UPDATE: An alternate script for Twilight.

Yes, I’ve seen Twilight.

Yes, I was surrounded by a crowd of giggling, squirming, screaming girls (ages 14-45) who were wearing t-shirts declaring their lifelong love for certain vampire characters. Whenever the character named Edward so much as smirked, they screamed and swooned. I haven’t seen anything like it since Keanu Reeves’ band Dogstar played in Seattle.

I will offer a full review later. This is not a review: I’m not saying anything about the performances, the writing, the cinematography, or even much about the story at all. I’m only commenting on the story, which has been around for years.

I’m only commenting on this film’s depiction of “true love.”

The love story makes the relationship between Jack and Rose in Titanic seem like a mature, adult relationship. At least those characters had dialogue, when they weren’t just shouting “Jack!” “Rose!” “Jack!” “Rose!” “JACK!!” “ROSE!!”

In this film, there’s not much shouting. They just stare at one another with deeply constipated expressions. Somebody could have a lot of fun on YouTube with the long sequences of Edward and Bella gazing at one another, simply by overlaying the sounds of noisy, unpleasant bodily functions.

And I’m sorry, but I don’t understand why a character would be angst-ridden, tormented, anguished, and severely burdened by the dark, dark, dark secret of having (minor spoilers) skin covered in dollar-store glitter. “Pity me! I’m glossy!” (Highlight to reveal shocking spoiler-revelation.) Sorry, that sure doesn’t work for me.

But then, I’m not really the target audience.

Keep in mind: This film is from the same director that brought us The Nativity Story. Again, I won’t review THIS film just yet, but I will say that you should keep in mind this is the director who, given a story full of moments that should have inspired real awe, settled instead for sentimentality, and her idea of excitement involved a bunch of dizzying, rapid-cut editing. And the special effects in The Nativity Story were C+ effects. Most television fantasy if more effective.

The idea of romantic conversation or intriguing dialogue in Twilight is deeply insufficient as well. A single episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer or even Moonlight has better dialogue and stronger characters. Heck, Dr. Horrible’s Sing-a-long Blog is more substantially romantic than this.

Sure, the basic “Beauty and the Beast” elements are at work here. They will always work. I’m not going to deny that the Power of Myth is at work in this story. What disappoints me is how poorly it is developed, how many opportunities for thoughtful storytelling are bypassed for the sake of including long sequences that amount to “How far can we go without actually fornicating?” If you want a good vampire story involving a fascinating, monstrous vampire and an engaging heroine, check out Robin McKinley’s book Sunshine. Now THAT would make an interesting movie!

But don’t tell me that this is a love story. This is a lust story. You have to get to know someone to really be “in love” with them. Otherwise, it’s just hormones. Good luck with everything after.

Remember the lesson of Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind? If we make hasty commitments in the rush of infatuation, we’re in trouble. We need to be ready to “carry each other” (as the song says), and to live with and love the brokennes and the rough edges. These two are already saying “You are my life” before they’ve seen past the pretty facade. Bella is pledging herself to a stranger, drawn only by his burdened expression, his high David Lynch forehead, and his gel-sculpted hair. (Sure, he saves her life, but only after she’s already smitten.)

I cannot think of a weaker female “heroine” than Bella. She cannot do anything for herself—anything. She can only surrender to her ill-advised infatuation. She lectures one of her friends on being an empowered, independent woman, but cannot put that into practice herself. I’ve known girls just like her. They did not end up in healthy relationships. They ended up getting hurt again and again by guys who were alluring and exciting, but eventually abusive and selfish.

These days, it seems the every successive generation gets its repackaging of the Vampire Story as Romance. Those who enjoyed the Buffy phenomenon were treated to some remarkable pleasures and some memorable storytelling, not to mention spectacularly creative television. Based on what I’ve seen so far, this new generation’s inspired by the same inspiring material, but their version is sub-standard and misguided.

There’s nothing wrong with a good vampire story, or a story about redeemable monsters. But this film splashes around in the shallowest end of the pool of love stories. Or better, it only dips its toes in, inclining us to follow our emotions. Some may claim it’s about being open-minded toward one another. To me, it looked like Bella’s mind was so open that her brain fell out.

Don’t be surprised if your teenage daughter envisions herself as Bella, and justifies her attraction to the reckless-driving, emotionally unstable, explosive rebel of her class. She’ll tell you that you just don’t understand… that he’s just misunderstood… and that they are hopelessly and unconditionally in love. A few years down the road, I’ll be interested to check back in with them and ask, “And how is that working out for you?”