Twilight Anthropology

August 25, 2010

The Official Twilight Convention: Fan Conversations & Closing Thoughts

This Twilight Convention was much different than I had expected. After going through so many fan websites on the internet, and watching groups of screaming fans bonding at the Eclipse premiere this summer, I was under the impression that the convention would be bubbling with energy. Fans would be talking to each other in excitement, glad to belong to such an exuberant and large fan community. Instead, the convention was pretty quiet. When I arrived, the auditorium was about ¼ full. It proceeded to fill up some more over the weekend, but the fans were still sparse. Truth be told, it felt like there as much too much extra space and open chairs in the auditorium. Furthermore, fans didn’t seem to be talking to each other. Instead, they sat with their friends and families, and waited patiently to hear from the stars. I’ll talk a little bit about why I think this is so.

First of all, the seating at this convention was assigned. As Dr. K has said, this has not always been the case. Before the convention, she was already speculating that the assigned setting would affect the feel of the event. Well, she was right; it definitely did. First of all, the seating was assigned in a very spaced out manner, especially among Preferred Members and Regular Members. The Gold Members were seated a bit closer together. Fans were afraid to move out of their assigned seats, and if some of them tried, they were often discovered by convention staff and asked to go to their assigned seat. This left many fans, including myself for much of the convention, stranded and alone. In my case, I was the only seated fan in my entire row, and other fans were placed far apart from each other as well. The situation didn’t exactly encourage conversation.

Second, the convention shone the spotlight squarely on the stars. The Q&A sessions with members of the wolf-pack, Tinsel Corey, and Christian Hyerdahl were hyped up with autograph signings, photo-ops, and opportunities for the audience to interact with the stars. Fans had to pay extra money to attend a karaoke party, a vampire ball, and a “silent” breakfast, where they would be able to hang out with the stars on a more personal basis. Since most of the emphasis was placed on the stars, the auditorium would quickly fill up whenever any one of them was speaking. Rather than talk to each other about their own experience, fans would wait in anticipation for the stars to come on stage and to take pictures of them. After each Q&A, the auditorium would become empty very quickly. During presentations by the Twilight Lexicon, the Twilight Facebook Page, or Twilight Moms, there would be photo-ops with the present celebrities. Fans would use this “down-time” to pay for the photo-ops, buy merchandise, or grab a snack. Then, they would predictably begin to file back into the auditorium for the next Q&A with a celebrity. The presenters of these other websites, which are more based in conversation and community, didn’t seem surprised at all. They just continued to speak, despite the massive exodus from the auditorium and the fact that only a few people remained to listen. With the emphasis on the stars, there was decreased emphasis on time for fans to interact, talk to each other, and learn about the rest of the fan community.

Third, the celebrities at this convention were perhaps not as exciting as they could have been. Don’t get me wrong—the fans who were present absolutely loved them and seemed quite enthusiastic. That being said, the auditorium just didn’t fill up, and Dr. K was telling me over the weekend that they had begun to sell one day tickets for $20. Members of the wolf-pack, Emily, and Marcus are important characters, but I can think of many more characters who would have had more of a draw. For example, I just got an e-mail that in the coming Twilight conventions, stars such as Nikki Reed, Michael Welch, and Peter Facinelli will be there. Now those are some actors with some serious star power! If the conventions are beginning to take the angle of interacting with stars, then they should at least provide the stars that more fans are excited about. Dr. Carlisle Cullen, Rosalie Cullen, and Mike Newton are pretty popular characters.

Probably the most common time for fans to talk to each other was when they were outside, waiting in lines to buy Twilight merchandise. And even then, they were mostly talking about the merchandise they own or what to buy. Or, they were asking each other which star was next up to do a Q&A. As I mentioned before, one man who had been to two conventions before told me that he was disappointed by this one. When I asked other fans if they were enjoying the convention, most said that they had already been to one and that “the first one is always the best, you know.” I wasn’t convinced.

After a while, I stopped attempting to approach fans and talk to them because they were really not interested in talking, even to each other. Still, I couldn’t help but to approach one girl who was beautifully dressed, two days in a row, as Rosalie. She had a long blonde wig and was wearing statement making dresses with fancy shoes. She definitely looked the part. She was there with a friend who was wearing red contacts and had red hair. She was, of course, dressed as Victoria. These girls painted a much different picture for me of what Twilight conventions are usually like. They said that they had been to a few before, as well as other Twilight events. They had even met some fans online, mostly through Twilight role-playing games, who had become their in-person friends at conventions. There was one woman who they ran into convention after convention, until she became their “Twilight Convention Mom.” They were happy about the friendships they had made through the Twilight fan community. One of these girls actually ended up winning a Twilight trivia contest and a prize in the costume show! Their story ensured me that I hadn’t been dreaming before—this Twilight convention was definitely different.

On the last day of the convention, I heard a group of people behind me, who didn’t seem related, talking about the convention. That gave me hope, so I turned around and asked if they were big fans. To my surprise, the mother and daughter behind me were happy to talk and hear about my project! It may have had something to do with their affiliation with my university—I had told them where I go to school, and they had ties to the institution. Still, I was glad to encounter fans who were enthusiastic and ready to talk to another person.

The mom had read all of the books, but hesitated before allowing her daughter to do the same. Her daughter was middle school aged, and the book had actually been banned in her school! Although she had successfully organized a petition to allow students to read Twilight on school property, they were still not allowed to talk about it. Apparently, the vampire idea was deemed inappropriate for a religious school environment, and Breaking Dawn was deemed inappropriate in general. For the mother, Breaking Dawn was the greatest concern, but she eventually concluded that it would be okay to allow her daughter to read it. She felt her daughter to be a mature reader, and also thought that some of the more inappropriate material would go over her head anyway. After a short conversation, the mother and daughter had to leave, and though disappointed that we didn’t have more time, I thanked them for talking to me.

I was surprised when, about half an hour later, the middle school aged daughter came back to talk to me again. She wanted to tell me all about her love for Twilight, and how it has affected her life. This girl was definitely one of the biggest fans I have ever met. She said that she had first picked up Twilight about a year ago, but wasn’t sure how many times she had read it. Why? Because she reads the books every night for about an hour before she goes to sleep. So that would be about 365 hours of Twilight so far, and she was proud of it! This girl also has all of the books on her ipod, so she can read them wherever she is. Of course, she also has the hard-cover copies to keep at home.

In terms of merchandise, it seems like she has acquired almost every single piece of Twilight merchandise out there. She said that the guy who works at her Hot Topic, a major vendor of Twilight merchandise, knows her well. He even takes the time to call her when they get in a new shipment of Twilight related items. Her room is completely covered in Twilight, including a special Twilight drawer. She has the life-sized cardboard figures of Robert Pattinson and Taylor Lautner as well. Her mother actually provided a funny anecdote about that. They had brought the Taylor Lautner figure to Christmas dinner at a family member’s house one year, topped with a Santa hat, and everyone had taken pictures with it. Later, people had looked at the pictures and asked if Taylor had actually been present at the Christmas party! He looked so real, if you took pictures above the feet of course.

This year for her birthday, this girl’s parents gave her an amazing Twilight present. They redecorated her entire room to look like Bella’s room, complete with the bed-spread from the movie! Now, she can feel a little bit like Bella every time she sits in her room or goes to sleep at night. This girl did talk about how she wished so much to be a part of the story, to be a part of Edward and Bella’s world. That is why she began to write a story in the first person that takes place in that universe. Rather than pretending to be another character, she preferred to use her own perspective. That is why she decided to be the child of Alice and Jasper, writing the story of her own life within the framework of Forks, Bella, the Cullens, and the Quileutes. Although nowhere near done, this girl is definitely planning on getting her finished novel published, no matter what anyone says! I have to say that I was delighted that Twilight had provided a creative outlet for this young girl to shine. Perhaps this will show her the way to becoming an full-time author?

When I asked this girl how Twilight had affected her life, other than all of the merchandise and 365 hours of reading, this girl definitely had a lot to say. Her answers were so concise and articulate that I they felt almost prepared, or at least like she had spent a lot of time thinking about this. She said that Twilight had allowed her to become an author and to be creative. It had made her happy and given her something to be passionate. It had given her more self-confidence, and she felt that she now has more friends than she used to have. Perhaps most importantly, she felt that Twilight had shown her that it’s okay to be yourself. It’s okay to be crazy and have fun, and to act a little bit weird if you really love something. This girl owes Twilight for that feeling.

To wrap up, the Twilight convention was surprising. I did find a few fans who were very interested in talking and being social, but mostly, the set-up was not conducive to discussion. Perhaps Twilight has already begun it’s decline? Dr. K did say that these websites would disappear soon, and it was important for us to document them while we still could. Rather than centering on the books, Twilight fan culture, at least at conventions, seems to be focused on the movies. And after the second installment of Break Dawn comes out, then what?

Best,

Student L

August 24, 2010

TWILIGHT CONVENTION: Day 3!

Once again, the Hillwood Show opened the day at the Official Twilight Convention with a New Moon Parody, followed by a Q & A with Kiowa Gordon, Bronson Pelletier, and Alex Meraz. Being a little bit under the weather, I arrived just in time to catch about fifteen minutes of the Q & A session. Each of these three actors had conducted an individual Q & A on the stage the day before, so I was amazed when I walked into a fuller auditorium than I had ever seen! The three guys were having a great time, evidently more comfortable on stage together than alone. They weaved throughout the audience, standing on chairs and giving high-fives. The crowd was extremely enthusiastic, constantly cheering and following the actors with camera flashes wherever they went. I often felt the urge to duck, just in case I was blocking a fan’s picture!

