager ones wanted to know how I liked the movies. One of them even asked me if I was rooting for Team Jacob or Team Edward (yes, the crazy fans are divided between who gets the heroine). Honestly, despite being a werewolf and an underage werewolf (Taylor Lautner who pays Jacob in the movie was 17 when my students asked me), Jacob gets my vote for being, err you know, not dead.

Should people go and watch this film? I don’t know but I have to say, it’s unique. After all, you don’t get movies like this very often where a werewolf and a vampire battle it out for the affections of a human and not to make a meal out of her.

Originally written for Dawn.com 

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25 Comments

  • i come from a generation whose girls were either cool or read teenage romances (yes, mutually exclusive) so i might have a bias here. also i haven’t been a teenager for nearly a decade now and i am to tall, pale and lean as a rhinoceros is to a giraffe – but if kids today think the guy who played edward in the movies is the epitome of desirability then its a sad, sad time to be alive. or undead.

    pierce brosnan from remmington steele days i could understand. even selleck from when magnum p.i. was cool. but since when have guys who look like they could’ve played the female lead become so hot?

    mein khwa ma khwa apnay arjun-rampal-esqueness per khush ho raha tha…

  • “is there ever a woman who attracts more inappropriate men than our tragic heroine?”

    Yes. Aishwarya Rai…Salman, Vivek, Aby Baby. I rest my case.

  • Aneela,

    hahaha. But at least they are human, at least Salman and Abhishek are. I am not so sure about Vivek.

  • having passed the teens quite a long time back, I still havent been able to comprehend wat girls like sooo much about this edward guy….i mean perhaps the idea of beauty/desirability/masculinity has changed too dramatically for us to understand. all this makes me feel really old frankly! 😛 in fact, i still havent even been able to comprehend wat ppl like soo much about the trilogy that its become so popular

  • Edward is just not the sort to be attracted to unless girls have a liking for the feminine attributes in a guy. Gone are the days when rugged was how a man was defined – now more the chikna the better his fan following – dunno what has caused this !

    I am yet to come to terms with anything to do with twilight!

  • I completely agree with the first comment.

    There is something deeply disturbing about the entire theme of Twilight. Very self-aggressive, self-inflicting sort. I tried sitting through the first movie with an open mind but just could not get over the idea that a girl wanted to die to be with the boyfriend. What does that say about the nature of relationships that women prefer in our time? Abusive relationships that eventually have to have werewolf and vampire allegories?

    Is uniqueness an excuse for sending out a message as disturbing as this?

    I don’t think so.

    Weird word verification: catiess. Bet Cullen would love that.

  • ha, ha. i have a teenage daughter, and so knew EC, but still can’t understand the hoo-ha about him or the ‘Twilight’ series. Am old. 🙁

  • I read a twitter message that stuck: Eclipse is like a boring football match. Both run around for 120 minutes and still no one scores…

  • I’m a teenager and I hate Twilight. But I think I can explain why it’s received such a grand fangirl backing. As much as the character for me personally sucks, it has a chauvinistic edge to it which is a far cry from the generally existing male heroes – the guy is good-looking, he’s in love with her, and he’ll do anything to save her. Kind of a knight in shining armour? Every teenage girl wants a guy who’d do anything for her because he’s hopelessly in love with her. I think that, more than anything else is what gives the series a response because as far as I have read the books, they absolutely lack literary appeal.

    And that’s not an assumption, I actually went around asking girls why they were drooling over Edward Cullen after I forced myself through the badly written first book.

  • What is at display in the twilight film, could very well be the parent-child syndrome at work. In the depths of their subconcious, the girls are demonstrating merely what is natural for them i.e. a longing for a child, a son to be more specific. What they overwhelmingly relate to in this character is not an overtly masculine protector or provider character of the old mills and boons novel, but someone to love, adore cuddle, and give direction and motherly advice given their instinctive motherhood.

