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Robert Pattinson and the Myth of the Byronic Hero

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Okay, so Dad’s on an airplane to Dubai, en route back to Bagram, and things are back to normal at my house.  I’ll be going back to my dorm tomorrow night.  In the meantime, I thought I’d try to alienate a potential audience.

Better writers than me have puzzled out Twilight’s confounding popularity.  I’m not here to do that.  I have never read the books, though I have read excerpts online, and can confirm that Stephenie Meyer’s prose has a chemical makeup similar to ipecac.  I have also never seen the movies.  When I was at Millsaps, several of my friends saw the first movie multiple times, and I considered going with them just to see what the fuss was about.  Ultimately I decided not to, partially because I knew I’d be a huge wet blanket, and partially because I was a wee bit frightened of its strange power.

I’m a teenage girl too, after all.  Nobody seems to understand why Twilight has the effect on people that it does.  What if I turned into another glazed-eyed zombie fangirl?  I’m not immune to guilty pleasures.  I’m sitting here now writing about Twilight, so clearly I’m fascinated by it.  I’d like to think that my fascination with Twilight comes from the same place as my love of “Manos” The Hands of Fate, but what if I’m wrong?  What if there’s something hormonal or evolutionary in women that causes them to irrationally adore such tripe, regardless of their otherwise feminist beliefs and empowered lifestyle?

Regardless, I can tell you that the blogger Miss Banshee’s recap of the New Moon film is hilarious on many levels, and I highly recommend it to anyone not quite curious enough to subject him/herself to actually seeing the damn thing firsthand.

For honesty’s sake, I should probably admit that I, too, find Robert Pattinson attractive.  When he has been manhandled into a shower and through a hair and makeup department, he’s almost knee-weakening on a physical level.  I can understand why a lot of lonely teenage girls (and mothers, ew) have photos of his brooding face plastered on everything they own.  After all, when you don’t have anything better, what’s the harm in a cheap thrill?  I’m lucky enough to have a very nice boyfriend (and in any case, I prefer Cillian Murphy), but to each her own.  I’m only bothered when these fantasies affect real life.

Robert Pattinson obviously has an army of stalkers because they think he is Edward.  These stalkers are not necessarily the same people who have his face plastered on their belongings, but the two groups do overlap.  Rationally, most of them know that Pattinson ≠ Cullen, but they just want it to be true so badly.  I know this because I was once horrified (embarrassment alert) to discover that Elijah Wood was far from the noble, innocent character that Frodo is (I was twelve, okay?!?).  I learned my lesson about celebrity hero worship, and someday the sane among them will, too.  He’ll get old and saggy, and so will they, and the world will continue on its merry way.  This is the way celebrity crushes have gone since women flung their petticoats at Henry VIII’s passing litter [citation needed].

Pattinson is a particularly acute case.  Taylor Lautner is less remarkable, because he is, frankly, a boring person.  His life doesn’t provide good paparazzi fodder, with the exception of that romantic interlude with the equally boring Taylor Swift, and it doesn’t remotely resemble that of his Twilight stereotype character. Robert Pattinson is a totally different story.  Every news story that details his exploits with Technicolor vividness fuels the fire of the Pattinson mythos.

He is simultaneously the polar opposite of the character that made him famous, and eerily similar to it.  He matches the alcoholic exploits of Lindsay Lohan with the tortured persona of Edward Cullen.  Fans love him, and they want so badly to save him from himself, a la Bella.  So they read every article about him, even the unflattering ones.  The paparazzi profit, so they continue to publish embarrassing stories about him.  It’s a vicious cycle.

Some people speculate that Pattinson encourages media coverage of his foolishness, in an attempt to repel his legions of stalkers.  If this is true, DUDE, IT’S NOT WORKING!  Instead, he’s turning himself into a Byronic hero.

So here’s where I’m truly confounded.  I can tease out some information about the dynamics of Twilight fans, but I’m totally in the dark about the larger appeal of the Byronic hero.  I’ve read Pride and Prejudice and Wuthering Heights, have seen the movie version of Jane Eyre with Anna Paquin, and even went through a brief stage of being obsessed with The Phantom of the Opera.  The Phantom was sympathetic to me mostly because I know what it’s like to feel like a freak, but I only find Mr. Fitzwilliam Darcy attractive once he begins behaving like a non-shitty human being, and Mr. Rochester (as played by William Hurt) mostly makes me roll my eyes.  As for Heathcliff, I’d prefer that he be pushed from a particular tall specimen of his namesake geographical feature.

I guess nice guys really do finish last, because I seem to be in the minority in my opinions of these and other literary bad boys-cum-romantic icons.  I cannot for the life of me figure out why this is true.  Does it just not register that one of the most appropriate synonyms for “Byronic hero” is “asshole”?

If anyone happens to read this, I beg you, TO THE COMMENTS!

And in the meantime, leave Robert Pattinson alone.  He’s pathetic and, furthermore, really bizarre.  If he gets any worse, he’ll be the next Britney Spears.  And who wants that?

Written by Estie

March 23, 2010 at 3:57 am

4 Responses

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  1. You like Manos, the Hands of Fate? I saw Plan 9 from Outer Space after seeing the former on MST3K. In comparison, Plan 9 was an enjoyable movie. Then again, it takes a certain kind of talent to create a movie that’s so bad.

    Anyway, I have no idea why girls like bad boys (and if they like bad boys, they are girls, though they may be over forty and have three children). Maybe it’s the danger, or the maternal instinct kicking in (“I can change him!”), or some weird evolutionary hiccup that attracts women to bad boys so that they can discover that they are bad, in order to have them end up marrying the good guys. Of course, sometimes they end up marrying the bad boys (Pam Anderson, I’m talking to you!). And sometimes they continue marrying bad boys (same as above!).

    BTW, I couldn’t get past the first page of that article you linked about Pattinson. That last paragraph just grossed me out.

    Literary Dreamer

    March 23, 2010 at 10:09 pm

    • I ADORE Manos. Everything about it is so ill-conceived as to be almost ingenious. I’ve seen it a zillion times, but I still laugh hysterically when the Master plunges Torgo’s “hand” into the fire pit. The MST3K version is more bearable, because their commentary makes it actually funny instead of just bad-funny, but I like the original, too.

      Oh, the candiru! When I was in high school, one of my friends discovered the species’ existence on Wikipedia. One of our favorite hobbies was to inform male friends of their existence, then sit back and watch them freak out. It was good entertainment. But don’t worry: as long as you don’t ever pee in the Amazon, you should remain candiru-free.


      March 23, 2010 at 11:12 pm

  2. I wasn’t planning on peeing in the Amazon, but thanks for the warning. 😉

    Also, have you seen Grindhouse? Being a fan of a seriously bad film, you might like this homage to the whole “bad movie/cheap theater” genre, courtesy of Robert Roderiguez and Quentin Tarantino.

    P.S. “Torgo’s Theme” is the best part of Manos, by which I mean worst. 🙂

    Literary Dreamer

    March 23, 2010 at 11:18 pm

    • Everything related to Torgo is the best part of Manos. =)

      I haven’t seen Grindhouse, which is odd because a) I have seen most of Tarantino’s other films, and b) I really like Ed Wood (the film). I’ll put in on my list!


      March 24, 2010 at 3:18 am

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