Monday, December 15, 2008

Why 'Twilight' isn't for everybody

Photo credit: Tobias Hase/EPA

By Sonja Bolle

When a tide of popularity rises, it erases all boundaries. The first sign that "Twilight" was a pop-culture phenomenon was that teen girls who hadn't talked to their parents in years were dressing up with their mothers in vampire costumes and attending midnight book parties together. By last summer, when the marketing for the fourth and ostensibly final book in the series reached the proportions of hysteria (and that was a mild dress rehearsal for the movie release), it had become de rigueur for any self-respecting female reader of any age to read the books. Not only to read them, but to swoon over them, to be overwhelmed by them; to find, as 10-year-old Lyla Polon of Santa Monica wrote, "It's hard for me to face the fact that [the characters] are not real."

Much as I like the novels -- and I devoured all of them happily -- I'm appalled to find that a sizable number of the 25 million copies now in print are going into the hands of 10-year-olds. Why would parents whose children are not yet obsessed with sex encourage their kids to read books that are one long, bodice-ripping romance?

Most parents don't allow their 10-year-old daughters to dress in sexy outfits. They recognize that there's a gulf between the pre-pubescent kid's desire to be a player in our sex-drenched popular culture and an actual understanding of what the come-hither look means. It's why the images of miniature beauty contestants are so horrifying. Why would you allow, even encourage, your child to play that kind of grown-up game?

I'm using "10 years old" as shorthand for "too young." Of course, 10-year-olds come in all levels of maturity. When is it OK to read "Twilight"? When you can't stop thinking about sex. When the idea of romance produces a physical reaction in your body. When a story of a caress withheld for hundreds of pages leaves you breathless and weak-kneed -- not bored and skimming for the next action scene.

In other words, "Twilight" is an entertaining read for people from puberty to death. But emphatically not before puberty.

You might argue that kids are very good at ignoring what they're not ready for. When you ask 10-year-olds what they like about the series, they'll generally mention anything but the romance (see comments from kids below). However, you can't pretend that something isn't worming its way in there. I was once driving a carpool with three 7-year-old boys in the back seat, and we pulled up at a light next to an immense billboard showing a woman dressed in skimpy black lace, perched on a red velvet throne and restraining a Doberman pinscher on a choke chain. There was absolute silence in the back seat as three heads leaned over to peer out the window. Then one little voice piped up: "Do you think she sexes the dog?" Whatever actual information the kid was working on, he definitely got the subtext of the advertisement. (I've wrestled with my feelings about the 1st Amendment as it relates to egregious advertising ever since.)

Parents who haven't perused the "Twilight" books may have heard that the series is all about sexual restraint and consider that it conveys "a good message." Even at first glance the books may seem quite perfect for younger readers; the writing style is simple and straightforward, and the type is big. I wrote an enthusiastic review of the first three books last year, pointing out how refreshing it is in this day and age to read a hip romance that is all about old-fashioned waiting and longing. Edward, the courtly vampire, won't make love to his Bella until they're married.

But just because the lovers don't have sex in the first three books doesn't make the story appropriate for younger kids; inherent in the pleasure of restraint is the longing for sex. And that's just the first three books.

In the fourth book, by contrast, the lovers have tons of sex. First, they marry, of course, and produce a fetching baby. But the fourth book answers the burning question about what vampires do with all their free time, since they don't sleep. It turns out that married vampires have a lot of sex. They are immensely strong, so they end up destroying a lot of perfectly lovely beds, and much other furniture to boot. In fact, their lovemaking is so ferocious that one young married vampire couple teases the newlyweds that they can't be truly crazy for each other, because they haven't destroyed enough houses yet.

Of course, there is quite a lot more to the "Twilight" story, like werewolves (and their mating habits) and fast cars, trips to Italy (where the really fierce vampire Mafia lives), and showdowns with other vampires. But you have to ignore a lot of description of the feel of Edward's rock-hard body and his exquisite beauty to focus on the other things.

Scientists have been mystified by the recent epidemic of early-onset puberty in young girls. The long list of proposed causes ranges from the widely publicized suspicion of hormones in milk to more esoteric theories. One idea is that because of the prevalence of divorce, young girls are increasingly living in households with men who are not biological relatives; the pheromones, the theory goes, act on each other, causing girls to mature sexually in response to their proximity with unrelated males. Surely it's not a stretch to think that all the sexual stimulation in our society, through music, advertising, television, film and even books is having some effect on young minds and bodies?

The pre-teen years -- the "age of latency" or "the age of industry" -- used to be when kids did projects, threw themselves into hobbies, deepened their ability to learn things. This is the age when kids start to know more about their areas of interest than their parents do. Nowadays kids study to be teenagers; they rush into popular culture, demanding iPhones and access to R-rated movies. Since parents complain so much about teenagers, why would they facilitate their pre-teenager's headlong rush into this attitude and outlook? Parents seem to enjoy precociousness in kids, then get alarmed when their 13-year-olds want to go to raves.

