Friday, November 18, 2011

Anti-Review: Why I'm Not Seeing "Breaking Dawn"

Film Rating: ?

I need to issue an apology.  Throughout the publication of my “Twilight Challenge” article this week, I’ve been reporting that my review of the latest “Twilight” film, “Breaking Dawn,” would come out this afternoon.  And I really did intend to watch and review the film, just as I promised.  But as the week went on, and I heard all the early critical hype for “Breaking Dawn,” and I re-read portions of my “Challenge” article, and I continued to ponder the disgusting subtext of this series, I realized I just don’t have the stomach to sit through another one of these movies, especially “Breaking Dawn.”

I’m sorry!  If you were looking forward to my take on the movie, I hope I haven’t disappointed you too badly.  I assure you though, this wasn’t a split-second decision.  I’ve been thinking about it for a few days now, and I just don’t think a review would be worth the effort.  I believe my “Twilight Challenge” article says everything I have and need to say about this franchise, and anything more would just be redundant; as for “Breaking Dawn” specifically, other critics have done spectacular jobs summing up the awful inner-workings of the film. 

But I do want to talk a little bit about the movie that is going to earn unholy amounts of money this weekend, so after the jump, I’ll expand upon why I’m opting out of watching “Breaking Dawn,” and hopefully give readers some more food for thought.  Continue reading after the jump…

First and foremost, I am not willing to spend money on “Breaking Dawn,” and it’s not because I’m worried about wasting my hard-earned cash.  I pay to see terrible movies all the time, and I don’t consider the money wasted because I get to come home and write a review to share with my readers.  “Breaking Dawn” would be no different.  At this point, I’m not willing to pay to see “Breaking Dawn” because I would consider it a moral transgression.  Giving this franchise my money only legitimizes the horrible, sexist, destructive messages it sends, and I am simply not interested in paying to watch something so ugly.

Now, I know what you might be thinking: “But Jonathan, you haven’t even seen “Breaking Dawn!” How can you possibly know that it is one of the most morally repugnant stories ever committed to celluloid?”

Why?  Because as I’ve gathered from critics and fans, the film stays very close to the book, and I know the story of the book.  I hate the story of the book.  The reason my “Twilight Challenge” article is relatively lighthearted is that it only covers the first three stories, “Twilight,” “New Moon,” and “Eclipse,” and while they preach some fairly awful messages, I’ve always assumed that’s a result of terrible, inept writing, rather than any dastardly intent on the part of author Stephenie Meyer.  I have specifically excluded “Breaking Dawn” from the “Challenge” article because once one delves into that story, you can’t chalk up the messages to ineptitude.  The problems go a lot deeper than that.

The part of the book the film “Breaking Dawn Part 1” covers focuses on Bella and Edward’s marriage, sexual consummation, and childbirth, and it is the most rancid, offensive, anti-feminist material in the series (and, thus, in modern pop culture).  It is where all the narrative and thematic flaws from the rest of the series come to a head, where Bella definitively decides to give up having aspirations or a career or even getting an education just so she can marry a vampire who, after four books, still attracts her only because he is physically appealing and she wants to have sex with him, not because he has a good personality or something meaningfully intangible to offer her.  And since he’s a vampire, she has to make this commitment for eternity; there is literally no divorce, no going back, no second choice; Bella is stuck, and the horrific thing is that this is what she actually wants.

Note to pre-teens of the world: getting married at eighteen because your high-school sweetheart is cute is the worst decision you could ever make.  But at least it will be a better decision than Bella’s, because chances are your significant other won’t be a vampire.

And that’s not the worst part.  Not even close.  When Bella and Edward do consummate their marriage, she is left bruised and battered, but continues asking for more.  I don’t need to go in-depth on this.  If Stephenie Meyer were seriously exploring sadomasochism, that would be one thing, but she isn’t.  Because Bella is the ‘heroic’ ‘protagonist,’ we are meant to look at her acceptance of harmful, destructive sex as something to be admired, something women should strive for.  When she gets knocked up with a vampire baby that is literally killing her, she refuses to get an abortion; I know abortion is a sticky subject, but coupled with the violent sex, Meyer is sending a message that women should allow men to abuse and own their bodies right up until the bitter end, no matter what the consequences. 

None of that sits right with me.  From the reviews I’ve read, it doesn’t sit well with our nation’s critics, either, so I’m not alone on this.  What was possible to overlook in the first three stories is impossible to ignore in “Breaking Dawn,” and when I think about the huge sums of money this film is going to rake in for spreading such a destructive message, I just feel sad.  This is the reason scholars dismiss blockbuster filmmaking.  I believe the blockbuster concept has a lot to offer – just look at artistic successes like “Lord of the Rings” or “Harry Potter” for proof.  “Twilight” lies at the other end of the spectrum, and I honestly believe that putting these books on screen is actively harming the integrity of the cinematic medium I hold so dear. 

So I’m not going to pay for it.  I’m not going to legitimize it.  I’m not trying to rally a boycott or anything, this is my own personal choice, but if you agree with me on any level, please, ignore this film.  Do not support it.  The franchise’s popularity has been steadily dwindling already as the original fan-base grows up, and ignoring the new movies will help to speed up the process.

To be honest, I’m also very, very far from being in the mood to watch a terrible movie.  I’m coming off a wonderful two-week film festival and a pre-screening of the glorious “Muppets” movie; I’ve been riding a film high for weeks now, and I’m not particularly interested in letting that end, especially since today marks the first day of my vacation.  I’ll be taking it easy for the next ten days (though there will be some new content on the site), and I’d rather not kick off my first vacation in months with something as insipid as “Breaking Dawn.”

Anyway, those are my two cents.  What are your thoughts?  Sound off in the comments, and if you too are about to begin a Thanksgiving break, then have a very happy, hopefully “Twilight”-free holiday! 

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