By Edgar Allan Poe
"Seldom we find," says Solomon Don Dunce,
"Half an idea in the profoundest sonnet.
Through all the flimsy things we see at once
As easily as through a Naples bonnet-
Trash of all trash!- how can a lady don it?
Yet heavier far than your Petrarchan stuff-
Owl-downy nonsense that the faintest puff
Twirls into trunk-paper the while you con it."
And, veritably, Sol is right enough.
The general tuckermanities are arrant
Bubbles- ephemeral and so transparent-
But this is, now- you may depend upon it-
Stable, opaque, immortal- all by dint
Of the dear names that he concealed within 't.
I saw two movies today -- one in the theater, one on DVD. Both of them are installments in huge fandoms and enormously popular with lots of people. So I just want to warn people now that I thought one of them was not very good and one of them was not very appealing. If you are a rabid fan of the Twilight books or the Star Trek reboot, you may not want to read any further.
New Moon was just as pretty as Twilight. I mean the Pacific Northwest, not Edward or Jacob -- when it comes to the men in this franchise, I'd be on Team Carlisle except that the whole franchise is so patriarchal that I'm not really attracted to any of them. I thought in some regards the directing of the sequel was better -- the pacing was good, the effects were less cheesy, the mood lighting was less overbearing -- though the dialogue was worse. Whether that is a reflection of the novel or just that the screenwriter made poor choices, I couldn't say. As far as the actors are concerned, I'm definitely on Team Taylor; he brought an energy that was missing in the first film, and even when we were supposed to be rooting against his character, I found him very sympathetic and appealing.
Poor Robert Pattinson can't do a thing with Edward's atrocious lurve dialogue, and the fact that he only seems to have three facial expressions doesn't help matters. As for Kristen Stewart, people who have seen her in other films tell me that she can act, but there's no evidence of that in New Moon -- since it's a problem with several of the characters, it may have to do with the directing, but Bella also seems to have only three facial expressions and doesn't seem to believe the GREAT BIG HUGE TEENAGE PASSION she's supposed to be emoting. I understand that she loves Edward so much it leaves no room for any other feeling, but you'd think she'd look just a little scared when his brother wants to eat her instead of cake to celebrate her birthday.
I haven't spent a lot of time thinking about the allegations of misogyny or hatred of feminism directed at the franchise -- see my post about V.C. Andrews for the reasons I don't think it's the great big terrible deal some critics seem to beleive -- but given the relatively limited view we get of Bella's world in the film, where even college seems unlikely for most of these working-class kids, where shopping and getting hit on by sleazy men on motorcycles counts as excitement, I don't really blame her for wanting to be a vampire and enjoy the Cullen fortune and see the world with Edward. It's a shame that her world is so limited, but I don't think the films, at least, suggest that this is a choice all girls would or should make; this is about one pathetic clumsy girl and her very small world, and her choice to stay with Edward reminds me in some ways of Tom Hanks staying with Daryl Hannah at the end of Splash, leaving his world for hers. It's a common archetype in supernatural romance regardless of the gender of the human.
As for Star Trek, I had been spoiled for nearly every scene in the movie and warned that I was going to have serious problems with the gender imbalance, and I must admit that it actually bothers me much more in that franchise than in Twilight. Of course the 1960s series wasn't as progressive as it could have been, but the new film is hardly any improvement and in fact goes backwards in some ways, starting with Kirk's mother crying and screaming her way through childbirth -- from that beginning women in this film without exception are defined as lovers and mothers far more than as individuals. Young Spock's peers call his dad a traitor and his mother a whore, and although he clearly has extremely inappropriate emotions for a Vulcan, he doesn't blink about the latter, only the former. Of course we first meet Uhura because Kirk is hitting on her. Of course we next see her because Kirk is having sex with her roommate (THAT scene is supposed to mean the movie passes the Bechdel test, because a girl talks about her job with her distracted roommate who only wants to get laid while a man watches them from under the bed as they walk around in their underwear?). Even Scotty talking about the Enterprise not just as a woman but one whose nacelles he wants to get his hands on...must the entire universe be reshaped for boys, again?
