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Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Twilight: Still Not Romeo & Juliet

I heard it yesterday.

I was waiting in line to buy a ticket for Breaking Dawn, or as I like to think of it: TwiHard: Live Vicariously or Die Trying. What I heard solidified a few things for me. I’d known I would write about the movie (or movies) at some point. I’d known I (like most others of my ilk) dislike the rabid fanbase more than the lukewarm franchise.
What I heard combined these two things.

I heard this: “Omigod, it’s like the best Romeo and Juliet evar.”

If you just winced, thank you, from me and Will.

Will thanks you for wincing.

Here’s why:

Twilight is not Romeo & Juliet. I say this as a casual fan of Romeo &Juliet, and again as an English Major, and again as a student of Shakespeare’s work.

Yes, there are two lovers.
Yes, there are two families.
Yes, this is a (un)life or death scenario.

Sadly, this is where the similarities end. Let’s begin:

Romeo and Juliet are from opposing families. These families hate each other with a passion. This scenario is not present in Twilight. Bella’s parents don’t hate the Cullens. The Cullens are human-loving vegetarian hippy vampires, so no hate there.

Lovers gonna love...

Furthermore, the hate and feud would have to be public, or at least acknowledged by both sides.
This would only be true in Twilight if Jacob and Edward fell in love.

Just in case you were wondering, yes, this would sell tickets.

Another missing element is the the risk of death if discovered. If Romeo is discovered with Juliet, her family would murder him. If Bella’s dad walked in on Edward watching Bella sleep, there would be some explaining to be done, but no one would die over it.
Besides, everyone who could make life miserable for Bella and Edward already knows: the vampires known, the Volturi know, the werewolves know – and everyone is staying hush about it.

In Romeo & Juliet, we also see God taking an active role, in the presence of the Friar that marries and protects them. Through this Friar, God is trying to heal the hate and hurt wrought by generations of feuding. The relationship between Romeo and Juliet serves a greater purpose than their happiness – and so does its destruction.

The deaths of the young lovers are shocking and needless, the byproducts of pointless hate. The deaths of the young lovers bring about a reconciliation between the two families, as well as a realization that they were to blame. In the end, Romeo and Juliet’s deaths accomplish what their love might never have done: a truce is forged.

Looking at Bella and Edward, none of these things are present. In fact, most of the second book deals with Edward leaving Bella. Aside from her own personal and melodramatic downward spiral of depression, nothing changes.

When Bella and Edward reunite, they reap the most benefit. There is no greater risk, price, or meaning for their love. There is, of course, nothing wrong with love for love’s sake, but the love of Romeo and Juliet has a purpose. Bella and Edward’s does not.

And finally, we get to the message. Romeo & Juliet serves as a tale of caution to feuding families: feuding hurts. Forgive thy neighbor. This play is for adults more than it is for young lovers, since young lovers like happy endings. Also, the people of Shakespeare’s time knew better than to try and caution teenagers...

Twilight as a series bears no resemblance to this. It cautions neither parents nor children taking their first steps in love. Every disastrous choice is later resolved happily and cleanly. For example:

  • Bella falls for a vampire. She doesn’t get eaten. Instead, she gets married.

  • Bella gets pregnant with a demon baby. She delivers, and instantly becomes the world’s most natural mother.

  • Bella chooses to be a vampire, and instead of losing her family, gains a new place with the Cullens, gets to keep her relationships with her mortal family, and manages to keep Jacob as a friend.

As a tale of caution to no one, Twilight fails as a Romeo & Juliet adaptation. Whereas selfish action leads to death and despair in Romeo &Juliet, here all conflict is happily resolved despite selfish actions by both parties. For example, the only reason the baby isn’t killed is because Jacob imprints on it. Morality has nothing to do with it...

Or this:

Say hello to Pedo!Jacob.

There are far too many happy coincidences for Bella and Edward to have any running for the coveted Star-Crossed Lovers of the Year title.

Hint: the Star Crossed Lovers statuette looks nothing like this

The thing about being Star Crossed Lovers is just that: the very Heavens are against you. The planets have aligned, and it is not your day. For all the good fortune and happy endings that Bella and Edward go skinny dipping in, I submit that they are Star Blessed Lovers.

So, the complete opposite of Romeo and Juliet, then.

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