ZOMGpires! Do you know what today is? It's the opening day of Twilight: Eclipse, the third movie in the novel-based vampire series. Have you so far avoided this whole phenomenon? That is silly. You need to know what's going on.

Don't be so culturally stubborn! Don't be a Luddite! A Philistine! Whatever! Yes, Twilight profoundly sucks (heh), but it profoundly sucks alllll over the damn place. To get this far into the whole cultural mania and not know what the plot is, who the players are, any of it? Well that's just mulish isolationism. This craze has gotten so big that it's destroying marriages. Plus this latest movie is actually getting decent-ish reviews! If you want to have anything to talk about once your dinner party turns past civilized and wanders into Drunkenville, then it might help you to know the story up to this point, the third movie. Having read the first book and seen the second movie, and having read a lot about this whole bullshit, I'm going to try to tell you as complete a story about Bella, Eddie, and the gang as I can. Here goes.

So a grumpy and clumsy girl named Bella lives in Phoenix with her mom. But her mom is sorta flighty and wants to travel around the country with her new boyfriend, so she says "Why don't you go live with your auntie and uncle dad in Bel Air Forks, Washington?" Ohhh grumble says Bella. Not because she had a particularly big group of friends in Phoenix or anything — that would require having something of a personality beyond "clumsy" — but because Forks is a dreary rainy town out past Olympic National Park and she doesn't know anyone there. But oh well, mom needs to hit the road, so up Bella goes. When she gets there her dad, who is the sheriff of the town and is named Billy or something, is all "Hey kiddo, I don't know how to cook because I live alone and am a man, want a cold hot dog?" And Bella is all "Daaad, I'll cook for you, I'm a girl." So she starts to cook for him and he looks at her mustachely and decides to buy her a car so she can get around his drizzle kingdom. He gets her this bright red vintage pickup truck and Bella thinks it's really neat and Billy is happy. Bella waves him goodbye and drives off to her first day of school. On the way to school she is killed in a car accident and the book series ends.

When she gets there, naturally everyone is interested in her. Because their town is small and boring and Bella is darkly pretty (or something), but mostly because it's entirely necessary for the female fantasy that's catered to with this series that Bella be an inexplicable object of mysterious allure. So there's this dopey human boy named Jimmy or Jackers or something, and boy does Jimmy-Jackers like Bella. Like a puppydog! But Bella is all "Whatevs," because she's... clumsy? It's not immediately apparent why Bella doesn't take a liking to Jimmy-Jackers. But pretty soon it doesn't matter. Bella meets a girl named Jessica (played by Oscar nominee Anna Kendricks) who becomes her "friend," even though Bella treats her with, at best, complete indifference. Oblivious to this due to the cardboard constraints of the way her character is drawn, Jessica kindly invites Bella to sit at her table for lunch. Bella grumbly (and clumsily!) agrees and sits down to half-listen to inane, so lame typical teenage conversation. But then... oh then. A group of pale-faced knockouts walks in and Bella is immediately entranced. "Oh those are the Cullens," Jessica whispers, egg salad tumbling out of her sad, stupid, human mouth. "They don't talk to anyone but each other." Bella is, of course, hooked forever.

So she spends a lot of time staring at them and then one day the most beautiful one, a boy named Edward, sits next to her in science class, because they are lab partners. She is looking at him and he turns to her and his eyes are glowing bright yellow or brown or something and he looks like he's smelling poop and is very angry about it and then he runs away. He later switches out of the science class. What did Bella do? Why does Edward hate her so? She just can't figure it out. But she is so fucking into him she keeps falling down. (She is very clumsy, yes. At first I thought she had been in an accident and had a wooden leg and that was the secret reason why she'd left Phoenix, but my friend told me I was reading wayyyy too much into it.) Life continues on. Billy the sheriff (and cooked-for dad) is concerned because there's been a series of vicious "animal attacks" and people have been killed, terribly. Bella has also noticed that Eddie and the Cullens are never there on nice days. Jessica says "Oh they're weird. Their dad takes them hunting or something." Or something...

Things go on like this for a while until one day Bella and Jessica are shopping for prom gear in the nearby town of Angel Falls (or something) and Bella gets separated from Jessica and her other, annoying, nattering human teenage girl friends. She wanders down a dark alley and, of course because she is so alluring and wonderful, is accosted by a group of bad boys. You know, the type that say "Hey sister, want to have a good time?" and other profanities. She's really scared and starts running, but these boys are just too fast and too bad for her, and they overtake her. Bella is in trouble! But then vroom vroom, punch punch, Bella is suddenly rescued by a Volvo. In the Volvo is Edward. He'd come miraculously to her rescue. The weird thing about it? This isn't the first time. Weeks ago after an ice storm there had been a slipping accident in the school parking lot and car had almost slid into Bella, but Eddie had run over and protected her, put his hand up and stopped the car. And he had been all the way across the parking lot at the time! How on Earth did he keep managing to be in the right place at the right time, always there to rescue poor helpless clumsy girl Bella?

