Twilight: Breaking Dawn, Part 1, is the fourth and penultimate movie of The Twilight Saga, based on Stephenie Meyer’s phenomenally popular series of novels. Worldwide, the Twilight novels have now sold more than 100 million copies; they have been translated into 37 languages; The Twilight Saga movies have grossed more than $2 billion.
Meyer, I am sorry to say, is a terrible writer who nevertheless conceived a rather original and well-plotted take on the vampire and werewolf genres. Meyer, a Mormon mother of three, has also managed a master-stroke of conservative subversion of leftist cultural hegemony by packaging an essentially traditional (and biological) outlook on male and female psychology, sex, chastity, marriage, and now pregnancy, abortion, and childbirth in the form of Gothic horror novels and tricking the publishing industry and now Hollywood into marketing this message to millions of young and overwhelmingly white females.
The Twilight code is basically simple. Traditional sexual morals (which are rooted in biology) have been thoroughly corrupted by feminism and allied anti-natural attitudes, as well as the easy availability of birth-control and abortion. But, as Horace observed, you may drive nature out with a pitchfork, but she will find her way back. In this case, nature has returned in the guise of the supernatural.
By nature, males are stronger on average than females. Modern society seeks equality by psychologically feminizing men and masculinizing women. In the first two Twilight novels/movies, Twilight and New Moon, the heroine Bella Swan (Kristen Stewart) thinks of herself as a strong, independent woman. And by comparison to the emasculated boys in her high school, that is true. But none of these boys particularly appeal to her, either.
Then she meets Edward Cullen (Robert Pattinson). There is something different about Edward. It turns out that he is a vampire. He is immensely fast and strong; he can read everybody’s mind except Bella’s (her inscrutability is a source of attraction); and he has an overpowering desire to drink her blood, which he resists because he is in love with her. She is willing to take the risk, because she is in love with him. Bella also develops a close friendship with Jacob Black (Taylor Lautner), an American Indian from the nearby reservation. It turns out that Jacob is a werewolf.
So Bella has a thing for bad boys. She is attracted to strong bodies and strong desires and the dangers that come with them—and the noble virtues that keep them in check. Jealousy is also a danger: Jacob is in love with Bella and wants to win her for himself.
Both Edward and Jacob are afraid that their strength will hurt Bella, so both of them break off their relationships with her in order to protect her. But the lesson of the first two movies is that male strength is not a bad thing, for the very strength that could hurt Bella is necessary to save her from harm.
The subversive message to young men doped up on Ritalin and bombarded with emasculating messages is that manliness is a good thing: women are attracted to primal strength and aggression. They want a gentleman with a bit of Neanderthal. And if overly-socialized but otherwise good men suppress these traits out of the chivalrous desire to avoid any possibility of hurting the women they love, they will lose their women to bad men with no such scruples and repressions. Beneath the monster makeup, Edward and Jacob turn out to be what healthier generations knew merely as “men.” So let’s hope more young women drag their boyfriends to these “chick flicks” enough for the message to sink in.
In the third movie, Eclipse, another dimension of traditional/biological sexual mores is explored quite explicitly. Traditional ideas about the value of female modesty, chastity, fidelity, and virginity have a basis in biology, namely in the unequal consequences of sex for men and women. For men, the sole consequence of sex (omitting STDs) is a brief but intense pleasure. For women, sex can lead to nine months of pregnancy, with its attendant dangers, followed by years of caring for a child.
Because of these consequences, women needed to be choosy about their sexual partners (hence the values of modesty and virginity). They needed to find men who would be willing to stick around and protect and provide for them and their offspring. And to find such men, they needed to offer reasonable assurances of paternity (hence the value of fidelity).
All of these values have, of course, been undermined at their root by birth-control and abortion as well as feminism, the welfare state, and a general culture of hedonism.
The Twilight Saga provides a new mythical foundation for these virtues by restoring the danger of sex. Bella could just “hook up” with any of the normal guys in her high school. Her father simply advises her to use birth control. But she can’t make love so casually to Edward. With his immense strength he might simply crush the life out of her if he gets carried away. (Note to guys: this is a thought that, apparently, titillates millions of young women.)
Bella’s solution to the problem of her physical vulnerability (the girl is constantly being menaced by other vampires) is to ask Edward to turn her into a vampire too. This is not merely a metaphor for losing her virginity. It is a practical necessity of doing so. At the end of the second movie, he tells her that he will do so under one condition: that she marry him.
