Sex, success and the 'Twilight' soundtrack

BY SHARON JACOBS
Managing Arts Editor
Published June 29, 2010

June 29 was a very special night, one whose significance had not been matched since November 20, 2009. June 29 was celebrated in megaplexes and small rural moviehouses all over the world. June 29 was touted in public by preteen girls, and in private by the older and male populations. June 29 was opening night for “Twilight: Eclipse.”

My first exposure to the “Twilight” franchise occurred at a fateful “girls’ night in” last summer. After dutifully baking brownies and painting toenails, my friends and I settled down on a periwinkle futon with the original “Twilight” DVD in the player. A full two hours later, we emerged from a horrified stupor.

Now, I know lots of people pretend to loathe “Twilight” but secretly devour every novel and spinoff. I am not one of those people.

I abhorred the way Bella treated her dad when she fled Forks with the Cullens — even if James was out to suck her blood, she was unnecessarily cruel, and I’d have been grounded before you can say “Phoenix.” I cringed at Bella’s antisocial tendencies and her “dicks over chicks” mentality. I sharply frowned at her sexist portrayal in the film, and the old-time morals it seemed to be preaching. But mostly, as a lover and reviewer of music, I was totally freaked out by the awesome “Twilight” soundtrack.

Over the years, some of my prized artists have donated their music and even — God forbid! — written original tracks to support the “Twilight” films. I’m cool with the added exposure — Thom Yorke probably doesn’t need the money, but Zero 7’s Sia might. I was appalled, however, to find these forward-thinking artists supporting the backwards, dependent and kinda anti-woman philosophy behind “Twilight.”

I decided to read the first “Twilight” book to better understand where my indie darlings were coming from, but it only got worse. Now, I’m no bra-busting militant feminist, but I balked at Bella’s ritual of cooking dinner every night for her dad. Even when going out for the night, she has to leave cold cuts so the poor guy can make himself a sandwich.

Transfixed by Edward’s initial assholery toward her, Bella painfully and unrequitedly obsesses from early on. And when Edward kisses her, Bella reacts like any other smitten girl: She gives in and goes with it.

“I sighed, and my lips parted. He staggered back, breaking my grip effortlessly. ‘Damn it Bella!’ he broke off, gasping. ‘You’ll be the death of me, I swear you will.’ ”

It’s a constant “Twilight” pattern: Bella entices, Edward tries in vain to resist. The theme is emphasized by the cover picture, as delicate white hands offer up a bright red apple, Genesis-style. Eve the temptress, only this time there’s vampires.

But as I sat reading, mildly irked, I turned to the Internet. How, I asked it, did “Twilight” beckon Beck, muster Muse and feature fuckin’ Florence Welch, of Florence and the Machine?

And Google gave me Alexandra Patsavas, a normal-looking Midwesterner of probable Greek origin.

Once a rock promoter in Illinois, Patsavas moved to screen work and soon made an art out of soundtracking. She’s the brains behind the music of “The O.C.,” “Grey’s Anatomy,” “Mad Men”… the list goes on, but those are my picks. And she’s how I got into Spoon, though I blush to admit it.

Billboard called Patsavas a Top Woman in Music, and she’s been profiled countless times — by Glamour and Elle, sure, but also The Chicago Tribune, The New York Times, CNBC and more. Patsavas’s company, Chop Shop Music Supervision, has handled all three “Twilight” soundtracks, and even got a Grammy out of it.

So maybe it’s OK. I mean, “Twilight” is still shit. It’s badly written, badly acted, just utter shit.

But for all the “Twilight” sexism — impressive considering its notable lack of actual sex, or even sex appeal, for that matter — it’s nice to know that Stephenie Meyer (seriously, Steph? You had to spell it that way?) let a woman handle the sonic side of things, and that this wildly successful rock chick is the one responsible for securing contributions from Iron & Wine, Grizzly Bear and all our now-big friends.

I won’t feel guilty listening to “Heavy In Your Arms” on the “Twilight: Eclipse” soundtrack that might surreptitiously make its way onto my New Music playlist this month. It’s a gorgeously echoing track, lovely in its depressiveness. And what’s more, Alexandra Patsavas picked it out for me.