Pretty soon we find out why. During a nighttime drive, after Bella and Eddie go to a restaurant and Eddie orders nothing and she orders mushroom ravioli (Stephenie Meyers' favorite detail in the books, you can tell she thinks she's being so specific and writerly — people now have Twilight parties and order mushroom ravioli, because people are lame), she's all "You move fast, you're supes dupes strong, you're never around on sunny days, you're pale, you're wearing a cape, and you can count really well. You are vampyr, are you not?" Eddie is so upset. SO UPSET. You see he is a tortured vampire. It is really hard to be near humans and not eat their faces. Especially a miraculous human like Bella. Eddie can read humans' thoughts, but not Bella's. This makes her so enticing. So though he wants to be near her, he can't, for her safety. And thus truly begins a books-long narrative about a woman constantly needing a man's protection. Yayyyy girls!

OK. Try as he might, Eddie can't help himself. He and Bella are butt-crazy in love and there's nothing to be done about it. So he takes her to meet his "family." Basically they are two older vampire caretakers and his vampire "siblings." Edward's maker is the vampire Dr. Cullen, played by Can't Hardly Wait's Peter Facinelli. Edward is a hundred plus years old. He was going to die during the Swine Flu epidemic during WWI and Dr. Cullen just had to save him and make him beautiful and perfect. The other siblings are young folks. There's Alice Cullen, a kind of punky vampire that immediately takes a liking to Bella and can see the future (played by Ashley Greene in the movies). There's Emmett Cullen, a big lunky hunk with a dopey sense of humor (played by animate meat thumb Kellan Lutz). And there are weirdo siblings Jasper and Rosalie Hale (Jackson Rathbone and Nikki Reed), who are very wary of Bella. They, especially Jasper, have a real hard time being around a human without wanting to eat her. Thus more protection-tension. Bella and Edward's love is so fraught!

It continues like this for some time. This dance of "Hey girl, don't get too close to me lest you trigger my boy-want and I rape eat you, meaning it would be your own fault, because boys can't be expected to control their urges, that's the girl's job." (The films don't really play up this subtext as much as the books, but it's still there.) One day Edward takes Bella to a vampire baseball game. Yeah, they play baseball! But they have to wait for thunderstorms because the sound of their crazy strength hitting the bat to the ball is so loud it needs to be masked by thunder. Vampires are really strong and can climb trees and stuff. It's amazing! While they're playing everyone sniffs news vampers approaching and are like "Fuuuuck, Bella!" But it is too late. The new vampers, three of 'em, emerge from the woods and are like "What's for lunch?" and look at Bella. These are the "wild animals" that have been killing people! The three new creatures are Laurent, a nice-ish vampire, Other Dude, a mean vampire, and Victoria, a red-haired evil vampire and Other Dude's girlfriend. There's kind of a stand down for the moment because Dr. Cullen drops some reason on everyone's heads, but they soon realize Bella's fucked, because Other Dude totally sniffed her out and wants to eat her real bad. "We have to hide you, forever!" Edward says.

Bella gets whisked off to Arizona with Emmett and Alice and doesn't see Edward for a while. The pain of not seeing him is SO GREAT that mostly she just writhes and moans in a hotel room bed for a while. This is true! This actually happens. It's gross. Eventually, of course, the bad vampire finds her and is like "Ima kill your mom or you, you decide." So she goes to meet her death. (She is also, in some ways, dying to protect Edward, which she figures noble and wonderful.) There is a showdown in a museum or something and Edward kills the Other Dude and all is well... for now. Edward takes Bella to prom and they kiss, finally, and the world is happy.

In the second one, New Moon, Edward and Bella are so in love. But there is a new player on the scene. An Indian named Jacob Black (Taylor Lautner, squee) has grown a lot of muscles since we last saw him (he's briefly in the first book, talking about vampire and werewolf legends on a beach) and Bella is all "sproinngggg" in the pants area, but she doesn't know it yet. So anyway, Bella's at a vampire birthday party for herself (she's getting sad about getting older, because soon she will wither and die and Edward will stay young and perfect forever) and everyone's wearing pointy party hats and are like "Happy birthday, dear humannnn..." and giving her presents. Then Bella gets a paper cut on wrapping paper and bleeds on the rug. Young Jasper vampire can't handle this. He runs to eat her face off and Edward is like "Noooooo!!" There's some slo-mo vampire Matrix-fighting but finally Bella is rescued. Zoops. This is not good. Edward is like "Yo B, I love you and all, but you're not safe with us vamps around. Plus people are getting suspicious that none of us have aged in ten years, so we gotta bounce. And... you can't come with me. Peace." And then he's gone, just like that. Oh god.