Bella has a head full of modern ideas scorning marriage (she is an only child of divorced parents), especially marrying right out of high school, which of course gets in the way of lots of “partying” and “fun” not to mention the “fulfillment” of college and a career. But Edward will have none of it. He is old-fashioned. (He has been 17 for a very long time.) In an amusing role reversal, it is the man who insists that the woman save her virginity for marriage (just as in the earlier films, it is the woman who teaches the men the value of their strength). At the end of the third film, Bella accepts.
In healthy societies, marriage is a momentous decision. It is a lifetime commitment. Traditional marriage, moreover, is more than the joining of two individuals; it is the joining of two families. This was especially the case when extended families lived under the same roof (as the Cullens do). Thus it is natural that the whole family get involved with a member’s decision to marry. They all have a strong stake in the outcome. In more dangerous times, family solidarity can often mean the difference between life and death.
The seriousness of marriage has been destroyed by easy divorce, family breakdown, psychological and social atomization, the welfare state, and the punitive child support system. But all of those momentous concerns come back when you are a clan of vampires contemplating taking a human into your midst.
Edward Cullen’s family takes a strong interest in Bella from the very beginning. They want to be absolutely sure that she is right for Edward. My first instinct was that they were prying, and he should tell them all to shove it. But that was just another bit of modernity that I had not managed to purge from my thinking. (It looks like it will take a lifetime.) But the Cullens are right to be concerned with maintaining the solidarity of their clan, and Bella learns that she would not want it any other way, for the world they inhabit is dangerous, and the whole family needs to be united to survive. Although the Cullens live in a huge modern mansion, in the end, it is really just another log cabin in the American woods where settlers hold off marauding Indians (and werewolves).
Breaking Dawn, Part 1, begins with Edward and Bella’s wedding. At this point, I will say a bit more about the film than can be gathered from the trailers, so consider yourself warned. Edward and Bella go to Brazil on their honeymoon. Edward does not transform her into a vampire, because she does not want to spend her honeymoon writhing in pain. She also convinces him to make love to her. In spite of the dangers, he gives in. The next morning, the bedroom looks like the Tasmanian Devil has blown through. But Bella is quite content. She has just a few bruises. Edward is totally contrite, and Bella has to teach him again that she loves him, including his strength, even if it hurts her.
Vampires, apparently, cannot have babies. But that is something that Bella was willing to give up to spend an eternity with Edward. To everyone’s surprise, however, vampires can make babies. Bella finds herself pregnant. Then the movie takes a Rosemary’s Baby turn. The baby grows at a phenomenal rate, draining Bella’s life, cracking her ribs with its super-strong kicks. Edward wants his father, Carlyle (a doctor), to get “that thing” out of her. It is a dangerous pregnancy in a world where medical science has virtually eliminated such dangers. But Bella refuses. It is a “baby,” not a “fetus,” not a “thing.” And she is going to carry it to term, no matter what.
Most people think abortion is immoral, but they can accept it in circumstances when the mother’s life is at stake. Feminists, however, regard abortion as a virtual sacrament, and in the case where the life of the mother is threatened, they are not pro-“choice”; they are pro-abortion.
Now I ask: where else in this culture, dominated by feminism and the imperative of white race-replacement, are millions of young white women going to be exposed to the example of a young white mother who refuses an abortion because she decides she is willing to risk her life bringing a new child into the world?
I will say no more about the plot, save that it gets quite brutally intense near the end—really too intense for kids.
Breaking Dawn, Part 1, is a beautifully filmed movie, with a generally languid pace like the first Twilight movie. I liked the pace, but I imagine it might be disconcerting to people raised on MTV and its successors. (There isn’t even a music video break, like Twilight’s immortal vampire baseball scene.) There is a great deal of gentle humor. The wedding and honeymoon are bridal magazine porn of the highest order. (Although there were interracial couples fore-grounded in a scene in Brazil. See my review of Eclipse for my take on the Jacob Black question.) The digital werewolves look as fake as ever. (More imaginative filmmakers could have made analog werewolves work much better.) There are some annoying “transformation” special effects.
But there are also moments of pure poetry: when a young man falls to his knees in awe, and when a mother, father, and newborn child wave to the camera. Honest to God, I blinked back a couple of tears. This is not the best Twilight movie, but it is definitely worth seeing.