Fans make 'Twilight' sparkle
Phenomenon » Actors and academics look at series' popularity.
The Salt Lake Tribune
11/19/2009 02:06:54 PM MST
By Sean P. Means
Stephenie Meyer's Twilight saga stopped being a book series a couple million copies ago, and stopped being a movie series before anyone saw the second movie that makes it a series.
Twilight -- Meyer's four-book tale of gorgeous vampires, hunky werewolves, and the girl in the middle who is attracted to them both -- is a full-scale cultural phenomenon, one that elicits rabid fan devotion and even academic scrutiny.
Even the actors in the newest movie, "The Twilight Saga: New Moon" (opening Friday; read a review), recognize the power of sparkly vampires.
"I can make a lot of fathers so cool," actor Edi Gathegi, who plays the vampire Laurent in the first two "Twilight" films, said during a visit to Salt Lake City last weekend. "If they say they know me or I can provide an autograph, then their kids will listen to them because they have just become gods. 'My dad is so awesome -- he has a "Twilight" connection.' "
Actor Jamie Campbell Bower -- who joins the series this outing as Caius, a member of the ruling vampire clan, the Volturi -- acknowledges the strength of fan support.
"Without the fan base from the first movie, there wouldn't have been the opportunity to make the second film," he said. "It's wonderful that people are so dedicated to something."
In the run-up to today's release of "New Moon," Gathegi and Bower toured several cities to sign autographs and meet fans. (Their visits, and those of other cast members in the 15-city tour, also moved a ton of merchandise. Fans paid $30 for a Hot Topic T-shirt to get a chance at an autograph, and $75 in Nordstrom clothes to get a picture with the performers.)
"Someone threw a thong onstage," Bower recalled of one visit. "People were asking me to marry them."
Bower even saw someone throw a banana, encased in bubble wrap to keep the fruit from bruising, to him -- because he mentioned on his Twitter feed that his leg was shaking, possibly from a lack of potassium. (Bower said being in a "Twilight" movie requires self-censorship on Twitter: "If you put something out that's too personal, you're an idiot," he said.)
"The fan base is fascinating," said Christy Seifert, associate professor of communications at Salt Lake City's Westminster College, who has researched the Twilight phenomenon.
While many of the fans are teen and pre-teen girls, the initial target audience for the young-adult books, Seifert noted many fans are women in their late 20s and early 30s. For them, Seifert said, Twilight has become the center of their lives. "They were telling me stories about how they would neglect their children to read these books, and they would just give their children cereal," Seifert said. "One woman talked about how her husband is letting her call him Edward" for Edward Cullen, Twilight 's vampire hero.
Seifert has made a splash for an article she wrote, labeling the Twilight books "abstinence porn."
"[ Twilight ] convinces us that self-denial is hot," Seifert said. "It takes abstinence and kind of ramps it up to this incredibly erotic and titillating concept. But, of course, the irony is the more titillating it becomes, the more that readers are expecting Edward and Bella to ultimately seal the deal -- but to do that is to ruin the magic of the book in the first place."
Seifert's article, "Bite Me! (Or Don't)," ran in the winter 2008 issue of Bitch magazine, a feminist pop-culture quarterly. The article is one of 25 chosen for inclusion in the national compilation Best Sex Writing 2010 -- an irony, Seifert said, because she wrote about Twilight 's emphasis on not having sex.
Seifert said some fans don't take their sparkly vampires too seriously, but the popularity of Twilight makes it a worthy topic of study.
"The fact that Twilight has become as popular as it has says something interesting about us as readers," Seifert said. "Why is it this that we have chosen for our young-adult readers?"