Monday, November 23, 2009

Coming Out in New Moon

So I went to a movie the other day. It told the story of a high school girl who gets dumped by her boyfriend. She goes through lengthy angst and depression but finally turns to a young guy who likes her, who is sensitive and who wears long hair, beautifully coiffed. While they are together one day, they see a group of 4 other guys running around without shirts. He says the leader keeps staring at him, which makes him uncomfortable. Within probably ten minutes of the film, he has joined them—cut his hair and gotten a tattoo. And he takes off his shirt (for almost the entire rest of the movie). He tells the girl he has to stop seeing her. “I have a secret you will hate me for,” he tells her in another scene of teen angst. “I didn’t choose to be like this… I was born this way,” he concludes. His big secret is…

At this point I turned to a friend and asked, “Is this a gay coming out story?” I thought maybe I was in the wrong film.

Well, it turns out his secret is he is a werewolf. I didn’t realize there was a correlation between being gay and being a werewolf, but I guess there are some similarities—you function in a fringe group, feel you were born the way you were, and run around without shirts whenever you get a chance.

The film, of course, was the latest installment of the Twilight series, New Moon.

Many of my female high school students wanted to talk about the books and the film today. I asked them to explain the attraction.

A couple of girls spoke about how wonderful the descriptions in the book are. Many felt the book was much better than the film. (I have nothing to go on here because I haven’t seen the first film nor read the books.) Said one student, “The main character is the perfect high school student, and she dates the perfect boyfriend who just happens to be a vampire. We can see ourselves in her.”

An adult female teacher friend theorizes that the books allow the female student to fantasize about sublimated sexual fantasies and come to terms with their impact in a nice safe way. The main character keeps saying that she wants her vampire boyfriend to suck her blood and make her one of his family. Putting it crassly, she sounds like she wants him to rape her, but by the end of the film it becomes pretty murky with the boyfriend wanting her to wait until they are married. (Hmm, what are we talking about here?)

My girls talked about the attraction to the male characters. They were definitely attracted to Taylor Lautner’s six pack chest. They were turned off by Robert Pattinson’s bare chest because (ewww) he has chest hair. If the fantasy involves perfection, I guess those chest hairs can be disturbingly real.

I found many interesting moments in the film and it held my interest, but it definitely is a different audience.