Popular Posts

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Twilight Is A Modern Variation of Tristan and Iseult

Twilight is a retelling - not a template -  of the old old tale of Tristan and Iseult from the 12th century. The revealed and concealed meaning is of a passion love to be consummated in death. All of western romances based on this template avoid expressing the truth of this now mythological story, that death is the desired outcome so that Oneness will be forever. In no other civilization has sexual passion been coupled with death. Asia couples sex with eroticism and sensuality within a variety of rituals, but death is not the desired outcome of passion love although the circumstances may lead to it. It is not wished for. But in western civilization it is to die for a love that is so passionate separation is inconceivable.  Millions of women have wished to experience such a love and many of those who have, never wish to be cured of it. So deep has this myth permeated western civilization that even the pill and the PC feminists have not been able to efface it. It captured the imaginations of women of the leisure class in the middle ages who read romance novels and poetry and listened to the troubadours. And then continued on into our modern romances.

And this lies at the root of the present hysteria around Twilight, the movies, Edward and Robert Pattinson. About the only thing any commentator has come up with is that it is a phenomenon. No it is not. It is an Event, and Irruption into the world of many women and young teens. It has reopened a Foucauldian cut in sexuality that has been obscured and virtually invisible since the pill became widely available. The past fifty years of contraception control has had consequences undreamed of by the women who flew to the pharmacy to get it. Unfortunately the women screaming about it have been right wing political activists and their followers, and they embrace Twilight in all innocence and are very pleased their sons and daughters are in love with the books and the films.

Seduction has virtually disappeared but Twilight has breathed new life into this practice, this ritual of sexual play with desire. The pill put an end to it but Stephenie Meyer has brought it back. How did she do it? Her secret is very simple. She has followed Jean Baudrillard's demand. If you are going to write about seduction, then you must write even more seductively than what you are writing about. Twilight particularly the first book, a great amount of New Moon and some of Eclipse and Breaking Dawn, does exactly that.

Desire is coupled with lack. Always. Lacan has developed this carefully and repeatedly. When the desire of the couple is consummated then lack disappears. When lack disappears then desire does also. This is why sex does not happen in the myth. Since consummation is not to take place there must be obstacles, external and internal to keep desire at a fever pitch. Because it is the all consuming desire that the two wish to prolong forever and they will do anything to ensure that those feelings continue. It is the feelings that they are in love with. The intense and irreplaceable feelings.

So we have the underlying motif of death for the final and everlasting union. This is rarely made explicit. Romeo and Juliet  ending in death is an accident as is Tristan's death. It takes tremendous courage for that fact to be faced. Wagner's  music in the  opera Tristan and Isolde is unmistakable in the desire of death. And Toni Morrison's Sula  is equally brave. But all the hundreds of thousands of romances based on this template avoid saying it, and most often go for the triangle as obstacle and the happy ending.  Emily Bronte, that courageous young girl, does not mince words:

'And we must past by Gimmerton Kirk,' cries Catherine to Heathcliff, in her last interview with him, 'to go that journey! We've braved its ghosts often together, and dared each other to stand among the graves and ask them to come. But, Heathcliff, if I dare you now, will you venture? If you do, I'll keep you. I'll not lie there by myself: they may bury me twelve feet deep, and throw the church down over me, but I won't rest till you are with me. (Cecil- Victorian Novelists, p. 178)(Wuthering Heights)

And Catherine means what she says and takes him to death 400 pages later.

Stephenie Meyer knows this full well but has said she could not have anything but a happy ending. Happy ending? I don't think so. But she conceals so wonderfully that no one has noticed. Edward is the only voice of warning. He labels Bella's wish for changing as a tragedy. And it is. And she does die even though the reader does not read her change as death. And this is where it all gets fascinating. Edward is already dead. He is immortal and unchanging. He is a clone as a matter of fact. He is the Foucauldian and Deleuzean Body Without Organs. And Bella's wish and her change is to become that Body Without Organs. So Edward has been right all along. He has been warning all of us that living in a simulated world is not to be desired. Virtual Reality is hell and as Baudrillard says we are embracing it as fast as we can. Reality is being stolen from us in homeopathic doses. We are living within The Perfect Crime. DeLillo's Eric Packer wakes up to the fact that he is not living, that he is only surviving, however sumptuously. Survival maintains a denial of death. Living embraces it as a stake in living fully.

And now Baudrillard through Nietzsche:

14. Fatal Strategies  
(a) page 104: Seduction begins with Christianity – it is a “diabolical curse that comes to fracture the divine order – or else it is Christ himself, according to Nietzsche, Christ come to seduce people to his own person, come to pervert them with psychology and love?” Refers, it appears, to Genealogy I:8. Compare Will to Power§ 172. 

No comments:

Post a Comment

Be kind to each other even when you disagree.