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The Twilight Vaccine
Don't be afraid to administer it.
About 15 years ago, my marriage went through a weird phase. It began after a friend of my wife recommended she read a popular young-adult novel about a sparkly-skinned, hair-moussed, forever-teenage vampire who was tormented by the constant urge to bite the neck of the clumsy teenage human-girl he was falling in love with.
My wife absolutely devoured the book (like the vampire wanted to devour the girl), and she told me that the story and its characters had tapped into emotions that had lain dormant in her soul since she, herself, was a teenager.
That wasn’t the weird part. In fact, I found what she said not only interesting, but encouraging. You see, I was working on my first novel at the time, and the hope of any aspiring novelist is for his or her writing to build a strong emotional connection with readers. So yeah, what Stephenie Meyer, the author of the vampire romance tale, managed to draw out of my wife was, to me, fairly impressive. I could only hope my own writing was strong enough to evoke even a fraction of that kind of affection from readers.
Before long, however, I realized that my wife — as she freely admits today — was internalizing the story too much. Her attitude toward me changed in a way that made me feel as though I (her doughy, mid-thirties husband with a quickly receding hairline) was suddenly being held to the romantic standards of a fictional vampire named Edward.
It may not have been apparent how I could have bested this pretty-boy creature of the night, who enjoyed super-human strength and speed, and could even (kind of) fly. But to tell you the truth, I felt like I had some natural competitive advantages. For one, I had no desire whatsoever (let alone the capacity) to sink venom-filled chompers through my wife’s skin and turn her into a being of the undead. (Score one for John.)
Also, I was a real person — not some made-up fella. So, I had that going for me.
Yet, the further into the book series my wife got, the more smitten she became with it, and the stranger things felt between us. The situation wasn’t at all helped by a film adaptation of the first novel hitting theaters. There were suddenly real-life actors and actresses behind the characters, and my wife became pretty engrossed with them as well.
I was tempted at times to call up that friend of hers who first recommended the book and ask, “Do you have any idea what you’ve done to my marriage?”
Instead, I tried to play things cool, and be more understanding of the attachment my wife had formed with this ultramodern love story. I even went to the theater with her to see that first movie. Just between you and me, it was awful. Only, I didn’t feel as though I could tell her it was awful, or even whisper wise-cracks to her while we watched it (something we both typically enjoy doing during movies), because of the sensitivity surrounding the topic. It could have only gone badly.
Like I said, it was all very strange… or so I thought at the time. As it turned out, the situation wasn’t all that unique. In fact, it was playing out all over the world with millions of women, and the infatuation wasn’t at all confined to the young adult demographic the books and movies were originally intended for. It included plenty of women in their thirties, including several we knew personally, whose husbands were quite empathetic to my plight.
What I’m describing, of course, is the Twilight phenomenon.
The good news is that the compulsion didn’t last, including with my wife. Interestingly enough, the more mainstream success Twilight garnished, the less intimate and obsessive it was to its devotees. Runaway movie-ticket purchases (in addition to runaway book sales) transformed the franchise’s appeal from that of a forbidden fruit into something more resembling sports fandom. Character fantasies became character cheering-sections. Women got together with groups of friends and went to midnight movie premiers for a fun, interactive time… not to shiver in the thoughts of hidden desires.
Herd immunity effectively cured the affliction.
That was all a long time ago, and I’m sorry to say that a decade and a half later, the Twilight threat has returned to the Daly household. Our 17-year-old daughter, who’s flirted with the franchise only a little bit over the years, has recently taken a deeper interest in it. She’s reading the books, looking for certain editions, wearing the clothes, and trying to get me to watch the movies with her. The Twilight brand has apparently become quite fashionable again, at least among teens.
There’s obviously an enormous difference between a marital relationship and that of a father and a daughter, so I’m not stressed out about things this time. Still, having experienced firsthand the damage Twilight is capable of inflicting, I’ve already taken measures to vaccinate our home against it as best as I reasonably can. Last weekend, I finally got my daughter to watch with me the one Twilight movie she’s wanted nothing to do with: the Twilight parody from 2010, Vampires Suck.
By normal cinematic standards, “Vampires Suck” is a lousy movie. It has an approval rating of only 4% among critics on Rotten Tomatoes. But to someone like me, who still hasn’t forgiven Stephenie Meyer and the makers of the straight films for the trouble they caused, it’s a work of art. The movie not only slays the Twilight franchise, but also the fandom that fueled it. On a personal note, multiple parodied scenes uncannily mirror exactly what I was thinking when I watched those same scenes in the original film.
I honestly don’t think one can watch “Vampires Suck” and still take “Twilight” terribly seriously. It’s like trying to watch one of Leslie Nielsen’s earlier dramatic roles after seeing a Naked Gun movie. It just doesn’t feel right. This is one of the reasons I was more than happy to show it to my daughter (who did find it pretty funny). I also highly recommend it be administered to the family members of anyone who finds (or may one day find) themself in the same boat as me.
This is my advice, America. You’re welcome.
Are you too a victim of Twilight? Let me know about it in an email or in the comment section below.
In case you missed it, Bernard Goldberg and I had a great conversation last Thursday with David French of the New York Times. We talked about political polarization, the 14th Amendment, social-media influencers, and not being afraid to call out your side of the aisle. I thought it was a fantastic discussion, which you can all check out here.
Obligatory Dog Shot
Yeah, I probably should have moved the other bed in the sun as well.
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