Fanpire: The Twilight Saga and the Women Who Love it

Fanpire: The Twilight Saga and the Women Who Love it

by Tanya Erzen
     
 

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Fanpire: The Twilight Saga and the Women Who Love It is a mixture of journalism and cultural analysis that looks at one of the most successful cultural franchises in recent memory, Stephenie Meyer's Twilight series. Over 110 million copies of the books have sold worldwide, with translations into 37 languages. The release of New Moon

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Overview

Fanpire: The Twilight Saga and the Women Who Love It is a mixture of journalism and cultural analysis that looks at one of the most successful cultural franchises in recent memory, Stephenie Meyer's Twilight series. Over 110 million copies of the books have sold worldwide, with translations into 37 languages. The release of New Moon in November 2009 was the third largest box-office opening ever. Millions check websites like the Twilight Lexicon and Twilight Moms for up-to-the minute information about the books and films. MTV even has a Twilight correspondent.

Erzen investigates how the series, which appeals to a great extent to conservative Christian girls and women, sheds light on the yearnings and dissatisfactions of its readers. She also explores what obsessive interest in the Twilight romance among middle-aged women says about the failure of marriage as a romantic institution, how it affects the thinking of young women faced with sexual decision-making in their own lives, and how it embodies the idea that women are already empowered and thus in no need of feminism.

This book is written in an entertaining and accessible style to appeal to parents, teachers, and friends of Twilight fans who earnestly wish to understand why their daughters and peers are so obsessed. While the book is a critical assessment of Twilight's ideas of romance, relationships, sexuality, religion, and the commerce surrounding the franchise, Erzen is respectful of fans' experiences and the pleasures they take in the books and fandom. With wit and candor, Erzen explores how she herself is appalled by the series' ideology and yet irresistably drawn in by its over-the-top romantic appeal.

Twi-hards, as obsessed fans call themselves, are an active community, both online and in-person. Erzen's research for Fanpire has involved not only long hours in chat rooms, but has taken her to Twilight conventions, to movie premieres put on by the fans, to Forks, the small Washington town that serves as the setting of the saga, and has involved interviews with dozens of fans. She will be able to do a lot of Internet-based promotion to all the fans she has met in her research—as well as to the relgious studies and women's studies worlds, online and in academia.

*65,000 words

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
The sociopolitical implications of the Twilight saga and the "fanpire" it's spawned are given the scholarly treatment by Erzen (Straight to Jesus: Sexual and Christian Conversions in the Ex-Gay Movement), an associate professor of comparative religious studies at Ohio State University. Erzen offers an engaging analysis of the intensity of fan response, as well as entertaining descriptions of her research: she attends conventions, a symposium, tours, a "Bella's Self Defense Class" and a Twi-themed aerobic class. In the process, she introduces readers to a parade of "twi-hards": the mostly Mormon Twilight Moms, Twilight Guy, Krisbians (lesbian fans of actress Kristen Stewart, who plays heroine Bella Swan in the movie adaptations), and church groups that plumb the series for "biblical intent." Erzen's most compelling argument is her analysis of Twilight as "postfeminist fantasy." Erzen was struck by how many female fans were drawn to the way Bella "relinquishes her autonomy... weary of making decisions... they expressed a craving to have someone else—specifically, a boy—do it." While Erzen aims more for breadth than depth, the book is a thought-provoking and entertaining take on the Twilight phenomenon. (Oct.)
From the Publisher
“A thought-provoking and entertaining take on the Twilight phenomenon.”
Publishers Weekly
 
“Tanya Erzen ventures into ‘the Twilight zone’ in this compelling and ultimately sympathetic foray into fan culture, exploring the appeal of Stephenie Meyer’s Twilight books and movies in a postfeminist age. Erzen argues that what fans do with a text is as important as, or even more important than, the text itself. Part Cinderella Ate My Daughter and part Reviving Ophelia, Erzen’s book is my own personal brand of heroin.”
—Jana Riess, author of What Would Buffy Do? and Flunking Sainthood
 
“Tanya Erzen’s Fanpire provides a much-needed portrait of the girls and women who love Twilight. From how the series appeals to girls’ and women’s ideas of pleasure, power, and romance to the ways in which the love of these books has forged communities and friendships among women, Erzen’s window onto these subjects is both sympathetic and critical. Fanpire is sure to fascinate and, at times, trouble anyone interested in the lives of girls and women today.”
—Donna Freitas, author of Sex and the Soul: Juggling Sexuality, Spirituality, Romance, and Religion on America’s College Campuses
 
“In this carefully researched and insightful account of Twilighters, TwiMoms, WussPerv writers, and other participants in the Twilight universe, Tanya Erzen explores the complicated waterways of Twilight fandom. Listening and engaging with fans of all ages, Erzen’s account of the Twilight empire and the girls and women who love it opens up new ways of thinking about the gendered dimensions of romance, the persistence of the genre among female fans, and the perils and potential of online and offline female fandom.”
—Carol Stabile, author of White Victims, Black Villains: Gender, Race, and Crime News in US Culture
 