But really, that wasn't why I didn't love the movie. It wasn't the presence of certain actors whom I thought would throw me out of the film -- it didn't help that they were there, but none of them was ultimately a deal-breaker, though Karl Urban's McCoy was the only character I really, truly felt I recognized; Scotty wasn't bad overall and was quite good if authentic accents were a priority, and Sulu and Chekov were in many ways improvements, getting more characterization in one movie than they got in three years of television. But Sulu in particular wasn't anyone I knew, Uhura was a total stranger, Spock was Sylar, and Kirk...I have no idea who that character was, but I have no urge to get to know him. Yes, I know his entire backstory changed because he wasn't born in Iowa and raised in an intact family. Yes, that's a legitimate storytelling choice, just like Della Van Hise's Killing Time gave Kirk an alternate history that was quite different after time-travel manipulation. But this one just didn't move me, it was somehow both too different and too much a ripoff of other things at once. I didn't care what happened to the character.
I know I said I thought I'd have trouble watching Young Spock because I grew up with the mother of the actor, but I had an easier time looking at Jacob Kogan and seeing Spock, even though I've met him several times since he was a baby, than I had looking at Zachary Quinto and seeing Spock. Yes, he bears some resemblance to Nimoy. Yes, he can mimic several of Nimoy's inflections. Yes, a Spock who watched Vulcan be destroyed and his mother die might always be more emotional than the Spock we knew as an older man, even though I do not believe for one second that the Spock we knew would carry on with Uhura when he was a teacher, and put her on the Enterprise because of a personal relationship, and canoodle with her on the transporter with Kirk watching -- not in private either, really, but definitely not with Kirk watching. The discussion of the purpose of the no-win scenario was done so much more meaningfully in The Wrath of Khan -- I understand the need for exposition for non-Trekkies, and that these characters barely know each other, but the wry humor of Shatner's Kirk and Nimoy's Spock, the subtleties...I can't believe I'm describing Shatner's acting as subtle in any way, but Quinto and Pine really made me appreciate Nimoy and Shatner.
That is all I am ever going to say about the reboot. Lest all this criticism should make it sound like I did not have a nice day, I want to say that I really did -- I met perkypaduan early and we waited for the theater to open so we could get seats, and she gave me an early birthday present -- the crystal from Sedona that I'm wearing in the photo below. Then gblvr joined us and we howled through New Moon at inappropriate moments, then we all went out to lunch at Potbelly with gblvr's former boss whom I've met many times, then gblvr and I walked to Target together where I found penguin socks, plus Smallville season eight on sale for $18.99, and I got her Star Trek as an early Christmas present, which is how we ended up watching it together (watching it with her was really fun for me, both because her affection for Pine, Urban and Yelchin is infectious and because she didn't snap at me for harshing her squee, which I am certain I did).
Speaking of Smallville, I have fewer complaints about the roles for women on that show, which seems to me a very sad reflection on the Star Trek franchise, because while I will be the first to agree that Tom Welling can't act any better than Robert Pattinson, all three of the female leads are wonderful. Yes, it is possible I am rationalizing because I adore Lois and Clark together, the same way I know people who love Bella and Edward together rationalize loving Twilight, which really does not bother me! The fact that we don't get a new Smallville episode again till January 22nd is forgivable because we get that wonderful hot lovemaking scene between Lois and Clark that does not get negated by the timeline reset, just postponed because as Lois says it's too fast. I really like Tess's arc too, even though it's dark, and while I'm sad for Chloe that her life has had so much tragedy, it's been really gratifying to watch her really stand on her own -- not making choices just for Clark, not making choices just for Jimmy. We watched Sanctuary too, not my favorite because Magnus seemed so much not to be a player for so much of the story and the ending felt like a cheat, but I really like Kate and I love Will's loyalty.
gblvr designed the buttons we're all wearing in the photos below. I made them using the button maker that is my one remaining souvenir of having run Kate Mulgrew's fan club; I forgot that it was in my house when we dissolved the club, so it was still there when I found it two years later, and it has been put to excellent fannish use in the years since.