Browsing "Twilight"

A world without The Alchemist

A friend Raheel shared this graph which lists top 10 most read books in the world on Facebook. As expected, there were some usual suspects in the list like ‘The Bible’ and ‘The Harry Potter series’. Raheel appeared to be a little bummed that the list also features the Twilight Saga and thinks that if anyone is looking for a snapshot into why the world is so fucked up, they need to see what the world is reading. In other words, if too many people are reading about angsty vampires, werewolves with pedophilic tendencies and insipid pinning girls then something is NOT right in the world. 
I am sure Raheel has his reasons for being sick and tired of the Twilight Saga but I think there are other entries far more worrisome than the tales of a teenager who alternates between necrophilia and bestiality. 
For starters, the world can do with a little less religiosity and a lot more compassion but let’s just not go there because I have no desire to be lynched by that overwhelming majority that reads all the religious texts.
Secondly, twilight is not dangerous because it is mostly read by the prepubescent teens (and their older sisters with stunted mental growth and their moms who wants to do all things their little girls do) with absolutely no delusions of grandiosity. If they are happy reading about undead old creeps who look like sparkling teenagers then let them be – in their own little bubble. 
Far more dangerous are those who read absolute shite like ‘The Alchemist’ and think they have had this spiritual and/or philosophical and existential awakening which kinda gives them a license to pontificate according to their heart’s desire. Not only do they want to expound their new found wisdom to any poor unsuspecting soul that comes with the radius of 200 meters, they also think they are doing the others a huge favour by sharing their profundity. It is at times like this one agrees with Scott Adams and blames it all on the Gutenberg press for spreading the pop philosophy mumbo jumbo to the masses. The world would have been a better place had there been no ‘Alchemist’ in it.

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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