Here's a sentence I never could've guessed I'd be writing: A publicity photo of a shirtless Taylor Lautner convinced me to read the entire "Twilight" saga.
I should probably elaborate on that, huh?
A few months back, Summit Entertainment's publicity machine made a big deal out of its first group shots of the "New Moon" werewolves. In any other genre film, this would mean a "money shot" either of CGI creations or actors in extensive makeup appliances. In "Twilight," however, this means a handful of young male actors, uniformly bronze-skinned (Twilight's werewolves are all Native Americans) and model-buff, standing around aloof and shirtless. Just as uniform as their look was the reaction of male movie-geeks, including yours truly:
"Heh! This looks like gay porn!"
Now, for those of you who don't speak "guy" fluently, "looks like gay porn" is sexually-insecure-straight-male for "I immediately recognize that this depiction of the masculine figure is intended to be arousing, and said recognition makes me uncomfortable." Thus, having caught myself in a less-uncharacteristic-than-I'd-like-it-to-be moment of Tucker Max behavior, I found myself faced with a question: "Is this what women have been trying to tell me all this time?"
Let me first explain: There's no getting around the fact that these visions of the Twilight werewolves are patently ridiculous, even more so when you consider the pretzel-logic behind their existence: In "Twilight," werewolves are humans who flash-morph into truck-sized canines, so they go about shirtless and in sweatpants so they can quick-strip and avoid having to constantly buy new clothes. The question, of course, as to WHY this magical-transformation can't simply also explain the vanishing/reappearing of clothing (it makes just as much sense as several hundred extra pounds of muscle and bone appearing out of nowhere after all) need not be asked, as it is likely rather obvious: The "Twilight" engine runs on (heterosexual) female lust, and having it work this way allows author Stephanie Meyer an in-plot excuse to send a whole team of tanned, toned boys galloping near-naked through the woods. It's fetishism and objectification; nothing more, nothing less.
In other words, the same thing that the rest of "genre fiction" (read: science-fiction, fantasy, horror, etc.) has been doing to its female characters since the first cro-magnon stepped back from his cave-painting and, after a moment's consideration, concluded, "Yeah, those could stand to be bigger."
It was dawning on me, then, that myself and every other male geek currently rolling our eyes at the laughably-obvious, pandering sexual-objectification of these "Playgirl werewolves" had at many times throughout our geek-existence been confronted (or, at least, needled) by our she-geek female compatriots about the laughably-obvious, pandering sexual-objectification of...well, damn near every depiction of the female form in geek culture.
And you know what? If we even tried to defend the point, we probably fell back on explanations and excuses every bit as shaky and transparent as "Twilight"'s nonsense about its wolf men's limited wardrobe budget: "In this future, spacesuit-polymers can be skin-tight and sufficiently-protective!" "Power Girl's costume has what amounts to a cleavage-window because she's still deciding on a logo!" "Female ninjas probably would use their sexuality as a weapon!" "Women in medieval-fantasy don't need to armor anything but their nipples and crotch, cause their fighting-styles rely on flexibility! Especially the Elven Wenches!"