The best part of each new Twilight movie is the flood of essays examining the book that pop up like unwanted weeds. It’ll teach our daughters crappy values (because our daughters are idiots, I guess), it’s anti-feminist, it’s creepy, it’s fine leave it alone you haters, no it’s not fine shut up, girls like it? ugh!!! on and on and on ad nauseam. Along with all of that is the relentless mocking about how Twilight is so dumb (how dumb is it) it’s so dumb that vampires sparkle in the daylight! Haw haw haw! Never mind that telling Twilight jokes in 2011 is basically the exact same thing as having “a really good Black Eyed Peas joke” or “hysterically funny image macro.” (Sorry, dawg, but you don’t. Wrap it up and move on.)
And I mean, personally, Twilight isn’t even on my radar. I don’t really care about vampires. I’m not a teenaged girl (or a cougar, which I think is another large part of that franchise’s fanbase? I don’t know anything but what the internet tells me). I don’t like the summaries I’ve heard (though the vampiric c-section sounds pretty crazy). But Twilight is a sales juggernaut, dominant in pop culture right now, and a post about it in one style or another guarantees a certain number of hits and controversy. So sites I like roll out their Twilight coverage and I trip over it. People I know dis it hard and others defend it as a thing of value. I don’t really have a horse in that race, but I like reading things, so sometimes I go against my better judgment and read big fights about something that I don’t care about beyond being curious about people’s reactions to other people liking/disliking it.
I had a Twilight-inspired epiphany earlier this year. It was while I was at San Diego Comic-Con, in fact. Twilight fans showed up at SDCC and camped outside to see… I don’t even know what they were there for, come to think about it. Maybe a panel with an exclusive trailer or a signing or something. Regardless, they had tents, sleeping bags, the whole shebang.
Late one night, the people I was with were like “Let’s go to the Twilight camp and take pictures!” This was like 1am, I think. Very late, but before the shuttle buses stopped running. I was pretty sober, since drinking during SDCC is expensive and I don’t particularly like being drunk anyway, but I went along because I wanted to keep hanging out.
We got there and they took pictures and I felt completely creeped out the entire time. It just felt strange and ugly. My skin was crawling. I really didn’t want to be there, but I waited it out and left when my friends were done. It bothered me, though, and it stuck in my craw the entire week.
Later on, I realized that I was the creep. There’s this aura around a lot of the criticism about Twilight, a suggestion that the fans are creeps with bad taste who like bad books. But they weren’t the ones taking photos of folks who weren’t doing nothing in the middle of the night or creating long, punishingly funny posts about how terrible Twilight is. They were just having fun.
I like a lot of things. I like books, movies, music, girls with certain haircuts, Anna Karina, girls with freckles, and even a few video games. But if you asked me to camp out for four days so that I could get a brief taste of any of those… honestly, I’d laugh at you. That’s a silly idea to me.
I think that’s because I don’t like anything as much as those people like Twilight.
Which is sorta crazy, because I straight up love a lot of things, but that’s a step too far to me. I couldn’t do it. I don’t want to do it. I don’t even wait in line to get things signed, because I could care less about autographs. Midnight opening for a video game? What, so I can go home and play it for ten minutes before falling asleep so I can go to my job on time? C’mon, son.
Grantland posted a really good Twilight photo-essay by Lane Brown the other week. I clicked because I generally like Grantland, and was curious to see their take. Would it be defensive, a desperate plea that Twilight is okay? Or would they go on the offensive and strip Twilight bare? Turns out, it was neither. They took a look at the fans and talked to them.
It’s a really nice piece. They found a bunch of friends and families who treated it like a vacation. They were out there to have fun and enjoy this thing that they like. Everybody looks normal. There’s old people, young people, and in-between people. They’re just out to make some fun memories.
The Twilight phenomenon is pretty interesting. That sort of devotion is foreign to me, and I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t a little jealous of the fans. I like things I like to the fullest extent that I like them, and that’s fine. But I don’t “camp out overnight” like anything. There’s a difference in approach and scope that’s really interesting to me. Everybody consumes things differently, and these people found a way that works for them just like I did.
The onslaught of Twilight press is draining. Every time I see somebody that probably reads X-Men comics or plays the same crappy video games as everyone else talking about how terrible Twilight is in that exaggerated “Pay attention to me, love me please!” sort of way that abounds online, I sorta wince.
I’m the last person to suggest that you shouldn’t call things bad (everything I have seen about Twilight suggests that it is at least as bad as them Anne Rice novels my mom used to read, and probably equally as bad as that comic where Ms Marvel was impregnated by and then gave birth to her own son from another dimension), but critiquing the fans instead of the work is… it’s pointless, isn’t it? Because really, who cares? They’re not going to stop liking what they like, the people who like you will parrot your jokes, and then life goes on. And on top of that, you’re critiquing a legion of people who like the books for a legion of reasons. That’s like trying to hold water in a funnel. It isn’t going to work. You’re going to lose.
There’s no deeper truth beyond “Yeah, this lady likes Twilight because she likes the way the lead actor looks” or “Yeah, this dude likes Twilight because his girlfriend got him into it.” It’s popular now, and its popularity will fade, just like everything else. Maybe the stars will have to do something drastic to avoid being typecast, like the major characters in Harry Potter did. It seems like it’s way more interesting and… maybe not fulfilling, that’s a realer word than I want to use, but let’s use it anyway: more fulfilling to talk about the book and what it’s saying than some schmuck who’s willing to sit outside because he likes something more than you do.
I don’t really have a point, I guess, beyond the fact that I hate feeling like a creep.