After the Q & A, the Twilight Lexicon gave it’s final presentation on their experience visiting Montepulciano, Italy. In the book New Moon, Bella goes to Volterra to save Edward from revealing himself as a vampire in the sunlight. In the movie New Moon, this scene was filmed in Montepulciano, and so website wanted to pay a visit. Laura, co-owner of the Twilight Lexicon, visited the small town with Kimmy, owner of His Golden Eyes, another Twilight fan site. I already recognized Kimmy from television; she had been chosen as a fan website representative to interview Eclipse stars on the Black Carpet earlier this summer. Again, I marveled at how much interaction goes on within Twilight fan culture. Here were two owners of Twilight fan sites, collaborating with each other to visit a significant town in Italy, and both being invited to interact with Twilight stars in Hollywood. The fans are definitely in close communication with each other, as well as with the author and the movie stars.

Watching the short video that Laura played, showing her and Kimmy’s frustrating and exciting experience in Montepulciano, I couldn’t help but to think back to one of the titles Dr. K had originally given this project. On the website where students could sign up for research projects to perhaps participate in, this study had involved the words “how movie fans spur economic development.” Just as I was amazed earlier at the amount of money fans were spending at the silent auction, I was amazed at how much money must have gone into a trip to Montepulciano, Italy! These two women were not even staying in a main city—they had to spend money on extra busses, trains, and taxis to get to the small town where New Moon was filmed. On top of that, I am sure that they are not the only fans to have gone to Italy on a sort-of Twilight pilgrimage. In fact, upon coming home, I typed in a search on Google and found a USA Today article titled ‘New Moon’ rising: ‘Twilight’ fans swarm Volterra, Italy. This isn’t exactly a time in our history in which Americans, or anybody for that matter, is frivolously spending money. This is just taken from my own life experience, but I would say that spending money is all about priorities. We save for what we want most. In my case, that often ends up being coffee…But, for many fans, Twilight conventions and pilgrimages to places like Volterra, Montepulciano, and Forks have become top priorities. The attachment that fans feel to the phenomenon has become a legitimate need, and important outlet for social, intellectual, and emotional experience.

I laughed when I watched the end of Laura’s mini-video with Kimmy. When they found the clock tower, where Edward steps out and unbuttons his shirt and Bella runs forward to save him, the two women decided to do a re-enactment. Each one took a turn running up to the clock tower, arms outstretched, screaming “Edward!” Laura then remarked something along the lines of, “Come on, you know you would have done it too!” The fans remaining in the audience (very few) giggled and responded in the affirmative. As I’ve noticed reading Dr. K’s blog about the Wizarding World of Harry Potter, fans appreciate an immersive experience. For these women, being in Montepulciano and re-enacting the New Moon scene was certainly an immersive experience. Perhaps that is a primary reason for fans to visit the sites of Twilight. I wonder if Universal Studios would ever consider creating a Twilight themed area? My mom has suggested as much!

Later on, the day proceeded to a game called Scene-It Presents The Twilight Stump The Experts Panel. The game was judged by Lori from the Twilight Lexicon, and one of the Twilight Moms present. The game, different from the trivia game played the two days before, consisted of groups of three fans coming up to the stage and sitting for open-ended questions. Fans would line up at the microphone beneath the stage and ask hard questions. Depending on whether the panel of “experts” got the questions right or wrong, either the fans on stage or the fans asking the questions would receive a prize. I was surprised, although I shouldn’t have been at this point, at how much specific trivia Twilight fans knew! Many were asking questions by heart, but a few were clutching books in their hands and scanning the pages for hard to remember details that would make expert-stumping questions. One memorable question that did stump the experts on stage was one regarding the designer of Bella’s wedding dress. The experts predictably guessed Alice, but, as the girl next to me mouthed, it was really…a designed that I can’t remember. I’ve actually spent the last 20 minutes looking for it online and in my copy of Breaking Dawn, so that shows just how specific these details are!

After the Scene-It game, there was an individual Q & A with Alex Meraz. I wrote down the questions that were asked, just to get a sense of what fans find important about the Twilight stars. Here is just a random sampling: “Which Cullen girl would you date?” “Where can we buy your art?” “What is the funniest thing that happened to you on set?” “What is your favorite dessert?” “Do you think that you have better abs than The Situation on the Jersey Shore?” Again, Jersey Shore made it’s way into the Q & A with a vengeance! The one question that required a bit of deeper thinking into Twilight, which was a question about Alex’s favorite quote from the books, caused a bit of an awkward moment. Like many of the other stars up on stage, Alex hadn’t read all of the books and couldn’t provide an answer. Fans didn’t seem to be too disappointed. They were more concerned with movie-related topics or items from the star’s personal life.

There was another no-minimum bid auction, which went much the same as the day before. I was amused that towards the end, some of the same things sold the day before were sold up to $200 cheaper the next day. I suppose that pockets were getting lighter towards the end of the convention, and fans were more reluctant to spend exorbitant amounts of money. In fact, many fans used the time to eat some (expensive) lunch at the hotel, rather than be tempted to buy more Twilight merchandise. After the auction, a Q & A with Chaske Spencer filled up the auditorium again. Fans loved him and were eager to talk about his charity, Be the Shift. Chaske even took the time to auction off a few of his own items to the audience to go directly to the charity. The older woman whom I mentioned in my last post ended up spending around $200 for all of the items, but only after Chaske mentioned that he would throw in a hug and a kiss on the cheek! She was so excited to win that part of the auction, and after she came back from the front of the auditorium to claim her prize, she snapped away pictures of Chaske for the reminder of the Q & A. Apparently, the attraction to members of the wolf-pack is not limited to hormonal teenage girls!

My favorite part of the day was the very end—the Twilight costume contest. I took some pictures, and perhaps I’ll post a few after they’ve been developed. The contest was divided into two parts: the junior and adult contingencies. The juniors had the cutest costumes!

One little girl, possibly around seven years old, had a short black bob wig and was wearing a cropped sleeve green shirt and cut-off denim shorts. She was so clearly dressed as Leah from the movie, and she did win one of the prizes. One little boy, around the same age, had a complete Caius costume. He was wearing a long blond wig, robes, and white makeup. He, too, won a prize. I distinctly remember that second prize went to an almost perfect imitation of Jane. This young girl had hear blonde hair pulled back, white makeup, red contacts, and a perfect Jane cloak. Someone had shouted out before that she would win, because she had won the last year! I could tell that she was a bit disappointed not to get first prize again…

There was very little girl, possibly around three years old, who could barely introduce herself without bursting into tears and grabbing her mother’s legs on stage. She was impeccably dressed in an exact replica of Bella’s green dress from prom in the first Twilight movie, along with Bella’s perfect hairstyle and headband. A few other girls, probably around ten to twelve years old, were also wearing this dress.

The adults had more mature costumes. One young adult was wearing a blue dress covered in blood stains, as well as blood stains on her face. She said that she was Bella after her first hunt in Breaking Dawn. Another young woman was wearing a fashionable outfit and had red hair—she claimed to be Victoria. There were quite a few Rosalie look-a-likes with blonde wigs and exact replicas of Rosalie’s outfit on Bella’s first day of school at Forks High School. One man, who had been dressed up for the entire weekend and was rumored to have gone to many other conventions, was dressed up as a classic vampire from Edward’s time. He was wearing a top-hat and an old fashioned suit. The first prize winner was a joint costume between two people. One woman was Bella, post transformation. On her back was a baby-strap holding a doll, which was supposed to be Renesmee. Tied to Renesmee on a leash was a man, dressed up as Jacob. This creative couple gave the crowd a great laugh!

Before I left, I did have the opportunity to introduce myself quickly to Laura, a co-owner of the Twilight Lexicon. I told her about my project, and that I had been in close contact with December, a moderator on her website, on how best to quote participants in internet forums. She was impressed at how many times I had read over the Explorations thread and how thoroughly I was studying it. Although she was also busy working on logistics at the convention, I was pleased that I had a chance to say hello. That, I think, is also a testament to the general accessibility in Twilight fan culture.

I have plenty more to say about the weekend, a few more conversations with fans to talk about! I’ll add that all in my next post.

All my best,

Student L

TWILIGHT CONVENTION: Day 2!

Hey everyone!

Sorry for the delay in my convention updates—I was a bit under the weather. But I’m back and have plenty of information to share!

Each day of the convention opened with a clip of a Hillywood Show spoof. On the second day, we watcher a New Moon spoof with a preview for the upcoming Eclipse show. The spoof mostly incorporated the song “So What,” a rebellious number by Pink, as well as a few other songs by Pink and Katy Perry. The parody went through Bella’s budding romance with Jacob and growing penchant for danger after Edward leaves.

Later on in the day, I actually had the opportunity to talk to members of the cast of the Hillywood Show. I had a conversation with Hilly Hindi and Hannah Hindi, the two founders of the wildly popular Twilight parody become internet phenomenon. The sisters told me that they had been fans of Twilight before creating these parodies. Everyone in the Hillywood Show crew, except for their newly added Jacob, has read all of the books. The sisters also made a point to discuss the nature of their parodies. Unlike other parodies that make fun of Twilight in a cynical or bashing sort of way, the Hillywood Show sets itself apart by parodying Twilight in a respectful way. Hilly used the word “tribute” to describe their work, and felt that it was important to pay that tribute while still having a good time and poking a little bit of fun.

I also asked the sisters a question that I’ve asked a great many fans. If they were in my position, studying Twilight fan culture, what would they find important? What would they want to study most? I almost always get the same answer, and without fail, these sisters gave the reply I was expecting. They spoke about the age range of the phenomenon, and how it has drawn in everyone from little girls to grandmothers. They were interested in how Twilight has captured the imaginations of such varied age groups and stages of life.

Moving on, the first Twilight star of the day to talk on stage and answer questions from the audience was Christopher Hyerdahl, who plays Marcus in the Twilight movies. The two women sitting next to me (this time, there was at least someone next to my assigned seat) told me that they were only there for one day, in order to see Christopher and get a photo-op with him! They were actually fans of the television show Supernatural, and although one woman said the also liked Twilight, she wouldn’t have come to the convention for a day if Christopher hadn’t been there. As it turned out, there were quite a few questions from the audience regarding Supernatural, and it appeared that Christopher had brought his own contigent of fans with him to the convention for the day. It was interesting how Twilight fans overlapped with Supernatural fans, both because of content and one particular actor.

