Chris Weitz flat-out lies to the fans of Twilight:
In the past few days, I have been involved in a whirlwind romance with Stephanie Meyer's extraordinary books...
...For the last decade of my career as a director, I have chosen to make adaptations of complex and involved works of literature. This has always begun with a love of a book and its characters, story, and theme; and it has always involved a respect of and a responsiveness to the feelings of other people who love those books.
When I saw the film of Twilight, I was alternately entranced and hungry for more.
Regardless of how you felt about his film of The Golden Compass, those books are fucking great. They're masterpieces. Twilight is a social phenomenon, fan fiction with a fifty million dollar budget. Weitz can pretend to the fans of Twilight because they don't know any better. But it would be nice if he could be allowed to be honest, if he could really say, "Look, times being what they are, I needed the job and really, this isn't gonna take much out of me." But it's not okay to just need the money. Like it's not okay for NBC to say about the Jay Leno thing, "We don't care if we have good scripted dramas. It's easier for us to just put Jay on, because he's cheaper than the money we've been tossing into the furnace to make scripted shows. All we care about is saving money. Ratings don't mean anything to us anymore."
But man, wouldn't honesty be a refreshing change?
I saw the Twilight movie, but the only parts of the books I've read have been excerpts and such. The books don't strike me as great literature, or literature at all. But hey, they're popular, and Stephanie Meyer actually sat down and wrote them, so good for her. I feel the same way about the Harry Potter books, although I think the writing's better there. It's odd that both genres -- fantasy and vampire -- have much better books in them that aren't over-the-moon popular. But the popularity of Harry Potter and Twilight isn't hard to figure. Both Bella and Harry are Mary Sues.
If you've never heard of Mary Sue, you're lucky. Really, really lucky. Like, "Furries? What are those?" lucky. Wikipedia will catch you up.
To a certain degree, all characters have a Mary Sue quality. Writers create characters and if we don't necessarily identify with them, we at least understand them. There's a connection between writer and character. But Mary Sues go far beyond that. Think about Bella and Harry Potter. Bella is a typical angst-driven teenager. Her angst is universal, even as it is unspecific. Completely unspecific. Monumentally unspecific. The point of this is, any angst-driven teenage girl can graft her own specific angst onto Bella. Bella, for all of her angst and alone-ness, is also awesome. You know this, because a vampire and a werewolf are totally in love with her. She has cool friends. Her dad becomes awesome. As much as Bella talks about Edward being so beautiful, his attention to her makes her the most special angsty girl in all the land. This is pure wish fulfillment. When the readers can impose their own selves onto the main character, it's easier to suck fleets of readers in.
Harry Potter's the same thing. Everybody talks about how special he is, how he must be protected, how he'll save the world or the fifth term or whatever. His friends are devoted to him at the expense of their own lives. Even the teachers are devoted, either to him or to destroy him. But Harry is, essentially, a blank slate. He's not an individual, he's a cipher. It's easy for a reader to see themselves in Harry, because there's nothing there to get in the way.
Now imagine the fanfic crossover, where Bella and Harry Potter meet, then stand there and stare blankly at each other for a hundred pages. Great, huh?
To me, this is what most procedurals are about. Being plot-driven, a really compelling character would just get in the way. You want characters who will deliver the information that will move the plot forward. You want them to be super-smart, to not be tricked or fooled, to go up against the villains. Because this, too, is wish fulfillment. While there are quirky characters in procedurals, they are quirky in acceptable, blank-slatey ways. Quirky procedural characters have overcome something in their past. Think about House, or The Mentalist. Their quirks also serve to combat what they really are -- Mary Sue superheroes.
It's not that it's wrong. And Bella and Harry Potter aren't wrong, either. It just happens to be a choice that I find less interesting. But it's just a choice. And that choice either speaks to you, or it doesn't. And it's fairly obvious that if you create characters that are this universal, you stand a better chance of being a widespread hit than if you create, say, a Don Draper or a Walter White. Everything has a degree of wish fulfillment to it. But I think it's what you do with it that makes it interesting.
As we've started to see during awards season, popular hits and critical hits are two totally different beasts, both in film and on TeeVee. The movies America sees are not the movies that win awards. And a lot of the time, that's not America's fault. A small town theater is going to show The Dark Knight, but not Doubt. Of course, the award shunning of a "comic book movie" in favor of anything Meryl Streep's in is a whole other discussion.
np - Soundtrack of Our Lives, "Communion." It's a double album, peoples!!!!