Putting on the brakes is an essential element in being a parent. It's a cliché of childhood that kids always want to be older; it's up to us, who know what it means to get older, to encourage the enjoyment of innocence as long as possible.

Comments from kids about the "Twilight" series:

"I started reading the series because everyone I knew was reading them: people in the 7th grade, like my sister, but 5th graders, too. I like it because it's completely different from every other book I've read. It looks at vampires in a different way, less make-believe. In my mind, it's not completely implausible -- I know it is, but I just don't look at it that way."

* Noah Slosberg, age 10 (turning 11 any minute)

"I think [the age appropriateness of the series] depends more on maturity and if your parents approve of you reading. The first and second books have nothing bad in them, but once you start a series you want to finish it, and the third and fourth get less appropriate. I like the fantasy meets reality. I also like the lifelike view of a high school and the idea that not everything is what it seems."

* Grace Slansky, age 10

"[The book series is inappropriate for] fourth graders and under because they may or may not be mature. I like it because it has good description and many details. [The film 'Twilight' is ok for everyone] because the worst is kissing."

* Madeline, age 11

"[The series is inappropriate for younger readers] because there is some sexual content in 'Eclipse' and 'Breaking Dawn' (the third and fourth books). I like how Stephenie Meyer could go on forever on this series."

* Benny Gonda, age 11

"I think [the Twilight books] are inappropriate for kids under 10 because there are a ton of kissing parts and some sexual parts, that kids under 10 would think were gross, instead of appreciating the beauty and uniqueness of the love between Bella and Edward. I love everything about the series, but what stands out most to me is the unique personalities of all the characters. It's amazing to me that Stephenie Meyer could start from scratch and create all of these amazing, grasping characters. It's hard for me to face the fact that they are not real."

Original here

Use the profit, Luke! Lightsaber used by Luke Skywalker in Star Wars sold for £133,000

By Mail Foreign Service

Mark Hamill with his lightsabre in Star Wars: a New Hope - the prop has sold for £133,000 at a Hollywood auction

Mark Hamill with his lightsaber in Star Wars: a New Hope - the prop has sold for £133,000 at a Hollywood auction

The lightsaber used by Luke Skywalker in Star Wars sold for more than £130,000 at an auction of Hollywood props and memorabilia.

Actor Mark Hamill used the lightsaber, which was made from an old photography flashgun, in both the original Star Wars: a New Hope and The Empire Strikes Back.

The weapon, sold by Star Wars producer Gary Kurtz, fetched £133,000 at the sale by Hollywood auction house Profiles in History.

An original section of the Death Star from the first 1977 movie also fetched £13,300 and C-3PO's helmet and robotic hands worn by British actor Anthony Daniels in the 1983 hit Star Wars: Return of the Jedi sold for £66,444 and £20,000 respectively.

An original set of the three Lord of the Rings books, all first editions printed in 1954 and signed by JRR Tolkien sold for £60,000.

Bound in original red cloth, each volume included a fold out map of Middle Earth at the back and used to belong to a student of Tolkien's.

The first British edition of Ian Fleming's You Only Live Twice in which Fleming wrote:

'To the real James Bond from the thief of his identity' fetched £46,530.

Iconic: Luke Skywalker and Darth Vader have a lightsabre duel in Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back

Iconic: Luke Skywalker and Darth Vader have a lightsaber duel in Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back

The book was given as a present to American Ornithologist James Bond, who died shortly after he met Fleming in 1964.

And the second draft original handwritten manuscript of You Only Live Twice, signed by Roald Dahl, fetched £53,200.

Pricey: The handle of Luke Skywalker's lightsabre made from an old photography flashgun

Pricey: The handle of Luke Skywalker's lightsaber made from an old photography flashgun

The full-sized animatronic 'Joe' from Mighty Joe Young fetched £53,200.

Memorabilia from the hit Gremlins movies also fared well in the sale, with the original Gizmo, which came still attached to the animatronic wires and switches used to control him, selling for £10,660, twice its high estimate.

Daffy fetched £5,700 and the George Mogwai puppet sold for £6,660.

Bad guys Mohawk Gremlin and an animatronic Brain Gremlin sold for £10,660 and £8,660 respectively.

C-3PO's helmet from Return of the Jedi sold for £66,444

Cult character: C-3PO's helmet from Return of the Jedi sold for £66,444

Elsewhere in the sale, a flying saucer from the 1956 classic sci-fi hit Forbidden Planet, which starred comedy actor Leslie Nielsen, fetched £43,300, almost half its high estimate of £80,000.

Arnold Schwarzenegger's signature T-800 Terminator costume from the 1991 film Terminator 2: Judgment Day, described by the auction house as an 'incredible and iconic costume ensemble', fetched £13,310.

