This week in podcapping brings vampires and demons to the table — one in a very popular Young Adult series and the other in a classic horror film. “Overdue” finishes out their coverage of “The Twilight Saga” with its final book, while “The Bechdel Cast” explores the horror of “Rosemary’s Baby.”
“Chaos ensues. Also teen hormones ensue,” Craig declares about this week’s book, which is none other than “Breaking Dawn” by Stephenie Meyer. After covering the first three books in previous episodes, the hosts (who, in this episode, have both read all four books) are wrapping up the vampire saga. “Breaking Dawn” chronicles Bella’s marriage to Edward, as well as her pregnancy and the birth of her half-vampire, half-human hybrid child, Renesmee.
Andrew begins by admitting that he kind of liked this one. He states, “When you are drowning or freezing to death, they say that right before, you kind of stop worrying about it, you get all warm and you just go to sleep… reading this book and liking it is what I think freezing to death must be like.”
Despite this joke and many more that make up the episode — all of which showcase the duo’s humor at its best — Craig and Andrew dive into the novel from an analytical standpoint and take it as seriously as they do classic pieces of literature.
One element they find quite effective is the section told from the perspective of Jacob Black, the werewolf who makes up the third piece of “The Twilight Saga” love triangle with Bella and Edward that is central to the first three books. Craig and Andrew both find it to be an enjoyable read and representative of Meyer’s aptitude for world-building — despite their not liking Jacob (the hosts were firmly on Team Jacob until reading “Eclipse” when Jacob forcibly kisses Bella without her consent).
Overall, however, they find the novel to be full of many plot elements that are weak, lazy or frankly don’t string smoothly together. To begin with, the third book ends with the cliffhanger of Jacob running away (supposedly) forever, only for him to return within the first few chapters of “Breaking Dawn” for Bella’s wedding. Relatedly, the book’s concluding confrontation with the Volturi is resolved through a few deus ex machina elements — namely Edward’s adopted sister, Alice, coming in at the last minute to save the day by proving that vampire-human hybrids are not harmful, without her efforts being fleshed out or effectively shown.
Craig also points out some of the cringeworthy prose descriptions, such as Bella’s account of Edward’s eyes as “buttery burning gold.” They note how descriptions such as this one likely reflect Meyer’s attempts to assert the books of “The Twilight Saga” as romance novels. They speculate that in “Breaking Dawn” Meyer tried to write both a romance novel and a fantasy novel, and that ultimately both genres get in the way of it being fully effective in either category.
Despite the weak plot and feeling incredibly uncomfortable about the whole “imprinting” thing, Craig and Andrew had fun with these books (as did their readers — these episodes are some of the most downloaded according to the hosts). They leave the series with more questions about the vampire world. As Craig remarks, “I want to know if vampires care about climate change.”
“The Bechdel Cast”
While covering a beloved and widely acclaimed film that is directed by a man who was charged and admitted to statutory rape, the hosts have to confront the debate of “art vs. artist.” Jamie and Caitlin, along with actress Jessica Harper as guest host, discuss Roman Polanski’s 1968 “Rosemary’s Baby.” The film follows Rosemary (Mia Farrow) who, after becoming pregnant, believes that an evil, Satanic cult wants to take her baby.
Right away, the hosts address the director’s history as an assaulter. In 1977, Polanski was arrested and charged with five offenses against a 13-year-old girl, including rape. He initially pleaded not guilty, then eventually pleaded guilty and accepted a plea bargain. When he found out he was facing imprisonment, however, he fled to France, where he still resides and works today.
Jamie points out that not only is he still working — he has won an Oscar since fleeing charges (in 2002, for “The Pianist”). Essentially, he has not been punished for his heinous crimes.
Caitlin notes that she is “conflicted and challenged” by this film. The three hosts all really like the film itself and can recognize how well-crafted it is. It makes the debate of art versus artist difficult to wrap up either way and the hosts are unable to come to a conclusion on the matter.
The hosts point out the irony of Polanski creating a film that is, in some ways, a feminist text. It chronicles a continually disregarded, sexually and psychologically abused woman who is fighting to regain her agency.
The film, however, is not without its flaws in terms of women’s representation. Namely, as often seen with female characters, Rosemary has no distinct character traits besides wanting to have a baby. She is a stereotypical housewife who lacks hobbies and desires.
The hosts note that the film is indeed scary in the traditional sense; after all, it is considered one of the best horror movies of all time by many. But it is made even more frightening by how realistic the treatment of Rosemary is in terms of how women are abused by their partners or society. For example, there is a scene in which she and some of the other characters are eating chocolate mousse and Rosemary insists it tastes weird. Her husband, Guy (John Cassavetes), not only tells her she’s wrong, but finds multiple ways to blame her for it. Jamie notes how she recognized this sort of arguing in both her own past relationships, as well as in that of her parents.
Then, there is the rape scene, in which Rosemary is raped by a demon in her sleep. When she wakes up, Guy tells her that it was actually him who raped her in her sleep, since they’re trying to conceive a baby. Not only is he lying (it was indeed the demon), this instance of marital rape is accepted as the better scenario. The hosts note that marital rape was legal in most states at this time, making it a horrific explanation for something that Rosemary has to accept, no matter how uncomfortable she or the audience — especially audiences today — are made by this.
Jamie, Caitlin and Jessica note that all of these elements make the film even more disturbing, knowing the criminal acts Polanski himself made. The film’s legacy as a horror film is further haunted by the actions of the man who made it.
Nikki Munoz covers podcasts. Contact her at [email protected].