Tuesday, November 24, 2009

From Buffy to Bella: A Review of New Moon

I treated myself to a guilty pleasure and saw the new Twilight movie that all the kids these days are raving about, New Moon. It was probably not a very feminist thing of me to do, I know, but what with all of the movies about serious men and men who stare at goats and so forth, what is a feminist lady to do, really?

Of course, just because New Moon was a book written by a lady and a script written by a lady, I was fully aware that the movie came with no guarantee that the film version would include two ladies who (a) talk to each other about (b) something other than a guy. However, I think movies should at least come with disclaimers when the female protagonist not only doesn't talk about anything other than dudes, but also doesn't even think about much of anything else.

(Oh, this post contains movie spoilers. And, I'm assuming readers have a general familiarity with the Twilight series.).

It genuinely breaks my feminist heart of stone that the female vampire genre protagonist has regressed from Buffy to Bella. In Buffy, we had a strong female lead who, although prone to canoodling with the undead, still maintained a strong sense of self and self-worth aside from her status as girlfriend to Hot Guy. Bella, however, is a weak, helpless girl whose Very Special Thing about her is that hot, strong men are attracted to her. Had Bella shown up in the Buffyverse, the Scoobies would have rescued, nurtured, and then eventually helped empower her. Well, that or a vampire would have quickly gobbled her up at the Bronze, the audience would have quickly forgotten her, and we would have all gone on to learn more important things like how beer is bad for you, sometimes demons aren't so demon-y, and getting a mustard stain out of one's jacket is cause to break into song and dance.

Ah, those were the days, weren't they?

Instead, in New Moon, we see our female protagonist at the lowest depths of despair throughout much of the movie. For months, she doesn't hang out with her friends, doesn't seem to eat, and doesn't seem to do much of anything outside of stare out her window being Very Sad about the Hot Guy who left her, thereby telling legions of adoring girls that life is not worth fully living when a guy leaves. Maybe I have forgotten what it is like to be a teenager and maybe the books go into greater detail, but through Bella, we also learn that teenagers (and centuries-old vampires) can have super-duper intense relationships despite not really ever talking about anything other than how super-duper intensely they love each other. And then, we find that the only thing that draws Bella out of her depression is, you guessed it, the attentions of a new Hot Guy. Then, despite the fact that Bella and New Hot Guy do things together that involve more than talking about how intensely in love they are with each other, we see Bella dump this New Hot Guy to go back to the Old Hot Guy who dumped her, because of course, their love is just that intense.

Anyway, despite the Bechdel Test Fail in New Moon, about the second time Taylor Lautner peeled his shirt off, I did notice that the movie seemed to be made for the Heterosexual Female Gaze rather than, for once, the Heterosexual Male Gaze. Whereas in many movies, "Men look at women[,] Women watch themselves being looked at," in New Moon, I think it is very evident that the audience is intended to look at the attractive men and, perhaps, identify with the female Bella.

Given the sexual objectification of men and boys in this film and the messages regarding the lack of self-worth it sends to girls and women, I wonder if this film is a "win" for anyone. Other than its makers, of course.

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