Jim Carrey's Riddler costume from the 1995 film Batman Forever sold for £21,655 while his cane sold for £6,663.

Christian Bale's Batman cowl from the 2005 film Batman Begins, with two metal rings sewn into the lining in front for attachment to the Batsuit, fetched £11,325.

And from X-men, Wolverine's black leather battle suit sold for £50,000.

The original Santa Jack sled from the 1993 film Nightmare before Christmas fetched £36,600.

The screen-used animatronic Little Green Man from inside the human head set in the 1997 film Men In Black sold for £23,300 and the Pitbull hoverboard used by Biff Tannen in Back to the Future II sold for £12,650.

And a set of Michael Jackson heads from the 1986 video Smooth Criminal fetched £6,000.

Original here

Deadpool And Gambit: The Long Road To ‘X-Men Origins: Wolverine’… And Beyond?

Published by Rick Marshall

'Deadpool'When I spoke to former 20th Century Fox exec (and regular comics writer) Jeff Katz last month about his experience on the set of “X-Men Origins: Wolverine,” he had a lot to say about Hugh Jackman’s “bad-ass” performance as Wolverine. But Jackman wasn’t the only “Wolverine” star Katz raved about during our conversation.

The comics-savvy Katz gushed about Ryan Reynolds’ portrayal of the “Merc with a Mouth,” Deadpool, as well as Taylor Kitsch’s performance as the card-tossing Cajun mutant, Gambit — and offered up a unique insider’s perspective on what it took to bring both of these fan-favorite characters to the big screen.

(For instance, would you believe a “Deadpool” movie has been in the works for more than five years? Yeah, I was surprised by that one, too.)

“[Ryan Reynolds] is, I think, the only guy who can play that character. He is that character,” Katz told MTV. “I have to say it’s one of the proudest things I’ve done in my career and took me five extra years to do it, but to finally get him into that role and get it done is something I’m very proud of.”

According to Katz, Deadpool’s journey to the big screen (and Reynolds’ connection to the character), began around the time when plans were being hashed out for “Blade: Trinity,” the third installment of the film franchise based on Marvel Comics’ vampire hunter. The film was written and directed by David Goyer, and at the time, Katz was serving in a similar capacity for New Line Cinema and “Blade” as he later served for Fox on “Wolverine.”

“All the way back to Ryan, Goyer and I on ‘Blade: Trinity,’ we were trying to put together a deal at New Line for a ‘Deadpool’ movie,” said Katz. “We thought the rights were clear and not part of the ‘X-Men’ universe, so Ryan could play the character and Goyer could write. I can’t remember why — I think they wanted to do a ‘Blade’ spin-off instead — but it didn’t come together. But Ryan, to his credit, has remained obsessed with the character.”

As for the other fan-favorite character making his big-screen debut, Katz had nothing but praise for Kitsch’s performance as Gambit, another mutant of questionable morals who rose to prominence in the ’90s as one of the most popular X-Men.

“There’s no question that I think Gambit’s going to play well,” said Katz. “Put Taylor in a trenchcoat and give him a staff, and watch out. He’s a tough kid, and he did a lot of his own stuff — and he looked like a million bucks doing it.”

Much like Deadpool’s journey to theaters, Katz told MTV that the decision to bring Gambit into the mix was also subject to a lengthy debate. And like Deadpool, Gambit experienced a few starts and stops along the way, too.

“The discussion is always, ‘Is this a good use of this character or do we want to save them to fully use down the line?’ — and that was the Gambit debate in the original trilogy of movies,” explained Katz. “With the original trilogy, there was also the idea that he and Wolverine would have tried to fit the same space, and it would been awkward. They understood that Gambit was popular, but was it worth just popping him in as a throwaway character, and not in service of setting up something down the line? Now I think there is a level of strategy in how we grow these things, and what characters can transition between multiple films.”

“The unique challenge of the X-Men universe — and in my opinion the beauty of it — is the tapestry,” added Katz, . “These movies, particularly with some of the films they’re looking to be doing, they all touch and build this big weave that’s unlike any sort of franchise.”

As one might expect, Katz cited Marvel Studios’ tactics for cross-promoting their stable of characters in various films as a great indication of the way franchises based on comic book characters could — and should — work down the road.

“It’s about seeding them, and in some cases even just teasing them, so it keeps the audience between the two years between movies,” said Katz. “It’s no different than teasing Sam Jackson at the end of ‘Iron Man.’ It’s a very basic sort of psychological thing, but it works. If you can send your fans out of that movie excited to go back in for the next round, that’s half the battle.”

And while Katz warned that he couldn’t speak with much certainty about the future of the X-Men franchise due to his departure from Fox, he reiterated his previous belief that there would be another round for Deadpool in the post-”Wolverine” world.

“At the end of the day, we’ll see where they choose to go,” said Katz, “but I think he’s nicely set up to be explored in his own way.”

Original here