Breaking Dawn Breaks Records And Harps On Abortion
By Alex Cranz
Okay so picture this. It was 2008 and Breaking Dawn came out and I was clutching pearls because the children, people. Think of them. They’d read these books and think that the ideal man was all tall and made of marble and disrespectful of boundaries and a stalker. I’m pretty sure I wrote some incendiary screeds about the series and how horrible it was for womankind and how every day it existed vaginas throughout the United States gave it up for douchey dudes.
Then I realized I was an asshat and that the people into the series were mainly women my age and that they were well aware of how bad the series was, but they liked the fantasy of a flawless men battling each other over a hopelessly imperfect women. And you know, more power to you, 90% of my Facebook friends. Love on the series all you want.
I haven’t read the books and I’ve now seen only three of the movies but I love it. This shit is crazy. I knew, intellectually, what happened in Breaking Dawn, Part 1. I’ve read the fantastic recap on Livejournal. I knew that there would be hilarious displays of opulent fantasy wealth and pillow biting and BONE CRUSHING BIRTHS and more of the love triangle that lives longer than bunny eating vampires. I got that.
But damn it if I wasn’t completely blown away when it happens. First there was the whole bit where Bella is pregnant with a demon baby who is consuming her from the inside out until Kristen Stewart put on her “I’m a serious fucking indy actress and will do anything for my art” face and turned skinny like a skeleton embodied by Death. I’m pretty sure it was all CGI because otherwise Stewart would be bragging to Christian Bale.
“Oh you survived on tuna fish and lemonade to be The Machinist? I survived on pig’s blood and air from a humidifier for this look pal. I can’t walk; I’m a step away from being some Halloween door art and I’ve done irrevocable harm to my ovaries, but my film made 139.5 million dollars on opening weekend and I can buy a new set of ovaries from some illiterate house slave I picked up in the former USSR.”
Then Bale would have been all “Whatever, BATMAN.”
And Stewart would then have to get her own superhero franchise to one up him again. She’d totally push for Wonder Woman and that’s how we’d get big haired Steve Trevor watching Diana Prince float across the room to Paranoid Android while biting her lips and looking exhausted.
But yeah, so she’s pregnant with this demon baby and it’s all very abortion choice awareness for a good forty minutes. I know we’re supposed to be on Bella’s side because we all want to be her so we can get a taste of some stone cold 100-year-old wiener, but as soon as she sees a GIANT box of Tampax in her travel bag she’s all “I AM PREGNANT AND MUST LOVE THIS BABY FOR ETERNITY.”
ONE: Bella is perpetuating the myth that every woman’s lady parts run like a Swiss clock and we can tell we’re pregnant because we’re twelve hours late. NOT TRUE. Why do you think women always carry tampons? Because half of us are taken by complete surprise when we go to the bathroom and see a scene from Carrie in our underpants. And TWO: Bella doesn’t stop to consider the effect this baby will have on her life and her well-being. Especially as it’s a demon baby and unnatural and whatever is Portuguese for Diablo. For a woman that spends fifteen minutes freaking out about wedding night sex it’s a little odd that she’s all “I am a mother and will bring this fetus to term.” Like supernatural odd (I will confess to hoping the baby was malevolent and mind-controlling her).
What takes it to “am I in an HBO special about abortion” is how Edward immediately jumps on the “fetch a coat hanger” bandwagon. Then he’s joined by everyone else but the ONE vampire lady who has hated Bella from the beginning of the series. So all the cool and appealing characters (okay just Alice) are bandying about words like “fetus” and “maybe you should just adopt” and in general being very pro-Choice to the point of being jerks about it while Bella and her new BFF clutch her womb and scream about a woman’s right to determine the fate of her own body.
All that abortion language had me perking up but being confused. You know? Yea for abortion talk in my crazy supernatural fantasy! Complexity from a series about a woman who has no agency outside of her vagina! But confusing because WHAT IS THE MESSAGE STEPHENIE, WITH AN E, MEYER?!
Then I remembered Meyer’s a Mormon and pretty anti-choice and that I was watching some hella subversive anti-choice storytelling go down on the big screen. The “fetus” folks are all clearly the villains and Bella is exercising her right to choose her baby over her own well-being. Basically it is forty minutes of “fuck you” to folks who like women maintaining control over their own bodies. “So women should choose eh? WELL HOW DO YOU LIKE THIS CHOICE?” was the feeling I was getting from the movie.
