The Moth Chase

Elevating the Art of Procrastanalysis – Academics wasting time on pop culture

Childhood is the kingdom where nobody dies

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Kathryn and Natalie both posted separate takes on The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn Part I. Read Kathryn’s post below. You can read Natalie’s post here. And check back soon for a conversation between them.

Dear Natalie,

Well, here we are. Over two years after we started this blog around a conversation about the Twilight books and Breaking Dawn is finally in theaters. Not all of it, of course, but we are finally getting to the best part about the series and for my money this was hands down the best film and I thought it was nearly perfect. Perfect, that is, not as a film to be compared to all other films, but perfect as rendering the internal feeling of Meyer’s book better than Meyer did herself. I think I remember correctly that we both loved the final book best and I’ve been waiting, sometimes with kind patience sometimes with annoyed exasperation, to get through the other films to this one. This, after all, is where it all comes together. Where Meyer’s fantasy departs from almost all other vampire fantasies I know of in having her heroine not only love a vampire, but become one. What I loved about the film was the perfect melding of genres – saccharine romance, horror, fantasy, fairy tale – to create an ambiance of Bella’s conflicted desires and her own journey to name them and find the courage to own them and live into them. It was, more than I had quite realized in the book, a kind of fantasy journey into adulthood with all its attendant horrors, fears, and blisses with a heavy emphasis on the fantasy.

Feeling this so strongly, perhaps this is why I chose the title of the Edna St. Vincent Millay poem that Bella quotes at the start of the movie. Knowing what was going to come, I was struck by the ambiguity of these words. If you know the rest of the poem, the layers of meaning only grows. In Millay’s poem, the passage from innocence to experience is not marked in age, but in the first experience of death that shakes you to the core, that leaves you grieving for someone you will never get over. Childhood is the period before life is touched by this kind of death. My first inclination, on hearing Bella quote this, was to worry that Bella’s own transition to immortal life and the promise of deathless love with Edward was going to infantalize her. But the absolutely horrifying, horror-filled pregnancy and near death put those worries to rest. No indeed, Bella’s marriage, her loss of virginity, her pregnancy, and her death/turning are all part of her growing up, but her passage from childhood to adulthood in the way Millay meant comes through the radical introduction of death into her relationship with Edward – her own possible death, and not just the technical death that will turn her into a vampire. I know we both loved the way Edward and Bella become more equals once she is a vampire, but I felt the shift in their relationship already when she refuses to give him what he wants.

I know when we talked about the books I found it very problematic that Bella is birthed into her immortal life through the pain of childbirth – and a birth that kills her. The Christian tradition has made a lot of Eve’s suffering in childbirth as the price of original sin and glorified this kind of pain as a way for women to be sanctified. All of that is still problematic and in some ways the horror of Bella’s pregnancy only makes this worse. But watching her literally waste away, emaciated and torn apart from the inside out, I was mesmerized by her conviction and her own embrace of her desire. After several films in which Bella hardly seems capable of deciding what sweater to wear without Edward or Jacob, this Bella knows what she wants and is summoning the courage and conviction to live it. At least twice she insisted, in the face of serious skepticism, that she was capable of doing what seemed impossible – surviving her labor and resisting her murderous urges once a vampire. Choosing to film this storyline with heavy reference to horror genre tropes (the monstrous child consuming the mother; the blood stained lips as she gulps human blood; the emaciated limbs and facial bones rising spectral like from her cracked, dry, wasted skin) allowed her final transformation to become a full fledged fairy tale, but not the pretty kind made by Disney, the original versions which are not so different from horror stories (which a movie like Pans Labrynth tried to evoke). As vampire venom freezes her veins, her bones repair, her flesh fills out, her hair takes on a glossy hue, and her eyeshadow is perfectly applied I thought “oh, yes, this is a fairy tale. Of course Bella had to suffer, bleed, break, and die. You do not get eternal life without a price.” And even more so, you do not discover your courage, self-sacrifice, and ability to love (the virtues Bella credits Edward with having) through good intentions only.

I have so much more to say, but I want to stop soon so you can jump in and I’ll respond as I can. But I have to say, since I know from an email exchange that you didn’t like the first half of the movie, that I did not hate it at all. In retrospect, I cannot image the horror, terror, and intrigue of what follows without the flip side of the fantasy, a child-girl’s simple worries and obsessions about her wedding day, cliched and painfully extended as they might have been. For me, the falsest note in the movie were the CGI wolves. Pray god we don’t have to watch wolves “talk” almost at all in their wolf forms next movie.

Your turn and I can’t wait to hear what you thought!


Kathryn and Natalie both posted separate takes on The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn Part I. Read Kathryn’s post below. You can read Natalie’s post here. And check back soon for a conversation between them.

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  1. […] Saga: Breaking Dawn Part I. Below is Natalie’s post. You can read Kathryn’s post here. And check back soon for a conversation where they respond to each […]

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