What impressed me most about Christopher was his deep understanding of the character, Marcus. The other stars who had been up on stage the day before hadn’t read all of the books and didn’t talk much about their characers per-say. Although Marcus is a minor character, Christopher made a point to tell us all his back story and to discuss the beautifully romantic tragedy of Marcus’ existence. Christopher was also fun and energetic in front of the audience. He seemed experienced with talking from the stage, while some of the younger actors had been awkward or nervous. All in all, I think that he gave everyone in the audience a good time.

Immediately afer the Q & A with Christopher Hyerdahl, the two women next to me left to take pictures with him. Bronson Pelletier, the guy who plays Jared of the wolf-pack, came on stage. The fans were crazy about Bronson and were enthusiastic the whole time he was up on stage. The only problem was that he couldn’t stop swearing. Perhaps he is so used to swearing on a day-to-day basis that he couldn’t stop on stage, despite the fact that he was supposed to keep it PG for the many young children at the convention. I thought that his inability to stop was interesting—he had to keep apologizing, and then making the same mistake again. Maybe this isn’t connected to Twilight, but has our society grown to accept new standards of language for our children? Do we allow more swearing than previously? Why?

After the Q & A with Bronson, there was a short presentation by the Official Twilight Facebook Page. Almost everybody walked out at the point, leaving me and a few other people to actually have a conversation with the presenter. She talked about how the Facebook page was allowed special privileges because it was so popular among fans, like being privy to certain news and information firsthand. My question was about how the website had changed since the beginning of Twilight to the phenomenon it is now. The presenter talked about how small the website used to be. The owners used to have discussions with fans on the website, and now of course, there are over twelve million people who interact on the page! Having discussions with them would be near impossible. She also spoke about how it’s difficult for the Facebook page to partner with other websites, because when they do, the other websites go down almost immediately. They simply get too many hits at a time, sometimes millions, and other servers are not advanced enough to accommodate that. Since the page is so large, the Official Twilight Facebook Page is in close contact with Facebook and has its own Facebook liaison. I was amazed at the enormous skill it takes to run a Twilight web page! The presenter said that she works a government job during the day and takes care of the website by night.

The Official Twilight Facebook Page also told me that Summit had originally approached her about partnering so that it could better reach out to the online fans. As it turns out, this Facebook page gets more hits than any of the Summit Twilight websites. Summit has strategically decided to keep it’s websites movie based, one movie at a time, and to interact with the rest of the fandom through this Facebook page. This is a fan culture in which internet fans have definitely been recognized and targeted as customers. Professionals are beginning to notice the powerful connections that form between fans online through discussion threads, social networking sites, and blogs. The close connection between Summit and this Facebook page is a testament to that.

After the short Facebook presentation, Booboo Stewart came out to do another Q & A. He had already spoken the day before, and was stationed at his own table at the convention for the entire weekend. The fans had a great time with Booboo, and although only sixteen years of age, he seemed very comfortable up on the stage.

Following Booboo was a presentation by Lori and Lauren of the Twilight Lexicon. This time, they spoke about their coverage of the Black Carpet at the Eclipse premiere. Again, I want to point out the deep significance of this information. These two women, co-owners of a major Twilight fan website, had been invited to interview movie stars and celebrities on the Black Carpet in Hollywood. A direct connection had been made between the center of the phenomenon and internet fans. Lori and Lauren even got to interview Stephenie Meyer, with whom they actually have a fairly close and regular relationship! The internet is changing the dynamics of fan culture, and we are watching it happen through the lens of Twilight. Online fandom has allowed fans to get up close and personal with the objects of their passion, and I think that all of this is beginning only now, possibly with the Twilight phenomenon itself.

After the Twilight Lexicon presentation, there was a Q & A with Kiowa Gordon, the actor who plays Embry in the wolf-pack. To me, the most memorable thing that he said was that Twilight was a chick-flick. Upon being asked which chick flick he liked, he asked if Twilight was a chick-flick. The audience, almost unanimously, answered “Yes!” And so, in agreement, he settled on Twilight. As I’ve mentioned before, Twilight is mostly a female heavy fan culture. Kiowa, and the audience, recognized this aspect of the fandom very clearly and didn’t try to deny it.

A Twilight Moms panel followed Kiowa. I missed much of what they had to say, but I did arrive back in the theatre in time to hear the question about how Twilight had influenced their lives. The moms said that in general, their lives had been affected positively by Twilight. One woman said that she was happier, that she had more friends, that she had met more people through the fan base, and that best of all, her relationship with her husband had improved tremendously. After being married for 12 or 13 years, she said that many couples lose that spark of romance. Once she read Twilight, she was reminded of what she and her husband used to have, and felt the urge to get that back. She did get it back, and was happier than ever. She said that although her husband sometimes makes fun of her obsession with Twilight, he really does appreciate the impact it has had on their marriage.

During some down time after the panel, I met a man in the elevator. Like many of the other fans, he seemed reluctant to talk to me and wanted to keep mostly to his group of friends and family. Truth be told, the convention was pretty anti-social. Most fans didn’t talk to each other but rather kept to themselves. I did find out, interestingly, that this middle aged guy had been to two Twilight conventions before. He was sort of disappointed by this one, as it was less crowded and didn’t have as much going on. He was at the convention with family and friends, and he himself was a huge fan of Twilight. One of his friends had flown in all the way from the Philippines to come to this convention, as well as tour America!

The people sitting in front of my assigned seat were similarly reserved. The group was comprised of three women—two younger women and one who looked old enough to be my grandmother, but not exactly elderly if that makes sense. The older woman said that she had been reluctant to read Twilight, but after watching and loving the first movie, had bought the books and loved them too. She said that before Twilight, she had been a devoted fan of other phenomena, like the Anne Rice vampire novels and particularly Star Trek! This proud trekkie later paid hundreds of dollars do get a hug and kiss from one of the wolf-pack stars, but I’ll talk about that later!

The Twilight No-Minimum Bid Auction was by far one of the most interesting events of the day. After spending hundreds of dollars to buy tickets to this convention, as well as more money on merchandise, hundreds of fans continued to spend by taking part in this auction. Despite what we consider touch economic times, people were really spending! An autographed photograph of Robert Pattinson went for $460 to a woman who later bought an autographed photograph of Taylor Lautner for another $250. She bought both of these items for her embarrassed daughter, who continuously attempted to push her mother’s arm down throughout the auction.

To give you an idea of how the auction went, the Robert Pattinson autograph was sold for the highest prices. The lowest price was an assortment of merchandise from Smallville, Fringe, Heroes, and Highlander. Other non-Twilight merchandise belonged to Supernatural, Leverage, Enterprise, Star Trek, and Avatar. Kristen Stewart’s autograph sold for a higher price than Taylor Lautner’s autograph, but ended up selling for much less than Robert Pattinson’s autograph. A large banner, showing Bella along with the entire Cullen family, and signed by every star at the convention, sold for $300—still less than Robert Pattinson’s autograph! In general, pictures and banners sold for less than autographs. I have a log of all of the merchandise and how much it sold far, but this is a pretty arcurate portrait of the trends within the auction. I was just amazed at how much money fans were willing to spend at all!

After the silent auction, three members of the werewolf pack took to the stage: Chaske Spencer (Sam), Alex Meraz (Paul), and Tinsel Corey (Emily). Emily isn’t exactly a werewolf, but she runs with the werewolves! The fans absolutely LOVED this group. Probably since there were three of them on stage, so there was opportunity for more give and take, the Q & A were funny and thoroughly entertaining. I wrote down a bunch of the fan questions, and mostly these questions resembled the questions that fans had been asking the stars all weekend. They asked random questions, like “What toothpaste do you use?” They asked serious questions, like, “What would be your advice about following your dream?” And they asked filming related questions, like, “Which was your favorite movie to film?” Mostly, fans didn’t ask specifically Twilight related questions, although there were a few. One fan asked Tinsel if she would change Emily in any way, and Tinsel responded in the negative. Another asked the stars if they were vampires, which special ability would they want? Fans also asked questions about craziest fan experiences, apparently very aware of their crazed behavior around Twilight stars.

Strangely enough, what struck me most about all of the Q & A sessions during the weekend was the ever present, constant mention of the Jersey Shore! I know, right? Every single star got asked a question about the Jersey Shore, and by the end of weekend, stars were making jokes about it before the questions even got asked! For some reason, that show had captured the imaginations of many of the fans at this event, and it was even more present than Twilight related discussions during the Q & A sessions! Another element that struck me during this particular Q & A was Tinsel Corey’s discussion of objectification. She talked about how female fans throw themselves at the male stars of Twilight, while if the same thing were done to her by male fans, those fans would be arrested. She felt that the Twilight guys were being objectified, and deserved the same respect by females that males are respected to give to women. The crowd burst into applause after her little speech, but I was laughing as I watched the faces of Chaske and Alex. They should have been gratified, but instead, looked a bit uncomfortable. Maybe they like the female attention? In any case, male objectification is something I’ve talked about before. The female heavy orientation of Twilight fan culture has unleashed a seemingly acceptable expression of female sexuality that would heretofore be deemed excessive. Has this, however, turned into objectification? Are girls who want to “buy Edward for Christmas” going to far?

More to come on the third day of the convention, and my general thoughts about the whole experience!

Till then,

Student L

August 21, 2010

What does it mean to be human? Do Twipires lose their humanity?