The worst and most offensive part of the anti-choice screed? It had me siding with Jacob–a dude we need to talk about. I’ve seen a couple of these movies and while I think Stewart and Robert Pattinson are legitimately good actors stuck with a pretty terrible story I had a terrible realization during the fortieth scene where Jacob gets pissed that Bella married Edward. Taylor Lautner isn’t a very good actor. The man tries. He tries so hard but he just isn’t good. And he’s playing a tricky character, because we’re supposed to love Jacob but he’s kind of the biggest asshole on the planet. All that canine infused testosterone has straight-up poisoned the guy and he’s so consumed with himself that it’s hard to like anything he says.
Between Lautner’s growls and funny walks and Jacob’s douchey control streak I totally get the Team Edward warcry.
Lautner doesn’t even redeem himself in the last twenty minutes of the film. Which is terrible when you consider that those twenty minutes are some of the craziest and awesome and “what the fuck” moments of film to ever appear in a wildly successful major motion picture.
It starts with Skeletor nee Bella being trotted out by her vampire sisters whom I now know only as Fetus and Baby (ladies were very much at odds over what to call the demon spawn consuming Bella’s womb). Kristen Stewart, showing remarkable talent by keeping a straight face, then proudly tells Edward and Jacob what she’s naming the baby.
So they’re all sitting there laughing because they’ve chosen the name Reneeseme for the baby when Reneeneeseeme is all FUCK THIS NAME and breaks her mother’s back like it’s a tooth pick. There’s an audible crack and screaming and Stewart’s body contorting in crazy “am I on acid” kind of ways.
Then suddenly things are kicked up a notch because that baby is coming and Robert Pattinson has to chew it out of her. Afterwards he’s grinning with her lady parts all over his face and proudly showing her their baby. And then Bella dies and Baby takes Renesememeta away. Edward sets about injecting her with his venom (isn’t that how they got into the predicament in the first place?) and Jacob goes to check on the baby…because he wants to murder it because it’s evil and ripped a hole through the woman he wants to bang.
And until that point in the film Breaking Dawn Part 1 was at turns boring, bizarre, crazy and watchable. But when the big “imprint” scene goes down and a full-grown man falls madly in love with a baby, the film goes to a place usually only seen in late night cartoons in Japan. It’s difficult to express in words the emotions I felt when Taylor Lautner looked at that little CGI-enhanced baby and fell to his knees in awe.
A myriad of emotions too jumbled and unquantifiable to describe flitted through me at the sight. Even now I’m in shock. That happened, people. A man fell in love with a baby. In a film that’s now the fifth biggest opening film in history. Our great-grandchildren are going to see this film one day and see that moment and they’ll ask us about it and what will we have to say?
I tried to explain that moment in the film to a friend this weekend. It was days after I’d seen it and I was still digesting that last twenty minutes, running those moments over and over again in my mind. And all I could say was “you have to see it.”
Few words could quite prepare you for the last twenty minutes of Breaking Dawn, Part 1. It’s a cinematic event.
- Stewart and Pattinson act their little hearts out, trying to wring real emotion from this fantasy, but the real award should go to Oscar-nominee Anna Kendrick. She was vibrant in her few quick moments at the beginning of the film. “Do you think she’s showing,” her character asks. When her friends look at her in horror she responds “What, why else get married at eighteen?” WHY ELSE INDEED Kendrick. If this movie had been about her snarking on every moment in Bella’s life it’d be the film of the year.
- Also of note? Billy Burke. He clearly didn’t agree with his character’s decisions and instead chose to play a man slowly descending into alcoholism to cope with the loss of his daughter. Awesome.
- Less awesome. The score for this film. It’s a textbook example of over-scoring a film. Thought I was in an episode of Parenthood the music was so pervasive and distracting.
- I missed Eclipse so I’m not sure who Leah is but I know she is awesome. She can join Anna Kendrick in their new version of Breaking Dawn. It can be about them getting Billy Burke to sober up….also they can fight werewolves and vampires. Maybe Alice can show up being sex-crazed and fun.
- I’d forgotten that Michael Sheen, Jamie Bower and Christopher Heyerdahl were in this series. They appear in a post credit sequence and they are the only people in this entire film that are having fun. And the fun they’re are having! I want to hang out with those guys while they play super evil vampires. They’re the best.
- A lot could be said about the way this series handles Native Americans, Brazilians, and anyone who isn’t lily white. I don’t think I’m quite equipped to spearhead that discussion but hoo boy, should it happen.
- Between the pancake foundation and the golden-eye contacts, the vampire makeup in this film was distracting. Maybe they were trying to impart a sense of otherness with it all, but it just came across as cheap and fake and thoroughly unnatural.
- The last five seconds of the film before credits had the entire audience I was with laughing. The whole theater. Bill Condon’s direction and Melissa Rosenberg’s script don’t let up for the last twenty minutes of the film and thus what was meant to be a major dramatic moment instead apparently pushed my audience so far they had to laugh to get over their discomfort.