The world bottoms out and turns black and Bella doesn't do anything for months and months. (This is reflected in the book, and sort of in the movie, by page after page of blankness, no writing, except for the months. It is so creative. Stephenie Meyer is a genius.) Bella is so bereft without her boy monster love. But then something happens that shocks her out of it. She's walking in Angel Falls with Jessica again (yeah Jessica's forgiven her for being a rude, inattentive bitch the whole time they've known each other) and she runs into a biker gang, in another alleyway. All Stephenie Meyer knows of bad boys is that they wear leather and ride motorcycles and like to cat-call women. Bella gets on one of their motorscooters and basically becomes like Holly Hunter in Crash. She is so turned on by the dangerous motorcycle ride! Why? Because when she's going really fast and it seems dangerous, Edward appears to her in ghostly form and is like "Don't... donn't....." See he's still protecting her even from afar! So now B. wants more thrills, so she can get more Sweet Eddie chills. This is where Jacob comes in.

Jacob knows how to build motorbikes, so she asks him to build her one to ride and see Eddie (she doesn't tell him about the Eddie part). They spend all this time fixing them up and he never wears shirts and eventually gets a cute haircut and he tells her stories about the young men in the community suddenly becoming weird and cultish. He just doesn't understand why. He doesn't understand, that is, until something new starts killing people all over town and no one knows what it is. A bear? What is it? Turns out it's Victoria, come to get revenge on Bella for Edward killing her boyfriend! Uh oh. At this point Victoria is still played by Rachel LeFevre, but she's been replaced by Bryce Dallas Howard for the third movie, 'cause she's a real big part in it and Howard is a bigger star or something. Anyway. Jacob suddenly turns weird and distant and sullen because Bella will never kiss him and then she finally figures out why. He is werewolf! She gets one of his jerky new friends mad and he turns into a werebeast and Jacob is like "Noooo!" and runs shirtlessly to PROTECT HER and he too turns into a weremonster. Oh mah gad, can't this girl meet anyone but monsters? (Poor Jimmy-Jackers has long been forgotten.) Jacob and his werewolf friends are sworn enemy of the vampires and like to kill them whenever they can. But they can only be werewolves on their ancestral Indian land. Anything happens off that land and a truce is broken and a war breaks out. All is very confusing for Bella at this point, and though she has a total boner for Jacob's meat-frame, she still misses Sweet Eddie Cullen.

This causes her to jump off a cliff into the water in the hopes of seeing him again. What happens instead is that Victoria almost gets her in the water and she almost drowns but she is rescued by Jacob. The squat muscle tower basically promises to love and protect her forever and he goes from fun, jokey character to obnoxiously serious, Man Must Protect Woman character in like two seconds and I guess we're supposed to (and many people do) go "Siiiiigh." Meanwhile, Edward is upset. You see in a very jarring and sudden plot twist, he heard from someone that Bella died in that water jump and now he wants to die too! OMG. How's he gonna do it? He's going to expose himself to humans in front of the Volturri. Oh, OK. Two things. He's not going to pull out his vampire stake and whip it around for a bunch of horrified Italians (he's in Italy). He's going to step into the sun and let them see his vampire sparkle. Yes, as we learned in the first book, vampires don't burst into flames in the sunlight. They just sparkle, beautifully and stupidly. Second thing is that the Volturri is a wise old vampire council who control laws and often kill bad vampires who expose themselves to humans. If Edward does that, then he dies. Bella has to stop him!

She and Alice just up and buy plane tickets to Italy on the fly and she runs and saves him just before he steps out into the sun and sparkle-ruins himself. The Voltrons are still mad though. Eddie isn't supposed to be dating a human and they like to kill humans. But! Bella is different. Dakota Fanning plays a mean vampire who's in the Valtrexes who inflicts pain with her mind. But she can't do it with Bella! How intriguing! But what the hell, she's still a human, so they're gonna kill her anyway. Eddie is like "Noooo!!" and runs to PROTECT HER, and there's a battle. Eventually the head of the Vermeers is like "OK, fine, y'all can go, but don't cross me again." So Bella and Eddie are happy and safe again. They go back to Forks and Jacob's like "Bella I wanna bone you in the funnybox," and Bella says, very cruelly, "I love you too Jacob. But don't make me choose. Because I'll always choose Eddie." Thus emerges the canyon between Team Jacob vs. Team Edward, and the ultimate wonder fantasy of having two gorgeous boys — one thin and mysterious and brooding, the other jockish and basic and easy — beautifully begins.

And that's where we stand! Victoria has not been vanquished, there is still tension between the werewolves and the vampires, and Bella still has a total chub for Jacob, even though she's sworn to Eddie. At the very end of movie 2, Eddie asks Bella to marry him. She in turn asks the Cullens to make her into a vampire. The family takes a vote and they agree to make her immortal. Eddie is displeased. But if she marries him, he'll be aight with it. (And of course Bella's eternal fate is, ultimately, up to her man, her husband, because Stephenie Meyer is a Mormon, and that's what they believe.) The story ends in media res and the famous couple hasn't even fucked yet.