Okay, guys… I have a confession…
Regardless of just how utterly and completely awful they are, I have a secret fixation with the Twilight Saga movies…
I know, I know – I’ve probably lost your attention (and your respect), but please read on. It gets juicy.
I saw the first Twilight movie in 2008 when it was released in theaters and thought it was complete and utter horseshit, full of talentless actors and enough awkward and cringe-worthy moments to make you feel more uncomfortable than being caught masturbating by your parents – yes, it was that bad of a movie. In fact, the ones that followed were even worse; New Moon, Eclipse and subsequently Breaking Dawn – Part 1… the lack of depth in the characters, the stagnant plot-lines, and the dull and banal dialogue had me catching myself in moments of sheer disbelief. I actually laughed out loud several times and not because it was rivetingly funny, but because it was so pathetic that I could not believe what I was watching.
But oddly enough, thousands of people (myself included) are strangely addicted to this series – in fact, there is a whole generation of people who are devoted to the books and movies, mostly consisting of females between the ages of 12 and 18. It’s a pop-culture phenomena. There are literally (and I wanted to avoid using that word) hundreds of thousands of fan websites and fan videos; even a sub-genre of human beings who call themselves Twihards who would probably plot my assassination if they ever read my review of the movies. Incidents of non-consensual neck bites and brawls over ownership of Robert Pattinson posters and Team Jacob/Team Edward debates have been reported more than once in the mainstream media.
So how has this series captured the minds and hearts of millions of people when there is very little artistic or creative merit to it? How did this series turn a simple story into a full-blown obsession? I believe my tiny little brain holds the answer -and after a bit of researching and a few intense philosophical conversations, I have come to a debatable conclusion.
Evolutionary psychology is a field of study that looks at the behaviors of people from a modern evolutionary perspective. To quote Wikipedia, “Adaptationist thinking about physiological mechanisms, such as the heart, lungs, and immune system, is common in evolutionary biology. Evolutionary psychology applies the same thinking to psychology, arguing that the mind has a modular structure similar to that of the body, with different modular adaptations serving different functions. Evolutionary psychologists argue that much of human behavior is the output of psychological adaptations that evolved to solve recurrent problems in human ancestral environments.”
As a friend of mine explains, “Basically it’s all from the perspective of DNA; DNA wants to survive, it wants to duplicate – so our entire existence is based on our evolutionary need to reproduce, which means that we tend to unconsciously utilize strategies in order to better our chances of finding a mate.”
Now before you start telling me that evolutionary psychology perpetuates 1950’s gender roles and that it is constituted entirely of theories formulated by misogynistic men… hear me out. I’d like you to entertain for a minute the idea that maybe, just maybe, our lives are not solely comprised of our nurtured identities, but that there in fact exists a relationship between who we are and the makeup of our DNA as well.
Science tells us that women want a man who they can raise a family with, who is emotionally available and who can provide for them and protect them. “On the one hand, women have the natural imperative to select optimal genetic traits, one way of making that selection easy is through hierarchically superior men, a.k.a. “alpha” males. On the other hand, women want men who can materially provide for their families, commit to a long-term relationship, and enjoy interacting with children, a.k.a. “good relationship skills.””
Now I’m not saying that this is 100% true of all relationships… gender role reversals, same-sex relationships, dominatrix fetishism and people who simply have different tastes in mates are just some examples of situations where I am wrong about this. But I’d have to say that through my own experience, I find that evolutionary psychology is the most common narrative that dominates many male-female relationships.
Relating this back to Twilight, enter Edward Cullen… a one-hundred and something year old, filthy rich, immortal vampire who is stronger than any creature on the planet. He is pretty much capable of doing anything he wants to, and yet he falls in love with Bella Swan, a young, fragile human mortal who is quiet, clumsy and accident-prone to a fault – and the entire movie is based around his efforts to protect her. Throw in Edward’s handsome face and chivalrous, gentleman-like mannerisms and you have yourself the ultimate chick flick.
When I was a little girl I would create my own “evolutionarratives” in my head about being the damsel in distress waiting for a strong man to come and save me – it was my own form of mental masturbation. Today, I just watch Twilight and get my jollies. If you hate the story of Twilight, you have a fairly good reason to hate it. If you love it, that’s okay too – no one is judging you (except for your entire family, all your friends and everyone else you know)… Just let the people who love it take what they can from it and let the people who hate it have their reasons.
It is completely fine to love something that is bad for you, isn’t that what Twilight taught us anyway?