My son stares at me, amazed. "What is it that you saw?!?" And "Why?" , he plies me with. 
What does he mean "why"? Why should I have a "why" to watch a film? Well, not any film. He meant "Breaking Dawn", the latest instalment of the teenage romantic saga "Twilight". 
 Fact is, he knows me quite well. Though he's quite wrong when he thinks I can't see anything different from  Shakespeare or Jane Austen adaptations. Moreover, I've actually seen the previous movies in this saga just with him, on TV. He can't have forgotten the experience,  I asked him so many questions about who was who the first time! 
But he was there, waiting for an answer to his "Why?"  Why does his not-any-longer-a-teenager  mother show so much interest in those YA romances?
I didn't actually answer him, if not mumbling briefly  "I was curious, that's all".
But he's right. There is a "why". There is always a reason when I decide to see or read something meant for teenagers. Especially if that something is particularly successful among them.

My "why" is my job, teaching teenagers. While watching things like Twilight, I'm studying the targets of my didactic action, my students. It's not the first time, nor it'll be the last. I watch their favourite TV programmes, films, series, shows and try to leaf through their favourite books from time to time. Do you remember me watching "A Walk to Remember"?
So, is  Bella and Edward's dark romance what most of my female students like daydreaming about? I feel the need to discover more. And, honestly, I don't approach their stuff , cults and idols with the aim to destroy them, nor with a snobbish smirk, but with some respect and in order to understand these young people more deeply. That can make my job easier  because, in fact,  it is not always easy to get to them or to create a bond with them.

So here I am, in front of a screen watching Bella and Edward's fairy-tale marriage in the first part suddenly turned into a nightmarish drama in the second one: their own creature, their own baby is going to kill Bella. She's bravely and stubbornly ready to self - sacrifice in order to give it life. Edward is ready to get himself killed by Jack, Bella's loyal friend, in order to pay for the evil and suffering  he caused to her. There's only one way to save Bella's life. They all know. But,  will there be enough time for Edward to save both his baby and his beloved?

Each time I've seen one of the episodes in this love story between Bella and Edward, I've wondered how it could be possible that contemporary young people could like reactionary, old-fashioned, ultra-conservative stuff like that. They often turn their noses up at reading Shakespeare or Jane Austen in my classes (why always that old stuff?) but do they realize how old the story they like reading or watching is? 
Bella Swan the human loving Edward Cullen the vampire is not so distant from Juliet Capulet loving Romeo, her enemy, a Montague. Forbidden love is not at all a new theme in literature nor in movies. Neither is  the vogue of  vampires, werewolves or ghosts, which  comes from ancient times: the first Gothic tales were written centuries ago. Love, family, friendship, loyalty, chastity, bravery: aren't they the main features of many literary classics?
So, what charm is there in Meyer's Twilight saga for our kids? 
Love beyond any barrier against  their world full of barriers, love above sex against the sex-maniac world they must live in, love ready to self-sacrifice against our tragically selfish world. Sound old values against the shallow vanity they are surrounded by. Is this really what many of our children dream of? Does this mean the grandchildren of "divorce" and "women's emancipation" would like to go back? Maybe they don't realize, but that seems what they most long for.
What? Did I like the movie? Do you really want me to answer that question? Not so important, since I didn't mean to write a review. However, it was not a total waste of time, if not a great movie. 


Prue Batten said...

I like the way you wrote about Breaking Dawn, MG.

The fact is that whether we like the books or movies, or whether we don't, there is a generation that do and deserves to be respected for that.
I haven't seen the movie yet and will wait till its on dvd but I'm sure I'll see beyond the special FX to what is essentially a love story... just like Romeo and Juliet.
Great post!

Song said...

I like and respect that you like to keep up with your students. My mom does the exact same thing. She always says it keeps her on par with her students...in the loop, so to speak. And it works! Decades of teenagers have been able to relate to my mom, simply because she made/makes the effort to relate to them. This is the same reason why she bought the Twilight series and read them all. And it was perverseness, really, that had my sister and I reading the series.

As for the themes of eternal love, self-sacrifice etc...I never really thought of them in relation to the classics. Good point!

Maria Grazia said...

@Prue Batten
I wish Edward and Bella could teach much more to our young people. They are so incredibly mature and responsible and strong-willed and aware. Many of our kids are nothing like that. They never grow up.
Have a very good Sunday! (for what remains of it to you. Mine has just started)
Thanks for your comment. But, this means I could be your mother. I mean, you must be very young. Congratulations for your blogging activity and your reading tastes, Risa. I wish you a very good Sunday!

Avalon said...

IMO- not the best of movies, but I do appreciate the undertones - no premarital sex & underage drinking, Edward doesn't listen to rap, instead classic. He is well mannered & sincerely cares about Bella. Edward worries for his soul & doesn't want Bella to become a vampire because he fears she will be dammed. He respects Bella & truly loves her. He places value on her virtue & insists they wait until properly wed. I think movies like this encourage young girls to wait for the right kind of guy. It also shows them there are men out there who will respect them & not treat them like a piece of meat. I also like that the fact that Bella & Edward just stare at each other & share dreams, their love is not physical but deep & emotional and this is something I wish all teenagers would understand. They fight for good, respect human life, they do not drink, party, or do drugs, they stand with family & not gangs. Bella has dinner with her father every night at the local cafe and for fun she plays baseball with Edward's family. Family is important and these teens love & respect their family. They do not need alcohol or drugs to have fun. Think about some of the popular teen movies, even the ones from the 80's, even those embellished teens drinking and partying.
Fly High, I hope you consider watching the first two. These have much more of the values I mentioned.

lunarossa said...

Didn't mind the first Twilight as it was a novelty. New Moon was pretty dark and a bit boring, but I didn't mind the Jakob character. Eclipse was packed with action and nonsense but it was a bit of fun. This last one is boring. miserable and more boring. 117 minutes of my life wasted. And £8 too!!! Ciao. A.x

Maria Grazia said...

I've seen them all.The first three on TV with my son, who watches them any time they are on satellite channels. Thanks for your heartfelt, thorough contribution, Avalon. Cheers!
Ciao, A. I can imagine you and V. together at the cinema. Ehm...did she find it boring too? Or she liked it, instead? Kisses & hugs to you both!

Carmen said...

It's a very interesting post, MariaGrazia, thank you! I'm not a fan of the Twilight saga, but I sometimes read about it just to understand teenagers' tastes and values and what they think, their changes of ideas after they read or watch a product. And it's easy to find extreme enthusiasm or extreme contempt about this saga; it's difficult to find a post like yours, without judgments or prejudices, but that makes readers know. Your students are lucky.

Song said...

@Maria - oh no! I'm not so young. I'm a married woman.:)...and my mom's actually retiring at the end of this academic year.:)