The Gartin household's nominees for Best Vampire: Lina Leandersson and Robert Pattinson

The Gartin household's nominees for Best Vampire: Lina Leandersson and Robert Pattinson

Twilight: Official websiteIMDB listing
Let the Right One In (Låt den rätte komma in): Official websiteIMDB listing

Ken and I have been marinating our minds in a couple of recent Blu-Ray disc releases this weekend. My strong pull toward one and his strong pull toward the other has got me thinking about men and women and how we react differently to certain movies.

First up, Twilight. Before we go any further, a confession: Hi, my name is Peggy, and I’m a Twihard. I’ve spent more time and money on Twilight than anyone over the age of 16 should. I saw the movie in a theater 3 times, borrowed the first 3 books in the series and read them, then bought all 4 books in the series and read them again. I downloaded and read Stephenie Meyer’s partial draft of Midnight Sun, or Twilight from Edward’s perspective, which wasn’t easy, because she sort of hid it. (Sorry, Stephenie!) I make no claim to objectivity when it comes to the Twilight books or movies – it’s girlcrack, and I’m a crackhead.

Twilight, in case you’ve been living under a rock and didn’t notice that movie that’s been playing nonstop for months and making $350 million, is the story of a teenage girl (Bella) who meets and falls in love with a boy at her high school (Edward) who turns out to be a vampire. Not so unusual – vampires are supremely sexy and have been making fools of us humans since Bela Lugosi. But what makes this story different is that the vampire is, if possible, even more in love with her. So much so that he goes against his very nature to not only not kill her, but protect her with every ounce of his strength. And that takes some doing, because this girl is a klutz, and moreover, has a personal scent that drives any blood-drinker insane with longing – especially him. His favorite pastime is smelling her neck, something he calls “enjoying the bouquet without drinking the wine.” Similarly, she finds him so intoxicating that kissing him often makes her quite literally pass out.

I think that longing is the core of what works about Twilight. We’ve all felt it. Women can identify with Bella: smart, overlooked, lonely, extraordinary in ways that few notice. We want the relationship she finds: her other half is extraordinary in ways no one could miss, but he sees no one but her. He’s got superhuman power, yet is powerless in the grip of his love for her. He’s a prince who lays his crown at her feet. Damn, she must be special. Validation rocks!

In less dramatic fashion, my husband has been entranced by Let the Right One In, a Swedish movie that is also about vampires. The conflict plays out somewhat differently here, however. The protagonists are both 12 years old, and this time the girl is the vampire. Oskar is a meek boy who longs to triumph over his oppressors, schoolmates who bully and humiliate him regularly. He meets a new neighbor girl, Eli, who at first states they can’t be friends. (Vampires are always saying that!) Despite this, they find ways to communicate, meeting at night in a playground, or scratching Morse code to each other through their apartments’ common wall. To survive, she must be violent on occasion, and she teaches him that so must he. “Be me for a bit,” she advises. With her help, Oskar achieves a new confidence and freedom, with just a few bodies to dump afterward.

I liked this movie, but Ken LOVED this movie. I wondered what he responded to so strongly. It may be the male empowerment fantasy: I will meet a girl who loves me, believes in me, strengthens me, and I will crush my enemies. Almost certainly it was also the hesitant sweetness of Oskar and Eli’s tween love – Ken says the final Morse code message Oskar sends Eli is “KISS” (in Swedish, one assumes). Whatever it was, Ken thought enough of it to put the movie at his personal #2 spot for all of last year, right after The Dark Knight.

My advice: watch both movies and see which one trips your trigger.