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Thursday, April 5, 2012

Twilight: A Reading Through Lacan and Zizek - Excessively Beautiful - DESIRE Not Fucking

Gabriella Calchi-Novati
Who We Might Be

Performing the Potentialities of Otherness and Selfhood: Stephenie Meyer’s Twilight Saga
Gabriella Calchi Novati

In Our Vampires, Ourselves, Nina Auerbach argues that vampires ‘can be everything we are, while at the same time, they are fearful reminders of the infinite things we are not’.1 Auerbach interprets the different vampire mythologies developed through the centuries as both expression and evidence of a specific social and cultural context; she furthermore suggests that, rather than our heroes, our vampires tell us who we are (112).2 Disagreeing with her reading, I will show that the Cullen family of vampires in the Twilight Saga tells us not who we are, but rather who we might be. Drawing primarily from the writings of Jacques Lacan and Slavoj Žižek, this paper aims to analyse the performance of otherness and selfhood in the Twilight Saga and the upshot of such a performance. Slavoj Žižek has widely argued that ‘we seem to live more and more with the thing deprived of its substance’, where what we get is ‘beer without alcohol, meat without fat, coffee without caffeine...and even virtual sex without sex’3. In Meyer’s books the male main character, Edward Cullen, embodies this philosophical premise: although a vampire he defines himself as a vegetarian (since he drinks only animal blood); although he drives potent cars, a clear metaphor of a powerful sexuality, he refrains from any physical involvement with the female main character, the human Bella; although he is ‘the bad guy’, throughout the saga he acts as Bella’s guardian angel. Through the encounter of Edward and Bella the boundaries between selfhood and otherness become more fluid, allowing opposites to merge (i.e. the human-vampire that Bella and Edward’s daughter will be). I will conclude my analysis by advancing that it is this renegotiation of otherness and selfhood which has led to the saga’s broad popularity.
Reading Lacan - Zizek

Jacques Lacan
For those left who are still serious about Twilight. While this is not my own reading, I find it compelling. On second thought, reading Tristan and Iseult this way makes perfect sense. Aha!


Meyer’s Saga 
draws the readers into the realm of Lacanian desire, where the Other 
mesmerises and attracts. Desire, Lacan explains, is always enigmatic and 
fueled with fantasy. As soon as we know, fantasy vanishes. As long as we do 
not know we can charge with fantasies what we imagine to be the Other’s 


But, since what escapes signification is the Real, therefore 
Renesmee, and what she represents, is pure Desire. Lacan, once again, 
reminds us that “when desire appears as pure desire, beauty also lights up” 
because “beauty has an essentially blinding effect”.32 This is the blinding 
effect of Edward’s skin in the sunlight; it is the blinding effect of Renesmee’s 
gift which makes her thoughts visible in the mind of the others just through 
her touch. A gift that nicely epitomises the Twilight Saga’s seductiveness: the 
impossible and yet so human desire to exceed symbolisation and to grasp 
some of the sublime “excess" of the other.

This is the failure of the Edward/Bella fanfiction
with the exception of A Garment of Brightness 
A Garment of Brightness embraces the fantasy, contains it and expands it without intruding on the "real life" of Kristen and Rob; the fantasy does not touch their real life and so does not disintegrate into porn
DUSTY does intrude on the real life of Kristen and Rob, approaches the real and in keeping with Calchi-Novati's reading of Twilight
does in fact disclose the fantasy so the imagined excess of the Other cannot continue,
and it disintegrates.

Substance Clad in Shadows needs more thought from me.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Edward Cullen as a "FLAT" character


Stephenie Meyer and Ayn Rand have been accused of writing "wooden" - read flat - characters: Edward Cullen, Roark, Galt (Galt rhymes with halt), are the most celebrity examples. It seems like Meyer is in good company eh? BTW Twilight has more than a few floating signs referencing Ayn Rand - Edward's bronze hair signaling Roark's unruly orange hair for one, inflexible integrity another. Still think Meyer is a dimwit running to the bank, folks? 

This "flatness" has tarred the actors playing the "flat" characters: Gary Cooper, Robert Pattinson for easy quote examples. It seems Diana Hsieh is not the only idiot in town, as almost every reviewer of Fountainhead and the Twilight movies says the same. She is in good company with twenty-fifth rate minds. Exactly where she belongs.

Saturday, 17 March 2012  darren writes of FLAT characters:

A "flat" character does not mean a "boring" character. It's a technical term in literary theory popularized by the novelist E. M. Forster in his monograph on writing titled "Aspects of the Novel." According to Forster, a "flat" character is a kind of token: his or her psychology and values do not grow, change, evolve, or come to any kind of crisis during the course of the narrative because characters — like plot points — have functions within the story; it is simply not the function of a flat character to steal attention away from the main character(s) — the protagonist(s) and the antagonist(s) — by growing, changing, evolving, or reaching any sort of "crisis" within the story in which they must exercise his or her will, and come to a decision — or initiate an action — that would be surprising, i.e., a new pattern of behavior inconsistent with their previous pattern. "Flat" characters remain who they were throughout the entire course of the story, because they are there simply to provide a particular kind of obstacle (or point of affinity) for the main characters. They are part of the stock-in-trade of every playwright, screenwriter, short-story writer, and novelist. They are a particular kind of narrative tool
For quotes from Forster go to the above link.

Meyer has solved her problem by making Edward Cullen a vampire. Vampires never change. They are frozen - read flat - where they were when they were changed. Forever.
Edward in the books and more so in the films exists to love Bella. Everything he does and says is to show his love for Bella when really he desires her so much he wishes to kill her and drink her blood until she is drained. (For a fanfic version see Hide and Drink by savage.)

In discussing the Hays Production Code of the 1930's Zizek  (RL p.84)....."it generated the very excess whose direct depiction it forbade.....The Production Code did not simply prohibit some contents, rather it codified their enciphered articulation, as in the famous instruction from Monroe Stahr to his scriptwriters in Scott Fitzgerald's The Last Tycoon":

At all times, at all moments when she is on the screen in our sight, she wants to sleep with Ken Willard...whatever she does, it is in place of sleeping with Ken Willard. If she walks down the street she is walking to sleep with Ken Willard, if she eats her food it is to give her enough strength to sleep with Ken Willard. But at no time do you give the impression that she would even consider sleeping with Ken Willard unless they were properly sanctified. (Fitzgerald,TLT, 1960,p.51)

Could we say that every time Edward Cullen is on the screen it is only  to desire Bella. 

A film flat character. A floating sign to assert and deny. 

Zizek - sigh