Today I was interviewed by a UT broadcasting student about the Twilight phenomenon and the question of how reading romances affects women (particularly young women). The student putting together the story found me through one of the students in my Women’s Popular Genres class, which I know I’ve mentioned before, because it’s been delightful. I still can’t claim to know much about Twilight — I’ve seen the movie (at T.’s insistence!) but haven’t yet read the book — but I am fascinated by the fandom, partly because of its overwhelming size. As a recent piece in Prospect noted, “In the first quarter of 2009, Twilight novels composed 16 percent of all book sales — four out of every 25 books sold were part of the series. The final installment, Breaking Dawn, sold 1.3 million copies on the day of its release in August 2008.” (Bolding mine.)
For my generation, the girl/vampire romance of the moment was in Buffy, and, well, she kills him. (If you haven’t seen the “Buffy vs. Edward” remix vid, this is your chance; also note that Joss Whedon is on record stating that “Angel would kick the shit out of Edward Cullen,” and also that Edward Cullen is hot.) So we talked a little about that, as well as about Janice Radway’s theories of romance as a method of training women to settle for the tiny bits of affection doled out by their (disappointing, she assumes) male partners.
I don’t have a unifying theory about Twilight myself, but I do have some interesting links. McSweeney’s offers Cathy and Heathcliff auditioning for the movie:
CATHERINE: (to Heathcliff) Your presence is a moral poison that would contaminate the most virtuous!
HEATHCLIFF: (stepping toward Catherine) Nay, you’ll not drive me off again, Cathy.
HARDWICKE: Okay. Wow. That was kind of erotic in a weird way. I like the direction this is going in. Let’s try some more lines. Edward, you know that Bella’s figured out you’re a vampire. You want to make her say it. From behind, you lean in close to her ear and deliver the line, “Say it. Out loud.” Bella, your line is “Vampire.” Are we ready people?
And the wit behind Geoffrey Chaucer’s blog summarizes the plot of the first book as follows:
In this fyne book of sparklie vampyres, Bella Cygne moveth from Essex to Yorkshyre to lyve with her fathir, who ys a sheriff and escheator. At a scole ful of recentlie coyned stereotypes, she witnesseth the fayre skyn and fashion-sprede slow-mocioun hotenesse of the Cu Chulainn clan, the which have all eaten long ago of the magical Irisshe Salmon of Really Good Hair (oon byte of this magical salmon and ye shal have good hair for evir). Aftir Bella doth see the hottest of the clan, Edward, stop a wagon wyth hys bare handes, fight off twentie churles, and brood so much he did make Angel look lyk Mister Rogeres, she doth realise that the Cu Chulainns are vampyres. But they are good vampyres, who drinke wyne. Ther is considerablie moore sexual tensioun than in Piers Plowman.
This Metafilter post collects feminist critiques of the series, while a recent Washington Post piece addresses women who originally dismissed the series only to become serious fans. And finally, an Esquire article reading Edward’s appeal as dependent on young women’s desire for gay men.