  • like most of ppl here I m over my teenage years a decade ago but I too love Both Edward and Jacob like all the teenagers now .I have read the whole saga and I know the story already but I love to watch the movies.What people are missing here is the fantasy of having a cool very handsome gentle man who is waiting for the ONE for over a century.Imgine!For Bella ,being dead or alive is of no importance as she just want to be the One.If you read the novels you will get better understanding but I must warn u that last part is just a drag poorly written romance which make no sense.But if one reads the novels why girls fall for E C will be easy to understand .And J is just so handsome for which poor guy worked really hard …so its fair that he got the fans

  • like most of ppl here I m over my teenage years a decade ago but I too love Both Edward and Jacob like all the teenagers now .I have read the whole saga and I know the story already but I love to watch the movies.What people are missing here is the fantasy of having a cool very handsome gentle man who is waiting for the ONE for over a century.Imgine!For Bella ,being dead or alive is of no importance as she just want to be the One.If you read the novels you will get better understanding but I must warn u that last part is just a drag poorly written romance which make no sense.But if one reads the novels why girls fall for E C will be easy to understand .And J is just so handsome for which poor guy worked really hard …so its fair that he got the fans

  • Don’t understand how people actually sit through such crap like vampires and werewolfs. Beats me!

  • You are, by far, the best writer I have ever seen. Simply superb write-ups. The Twilight Saga has been adequately edified by you. Would you please write something on The Matrix Trilogy? Anxiously waiting for reply.

  • You’re so articulate, Tazeen. I enjoyed reading your pieces.

  • it was an amazingly written piece! but trust me its not that bad as you make it :p you should have read the books! the hero of the movie does no justice to the character of Edward Cullen

  • i too belong to that era of teenagers where edward cullen is nt something we can actually understand n accept as a man…but the reason which i could ever make out ws as someone mentioned above…edward cullen the character in the book, not the transvestite monstrosity in the movie, is one gentleman, strong, handsome, polite, caring, loving, protective, fierce, tender, all that u want in a “man”, it’s like a complete dream, n to make that dream look realistic, since such a HUMAN MALE is impossible to exist, he’s a vampire, to justify the impossible height of manliness he is at 😛 AND he’s good in bed supposedly:P

  • I don’t know… maybe it’s just a trend with teenagers, you know. If some of them say that Edward Cullen is the epitome of men, and say one kid disagrees, she’d probably fall under the unpopular kids category. Being a teenager was hard at times if you didn’t want to be a loner.

  • Zahid, Shankar and Blue stocking,

    I guess you guys are here for the first time so welcome. You all have said nice things about my writing so thanks a lot for that.

  • I’m 18 years old and… a girl. When I first read Twilight, it wasn’t well known.
    BAM! THE BOOK WAS HORRIBLE! Edward Cullen, ah yes… Despite being all handsome and ‘sparkly’ *snorts* he displayed such erratic psychotic behaviour that I was disgusted. Watching the girl sleep in her room, Telling her which friends she can call, Stalking her – Excuse me, This is not romantic. He has a serious PROBLEM.
    Jacob, being the most tolerable of all the characters, also loses it in the third flick.
    The whole damn series is gay.
    I still can’t believe how popular it is. INSANE.

  • http://theoatmeal.com/story/twilight

    Now that gives a better perspective.

  • hmmmm…just as surprised as u r…its tough to be a teen in these chaotic times!
    n even tougher to be their teacher ! 😉

  • So since when a vampire start to sparkle in sun. Edward/Robert who cannot speak two words with a straight face is in the lead. The guy stinks more than a fish, and for Jacob.. no words, he looks more desperate than Pakistani ministers for a degree. I don’t know how much of a desperate Stephenie Meyer would have been to come up with her autobiography in this way.

    Nothing could ever be as lame and pathetically girlishly stupid as Twilight Saga is or maybe was..

  • I dont know, but I was in love with Edward too. Its more cuz of the books, you know, that I literally crammed up. Dont be too judgmental though, I think its in the hormones to be hooked on to a completely amazing, self-less and smart lover (dont forget the photographic memory), at the age of 15. So was my case.
    And maturity sneaks in through the back door and then one day you get up realizing eddie doesnt matter anymore. So I did turn 18 and then 19 and I think I am more of a crazy cat lady than a potential Juliet, or in our case, Bella.

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