by Ellie Halfacre
What do Star Wars, Lord of the Rings, Rocky Horror Picture Show, and Harry Potter have in common? They all have passionate fans. And when I say passionate, I mean obsessed…
From cult-followings to mainstream media blitzes, fandom of all shapes and sizes is appearing more now than ever before. Do you think Ancient Greece and Elizabethan England had this problem? I doubt George Washington’s daughter had a signed poster of that hottie Thomas Jefferson in her bedroom. This burst of obsession over the last decade can be blamed on two obvious things – the media and the Internet.
But we always like to blame those two, don’t we? So let’s not forget to pay attention to the man behind the curtain. Sure, the internet provides us many opportunities that we didn’t have twenty years ago – even ten years ago. But there’s something about our desire to feel connected to one another that makes us go crazy when it comes to attractive people in creative costumes.
Lets talk Twilight. The second movie in the saga, New Moon, made 140.7 million dollars during its opening weekend alone. Just in case you’ve been living under a rock for the past two years, here are two completely different definitions of the Twilight Saga: fans say it’s a love story starring Edward, a sparkling hot vampire, and the insecure and average teenager, Bella. “Twihaters” say it is a story about a whiny, pathetic girl and her annoyingly perfect (and controlling and stalker-like) vampire beau who is anti-feminist and poorly written.
The golden questions on skeptics’ minds are “Why is Twilight popular?” and “Why are people obsessed?” Actress Christian Serratos, who plays Bella’s friend Angela in the series, thinks she may have the answer: “I think it’s really relatable. Like, a lot of girls relate. I relate, wanting that perfect, wholesome, handsome gentleman.” Others have a different answer.
Anne Rice, the writer of the cult favorite Vampire Chronicles series, “felt that it reflected the deep desire of young women to have the mystery and protection and wisdom of older men.” The reason the story resonates so well with people of all ages today is because it has the forbidden love of Romeo and Juliet without the death. Also, vampires have a certain dangerous allure to them. The idea that someone is strong and can protect them is something that a lot of young women want in a relationship, and they can use bland Bella as a way to insert themselves into that kind of adventurous situation. Stephanie Meyer even says on her website that she “left out a detailed description of Bella in the book so that the reader could more easily step into her shoes.”
This book series quenches the universal thirst for vulnerability and danger, and is now captivating international audiences. But obsession should only go so far. The line may need to be drawn at t-shirts and costumes, but people have gone so far as to make cookbooks, baby clothes, shower curtains, and wall decals dedicated to the series. Sales of pale foundation have gone up 200% over the past month due to these beautiful vampires, and tattoos of Twilight quotes are becoming the ultimate sign of a “true” fan.
Obsession like this is dangerous for fans and non-fans alike, because it starts to affect society and culture in alarming and destructive ways. Twilight may be a cash cow, but it has ventured even further into violence. Joke all you want, but the “Twihards vs. Antis” fights have escalated into an alarming problem. Reports of attempted drowning, beatings, chokings, and broken limbs have accumulated on the Internet, raising the stakes of fandom and getting out of control. On November 9th, Robert Pattinson, the actor who plays Edward Cullen in the series, unintentionally provoked a stampede of over three thousand girls at a mall in San Francisco. One girl broke her nose during the debacle, and another fan fainted.
Before the movie, the chaos, and the mainstream attention from the New York Times Bestseller list, there were the original fans. The ones who bought the book when it first came out and loved it. And when you love something that others don’t, it affects you. It makes you feel different; it makes you feel special. It’s rare you find someone who also likes it, and when you do you share a unique connection with him or her. This is another reason that people enjoyed it, aside from the flawless Edward and teenage vampire angst.
Many of the original fans have fallen through by now, either because they grew out of it, or because they didn’t want to be “just another Twilight fan.” The original cult-like following has more appeal than a large coven of obsessed Twilighters because you have a sense of team, a sense of family, and a sense of friends. A sense of being able to be yourself and be with people who understand you is one of the main motivations of people who LARP (Live Action Role Play) or those who stay up late into the night writing fan fiction.
Maybe the reason that fandoms are so popular on the Internet is because the Internet is already helping connect people to each other. We like to feel connected; we like to feel that rare bond. When something like Twilight becomes a national (or even international) phenomenon, it takes that connection away. It becomes just another mainstream trend that isn’t special or unique, but status quo, and a lot of people enjoy the status quo.
Wherever your point of view or interests, we can all see fandom popping up everywhere. This can be a good phenomenon, because connecting and bonding with each other is a part of being human. But it can also be a bad thing, as evidenced by the Twilight media explosion. One thing is for sure, and it’s that fandom isn’t leaving pop culture anytime soon.