A New Post Twilight Hollywood

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by Melissa Silverstein
November 16, 2012 6:36 AM
3 Comments
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We have finally reached the end of an important moment in film history.  I know that many people dismiss the Twilight saga for a multitude of reasons - it's about vampires, it is focused on a girl's story, it's a romance, it's just not good, etc., etc. - but to me, that is just a shortsighted look at what this franchise has done.

It has changed Hollywood.

I know that is a bold statement.  But look at all the films released, in development or ready to come out: The Hunger Games (which made over $400 million in the US this year), Beautiful Creatures (which opens in early 2013), Angel Fall, Earthseed, The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones.  I'm sure there are others we have not yet heard of.  What they all have in common is that they tell the story of a girl and none of these movies would be happening without the success of Twilight.  Twilight proved that stories about girls and women could draw crowds and also proved that girls and women were a huge under-developed box office threat.

It also changed Comic Con which had to accept that the girls were here to stay.  It changed how people could release movies that star women, and it changed people's thinking and opened up a wider conversation about how stories about women and girls are treated in Hollywood. 

But most of all it made money.  Lots of it.  Sitting in the theatre Wednesday night getting ready to watch the final installment I thought back to the first opening weekend (and director Bill Condon puts a lovely coda on the film reminding us of how far it has come) and remembered how exciting it was when the first film opened to $69 million.  This was just four years and over 2 billion dollars ago.  Each subsequent move did better than the previous one.  The opening of Eclipse was lower than New Moon but New Moon, Eclipse and Breaking Dawn Part 1 all grossed in the $300 million range here in the US and a lot more overseas. 

And this one will be the biggest of them all.   According to Fandango, thousands of shows are sold out for the weekend from big cities to small towns, and the film is on track to gross $150 million in the US this weekend on over 4,000 screens.  (It is already raking in the bucks overseas.)  4,000 screens is monstrous.  It is on par with super hero movies. 

At the screening I was at there were some twihards in the audience and media folks.  The fans were defintely on team Jacob and were also cheering for Robert Pattinson.  But hardly any cheered for Kristen Stewart.  She's still living down the crap from her dalliance this summer but it looks like she has mended her relationship with Robert Pattinson if their happy smiles on the red carpet earlier this week means anything.  Hopefully, those still having issues with her will get over it soon as Twilight moves into history and all the actors move onto other projects.  She still has tons of great work to do as an actor and it will be interesting to watch her as she matures.

This film has the strongest role and story for Bella.  She spent the previous four films as the passive girlfriend, and now she is the active vampire.  On the one hand it is disappointing to see that she had to become other worldly to have any strength and power, but then this is Twilight and one needs to suspend disbelief completely or else you will just not enjoy yourself.

So I will gladly take a strong, kick ass red eyed vampire Bella over the awkward Bella who dominated the franchise.  As you see the saga conclude (and I haven't read the books) it is clear that the whole thing has been all about Bella coming into her own as a person and finding her own destiny even if it is as an immortal vampire.

I am glad this movie ends with a strong and powerful Bella.  That is the perfect legacy for a franchise that has paved the way for women and girls to show our muscle at the box office. 

PS- I did a great interview with the film's writer Melissa Rosenberg yesterday.  We will get that up as soon as possible.

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3 Comments

  • MADDY | December 1, 2012 10:04 AMReply

    I agree with Amy. So much. That was the most wisest comment I have ever read. I love Twilight a lot, and I don't really know why. I just love it. That's all. Bye

  • Amy | November 26, 2012 12:28 PMReply

    @Priscilla, I respectually disagree with you that the Twilight series is about a girl "who finds love and gets a glamorous wedding." Sure, those events occur in the movies, but that's not what it's about. It's also not about "a girl who can't live without guys." I think this is a rather patronizing viewpoint. The character Bella Swan isn't even remotely interested in "guys." The character has spent her life taking care of people and her decision to move to Forks is an extension of being willing to do whatever it takes, even risk her own life, for the well-being of the people that she loves. She falls for a particular guy because she thinks he has a good soul and beautiful. She wants to spend forever with him and he feels the exact same way about her. She feels connected to another guy in a way that she can't fully explain, but she just knows things don't feel right when he's not there. She's not suicidal. She can live without them, but she doesn't want to and she puts everything on the line to protect them and fight for them. So, why is Bella Swan less of a superhero than "Black Widow?" When she basically turns up to die in the place of her mother, armed with a bottle of mace against a vampire, why isn't that heroic? When she cuts her arm to distract a vampire so that Edward can win his fight, why isn't that seen as courageous? When she puts her life on the line to bring her baby into the world, with nothing but faith that everything will be fine, why isn't that celebrated as strength? If a woman can choose not to risk her health to bring a baby into the world, isn't the converse of that she can also choose the opposite? Why is one choice looked down upon and the other praised? In the end, Bella Swan protects and saves her family, and their friends with the power of her mind, not her fists. She is the strongest and her baby, that she was courageous enough to bring into the world, is the key to everyone's salvation. So, because this character embraces traditional gender roles does that make her less of a superhero than Black Widow who uses her feminine wiles to lure information out of people (men mostly), is entirely duplicitous, and can throw punches like a man? Why is a caricature of a woman, which I find to be somewhat insulting, more of a superhero than a woman who's willing to put her life on the line for the people she loves? I don't get it.

    Basically, when people say that Bella Swan's decision are "old trope" and "sexist" I wonder if they would've been dismissive of my mother's strength as well. She risked her life to bring me into the world. She had Lupus and was told that she shouldn't have any more kids. But, when she found out she was pregnant again, it didn't even cross her mind to put her own life before mine. She did survive and so did I. She had faith, too. She's my hero. She might not have been able to throw a punch, but she was there every day when I came home from school with a meal and a hug. She made sure my dad went to rehab every day after his stroke. She was there when I graduated college, even though she thought I should pursue the ministry. She supported my choices. She worked part time so that she could be there for us. She taught me how to read, tell time, tie my shoes, dress, and generally how to be an honorable woman. Is she less of a hero than a woman who's a soldier? Is my mother's story less compelling? Maybe it is to you, but I don't know why.

  • Priscilla | November 17, 2012 9:35 PMReply

    I personally don't think Twilight is a good film to change Hollywood. I fear that Hollywood's going to think, "Oh tons of girls went to see this movie about a girl who finds love and gets a glamorous wedding. Let's make more movie about that." It's going to be the rise of chick flicks, and I hate chick flicks, even though I'm a girl. I don't want to see movies about girls falling in love. That trope is so old, it's borderline sexist to me. I want to see more movies like Brave, which is about a mother and daughter excepting each other (not to mention that Merida shows girls you don't need love to be happy and confident). I'm looking forward to Ginger and Rosa, which is about two different girls finding themselves and growing up. I want to see Black Widow in her own movies, and definitely more female superheroes in their own movies. I want to see that kind of variety of feminist films. Not more of the same old same old "girl can't live without guys" crap. And let's face it, that's what we are going to get, since Hollywood is still a male-dominated industry, and not many are feminist males even. They're mostly guys that either think women are a mystery and just don't understand them, or they're guys like Michael Bay, and I sigh.

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