Monday, July 5, 2010
My name is Bee Whelan, I'm 32, and a housewife from Dublin.
I, like most adults, used to be of the opinion that Twilight was for teenage girls and avoided reading the books until a friend convinced me that I wouldn't regret it. I read the first one in about 6 hours and subsequently read the rest of them within a week. And I was hooked. I found out that Peter Facinelli (he plays Dr. Carlisle Cullen in the movies) was going to be in Dublin in July 2009 and queued with about 900 other fans to go see him. Having talked to a lot of people in the queue I found out that there was little or no information on the saga available to Irish Twilight Fans. All of the websites seemed to be american based or international. After having a crash course in blogging I decided to put my chronic insomnia to some use and set up Irish Twilight Sisters. I made contacts internationally and began feeding the information to the Irish fans. It quickly went from a few hundred hits a day to a few thousand.
I made contacts, who are now friends, through various social medias, from all over the world. I have 3 other people who work on the site (all for free and just because they are dedicated to the saga). One is in Australia, one in USA and another Irish gal here in Dublin. So, the website can remain up to date with all the current news 24/7. We have over 3200 followers on Twitter (twitter.com/IrishTwiSisters) and we work closely with other sites in Ireland and internationally to bring the news, events & competitions to Irish fans.
- Can you give me an idea of the most ardent Twilight fans that you've met and the levels of their obsession with the series?
The level of obsession ranges from just loving the books and movies, to getting tattoos of quotes from the books (Yes, I have one), or pictures of the stars, and travelling thousands of miles to meet the stars of the movies. I've been to a wedding in Ireland where each table was named after the characters in the books & the bride and groom used some of the quotes in their vows and music from the movies at their reception.
I've been to the UK Fan events where people have traveled from all over the world just to see the stars of the movie. I know Irish fans who traveled to the USA recently to go to a Twilight Convention and do 'The Twilight Tour' in Vancouver. (This is where you visit the movie locations and sets etc.,)
As I write this there are currently 1000 fans camping in LA for the Eclipse premiere on June 24th. By the time the premiere starts they will have been camping for four days. (I'd be there if I could.)
I've met people who enjoy the series and people who refuse to read it but probably the most ardent fans are the people I’ve met on Twitter. I think that sort of environment, where we’re gathered most specifically as a fandom, allot people more freedom to really delve into the Twilight world. We’re all there for that reason and sort of feed off each other’s obsession. I’ve met others with Twilight tattoos, people whose lives revolve around Twilight fan fiction, people who show up a week before the premiere to camp on the streets of L.A. It’s amazing the lengths people will go to in this fandom.
- They say the series is most popular with teenage girls? What other markets does the series attract, though?
People tend to try and limit Twilight to a young adult series, but in truth the themes that run through the books can be appreciated by men and women of all ages. Love, forbidden love especially, is an age-old story that has echoed throughout literary time: Catherine & Heathcliff, Guinevere & Lancelot and, of course, Romeo & Juliet. The Twilight series touches upon that kind of love, as well as love in all its forms: the love of a father, trying to protect a teenage daughter while re-building their distant relationship, the love of mother whose heart aches for her lonely son.
Stephenie Meyer touches upon the sacrificial love of a new mother, desperately trying to protect her unborn child. The Cullens represent a family bond that cannot be broken by differences of opinion or even the threat of imminent destruction. They also demonstrate that families can be made; they aren’t necessarily blood (or venom). Bella, herself, finds her inner strength and learns to rely on and trust herself when it matters most.
These themes can strike a chord with anyone but seem especially poignant for women, aged 25-40. Twilight can be a means of escape from a hectic office, a treat while hubby gives you time off from the kids, or even a fun way to spice up the marriage (sparkles, anyone?). Either way, the blogs and Twitter and fanfic have helped build this world where people can come together and share their love of Twilight.
