I spent my Black Friday surrounded by women of all ages, 16 to 60, watching Kristen Stewart play Bella Swan as she panted her way through a love triangle including an amazingly buff and bare-chested wolf-boy, Jacob Black (Taylor Lautner), and the amazingly pale and pouty vampire, Edward Cullen (Robert Pattinson). I wasn't there for the story but more as a kind of sociological learning experience. What would cause grown women to throw their panties at 18-year-old boys (as Launer recently reported on Letterman)? Is this some kind of revenge for years of Sports Illustrated swimsuit editions? More importantly, what does the huge response for New Moon say about what women want, and apparently aren't getting, from their mere mortal boyfriends and husbands?
Sexual longing rather than satisfaction seems to be a key part of what the movie has tapped into. It's an old fashioned concept but apparently the fact that the Twilight series was written by a Mormon (Stephenie Meyer) who believes in chastity before marriage is one of the books' and New Moon's, greatest strength. All you get is an occasional kiss between Edward and Bella. The rest is a vast emotional maze filled with missed chances and the romance of wanting exactly what you can't have. Apparently, as men, we are missing the boat on the longing part of sex. Not quite a news flash but worth remembering.
Men, even vampire and werewolf varieties, should protect their women. Violence it seems is quite acceptable, in fact a turn on, if it is done in the name of chivalry. This reminds me of a conversation I had recently while on book tour with a series of first person stories by men. A guy in a ponytail stood up and said that he liked our book because it "allowed men to embrace their female side." I side-stepped the question but one of my partners on the book was much more direct in making the same point New Moon does on this score: women are not looking for their men to find their vulnerable and emotional side. The women of America are looking for their men to allow the women to have their emotions and for the men to be strong enough to protect those emotions, with force if need be.
Then there's the old fashioned power of fantasy that, it turns out, is a two-way street. "Did you notice Edward's nipples were different sizes?" a woman in her 40s asked me on the way home after the movie. I had to admit that I did not. I was, in fact, snoring by that point. But it brought to mind the fact that the boy-Gods were not even human. Where men might be accused of supporting a pornography trade built on explicit sexual fantasy, the fact that Edward and Jake are not human seems to heighten their appeal to women. With all that longing and fighting and running and leaving and reuniting, these guys rise above the day-to-day fray of doing the dishes and taking out the trash.
I admit that despite a couple brief naps I ended up liking New Moon more than I expected as much for what it helped me understand about women as the rather crude plot of the movie.
But don't be surprised if I sprout fangs.
Follow Tom Matlack on Twitter: www.twitter.com/tmatlack