“The Twilight phenomenon is too vast and strange to be ignored. Tanya Erzen digs deep into the fandom and finds the confused, the grasping, and even the self-assured among them. It’s always odd, like a horror book should be, but never boring.”
—Amanda Marcotte, author of It’s a Jungle Out There

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780807006337
Publisher:
Beacon
Publication date:
10/30/2012
Pages:
184
Product dimensions:
6.00(w) x 10.00(h) x 0.80(d)

Read an Excerpt

Because I Read Twilight I Have Unrealistic Expectations of Men

In the convention hall, there was talk of the exceptional ideal of Edward Cullen and then the rest of mankind, who more closely resembled Bella’s hunting, beer-drinking, emotionally absent father, Charlie. I heard descriptions of Edward as attentive, a gentleman, and a throwback to another era (when presumably men treated women better and were self-deprecating and protective). And not only does Edward possess eyes of “liquid gold” (Eclipse) whose gaze could make Bella light-headed and “a face any male model in the world would trade his soul for,” he also announces his feelings with a combination of romantic metaphor and smoldering innuendo:
 
Before you, Bella, my life was like a moonless night, very dark, but there were stars—points of light and reason. . . . And then you shot across my sky like a meteor. Suddenly everything was on fire; there was brilliancy, there was beauty.
 
He also tells her, in the first Twilight film, “You are utterly indecent—no one should look so tempting, it’s not fair.” After a long day, the idea of experiencing liquid eyes and being compared to a meteor was immensely appealing to the women in the convention hall.

Jessica, acting director of Events by Alice, was willingly offering a refresher course on romance for men:
 
Open the door for a girl, let her know that you think she’s the most beautiful thing you have ever seen. Give her a flower unexpectedly, touch her hair. She buys that certain kind of conditioner because she likes the smell. She wants to be recognized, and you can stop for two seconds in your life and say, “Oh you look nice.” If they could pause and take those lessons, it’s guaranteed the woman they are with, the wife they have, the girlfriend that they have, [she] would be satisfied.

Many women at the premiere commented that Edward never dis- appoints, unlike some oblivious husbands to whom they’ve been married for ten or twenty years. The event presumed that all women were saddled with good but inattentive men like Charlie, who were oblivious to perfume and poetry, much less declarations of love and meteors.

Despite the supernatural aspects of the books, the set-up of the convention hall, the site of the pre-screening festivities, promoted the idea that most men prefer sports, hunting, and motorcycles to romantic vampires and the women they love. “Charlie’s living room,” occupying an entire corner of the hall, was an exact replica of the place where Bella’s father watches sports on TV in a Barcalounger. The organizers had included small touches like his hunting rifle and favorite brand of beer resting next to the couch. Another scene featured a motorcycle and a rack with various greasy tools for fixing bikes in homage to Jacob Black’s garage. If any husband had accompanied his spouse to the event, these spaces were meant to ease his discomfort with the more feminine aspects of the Twilight saga.

The women in Utah talked as if the men in their lives were less Edward and more Charlie, a man too zoned out on fishing and watching football to notice that his daughter is dating a vampire and, later, becoming one. In New Moon, even when Bella experiences what she calls the worst night of her life, sobbing in her room until dawn because Edward has dumped her, she knows Charlie won’t disturb her because of his “fear of emotional outbursts.” He’s harmless and hapless, easily distracted and manipulated. What is lacking in these women’s marriages is much simpler than a deficiency of poetry or chivalry: there seems to be sometimes a scarcity of communication and support.

Tracie Lamb, writing in a special issue of Sunstone, a progressive Mormon journal, explains that Twilight delivers to women what they may lack from husbands: rapt attention, strong protection, and total devotion.7   In Twilight, Bella recalls spending time with Edward like this: “I couldn’t remember the last time I’d talked so much. . . . But the absolute absorption of his face, and his never-ending stream of questions, compelled me to continue.” Of course, not all men are inept conversationalists, but the consensus of the women I met was that some were prone to talk only about themselves and were clueless about romance. Lamb writes, “Edward is the romance master, guys. Learn from him.”

Paige, in her early thirties and dressed in retro-1940s vintage heels with her hair pinned up and wearing bright-red lipstick, was the only divorced woman I spoke with at the convention hall. Her criterion for romance had been downgraded to finding someone emotionally supportive who would stick around if things weren’t going well, like losing a job or having a miscarriage.

