Paul Booth author of ‘Fandom Studies: Fan Studies Re-Written, Re-Read, Re-Produced’ believes that Fandom has become mainstream: ‘fandom seems to have become a common and ordinary aspect of everyday life’. Interestingly, through his studies of ‘fandom’ Booth notes that there seems to have developed a difference between an expert or ‘aficionado’ and a cotemporart ‘fan’: Compared to the “aficionado and as something no “respectable” book collector would consider himself, fans are “vulgar,” are “miserable wretch[s],” cannot distinguish “the line between fantasy and reality,” and are akin to “innocents and children.” Twilight Fans are, in other words, the ignorant vulgarities of popular culture….
Lets rewind to June 2003 – Stephenie Meyer, then a 29-year-old Mormon housewife living in Arizona woke up with the fading afterimage of a vision in her head – a young woman and a vampire, talking, in a meadow.
Now lets fast forward to 2008- buzzing with teenage girl excitement we jumped on the bus straight from school and headed to pick up our pre-ordered new release book. In the same year, again, buzzing with teenage excitement we eagerly awaited the midnight screening of the first movie release, which we would then proceeded to watch 7 times (our local cinema loved us that month).
One last fast forward to the present and the Twilight franchise has grossed over $3.3 billion worldwide. Stephenie Meyers books, and their subsequent films, have achieved a phenomenal level of popularity. But lets face it, even as a self confessed twi-hard and fanpire – the books were horrible, as were the films. Indeed the great Stephen King himself has been quoted as saying ‘the real difference between J. K. Rowling and Meyer is that Jo Rowling is a terrific writer, and Stephenie Meyer can’t write worth a darn’. The popularity of the Twilight saga is definitely not due to the supreme quality of writing or engaging characters and plot lines, but undoubtedly a result of its cult fan following
Because of the explosive success Twilight has become a highly commercialised brand, and even now it’s hard to avoid coming across Cullen crests, Twilight towels and even Twilight toilet paper. As of October 2010, the series has sold over 116 million copies worldwidewith translations into at least 38 different languages around the globe. The four books have consecutively set records as the biggest selling novels of 2008 on the USA Today Best-Selling Books listsand have spent over 235 weeks on the New York Times Best Seller list for Children’s Series Books. Economically, the town of Forks, Washington, the setting for the Twilight series, has improved due to tourism from fans of the books. Forks is visited by an average of 8,000 tourists per month, and has been described as a “mecca for Twilighters”. Just when you thought it wouldn’t get any weirder, in response to plans for the aging Forks High School to be renovated, Twi-hards have teamed up with Infinite Jewelry Co. and the West Olympic Peninsula Betterment Association to collect donations in an attempt to save the appearance of the building. The Twilight series has also been a visible presence in many conventions such as ComicCon, and fanpires banded together to even hold their own ‘Twicon’.
Ignorant vulgarities of popular culture? Or just die hard fans engrossed in Meyers, albeit poorly written, escapist fiction? Either way Twilight’s megafandom is paving the way for new and upcoming media franchises to make their mark on generations to come.