[personal profile] wingedbeast
I've already made a Case for remaking 50 Shades of Grey, which started life as Twilight Fan Fiction. As this indicates, Twilight does share the major problem of 50 Shades. Much of the story is something that can be appreciated as a fantasy that should remain fantasy. But, Twilight has its own problems that make it so that it can't all be solved with a presentation that acknowledges that it's not just a step away from reality, but a step away from desired reality.

Twilight, for those not already made familiar by a wealth of commentary, is the story of late teen Bella Swan and her falling in love with a vampire.

The story begins with her moving to a dreary town to live with her father, who is also the local Sherriff. She goes to the dreary High School, where she is nigh-immediately the most popular girl, but finds no joy in either that or any of the people. It's not that she's malicious in her distaste for her classmates, but more that she holds everybody in the same low esteam with which she holds herself.

Some readers and critics, particularly in the comments of Ana Mardoll's deconstructions of the series*, have put forth that Bella Swan could be taken to present as suffering clinical depression.

The only classmates who don't go out of their way to befriend Bella are the Cullens, of which Edward captures her attention. He's initially hostile, but concerned for her well-being, and otherwise a bundle of mixed messages. This prompts her to ask about the Cullens, learn about a convenient fictional myth from the real-but-inaccurately-portrayed local Native American community, and pour over some internet research, all leading up to the much-shown and much-mocked scene. He tells her to say it and she says "vampire".

Much of what follows is, for the most part, an entirely understandable fantasy with little-to-no conflict. Yes, the Cullens are all vampires, but they feed on animal blood rather than human blood. The entire family is nigh-immediately inviting of Bella, encouraging her to take part in their activities, and very, very wealthy. Most people, I imagine, would love to be invited into a family that's happy, supportive, and wealthy enough that, by being a member, you can follow your passions without ever having to let money be a concern. It's almost the ultimate privilege fantasy.

I say "privilege fantasy" for a reason. That brings us to the conflict and the major problem. Late in the movie, but foreshadowed earlier than in the book, a trio of "bad" vampires come across the Cullens and Bella at a baseball game. Characterization through a displayed lack of people skills and second-hand clothing shows that this trio of vampires avoids humanity, sticking to the wilderness and, effectively, eschewing any interaction with humans.

Imagine two groups of vampires. One group avoids humans as much as is physically possible in North America in this day and age. The other group has established, for themselves, incredible wealth. The "father"/leader of the group has an established position within the community, including having contacts and among law enforcement and other elements of the power structure. Yet, none of them connect with any humans, preferring, when the opportunity shows itself, to sit amongst each other and not speak at all.

The other group has no money, no connection to human society, atrophied people skills, and long-old clothes at best.

Which of these is in the best position to eat humans and get away with it? Which of these is more likely to feed on animals instead of humans?

Twilight seems to operate on the premise that charming=good. And, that's almost exactly the unexamined premise under which I might expect an unwary teenager to fall prey. Even as fantasy, it is a problem.

One fix has been put forth by internet commenters, what would make this a compelling tale with real conflict. That is putting Charlie Swan, Bella Swan's Sheriff father, as the main character. The story would be about a Sherrif who's daughter comes to town, murders start happening, her daughter takes up with what seems like the very good and wealthy family but nigh-immediately shows unhealthy obsessions with the family and one boy in particular. Then, vampires!

You know what? That's a good fix. The conflict is there throughout. The fear is fully acknowledged and the notion of something that will use and corrupt your child is a more tangible fear that can be represented by vampires, as opposed to a cult.

But, with or without that, the story could use another fix. And, the fix is all too easy.

I'll repeat some facts about the Cullens. The Cullens have situated themselves so that they move from city to city every few years, always being very wealthy and always ingratiating themselves to the local power structure, usually through use of their wealth. They have always restarted in High School, allegedly because the younger you start the longer before people notice you not aging.

That's an excuse one could tell someone else. But, arguably that's not true. The younger you are, particularly when we're talking about the teen years, the more likely physical changes will be expected within a couple years.

The far more likely reason is that teenagers make easier prey.

Let me make a commentary on vampire fictions in general. Whether we're talking about horror movies like the original Fright Night or the more undead-drama style of Anne Rice's Vampire Chronicles or shows like Forever Knight, there's a basic reality that needs to be understood. You can't kill that many people without people noticing. I'm not even getting into the regular vampire blood-parties of Blade.

Humans just don't reproduce fast enough to maintain our current population with that much killing going on. The disappearances mount up, particularly when the predators aren't exactly picky about targeting only the homeless and similarly vulnerable.

Abuses can still happen. Vampires can still use and abuse humanity, just not so obviously as all that, not if we don't want a world vampires are running out of humans.

That commentary leads us to Bella, beautiful lover of classics that could suffer from clinical depression. In the remade story, things can start out very similar. Bella moves to live with her father in the dreary town. She finds what seems to be a normal small town with normal High Schoolers with one exception, the Cullens.

The Cullens are very wealthy, the Cullen teens are withdrawn and do not talk to other students. And, the Cullens have made a point of establishing favorable relations with law enforcement and political leaders. But, for the most part, she finds herself enamored with Edward.

In the comments of Ana Mardoll's deconstruction, one commenter did make me aware of an element of how depression can operate. If something, even a person, gives someone who suffers from depression some momentary relief, it's very easy to mistake that momentary relief for being in love or being the greatest thing ever.

In our fix, instead of only focusing on Bella's point of view, we split between that of Bella and that of Charlie. The two Swans complementary difficulties. One's adapting to a new town on top of being no more than a couple years away from going to college. The other's adapting to a new set of parental responsibilities and trying to find the line between being responsible and being respectful of freedom. Both trust, more than they should, that playing their roles well will be rewarded with happiness, a feeling they both find more fleeting than they let on.

For Bella, she goes through much the same investigation as she does in the story we have. For Charlie, he's trying to find that line between respecting her freedom and saying that, maybe, her interest goes beyond what may be an infatuation into the realm of obsession.

For Bella's side, we see much of what we see in the original story, the fantasy. The fantasy of your romantic interest being at the same time "dangerous" and "safe", the fantasy of being invited into this wealthy, inviting, supportive family that treats you like you are the great special. For Charlie's side, he sees the daughter he barely knows in the first place becoming closer to someone else when he doesn't know how to make her closer to himself.

And, through it all, we see that there is a problem of students being sicker. The medical records back it up, the people of this dreary town are, for some reason, subject to more illness, more clotting problems, being weakened. (No, nobody will say the obvious "it's as though they're being drained of..."). And, this hits the teenagers the hardest.

It's then that the additional trio of vampires comes in. No, they're not "vegetarian vampires". But, neither do they often feed on humans. It's just a luxury/power source they can't always afford. Sometimes, they can. But not here.

That's the conflict. Bella is infatuated with the Cullens. The Cullens are entirely sure that, since they don't kill humans, they're morally in the clear. And, Bella's entirely willing to go along with that logic because they make her happy, which is rare for her.

But, the new trio, the "enemies" that have killed humans before, because they've needed the power and just didn't have other options. And, they're not necessarily good guys. But, they do know that a world where humans are healthier and not consistently drained, where there's less feeding on humans, is a world where even they are better off. And, they make their case to Charlie.

Therein lies the conflict. Charlie gets his legitimacy and a sense of purpose from serving people. Bella is gaining the same, in her own mind, by turning her back on humanity in favor of the vampires. Bella thinks she's doing good. Charlie thinks he's choosing the lesser evil. Let both the fighting and the debate commence.

* http://www.anamardoll.com/search/label/deconstruction%20%28twilight%29
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