Sex and the Country: A brief review of
‘Twilight: Breaking Dawn–Part 1’
Bill Condon, “The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn–Part 1”
2011, 117 minutes
At the core of the dreadful “Twilight” series is a struggle between base desires and societal norms. Edward is a sparkly vampire, but he wants to live in society; so, through self-control, he no longer sucks humans dry. Bella, a bland, clumsy girl, falls in love with Edward and tries to get him in the sack for the better part of four books/movies.
Sex. It’s the holy grail of reckless abandon for this teenage girl and hundred-year-old vampire. For reasons of drawing out the plot, Edward refuses to have sex with Bella until they’re married, so he can frame this act of carnal pleasure in a socially-palatable context. In the movie, they have a fairytale wedding in the perma-drizzly Forks, Washington, woods. An artificial canopy of white flowers dangles over the guests. It’s very Disney and gets a G rating from me, despite a drawn-out kiss at the altar. The color palate is all whites, blues, and greens.
Chaste wedding aside, the honeymoon is what everyone came to this movie to see. It’s nice watching rich people spend lots of money on weddings on their own private arboreal estate, but this fantasy isn’t just about marrying up. It’s about becoming so rich you can even buy your way back into the Garden of Eden and have guilt-free, marriage-sanctioned sex.
And what country says sex like none other? Brazil, apparently. There’s an establishing shot of the (somewhat judgmental) giant stone Jesus, but he is quickly forgotten when Edward and Bella hit the streets of Rio. It’s sexy because it’s different. They climb out of a cab and there’s dancing in the street and fast music. Waiters come around with drinks, and there aren’t any restaurants! Madness! Locals are dance–making out so Bella and Edward get to necking. We know two things from this scene:
1. Rio is a whole lot more fun than drizzly Forks, Washington, and
2. It’s almost business time.
What’s the perfect spot for a teenage couple who have never seen each other naked? A private island off the coast of Rio de Janeiro. The beach is fifteen steps from the canopy bed. There are so many leafy palm fronds inside the house that it looks like someone was playing Jumanji in a honeymoon suite. This isolation helps Bella and Edward have that guiltless sex they’ve been lusting after. No one will see Bella after she has had sex and judge her. Next stop, animalistic passion!
The sex scene itself is something of a letdown. After teasing for such a long time, it was bound to disappoint. The only things of note are the weird details, like Edward driving his fist through the headboard, biting a pillow, and bruising Bella’s forearms. Bella wakes up in the rubble of her marriage bed, covered in down feathers, and blissed out. By destroying furniture and scattering animal plumage all over his wife, Edward has rejected the stayed cultural trappings of the “developed” world. The Brazil of “Twilight” is a place of lush abandonment. You can’t control your urges; and, even better, as you’re completely anonymous and alone, you don’t have to.
Bella is hoping for lots more sex while Edward feels terrible about bruising her and returns to sulking. To compromise, he pummels her in game after game of abstinence chess in front of a gorgeous background of pristine beaches.
There’s a waterfall scene (what private Brazilian island doesn’t come with its own waterfall?) where Bella gets a little bit of making out, but Edward swims away before anything else happens. The disturbing part of this sex island is its level of cliché. Of course a rustic resort is sexy. Latin America has long been associated with passionate lovemaking in a way that (unsurprisingly) Forks, Washington, has never been.
Part of the Brazilian appeal comes from its otherness, which is in stark contrast to Washington’s domesticity. This same, sexy exoticism is at the core of the books’ appeal. The vampires are completely different than humans, therefore boinkable. Bella is attractive to Edward because she is different than the other humans. This “I want to bone you because you’re different” is better than the xenophobic “I want to kill you because you’re different,” but the logical conclusion is that our ‘heroes’ are making inter-species whoopee in Brazil—at least until Edward gets scared of his passionate urges and returns to his buttoned-down WASP-y Washingtonian persona.
Perhaps it goes to show you that you can take the vampire out of the moody woods, but you can’t take the moody woods out of the vampire. Edward is a guy who just doesn’t know the meaning of the word “vacation” because he can never take a vacation from himself. The boring downer who doesn’t eat people always has to stick around or the nice Brazilian furniture would just get destroyed.
Then it turns out Bella gets pregnant from that first, bed-splintering night, and the honeymoon is both figuratively and literally over. Gone are the sexy bed times, the beaches, the waterfalls, and the rich, colorful streets filled with Brazilian extras, dancing and drinking. The rest of the movie is stuck back in Forks, where the dreary blue palate returns and Bella does her best Gollum impression as her alien baby sucks away her life from the inside. Any sexiness is quickly forgotten.
Perhaps “Twilight” author Stephenie Meyer intended “Breaking Dawn” to be a cautionary tale. Post-marital sex is just as bad as pre-marital, it turns out. I prefer to take it in a different direction. The idea of a honeymoon as a guilt-free escape from societal norms is inherently flawed. The fact is that pristine beaches and warm waters can’t save a relationship between people who want fundamentally different things from each other. The place where a moody downer like Edward can allow himself to embrace his core desires just doesn’t exist. Even a whole archipelago of sexy Brazilian islands can’t fix that.
Ezra Fox, Staff Blogger