Up until this point, I’ve been discussing vampires within the context of the Twilight Lexicon’s “Explorations” thread. What does it mean to be a vampire? What does it mean to be a Twipire? How and why should one choose to become a vampire, or Twipire? Fantasy, and fan culture, is a way for people to re-imagine the world that they live in. Twilight has provided millions of fans with the opportunity to reconsider the categories of their mainstream cultures, and to incorporate what they have felt and experienced within Twilight into the outside world. These discussions of vampires and Twipires may not seem immediately relevant to our every day lives, but they are. They address the crucial, ever present question of what it means to be human. In discussing what defines a vampire, Twilight fans are also discussing what does not define a human, or perhaps which elements of vampirism and humanity are shared. In this post, I will report what I have found within the “Explorations” thread on the question of humanity, and whether Twipires lose their humanity in the transformation. Here, the views are not quite as distinct in terms of a split between anti-fans and fans. The ideas are more subtle, and the rules are complex.

I’ll start off with a comment from a fan whom I’ve been calling G. In a small lament, G remarks,

“I think that the one thing which is lost in the popular (shallow) cultural interpretation of the stories is the devastating loss of their humanity, and their daily, minute by minute, struggle to maintain their chosen morality. To me, the vampire life was so hard, and honestly boring, and I felt that each of the Cullens, while still alive, had truly lost a great deal in their change. The never ending battle to fight against their own base desires ad needs was what Stephenie wanted to portray, I believe. It has been utterly lost in the transition from book to movie, and doesn’t even come up much in the book discussion. That “lost” state is what each vampire was fighting against, and it is indeed an important factor in almost all mythology.”

There are a few important points to note here. First of all, G separates the Twilight fan culture within the “Explorations” thread, and possibly the Twilight Lexicon as a whole, from the general popular “cultural interpretation” of Twilight. G labels what seems to be the more widespread fan culture as “shallow” and assumes an air of superiority above it. This is a very common phenomenon that I’ve viewed within online threads and among dedicated fans. My mind reaches back to a girl who spoke to me at the Eclipse midnight premiere. She explained that Twilight fandom used to be smaller, and more intelligent, before the movies. She used some choice words to describe what it had become, but in summary continued in berating most of the shallow and brainless fan-girls out there. She held that there are still a few sophisticated readers of the series, but the fan culture has definitely changed.

Moving on to what G feels to be the less shallow reading of the text, G definitely feels that Twipires lose their humanity. Although this loss is not as apparent in popular culture or in the Twilight movies, G feels that it is definitely portrayed within the books. To G, the loss of humanity means the arduous battle against base desire and a day to day struggle to come to terms with what one is. In essence, these are G’s ideas about what it means to be human. A human would not have to endure these trials. Humanity means being free from base temptation, or at least easily resisting it. Humanity means being comfortable with what one is, at least for the most part. So there we have it: one definition of humanity.

G continues, in a later post, to discuss humanity further. G holds that although the Cullens can pass as humans,

“…I would like you to think about their view of themselves. None of them is able to truly relate to humans. This is mentioned time and again in the books, they simply aren’t human any more, and the charade they carry on is merely that, a hoax. Even if you see them as human, they do not see themselves that way, and for good reason. Each one longs in their own way to keep the humanity and the memories of that time, yet in each character, we see that they are not able to do so. Most of them lament the loss, and so I cannot agree that they have retained their humanity at all.”

This adds three more parts to G’s definition of humanity. First of all, humanity is directly related to how a creature views itself. Since the Cullens do not view themselves as human, we must take that into consideration as we judge their humanity. Second, humanity relies on one’s ability to “truly relate to other humans.” This connects to the idea of empathy, a popular concept in this discussion. Third, humans have human memories. If one cannot remember one’s own human memories, then that takes away from one’s humanity.

Finally, for G, there is one more discussion on the topic of humanity, or the lack thereof, in Twipires. G brings up the example of the Volturi and James, saying,“…the fact that they miss their humanity does come across in Eclipse. And the very small glimpse of the Volturi and James dies give us a hint at just how evil and lethal the vampires really are…they are so un-human. They have no weakness like normal vamps, so they have no desire to return to their lives.” Here is one idea of what humans are not. Since the Volturi and James are “evil and lethal,” they are inhuman. Thus, humans are not “evil and lethal.” Humans are the antithesis of these qualities, perhaps good and life-giving. When you think about it, this definition can run into a few challenges. After all, isn’t it easy for all of us to come up with examples of human beings who are “evil and lethal?” If we maintain G’s definition, which, let me tell you, is by no means unique on this thread, then we end up with quite an interesting result. We have the possibility that a human being, like Adolf Hitler for example, can be less human than another creature that is indeed good and life-giving., like the vampire Carlisle Cullen Humanity, then, is not necessarily reserved for biological humans but rather a status dependent on character and behavior. I’m not sure if G would agree with this, but it is what I see as the logical conclusion to G’s train of thought.

Another fan, whom I’ll call H, also believes that Twipires lose their humanity. H states,

“Okay, first of all its been mentioned several times that vampires lose most of their humanity when they change. That’s Bella’s main fear, remember? That she won’t be Bella so Edward won’t love her anymore? They lose most of the connection to their human lives. I would imagine this would diminish their empathy and compassion.”

In this post, H is generally arguing that Twipires do lose their empathy. H seems to believe that losing empathy comes with losing humanity, along with compassion. To H, humanity means empathy and compassion. Similar to my point about G, there are definitely human beings who lack empathy and compassion. This would mean that they, although biologically human, do not have humanity. Am I getting this right?

Contrary to these fans beliefs, V has another opinion. V posits,

“IMO, I don’t really see them giving up their humanity. Let me explain, yes in all sense of he word they are no longer human. They don’t eat, breathe, or sleep. But they still go to school, Carlisle is a doctor, Rose has her cars and Alice spends entirely too much money on clothes. There is never a real portrayal of them giving up humanity. They still act and feel as humans do…they are struggling against their desires but it seems that they have pretty much got it under control if they can exist in the circumstances they put themselves in (ie going to a high school).”

Perhaps V does not feel that the Cullens suffer a loss in empathy compassion, an endless thirst for blood, and a deep disconnect to their past human human. Or, perhaps V simply does not use these measures in a definition for humanity. The one thing that this fan has in common with the others is the idea of humanity as a character and behavioral quality rather than a physical one. The Cullens are human because “they act and feel as humans do.” V’s examples of this acting and feeling seem to fall under the categories of careers, hobbies, and individual idiosyncrasies. To V, these define humanity. Also, V feels that if vampires can control their thirst exceptionally well, then they retain their humanity. No matter that they feel the thirst, their control is what’s important. Again, character over biology.

In a later post on the same day, V offers more insight into V’s definition of humanity. V comments,

“I use the definition ‘the quality of state of being human; human attributes or qualities.’ They may not technically be humans but they still have the attributes and qualities of humans. I agree that they feel the loss of their “human” lives, and wish to keep their memories but in this instance I feel that humanity and memories of their human life don’t necessarily go hand in hand. I don’t feel that the loss of human memories has made them any less human. They still have the ability to love, to get mad, to care about things. I think it is that, their ability to see humans as more than food, that allows them to keep their humanity.”

Here, V explains that a disconnect from human memories is not an adequate definition of humanity. Instead, V insists that humanity is a function of feeling and acting humanly. Since, to V, the Cullens do seem to do this, they retain their humanity. The idea that the Cullens view humans as “more than food” is particularly striking. How would this apply to our lives? Do we retain our humanity by seeing each other as more than food? Obviously not. But perhaps V would agree that we retain our humanity by  seeing each other as more than tools for our own profit? As more rungs on which to climb on our ladder to success?

Jazz Girl agrees that the Cullens do not lose their humanity. She asserts, “So again, we come back to that downside, that price. The price for holding on to one’s empathy, to their ability to act humanely comes at the sacrifice of one’s true nature and instincts.” She believes that by resisting their urge to drink human blood, by denying the animalistic force within them, the Cullens retain their humanity. They do it by strength of will and intense force, but they do retain it. She continues, saying, “What I see is that the ability and struggle to make that choice and to keep making it, torturous encounter after torturous encounter, does not make them less vampire, just more human.” Here, Jazz Girl raises some key points. First of all, Jazz Girl believes that creatures can fight to keep their humanity. It’s not necessarily a fate to be cast upon someone but rather a choice that can be consciously made. Jazz Girl also believes in levels of humanity. The Cullens can be “more human.” They are not necessarily completely human, but at some level, they are.

In a later post, Jazz Girl says, “SM herself tells us that one of the primary ways they are able to retain their humanity, ie their compassion and empathy, is because of their diet. Abstaining from what boils down to cannibalism enables them to retain who they are.” Before I go on, I must point out that Jazz Girl has defined humanity as “compassion and empathy.” This is a similar definition to that of other posts, so I am indeed seeing a common thread here. Perhaps compassion and empathy will figure prominently into the Twilight prototype for humanity. Also, Jazz Girl equates vampires sucking human blood with cannibalism. The classical definition of cannibalism is humans eating other humans, and so if she were to make this assertion, she would be suggesting that vampires are somehow also humans. Again, Jazz Girl is insisting that vampires do retain at least some of their humanity. She then goes on to explain,

“From the standpoint of a vampire, who already knows that they are stronger, faster, smarter than the humans, add to that that humans are their source of food, and how easy it would be to completely lose touch with who you used to be. By eliminating that bit of superiority, it forces, in a way, vegetarian vampires to remain on a similar playing field of sorts with the humans, making it easier for them to retain those characteristics.”

From almost a psychological standpoint, Jazz Girl explores the dynamics of “vegetarian vampirism” and how it might connect to humanity. This goes back to the idea of levels of humanity as well. To Jazz Girl, a vegetarian vampire would retain a higher level of humanity than a blood-drinking one.

Another fan whom I’ll call R offers one more piece to the puzzle. R asserts,

“The ‘lose humanity’ part isn’t instantaneous, however. It’s not like they go from human, to surviving a transformation, to a morally bankrupt monster in the blink of an eye…I would wager that this is a process with a length that varies depending upon how ‘human’ the person was in the first place. Put in other terms, I imagine that say a priest would take longer to lose his moral scruples as opposed to say a serial killer.”

