For the past few years, I’ve been keeping tabs on tweens’ and teens’ fascination with Twilight. I’ve read about fanatical fans, whose love of Bella, Edward and Jacob have changed the way we think about vampires, werewolves and monsters in general. I’ve watched them take over and redefine the MTV Music Awards and Comic-Con. And I’ve talked to countless tweens and teens about what makes them passionate about the books and the movies that have become the Harry Potter of the post-puberty set.
But I must confess: up until two weeks ago, I hadn’t read the books or seen the movies. From what I did know, the concept felt just right for this age group…The romantic notion of forbidden love (as relevant to tween girls as it was in Romeo and Juliet). The captivating cool confidence of an edgy outsider who doesn’t seem to have the need to fit in…Even the realistic and sweet relationship between a father who wants to protect his little girl and a daughter who wants to move on while not disappointing him…And what about the real life intrigue surrounding the secret love between stars Kristen Stewart and Robert Pattinson - K-Pat or Stewartson (which I just made up)? You can’t script this stuff.
With Eclipse hitting the theaters, and with Kristen, Robert and Taylor doing the media/publicity rounds once again, I thought I’d better get authentic. And here’s the lesson I learned: the concept might be right, but it’s the execution that really makes Twilight work.
First, consider the casting. With a cast of relatively unknowns before the first Twilight film, this makes tweens and teens feel like they discovered them on their own. And while Taylor Lautner isn’t exactly a fulfillment of author Stephanie Meyers’ description of a 6’7” werewolf, he delivers fully on the rest of the fantasy. And, for the record, I’m channeling teens here. As a film that – let’s face it – is a romance more than a monster romp, Kristen Stewart could not be a more aspirational leading lady. We don’t want to be her because she’s perfect or pretty, but more because of that inner beauty that shines through her dark and somber façade.
Second, the movie’s setting, which was originally Seattle and then Vancouver, not only feels believable as a haven or a coven for monsters, but feels right as the backdrop for teen angst. Forks (the town in which the movie takes place) feels less fictional, in some ways, than the pseudo-real high schools we’ve seen in recent teen flicks in theater and on TV. The mood matters in this film, and seems to capture that pervasive state of unease that surrounds teens. And it makes it feel natural when Edward and Jake both seek to protect Bella – not just from vampires or werewolves, but maybe from herself.
Finally, I found myself surprised by the friendships in Twilight. I used to think that the romance defined Twilight – and perhaps it does. But as a real reader, I was most surprised by the bond between Bella and Alice. This kind of friendship might fuel tweens’ and teens’ fantasy as much as the sexual tension between Bella and her two “choices.”
I’ve also been reading lots of other opinions on Twilight, and not surprisingly, there’s a lot of focus on whether the special effects are right, whether there’s enough action versus love (for that all important audience – teen boys), and whether or not the book brought to life the words from Meyers that so many tweens and teens have absorbed.
But I’m pretty content to be a new fan. Am I a “Twihard”? Well, according to definitions from urbandictionary.com, I’m probably less a “Twihard” and more a “Twilighter”. The site draws the following distinction:
“The difference between being a “Twilighter” and being a “Twihard”, is that “Twihards” have embraced a new “Twiligion”... er.... I mean, religion based on Twilight. They live and breathe Twilight. Most “Twihards” are for Edward and Bella. Therefore, those “Twihards” are all for true love and love at first sight. Point out one thing to a “Twihard”, and they can relate it to Twilight instantly. Savage and wild, they need every single thing to be perfect in the upcoming Twilight movie.”
I do drive a Volvo – but more because of the suburban mom connection than the Edward Cullen one!