Thursday, December 18, 2008

Bella vs. Eli, or Why Angsty Vampire Movies Suck, and Why Sucking Could Be Cool

"Lat den ratte komma in" is the latest vampire film offering from Sweden, land of the really immortal Ingmar Bergman whose death in July 2007 we ought all to still be mourning (note to self: watch Bille August's "The Best Intentions" again soon). A bold move on director Thomas Alfredson's part, to release a tweenybopper fang flick only one month prior to the launch of the "Twilight" franchise. Given the "Twilight" mania that has hit all the malls in North America, I feel a burning need to delineate the contrasts between a good vampire movie and a bad vampire movie, or rather, between one that Sucks Thrillingly and with Sheer Brilliance and one that just sucks.

"Let the Right One In" features Eli, 12-years-old for eternity. She gets B.O. when she's hungry; she has an unsettling tendency to scramble up trees and drop down on her prey unannounced; she can solve the Rubik's Cube faster than mortals; she seeps blood from her pores if she enters where she's not invited. And yet she still manages to be quite an attractive little sprite. She's also scrappy, by which I mean she's adept at finding folks who will take care of her. Specifically menfolks. The film begins with her ageing partner--don't mistake him for a father figure--driving her to their new pad, getting her happily settled in, and going out to kill a young boy so she can feed. The film progresses with Eli meeting Oscar, a 12-year-old boy who lives in the same industrial apartment complex. The grooming of the new life partner begins soon afterward, as Eli empowers wimpy, scrawny Oscar to begin a weight-lifting course and fight back against the cruel bullies at school. Oscar saves Eli's non-life, when an angry villager with a torch goes vampire hunting. And then Eli saves Oscar's life in what must be one of the most memorable swimming pool scenes ever committed to celluloid. I won't give anything else away, but I will remind my readers that they don't call this genre romantic for nothing.

"Twilight" (yawn) as you probably know already, features Bella, a clutzy bookish every-girl, who moves to Forks, WA where she meets and falls in love with Edward Cullen, member of a "family" of beautifully pale and incestuous siblings who have the numbers to form their own clique at the high school. The romance of Bella and Edward, which draws on every trope in the book of fairy-tales-that-buttress-patriarchy, has even sparked a group on Facebook called "Because of Edward Cullen, human boys have lost their charm." Bella cannot do anything for herself; Edward is continually rescuing her from peril--when he's not stalking her or using his magical vampire powers to carry her up tall trees to enjoy the view. Given how the story seems to be going in the direction of rape fantasies realized, if Bella's darkest wish comes true Edward will be eternally rescuing Bella from peril.

Interlude in the form of commentary on the leading men:
Granted, Oscar wears a string of snot on his upper lip for most of the Swedish film, but that Edward Cullen wears too much make-up, and Robert Pattinson is no Johnny Depp.

In conclusion, Eli kicks Bella's booty. Eli is tragic, sweet, winsome even, and yet grotesquely terrifying. Importantly, Eli is a powerful girl. In contrast, Stephenie Meyer, Melissa Rosenburg, and Catherine Hardwicke appear to have colluded in disempowering Bella. And unfortunately for all of us, Bella is the character that impressionable young girls--not to mention, sadly, some impressionable women in their 30s--long to be. As one of my coworkers said to me, "If you've ever been a teenage girl, you'll love this movie."

I guess I never was a teenage girl. Can someone please confirm that for me?

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Homemade for the Holidays

Check out this insightful old post on ("home of the craftistas") on feminism and domesticity! I agree with much written therein, except unlike the author I love to iron.

Then there's this oldie-but-goodie on "New Domesticity," questioning whether it's just another form of patriarchal captivity...