It’s a feel-good story. It’s a reminder that love conquers all and there’s always hope. Even in the darkest parts of the series, Bella is still surrounded by friends and family who love her. Even if you’re not Team Jacob, you have to recognize that
This 'tweens only' thing is a misconception which I spend a lot of time trying to disprove. We ran a survey recently, trying to estimate the average age of a Twilight fan. Of the 300 people who took the survey over 80% of them were over the age of 21. I don't mean to take anything away from the tween fans but I think there are more adult fans or at least the same amount as there are younger fans. I think the tweens are more vocal about their passion for the saga, whereas the average adult will be mocked if they profess their devotion. They are only mocked by people who haven't read the books or seen the films. And I say, don't judge us until you read the books. If after you read them, and they are not to your taste, then fine. But Twilight is perceived as a 'tween' frenzy and the media perpetuate this, when it's far from the truth.
Recently, i've met fans, old, young, female & male and in the most unusual places. Personally, I am not ashamed of my dedication to the saga and you'd be surprised, just in general conversation with people, just how many 'closet fans' there are. When ordering my new broadband package recently the operator on the phone was a huge Twilight fan and we had a great chat about it.
I was at the recent launch of the new Stephenie Meyer book (The Short Second Life of Bree Tanner) and one of the first people in the queue was a man in his fifties. He was there as a fan of the saga to pick up his copy of the latest Twilight book. And he wasn't alone, there were plenty of men and more of the mature audience in the queue at 7am on a Saturday morning than there were tweens.
So, while it's perceived as a teenage girl phenomenon, it reaches all ages and all kinds of people. (One of my twitter followers is a lady in her late 60's.)
- Why do you think Twilight has become such a phenomenon?
Twilight is the ultimate romance : Together Forever - and people like to relate to something they can never have. It's the dream; finding that perfect love, finding your soul-mate and being immune to human weaknesses. The books had a huge following before the movies were made but the subsequent rise to stardom of Robert Pattinson, Kristen Stewart, Taylor Lautner et al, has given the fans something tangible, something accessible to them. They can go to the events, meet the stars, get the autographs, and feel like part of the larger Twilight family. All of the stars are personable, approachable and are themselves huge fans of the series.
Robert Pattinson said recently, it's nice to see that so many people still believe in true love.
Kristen Stewart, despite media reports, is a very friendly, yet shy individual who fits the persona of 'Bella' to a tee. She read the books and was a fan before being given the opportunity to star as 'Bella' and she feels honoured to be that fan in the ultimate fan role.
I think, once you love it you spread the word and therefore bring more and more people into the fandom thereby exponentially increasing the number of 'Twi-hards' out there.
- Why do you think there's been a rise in vampire themes in popular culture?
Essentially, it is an allegory of our darkest thoughts. Although with Twilight, you don't have the obvious blood, guts and gore you get with some other Vampire movies / Tv Shows, it's more of an implied darkness and a fear of releasing the monster within. While the darkness can have its appeal, the basic storyline in Twilight, True Blood, The Vampire Diaries etc., is love and at its core the hurdles you have to jump to achieve the ultimate fantasy.
Maybe this is a generalisation but the appeal of them all, to all kinds of people, basically is - it has the softer side for the females and the guys get the action. It's a perfect blend.
Money is the other factor in the surge in the vamp culture. I’ve seen a lot of vampire themes making their way back into mainstream culture. There are new TV shows, new books, etc, and I know a fair amount of it has to do with the success of Twilight. I personally feel that they’re missing the point. The success of Twilight has nothing to do with blood-drinking or fangs (obviously) or coffins or bats. The vampire part of Twilight is merely a tool that Stephenie uses to create a world where Bella and Edward can’t be together. It has little to do with why so many people are attracted to this series.
Vampire obsession is cyclical. Twilight speaks to those who want that one true love and want it for eternity. Whether your 13 or 70, everyone wants that.
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I think mags like FAMOUS are running out stories to print (emphasis on the word 'stories')