In a few exceptional cases, there was the man who wholeheartedly embraced the Edward archetype, intent on rekindling romance from its neglect. Kim, a self-effacing thirty-year-old with freckles and ponytailed hair, was responsible for the impressive array of crafts for sale. Her husband delighted in Twilight and even listened to all the books on CD. In August 2009, Kim secretly packed his suitcase, rented him a tuxedo, and recruited a friend to drive him to the air- port where she surprised him with a ticket to Dallas for the three-day TwiCon convention that I had attended. He gamely accompanied her to the Saturday night vampire ball and various TwilightMoms special events like an exclusive dinner with some of the film’s actors. Even he had his limits, though. One night as they lay in their bed with a giant framed poster of Edward (or, rather, Robert Pattinson, the brooding actor who portrays Edward in the films) over them, he jumped up, tore it off the wall, and hid it in the closet. “That’s it,” he said. “Edward’s not watching us sleep anymore.” (“Watch Me Sleep, Edward” is a popular slogan on fan t-shirts in reference to the fact that Edward slips into Bella’s room at night without her knowing.)

One man in his mid-thirties from Utah keeps a blog entitled Normal Mormon Husband, where he bemoans the fact that so many LDS women, including his wife of twelve years, have read the books and hanker for a husband like Edward or Jacob. The popularity of the sticker that reads, “I like my men cold, dead and sparkling,” indicates the prevalence of this sentiment. Dispensing Twilight wisdom for “dummies and guys,” he provides quotes for men to use if they haven’t read the books but want to sound as if they have. “If she thinks that you drive too recklessly: ‘Honey, please trust me as much as Bella trusted Edward when he had to break all known traffic laws to get her out of Forks and away from Victoria. If he can drive Bella’s pickup truck that recklessly, then I should be able to steer with my knees while texting with my right hand and using my left hand to hold my Slurpee.’ ” When a woman says she’s cold, he responds, “My body always feels cold to the touch . . . kind of like Edward’s.” “You can then raise your eyebrows like Magnum, P.I., flex your pecs, and put your arm around her,” he advises. Finally, he urges married men to showcase their bonds of eternal marriage as members of the Church in an anniversary card that reads, “I am eternally grateful to know that we can be together forever. I am even more grateful that I did not have to sink my vampire teeth into your neck and suck out all of your blood to make it happen.” Rather than seriously emulating Edward, he tells his readers, “Edward is just as flawed as the rest of us guys out there. Ladies, you can look all you want and you will never find perfection in a man.”

Even Edward can’t live up the ideal of Edward. There was an Edward impersonator, the son of a volunteer, with a boyish, pallid face mingling with women in the hall. Attendees could corral him into one of the photo booths featuring backgrounds of scenes from the film, if you could get to him amid the competition. Earlier, I’d met two women who gushed that they had dragged the Edward impersonator into the booth with them as they clutched ten photos as prizes. I had noticed the fake Edward become increasingly standoffish and grumpy as the night progressed, and, at one point, the crisis for Jessica and the other organizers was that he was missing in action, much to his mother’s chagrin.
 

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What People are saying about this

From the Publisher

“A thought-provoking and entertaining take on the Twilight phenomenon.”
Publishers Weekly
 
“Tanya Erzen ventures into ‘the Twilight zone’ in this compelling and ultimately sympathetic foray into fan culture, exploring the appeal of Stephenie Meyer’s Twilight books and movies in a postfeminist age. Erzen argues that what fans do with a text is as important as, or even more important than, the text itself. Part Cinderella Ate My Daughter and part Reviving Ophelia, Erzen’s book is my own personal brand of heroin.”
—Jana Riess, author of What Would Buffy Do? and Flunking Sainthood
 
“Tanya Erzen’s Fanpire provides a much-needed portrait of the girls and women who love Twilight. From how the series appeals to girls’ and women’s ideas of pleasure, power, and romance to the ways in which the love of these books has forged communities and friendships among women, Erzen’s window onto these subjects is both sympathetic and critical. Fanpire is sure to fascinate and, at times, trouble anyone interested in the lives of girls and women today.”
—Donna Freitas, author of Sex and the Soul: Juggling Sexuality, Spirituality, Romance, and Religion on America’s College Campuses
 
“In this carefully researched and insightful account of Twilighters, TwiMoms, WussPerv writers, and other participants in the Twilight universe, Tanya Erzen explores the complicated waterways of Twilight fandom. Listening and engaging with fans of all ages, Erzen’s account of the Twilight empire and the girls and women who love it opens up new ways of thinking about the gendered dimensions of romance, the persistence of the genre among female fans, and the perils and potential of online and offline female fandom.”
—Carol Stabile, author of White Victims, Black Villains: Gender, Race, and Crime News in US Culture
 
“The Twilight phenomenon is too vast and strange to be ignored. Tanya Erzen digs deep into the fandom and finds the confused, the grasping, and even the self-assured among them. It’s always odd, like a horror book should be, but never boring.”
—Amanda Marcotte, author of It’s a Jungle Out There

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Meet the Author

Tanya Erzen is an associate professor of comparative religious studies at Ohio State University. Her work has appeared in the Nation, the Boston Globe, and the Washington Post. She is the author of Straight to Jesus: Sexual and Christian Conversions in the Ex-Gay Movement, which won the Gustave O. Arlt Award and the Ruth Benedict Prize. She is a recipient of a National Endowment for the Humanities fellowship and a visiting scholar at the Simpson Center for the Humanities at the University of Washington. She lives in Seattle.

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