R seems to believe that the Cullens have not lost their humanity because they have not lost their moral scruples. This fan seems to equate humanity with concern for morals, using the word more than once. R also brings up the idea that a serial killer is less human than a priest, on the basis of moral standing. V agrees with this idea. This idea that one human can be more human than another seems to be another common thread running through this discussion.

Knives comes in to dispute H’s idea that the Cullens “lose touch with their human lives automatically.” Knives says,

“There’s no basis for the idea of simply shedding an entire life’s worth personality, societal influence, memories, feelings, beliefs, et cetera, and none of the vampires portrayed in Twilight really seem to have done so either (read: Alice’s fashion obsession). Losing one’s humanity is a gradual process shaped by grief, predation, contemplation, and-perhaps most importantly-sheer boredom.”

To Knives, the Cullens have definitely not lost their humanity. They retain what Knives to be the essentials of human life, “personality, societal influence, memories, feelings, beliefs.” Since they have these, and do not experience the above consequences of becoming vampires, they retain their humanity.

Knives continues in a later post to say, “…I am, again, not so certain that even the Volturi have ‘lost’ a hell of a lot of humanity. They may be immortal jerks, but I can point you to quite a few jerks in human history :p” Knives is saying the complete opposite of what we have heard so far. Rather than equating humanity with empathy, compassion, or moral standing, Knives is defining it by something else. Knives’ definition certainly would not disqualify an evil human being from humanity, nor would it disqualify an evil vampire. To Knives, humanity is not about good and evil.

December counters this idea in a later post, saying,

“…the Cullens are not altogether unnatural or inhuman beings—or at least, not irretrievably inhuman beings. Rather, in reaffirming their moral responsibility NOT to give way to their ‘natural’ predator’s instincts (ie refusing to view humans as their God-given diet), the Cullens actually reclaim their moral status as humans…”

In December’s reading of the novels, humanity is a moral status. The Cullens may have temporarily lost it in transforming to blood thirsty vampires, but in their constant struggle to resist blood, they retain that moral status. I have a question here. If humanity is a moral status, then how do we measure it in real humans? We do not have a natural instinct to drink each other’s blood, and so we cannot prove our moral standing by resisting. Is our humanity, then, tested by our resistance to other instincts? Our resistance to aggressive anger, violence, jealousy, and hatred? This is just one interesting question rooted in this incredibly thoughtful discussion on the Lex.

I’ll end with Rollie715, who offers us one more view of what it means to be human. Rollie715 states, “…to be a human is to be subject to Death especially if it included the idea that we cease to live on after we die, but to be a vampire is the choice leading to Life.” This comment is interesting because although Rollie715 asserts that Twipires lose their humanity, he does not necessarily portray that loss as a negative thing. Instead, the choice to be a Twipire rather than a human is the “choice leading to Life,” perhaps a very positive thing indeed.

That’s all for tonight! I’ll be coming back with reports on fan thoughts about whether humanity is “sacred.”

Best,

Student L

TWILIGHT CONVENTION! Day 1

Hey everyone!

As a quick aside from my long string of posts about the Explorations thread within the Twilight Lexicon, I happen to be a TWILIGHT CONVENTION this weekend! Yes, you heard right. I am at a gathering of hundreds of fans, all here to celebrate the wondrous phenomenon that is Twilight. I’m going to blog about it every day that I’m here so that it all stays fresh in my memory. So here’s my story of the day.

The convention, run by Creation Entertainment, is pretty far away from home, so I’l be staying at the convention hotel over the next two days. When I first arrived, the hotel seemed oddly quiet. I was expecting to step into hoards of Twilight fans, all screaming and jumping excitedly as I had seen them on television before the premiere of Eclipse. At the midnight premiere I attended, there had been hundreds of fans, crowded and talking to each other excitedly. Here, the only sign of Twilight was on a small sign in the lobby listing all of the hotel events for the day.

After checking into my room and getting settled, I decided to go down and find the convention. I came across a sign-in table, where I showed my online PDF ticket and obtained my wristband. On the table was a schedule of events and lanyards to hold our convention cards. With the lanyard around my neck, and convention schedule in hand, I stepped into the vendor room.

What amazes me most is that I have seen almost all of the merchandise being sold here before! It is all on the internet, and I recognize a great many of the designs from my online research. Some of the merchandise here is official; it contains stills from the movies and pictures of the stars. Shopping the official merchandise is just like shopping in the Disney store—only it’s all Twilight themed. There are umbrellas, coasters, mugs, thermoses, posters, signed pictures, t-shirts, sweatshirts, hats, jewelry boxes, pin sets, jewelry, and more.

The unofficial merchandise is even more varied. I picked up a few business cards so that I could visit the vendor websites as well. Twilighpated sells some incredible hand-made jewelry, as well as soaps. Each piece of jewelry has a specific explanation as to how it relates to Twilight. The vendor here showed me three necklaces, one each for Edward, Bella, and Jacob. When we take the description of the Edward necklace, for example, the piece is built entirely around a Topaz pendant. Any true Twihard would know that Bella constantly describes Edward’s eyes as Topaz in the novels. This merchandise is truly tailored to the Twilight fan base, much of it even made by fans. There are so many details in each book that fans can incorporate into their love for the saga, even down to Topaz necklaces.

Another vendor is called Other Side Jewelry, but doesn’t have a website. This vendor makes original clay works into mostly jewelry. Since the Twilight phenomenon erupted, he has been making some pieces that relate to Twilight. Indeed, like any other popular craze, Twilight definitely created new opportunities for profit, especially among artists it seems.

I actually did get to speak briefly to the representatives from Chubby Chico Charms LLC. I didn’t want to take too much time away from the other vendors since they were focused on selling, but these individuals started a conversation with me. The company is a wider charms vendor that has been selling all sorts of charms before Twilight became popular. Now, it makes fang necklaces, vampire themed charms, and charms bearing the names of Edward, Bella, Jacob, Jasper, and Alice.  It strikes me that these vendors do sell fang themed jewelry, since Twihards are well aware of the fact that Twipires do not have fans. The Cullens, as do the other vampires in the novels, have regular teeth just like the rest of us. My guess is that Twilight fans wouldn’t be interested in buying fang necklaces, but vampire fans as a whole definitely would. Since Twilight, a plethora of other vampire novels, television shows, and movies have become popular. With vampires as the new fad, I suppose Chubby Chico Charms LLC found the fang necklaces to be popular. The woman behind the table said that she had read a few of the books. The man behind the desk said, “Don’t make fun of me but…” He had actually read New Moon and Eclipse, seen the two movies, and was beginning to read Twilight. Even at a Twilight convention, there still seemed to be an element of embarrassment about being a Twilight guy! I left this particular vendor with a cute business card holding a paw-print charm, undoubtedly a wolf-pack reference.

Trading Faces was also present in the vendor room, offering temporary air-brushed tattoos and other body art. Monica, the woman behind this entire operation, sells body art at various functions and events around the country. Her creations were tailored towards the Twilight convention, so either she was a fan or had done some research before arriving!

I’ll speak more about the vendors as I talk to them some more tomorrow.

When I walked into the convention auditorium, where most of the event will be held, the room was about ¼ full. There are assigned seats here, and I was all the way back in row P. There was nobody else in my row, and so I was doomed to a silent and lonely fate for the next few hours. I had arrived at the tail end of a Q&A with Booboo Stewart, the actor who plays Seth Clearwater in Eclipse. He seemed reasonably comfortable on the stage, and the fans were very enthusiastic about him. Upon being asked which team he was on, one fan shouted out, “Team Booboo!” The room burst into applause. I’ll be hearing more from him later—he’s here for the entire weekend and has his own table. Another Q&A session with him is scheduled for tomorrow morning!

After hearing a little bit from Booboo, there was a fantastic Twilight trivia game, using questions from the Twilight Scene-It board-game. Contestants were asked to come up to the stage and to hold up “Yes” or  “No” signs to easy, medium, and then hard questions. The winners would be given $250 and photo-ops with a present Twilight star. Fans were chosen 30 at a time to play, and I was thoroughly impressed with their prowess! I thought that I would know almost all of the answers, as I had been studying Twilight all summer. I was wrong. I have been studying Twilight fans, not Twilight trivia. The game had clearly been designed for fans who had read the books over and over again, just as I’ve heard from fans both online and in person. Fans don’t tend to read the novels once—I think the average number I’ve heard is four, each! The questions were incredibly specific, one involving the name of a highway mentioned in the book and asking if it was “North” or “South.” I couldn’t believe that fans knew the books so well.

The first part winner was dressed up beautifully, I’m guessing as Rosalie. She had long blond hair, perfectly done to the point that I suspect it may be a wig. She was wearing a long black dress and black high heels. I watched as she answered each question confidently, almost with an attitude of, “Come on, these are actually questions?” The second round winner was a highlight of the game. She was hyperventilating when it got down to the last two, and when she won, she screamed in a frenzy of excitement. She informed the crowd, while rather out-of-breath, that she had been studying all summer. In fact, she had her flashcards in her backpack!

After the trivia game, we watched a clip from a previous Twilight Convention featuring a stage panel of Peter Facinelli, Jackson Rathbone, Ashley Greene, Elizabeth Reaser, and Nikki Reed. The movie was hard to hear and the quality wasn’t so great, and eventually fans began walking out of the auditorium. It was probably a time filler in between two main programs.

