Saturday, June 26, 2010

Fans camp in the hundreds outside theatre for Eclipse premiere- but why?

The third installment of the Twilight saga, Eclipse, was welcomed by fans in Los Angeles with open arms, squeals and some dizzy spells. Apparently the 'awesomeness' of the modern-day gothic/vampire/werewolf teenager flick induces nausea and a whole lot of obsessiveness.

Said nausea is brought about for various, often completely opposing reasons. One being the disbelief humble, everyday 'Jane' is standing a few meters away from eye candy Jacob and his youthful buffness (aka Taylor Lautner) and the pasty, scrawny Edward (aka Robert Pattinson). The other instigator of nausea is the sheer multitude of extensive 'newsworthy' coverage that graces our newspapers, magazines, televisions, radios and online sites for days feeding off Twilight mania.

That being said, the following images will probably be of little surprise to you:

Yes, many people camped outside the Nokia Theatre in Los Angeles on some sort of pilgrimage to welcome the new Twilight film and its stars. Some set up camp on Sunday when the premiere was not until Thursday night. Of course, many had movie t-shirts, cardboard cutouts, snuggly rugs, posters, the novels and each other to keep themselves company.

But the question that begs to be asked is why?

I cannot answer that question because I do not understand the obsession myself. The observation that Twilight has struck a chord with much of the nation and particularly with young adults and tweens seems rather obvious. So much that in a hundred years time film studies and literature students will probably be analysing the significance of Twilight as a marker of early 21st Century culture (I already feel sorry for them).

Perhaps I am being dramatic and using too many cliches. Perhaps I really shouldn't have spent four hours of my life watching the first two films when my ears began bleeding after the first 50 cliches.

On a serious vein, it is 'something' to witness a mass of young people frantically screaming as human beings walk by, desperately reaching out for a kiss, hug, photo or a signature (a similar crowd have jumped on the Bieber bandwagon).

Stephenie Meyer was shocked by her novels' reception. She told Time Magazine: "I'm waiting for the rug to be pulled out from under me ... But it keeps being huge ... I still have no idea". When Eclipse, the novel, was released about this time two years ago it bumped the final Harry Potter book off the top spot of many best-seller lists. Is Meyer the new J.K Rowling? This time for an audience that is essentially the same in age but different in sensibilities? What is an accurate measure of the series' success anyway?

I think the key ingredient that can be contributed to the novels' success is the formulaic plot. Boy meets girl. Boy falls in love with girl. Girl falls in love with boy. It is a forbidden love. They are both at odds with each other as to how to get what they both want. In the mean time the sexual tension builds. Then another boy is added to the mix. He is attractive too and a love triangle develops. The latter relationship is easier but the forbidden one is deeper. A battle ensues as their loyalties and hearts are put to the test. Only one boy can win. Who will it be? How will it come about? Oh, the suspense!

But really, here are some other possible reasons why the Twilight saga holds so much appeal:

1. The two stock standard formulas of forbidden love (think Romeo and Juliet) and a love triangle (think about almost every rom-com) are successful for a reason: we all understand them. We all know what it feels like to want something we can't have and the pain, joy and heart-ache that goes hand-in-hand with such an experience.

2. We all like fighting for a team. Team Jacob? Team Edward? Team Bella die so I can take Edward or Jacob? Whichever hunk (open to interpretation- not exactly my sentiments) you side with it is fun to be taken on a ride where your hopes and expectations are either fulfilled or dashed as the story develops. Everyone loves to belong to something and taking a 'side' allows you to relate to other like-minded people (however seriously you take the rivalry).

3. Vampires and warewolfs are sexy. (Again, not my sentiments. As my sister likes to remind me, not more than 30 minutes into the first film I rolled my eyes and said, "vampires are so tacky" and I still think vampires are tacky. Nonetheless...) There is something erotic about the constant threat that, yes, 'I am a vampire and I have come to suck your blood because you are just so attractive I can't keep my hands off you'. Scary for some, not for brave (*cough* naive Bella). Exotic, foreign, mystical animals/humans have a charm about them; the supernatural has intrigued people since the beginning of time. Besides, it certainly doesn't hurt that said vampires have teenage boy feelings (aka bipolar complexes when it comes to love) and like standing around being all angsty.

4. Bella is just like you or me. She's young, naive, a bit lonely and unhappy with life, secretly smart and waiting for prince charming to come and sweep us off our feet. Right? Oh yeah, and most importantly she is a human! So if YOU could be Bella then you could also one day find a handsome/lanky, young, strapping lad sitting across the cafeteria staring intensely at you and bam! Love at first sight. Lucky you. It happened to Bella, it could happen to me? In my dreams maybe? There's always hope, right?

5. The books are like Mills and Boon toned down for a younger audience. You don't have to invest lengths of time stressing over every line to understand the text. Most likely you could get through the books during a weeks vacation while tanning under the hot sun with a pina colada by the pool (maybe a Cherry Coke for the kiddies?). They offer hours of mindless entertainment, an escape from your present reality and a bit of unrealistic romance which never did anyone harm. 'Why not?' some would say.

These are my opinions on the cultural phenomenon that is Twilight. Like it or not, it is intriguing to watch the films/read the books if in nothing but an attempt to 'understand' what the hype is all about.

So what do you think? Why do you like/dislike the novel/film/phenomenon?

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