Earlier this week I experienced what could be termed an ‘anti-epiphany’.
By its very virtue, an epiphany is exhilarating, promising and smacking of revelation.
This experience certainly had the latter, though tinged by the accompanying dull thud of the death knell tolling.
For it seems we have lost a crucial component in the pop culture world: the kick-ass, smart-talking and steely eyed woman.
Admittedly, she has been in decline for a number of years, as a quick read of Sara Crosby’s 2004 article ‘The Cruelest Season: Female Heroes Snapped into Sacrificial Heroines‘ attests.
Ten years on and we have plumbed new depths of female weakness as the film adaptations of Stephenie Meyer’s vampirical saga Twilight bring increasingly more furrowed brows, teary eyes and general limp-wristedness.
Sure, I enjoyed the books – as far as escapism goes the exploits of Bella Swan and her merry band of in-fighting boy toys affords a pleasing jaunt.
The latest adaptation, Eclipse, was too painful by far, however: putting aside that the make-up was diabolical for all the wrong reasons, the utter absence of fangs and a penchant for be-kohled eyebrows with blonde hair, the female characters were more insipid than a de-boned squid.
A brief, if not tormented, recollection raises the following spectres of spinelessness:
Bella, who is trapped in a love triangle that places her life forever at risk; with such odds, one would imagine that a crash course in survival and defence would be in order – not so.
While in the book Bella is instructed by Edward in fighting technique, in the film she merely swings from left to right, arms dangling with all the strength of a damp rag-doll.
Her endless whining that rarely produces a plan, let alone a modicum of intelligence (choice quote: “It’s a bed.” No! Really?!) presents the viewer with a character who not only lacks the physical means to survive, but also a vacuum of acumen.
Alice, supposedly the more insightful of the vampire clan, passes most of the movie wide-eyed, mouth agape or jumping into the arms of her beau, Jasper.
Rosalie, originally fiery and opinionated, is reduced to a cat-faced scowl, moody stalking off stage right and an endless longing for babies.
Esme, the mother figure, mostly stands doe-eyed by her husband and intervenes only to adopt the soon-to-perish vampirelet, Bree Tanner.
Bella’s mother, Renee, dedicates her life to sitting by a pool in a range of head-fancies, sipping pina coladas and talking about her sport coach husband, Phil.
Victoria, the only woman with an iota of physical force, is the malign, manipulative vixen.
Using her red locks and come-hither mewls to captivate and manipulate Riley, the character is merely another femme fatale of the cookie cutter variety.
One could go on, but the general themes can be condensed into three main types: the maternal (Esme, Rosalie), the passive (Bella, Renee, Alice) and the mean (Victoria, Jane).
None of the above are portrayed to excel either intellectually nor physically, while women are to be either tamed or sacrificed.
They neither contradict staunchly, respond savvily nor argue vociferously.
When Jacob kisses Bella by force, her weakness (broken hand after punching him) is rendered the crux of a joke.
Which leaves only one conclusion: the kick-ass chick is dead and the only consolation is that this might one day take place.