After the clip, we heard from Lori and Laura, co-owners of the Twilight Lexicon fan site. In case you haven’t noticed, I have been doing A LOT of research on the Twilight Lexicon! I couldn’t believe that these women were actually in front of me. They showed us a short video from a trip they took to Forks and spoke about their stay there. I was surprised at how close they were to the Twilight stars. Lori had spent almost an entire day hanging out with Taylor Lautner, and had been given access to stay on the set during filming on day. Both women had been invited to stay at La Push, since they had stayed in Forks twice. They were both featured in Twilight in Forks, a documentary detailing how Twilight has affected the previously anonymous small town in Washington state. This close interaction between online fandom and movie stars says a lot to me about how Twilight fan culture works. Although I haven’t done much research, it seems to be a one-of-a-kind phenomenon in that the fans and the actors are all caught up in it together. Stephenie Meyer has held online fan junkets with randomly chosen websites, and certain fans have slept outside in tents only to spend a few moments talking to Robert Pattinson or Taylor Lautner. These fans are not cut off from the inside of Twilight—the entry points are wide open, and the fan culture is inclusive. Online fans, involved in what seems to be an anonymous realm, also have the opportunity to personally engage with Twilight stars and the author of the novels.

The Q&A with Lori and Laura lasted for about twenty minutes. Instead of asking one of my many questions, I chose to listen to what other fans were asking. Mostly, fans asked about their trip to Forks. One interesting question came from a little girl, who asked how they find all of the news and information that gets posted to the Lex every single day, or perhaps second! I myself had been curious about that. Laura explained that they use Google notifications on key words related to Twilight, and that they also occasionally get handed information straight from the sources. She mentioned that EW notified the Lex of a story they would be running the next day, just so that Laura could be aware of it and post it to the site ASAP. I hope that I get an opportunity to talk to these women tomorrow. I wonder if they know about my project?

After Lori and Laura, we saw a short clip of a Hillywood Show production. These actors impersonate Jasper, Alice, Jacob, Bella, and Edward in YouTube videos that have become wildly popular and spawned a fan base of their own. The Hillywood actors have their own DVDs now and have met the actual Twilight stars as well. They are hosting this particular convention and do have an uncanny similarity to the characters they imitate. The clip we watched was a rendition of Hot ‘n Cold by Katy Perry in a Twilight character music video. The video was meant to show Edward’s initial indecision regarding whether or not he should be get closer to Bella. Perhaps I will have a chance to talk to these stars as well. They seem pretty busy, but I’m definitely going to try to talk to them. I want to hear about how they got into the Twilight fandom and what they love about Twilight.

The Hillywood Show clip was followed by Q & A with Tinsel Corey. The fans were super enthusiastic about her, and mostly asked her random questions about her life. She admitted to being Team Edward, and also said that being a “wolf-girl” was all about female empowerment. Tinsel spoke about a foundation she is working on to bring art and creative expression to children in Native American communities as well as third world countries. Her Twilight fandom will undoubtedly help her spur this initiative onwards. I was surprised that more fans didn’t ask Tinsel questions about the deeper meanings of Twilight. I was even more surprised that she hadn’t read the books! She said that this was all a part of filming and promotion, and that she needed to be totally focused on the scripts rather than the novels. I have heard Taylor Lautner and Bryce Dallas Howard talk about their love for the books, so I suppose I was just surprised.

But the most surprising thing about this whole day has been the quiet. In my assigned seat, there was nobody for me to talk to! Looking around, fans weren’t talking to each other either. They were mostly keeping to themselves, listening to the speakers, watching the clips, and buying merchandise. My plan was to be natural, and just talk to the people around me if they were in the mood for talking. Now, I may have to shift gears and start approaching people more unnaturally. So far, I haven’t spoken to one fan! That can’t happen tomorrow. But how do I escape my assigned seat?

More later,

Student L

August 16, 2010

Is becoming a Twipire a difficult or obvious choice?

Before I even begin this post, I’m going to need to define the term “Twipire.” As the name suggests, the word combines the book title and literary phenomenon, Twilight, with the mythological creature known as “vampire.” As previously discussed, it is no easy feat to define exactly what a vampire is. To different individuals and different cultures, vampires represent an array of creatures, from redeemed immortal to cursed monster. The word “Twipire,” seemingly invented by online fan communities, is instructive because it helps us focus exactly on what I’m looking for. It represents the “vampire” creature in the context of Twilight. Any discussion of the Twipire, as opposed to the plain and simple vampire, is a direct link to the idea of vampires within Twilight fan culture. And so, it is with deliberate intention that I use the word “Twipire” in this post. The question does not address the choice to become a vampire in general. The question, as discussed on the Explorations thread, specifically addresses the choice, Bella’s choice, to become a Twipire.

As I’ve been doing, I will begin with the “anti-fan” view portrayed on the thread. This will help me illuminate what self-proclaimed Twilight fans do not believe, and will serve as a starting point to discuss what Twilight fans do believe. Knives, a prominent anti-fan on the Explorations thread, has a series of arguments as to why becoming a Twipire is an obvious choice. This is one of Knives’ major grievances with the series. In Knives’ first comment on the matter, Knives says,

“In myth, vampirism is an unholy curse; in Twilight, it is physical transcendence into the realm of immortal perfection. What incentive is there to remain human, aside from the murky question of one’s soul (and any just, merciful, or loving god wouldn’t damn someone JUST for becoming a Twi-Pire, believe you me)?”

This comment comes from Knives general idea that vampires are, and should be portrayed as, unholy, cursed, miserable, undead creatures with no chance at happiness or redemption. People should never want to become a vampire. Vampirism should be viewed as an ultimate punishment, a misfortune to be wished on no-one. To Knives, Stephenie Meyer does no portray vampires in this way.

Knives continues with a solid number of reasons as to why becoming a Twipire is an obvious choice. Knives contests that the struggle to not kill because automatic to the Cullens, and aside from that inconvenience, “there is no cost for being a vampire.” Knives says,“You do not give up your emotions or empathy. You do not lose part of your soul to a raging, bloodlusting, animalistic force. You don’t age, grow feeble, or change physically. You do still change mentally, being able to learn, take advantage of new facts, and even grow. Where’s the downside? I don’t see one.”In a later post, Knives insists, “There’s no basis for the idea of simply shedding an entire life’s worth of personality, societal influence, memories, feelings, beliefs, et cetera, and none of the vampires portrayed in Twilight really seem to have done so either (read: Alice’s fashion obsession).” Although I will discuss the idea of vampirism and humanity in more depth later, Knives’ main point here is that Twipires do not lose their humanity. As an extension of this idea, Knives says,

“I don’t see a lot-or, really, any- of the consequences of deathlessness portrayed in the series, and it certainly doesn’t help the reader’s image of it to experience it from Bella’s point of view; her lust for immortality colors how it is portrayed in the series, crippling or destroying Ms. Meyer’s chances of portraying it as a curse. And I will, again, reiterate that I don’t see a downside.”

These are the conclusions that Knives has drawn from analyzing the experience of the blissful, almost perfect. Aside from the occasional inconvenience of thirst, these creatures exist as beautiful, strong, empathetic, emotional, and redeemable beings. Indeed, it is possible to read Twipires in this way. They are not typical vampires, and though burdened with certain vampire instincts, their lives do grow and develop in a manner familiar to us. To Knives, this picture violates traditional vampire mythology. The choice to become a vampire should not be obvious; it should inconceivable.

Of course, the fan perspective is foundationally different from that of Knives—it would have to be. If becoming a Twipire were an obvious choice, then Bella’s deliberation on the matter, Edward’s insistent refusal, Rosalie’s opposition, and Jacob’s sense of looming death would all be for naught. One might argue that the core discussion of this story is whether or not Bella should relinquish her humanity and mortality for an eternal vampiric existence with Edward. The fascination with this series grows from this question, touching on universal themes of life, death, morality, mortality, humanity, and spirituality. To Twilight fans, the choice to become vampire is not at all obvious.

December firmly echoes this viewpoint. In response to Knives, December says,

“Ok, so now I am really at a loss where to begin to find common ground in this conversation because it’s FOUNDATIONAL to my reading of this story that being a vampire—one of Stephenie’s vampires—is at best a glass half-empty: a doom as much as a blessing. Yes, it is eternal love, immortality, speed, strength, beauty, but also a half-life of unnatural changelessness and loathsome desires and a painful, unending battle against temptation.”

Note here that December does not completely denounce being a Twipire but rather recognizes that there are pros and cons. Where the anti-fan sees little struggle with thirst and deathlessness, the fan senses enormous difficulty controlling vampiric instincts and internal turmoil regarding an undead existence.

Adding to this basic premise, December continues a few months later with another post. December suggests,

“And, I think we’re meant to think that nothing less than the unnatural intensity of their passion could possibly justify Bella’s determination to throw away the precious human life (as Stephenie sees it) which she’s been given. That deliberately becoming a vampire is only forgivable if you are Bella; cut-off from any real possibility—now that she has tumbled into this mythic, other-worldly love—of living out a happy life as a human. The price she’s willing to pay is her absolution for the unholy trade she is making, proof that this is a love worth turning your back on humanity for. But, only if we get to see her live that loss—at least at first—and struggle with the thirst and the childlessness and the grief for her family and still find incomparable happiness with Edward can we know for certain that their love was that unimaginably strong.”

This post addresses a plethora of issues that I’m planning to discuss later, namely the idea of humanity and losing one’s humanity, the role of sacrifice in true love, and the ease of Bella’s transition into becoming a vampire. For now, I only wish to focus on December’s point about the choice to become a Twipire. To December, this choice is so inconceivable, so awful, that only a girl in Bella’s situation would be justified in making it. In fact, December uses the word “forgivable,” implying that the choice would at best be a wrong, at worst be a sin. December brings in the word “unholy” as well, reinforcing the religious connotations of choosing to become such a creature. To December, only the most fantastic of circumstances, a love totally outside the realm of reality and enduring throughout eternity, could possibly make the choice of becoming a Twipire imaginable. Why? Because becoming a Twipire means thirst, grief, and barrenness. It is a great loss. As for the idea that this terrible choice reinforces the strength of Edward and Bella’s love, the point is crucial, but I’ll be back to discuss that one later.

Jazz Girl has a lot to say about this as well. As she says, “I absolutely, however, have to challenge your notion that there isn’t a downside to being a Twilight vampire.” First, she addresses the anti-fan notion that controlling their thirst becomes automatic and manageable for the Cullens. She says,

“It is a constant struggle for all of them. We know this from all manner of references in the text of all four novels, as well as Midnight Sun. Resisting is a constant battle of control, of conscious mind contradicting and overcoming utter instinct, of physical ability to conquer pain and suffering. Again, the analogy of lighting one’s hand on fire and resisting the urge to immediately dunk it in the bucket of icewater. Yes, Carlisle becomes so proficient at it that he can be exposed to blood without outwardly belying his temptation. But, even he is the first to acknowledge that the impulse, the thirst is always there.”

From an anti-fan perspective, the facts would show that thirst is no big deal. None of the Cullens, except for a few lapses and histories before joining the family, ever succumb to their thirst for human blood. Even Jasper, who finds it most difficult, doesn’t end up murdering Bella. Twilight fans look past this reality into the inner struggle that each Cullen and Twipire faces. Jazz Girl is aware of this struggle in every moment of the story, feeling the tension between the Cullen’s moral code and basic instinct. She sees the life of a Twipire as fraught with excruciating thirst, a life that would be intensely difficult to choose.

Jazz Girl takes her recognition of the thirst a step further, discussing its emotional implications as well. She says,

“And, that thirst serves as a reminder of a vampire’s true nature, which is where the struggle originates. For ones such as the Cullens, who choose to retain their humanity through strength of will alone, the mere reminder of what they struggle against is torment. It is the basis for Edward’s constant battle with himself. His nature is to take and kill. But, to even have to struggle with that impulse where the woman he loves more than his life is concerned, that’s the definition of torture.”

This view compounds the difficulty of thirst alone with the emotional difficulty of coming to terms with one’s vampire nature. To be a Cullen, a vegetarian vampire surrounded by humans and even friends, would be especially difficult under these circumstances.

There is still more difficulty that Jazz Girl sees. She says, “Add to that the constant question that there is truly no way to answer, the existence of their soul. For that to be a question, particularly to one such as Carlisle, a true man of faith and of God, I don’t think I would find that easy at all.” Even within the supposedly sugared-over version of vampire life within Twilight, Jazz Girl sees a profound spiritual struggle to be contemplated for the rest of eternity.

That’s not all. Jazz Girl continues with a discussion of empathy and emotion. She says,

“…it is really only due to the Cullen’s unique diet that they are able to hold on to their empathy and act upon it. Even Jasper, who’s gift is to have the emotions of others foisted on him, does not react on those emotions until such tie as he stops feeding on human blood. So, again, we come back to that downside, that price. The price for holding onto one’s empathy, to their ability to act and react humanely comes at the sacrifice of one’s true nature and instincts.”

This is completely contrary to what Knives says. Knives cites examples of Twipires playing on others’ emotions and using empathy enhancing skills, using these examples as arguments that Twipires do not forfeit their empathy in the transition from humanity. Jazz Girl does not believe that non-veggie Twipires can take other’s emotions into consideration and act accordingly. She reserves this to the Cullens, and possibly the Denalis, while insisting that most Twipires suffer a loss of empathy in becoming what they are.

To wrap up her point, Jazz Girl brings up Edward’s existence in particular. In a response to Knives, she says,

“You assert that one ‘does not lose part of your soul to a raging, bloodlusting, animalistic force.’ And yet, that is how Edward constantly describes himself. That is really how we are shown other vampires who do not make the ‘vegetarian’ choice. Edward is constantly comparing his dualities. He talks about seeing himself almost as…TwoFace of Batman fame, if you’ll pardon the reference. One the one side is the dutiful son of Carlisle, constantly struggling to make himself a better man and worthy (in his eyes) of his father-figure’s belief in him, a man worthy of the love and trust placed in him by a beautiful innocent. On the other side is a red-eyed soulless monster who would drain that innocent and any other that stood between him and her for a bare moments satisfaction. Or (in his eyes) worse! Take the life of that women in a most selfish act so that he doesn’t have to worry about killing her or losing her. The line between the two is razor thin and Edward tapdances back and forth along it until he no longer has a choice.”

I included this entire paragraph because it effectively evokes the image of Edward that Jazz Girl uses to understand the condition of Twipire in general. Edward, caught in a personal moral struggle with his own nature, is her prototype for the suffering vegetarian Twipire. This prototype, revolving around murdering and loving Bella, extends to the difficulty that all vegetarian Twipires must face in choosing not to kill their classmates or co-workers despite the aching thirsty instinct. How could one make a choice to become this tortured creature without great trouble?

Adding a few more thoughts to the mix, G posits that Twipires do have a dark side. G says,

“Again, we see the vampire world as Bella sees it. It is entirely different in Dark High Noon (MS) as Edward tells his side of life (his non-existence as he calls it), and one of the reasons we all wish this would be completed is so that we could see the true nature of vampires. Her vampires do suffer (just as Jazz said) every minute of everyday. Bella doesn’t see it or get it…I think she intended to show us the darkness of vampirism in MS, and will in Bree’s story, but the manuscript was leaked, and that ship has sailed.”

As a quick aside, Twihards, I need a little bit of help. Why do some fans use the term “Dark High Noon” in reference to Midnight Sun? Back to the point. This perspective brings something new to the table. G feels that the suffering is definitely implied in the four novels, but since we see Twipires from Bella’s outsider perspective, we don’t really get that full picture. G attributes the seeming lack of suffering to the narrative point of view as well as the external issue of the Midnight Sun fiasco.  G also mentions the idea that the movies haven’t helped us understand the dark side of Twipire existence. Still, G calls the Twipires “damned” and does not view their experience as a piece of cake. The choice to become one of these creatures would have to involve some other, balancing good force to make it even close to reasonable.

Another fan, whom I’ll call P, brings in a helpful analogy using terminology straight out of the novels. P says,

“I do agree that the advantages that vampires receive are a nice juxtaposition to the effort to resist temptation required for their lifestyle; to use Edward’s analogy, they are addicted to heroin and surrounded by it every day; unlike human addicts, they have far less opportunity to avoid the source of their addiction. Added to this is their ability to seize their addiction, practically at will, something which is often yet another source of “aid” for human addicts. All in all, they can benefit from none of the tools humans use to battle addiction while being “blessed” with skills and abilities that do nothing more than make the addictive substance easier to obtain. I don’t envy their struggle.”

I’ve already mentioned, a number of times, the incorporation of psychological terminology into Twilight fan culture. Often, it used to analyze the seemingly “obsessive” behavior of fans themselves, or to label the “unhealthy” relationship between Edward and Bella. In this case, P applies the psychological terminology of addiction to Edward, and therefore all vegetarian Twipires’, to demonstrate the suffering they experience in order to maintain their lifestyle. This discussion of addiction, and how the nature of the Twipire would make it even more difficult to manage, shows us a disagreeable portrait of Twipire existence. With addiction comes pain, guilt, shame, and a plethora of other disturbing emotions. It’s not easy.

This post is a little bit different than my previous one, discussing what it means to be a vampire. While that post parsed definitions and specifics, this post focuses on whether or not being a Twipire, specifically, would be difficult. It discusses the choice to become one of these creatures. From an anti-fan perspective, Bella would be crazy not to become a Twipire. The choice is simple as pie. As we have seen, from a fan perspective, the choice is not see easy. Twipires endure much more than meets the eye, and the decision to become one would have to hinge on a very, very good reason. From this, we can begin to construct the values of these Twilight fans. Their comments rest on the assumption that murderous internal instincts are bad, even if they do not result in actual murder. Changelessness and childlessness are bad. Questioning one’s moral status and the existence of one’s soul is bad. And yet, there is still something worse. Losing one’s true and eternal love, not sacrificing life as one knows it for them, would be the worse fate imaginable. And so, in that case, enduring all of these terrible trials would be worth it to hold on to that true love. That’s a pretty powerful idea, I think.

That’s all for now! More to come.

Best,

TwiAnthropologist

August 11, 2010

So you’re a vampire. What does that even mean?

I made a little online trip to dictionary.com in preparation for this post. I typed in the word “vampire,” and here are the definitions I got:

  1. a preternatural being, commonly believed to be a reanimated corpse, that is said to suck the blood of sleeping persons at night
  2. (in Eastern European folklore) a corpse, animated by an un-departed soul or demon, that periodically leaves the grave and disturbs the living, until it is exhumed, impaled, or burned
  3. a person who plays ruthlessly upon others; extortionist
  4. a woman who unscrupulously exploits, ruins, or degrades the men she seduces
  5. an actress noted for her roles as an unscrupulous seductress: the vampires of the silent movies

Lots of definitions there! And there are still more to come. Because even though each of us may have a picture in our minds of how vampires look, feel, and act, those pictures are different for different individuals, and different cultures.

There seems to be a lot of debate within Twilight fan culture about what it means to be a vampire. I argue that amongst the variance of views, there are two major categories of ideas. There is the traditionalist viewpoint, which holds older or traditional ideas of vampires sacrosanct. And then there are the flexible perspectives, which do vary but as a whole permit and appreciate variation.         

Again, I’ll start with Knives, a participant in the Twilight Lexicon “Explorations” thread whose views tend to diverge from those of the others. Knives, by self admission, is an anti-fan. In this case, there are one or two more participants who agree with Knives. I can use these ideas as springboard to discuss how Twilight fans do perceive vampires.

Knives’ asks, “So, what the hell is a vampire when we get down to it?” Knives elaborates,

“A vampire is a concealed predator; a skulking, sneaking thing which steals life to prolong its own unholy existence. Most importantly, vampirism deals with themes of survival, betrayal of trust, sexuality (and homosexuality), faith & faithlessness, blood, death, and the lure of immortality.”

 In addition, Knives cites the fact that vampires are “forced to kill in order to survive” as a key distinction. In this particular post, Knives cites the vampires as they appear in Anne Rice novels.

Following up on Knives’ comments, another fan whom I’ll call N agrees, saying “Throughout history, the vampire has been portrayed as a soulless “murderer” for lack of a better word. Vampires require human blood to survive and they get this by seducing and tricking humans.” N acknowledges that Stephenie Meyer has changed the essence of the vampire by taking away their need for human blood, but unlike Knives, N does not mind or feel that the change takes away from the story.

A little bit later, Knives uses the example of vampires in White Wolf’s role playing game Vampire: The Requiem, saying that they feel more like vampires. Knives emphasizes that these vampires require human blood to survive, grow jaded and inhuman, live a life of damnation, struggle to survive in an immoral and fearsome world, and while they maintain intelligence, the essence of their beings is unholy. Towards the end of this detailed post, Knives says,

“Part of it is the Cullens themselves. By defining them as the main characters, they are poster children upon which the entire archetype is hung. No matter that, in-universe, they are the exceptions to the rule; the reader interacts with the Cullens, which makes all the other examples feel inferior or incorrect specimens.”

 In fact, Knives is objecting to the Cullens being cast as the prototype for vampires within Twilight fan culture. To Knives, the Cullens do not conform to the feel and quality of a true vampire, and since they are the main character of the series, they are automatically considered Stephenie Meyer’s “perfect example” of what a vampire should be.

Later, Knives states that vampires should eventually lose the capacity for human emotion and empathy, but in Twilight, even the most “feral” vampires do not.  Knives says,

“Victoria tries to strike at Bella; Aro manipulates peoples wants and fears in order to get his way. These vampires, certainly the most inhuman in the series, are still playing on people’s emotions, even if their motivations for doing so are revenge, malice, power, or possibly the giggles…Compound on this the fact that many of the vampires portrayed have powers that should sharpen their empathy. Alice’s prophecy. Edward’s mind-reading. Jasper has to have some kind of empathy to get any use at all out of his power…”

 These observations seem to confirm Knives’ ideas that Twilight vampires are not, in fact, vampires according to Knives’ definition.

A thread participant whom I’ll call R seems to agree with Knives’ definition of vampires but disagrees with Knives’ assertion that Stephenie Meyer’s vampires do not in fact conform to that definition. R responds to Knives’ comment that Twilight vampires aren’t driven apart by completion for resources citing Jasper’s origin story and the vampire wars in the South. R also remarks that we are mostly treated to a view of small groups of nomads and tight-knit covens like the Cullens and Denalis, which are not the norm in Stephenie Meyer’s wider vampire world. R believes that if we did have a wider vision of this world, we would see, for the most part, the type of vampires in which Knives believes. That being said, R does believe that “the ‘thirst for blood thing’ thing is quite downplayed.” R brings up an important point, saying,

“But I’ve always thought that, while the series lays certain ‘rules of the universe’ down, its also quite eager to break those same rules:

  1. Carlisle’s practical immunity to the lure of blood
  2. Edward’s ability to resist Bella, as well as taste her blood without feeding and killing her
  3. Jacob’s level of control over his phasing
  4. Bella’s remarkable level of control for a newborn-including the manifestation of her power

…I don’t really care about these things because I enjoyed the story, and I am willing to see past them.”

Unlike Knives’ original objection to Stephenie Meyer breaking external rules, R is observing the fact that Stephenie Meyer has broken internal rules, rules of her own making. Although R doesn’t seem to mind, Knives does. Knives says,

“The rules were arbitrarily broken for the sake of what Ms. Meyer thought was good for the story. Her lack of verisimilitude should be ignored (possibly necessitating ignoring Breaking Dawn-yes, the whole book) and the rules of the setting should be held as inviolate. Her creations should be judged on those rules.”

N comes back in agreement, stating “It doesn’t bother me as much that she changed the rules for vampires as it does that she breaks her own rules. If you’re going to create your own race of vampires with their own rules at least stick to those rules.” N also expresses disappointment that the thirst for blood was downplayed .

Now that I’ve run the gamut of the anti-fan idea of vampires on this thread, as well as the thoughts of fans who in this case agree with the anti-fan viewpoint, I will focus my attention on the more common Twilight fan viewpoint on the matter of vampires. As I said before, fans do not tend to have an all encompassing idea of vampires but rather appreciate variation and each other’s different points of view. Rollie715 illuminates this concept well, saying,

 “The majority of Fans, myself included, not only accept SM’s setting and definitions, but get completely [immersed] in them as if they were true. The inconsistencies and imperfections in her writings do not matter to us as we experience what the stories really have to offer us…To me, it does not have to conform to previously accepted literary guidelines to warrant the obsession or should I say passion that I feel for the whole thing.”

(Although this is completely beside the point, I would like to point out here that Rollie715 takes care to replace the word “obsession” with “passion,” signalling a new way to define the fan culture phenomon that does not abuse psychological terminology or assumate psychological pathologies, even in humor.)

Beginning with this idea of flexibility, I move to G, a fan who provides us with a specific version of “modern vampires,” saying,

“They are any being that is beautiful to the point of being irresistible, yet utterly evil. They are the ultimate embodiment of corruption, unable to even enjoy the goodness, (symbolically as well as physically) of the sun. They are corrupt not because of nature, but by choice. For the worst of them, they chose to become the dead for vanity’s sake—their pride led to their fall.”

 G acknowledges older versions of vampires as well as other ideas about them in modern times. G says,

“As far as vampires and vampire mythology, most of our modern culture sees the soulless evil ones from the perspective of popular fiction. That is simply a fact, and will not change. The truth of it is that there truly is no archetype other than the images created by our ancestors and passed down to us. Those images, cultural imagery until they are put down into the written form, change with each generation. In the middle ages, and still today in Eastern Europe, the vampire was more like a zombie, a decaying dead body that stole the life from the living (a mythical representation of the unfair and terrifying mystery that is death.)”

 In this post, G gives us a specific perspective of modern vampires while appreciating variation and changes throughout history and geography.

Jazz Girl adds her own thoughts to the mix in an effort to explain why the Twilight vampires can still be considered vampires. She emphasizes that although they can survive without human blood, it causes them a great deal of pain and suffering. She also says,

“They are still forced to kill to survive, regardless of the rank of the meal on the food chain. They (and by the collective I mean Twi-Vampires in general) still hunt, conceal their existence though subterfuge, stalk their prey, are erotic and sexualized by nature…All of those elements of a ‘true vampire’ are still there.”

To Jazz Girl, these characteristics are the core qualities of a vampire. Since the vampires in Twilight retain these characteristics, they are qualified to retain their status as vampires.

Rollie715 offers even more musings on the nature of vampirism in a later post. Rollie715 suggests that, perhaps, being a vampire does not necessarily mean being damned. Instead, Rollie715 suggests,

“I wonder even at this deeper level of understanding if SM intended there to be a level of hope beyond the obvious, that somehow if we are willing to give all we have in the name of unselfish sacrifice, that eternal justice somewhere will compensate us for what we think we are giving away…Somewhere inside me, there is this unwillingness to accept the idea that Edward or any vampire or being like him is destined to live out the eternities harnessed with the generally accepted concept of the damnation of a lost soul. That somehow, this concept of unselfish love ties into it all. That as is applies to us somehow as we give of ourselves and lose our lives for others, it will be returned to us.”

Clearly, this view is much different than the traditional view of vampirism that Knives presents to us! Rollie715 sees the possibility of salvation, even for vampires, and ties the concept of true love and sacrifice into the very essence of their beings.

Jazz Girl comes back on numerous occasions with new ideas about what it means to be a vampire. On one occasion, she states, “Humans are, after all, mammals. We are animals. The difference is form and function. At the most base level, we all have warm, oxygenated blood that disperses chemicals and substances to our cells.” She is saying that perhaps the difference between vampires eating humans and eating other animals is actually not so great of a difference after all. Jazz Girl also asserts that vampires in Twilight’s nature is to “take and kill.” They also feel emotions “much more intensely than humans do or, in my opinion, can really truly understand.” At the same time, the only way that these vampires can retain their empathy is through their vegetarian lifestyle.

Jazz Girl later says,

“Though, to me, one of the most magical things about the story is that, at times, you can almost forget it is a vampire story. It is, at it’s heart, a love story, that just happens to involve vampires and shape shifters and humans, all inhabiting the same place. SM does this completely intentionally. It’s no accident that we can, at times, for the most part completely forget that Edward and the Cullens are vampires. This is where much of the drama from the story comes from. Bella never cares what he is, just who.”

To Jazz Girl, vampires do not necessarily need to feel like vampires 100% of the time. Their lust for blood can often take a backseat to their other personality traits, to their loves. This definition of vampire allows much more lee-way for seemingly “non-vampiric” experience and gives vampires a chance to escape the label of evil that has been  plastered on to them.

In agreement with most other fans, Jazz Girl also states,

“As for SM changing her own rules…maybe I’m just better at suspension of disbelief. But, to me, she who writes the rules has the most right to bend or break them. But, mostly, I am a firm believer in the idea that there are exceptions to every rule, even new ones.”

This flexibility about rules, at least the rules of vampires, seems to be a hallmark of Twilight fan culture.

In Jazz Girl’s final post on this particular topic, she adds a key point. She says,

“We all know that vampires are inherently and horribly dangerous to humans, that they are driven to kill us. We know this. It is a fact that we don’t question. Accordingly, if a vampire were to reveal itself to us, our initial reaction would be one of fear and revulsion. So, in reading The Saga, SM does not need to establish that Edward and the Cullens and every other vampire are dangerous to her. We already know it. I think the reason why we doubt the validity of her vampires is that she does far too good a job establishing that the Cullens are something different, that they do not pose a risk.”

This idea is slightly different from some of Jazz Girl’s earlier thoughts and those of other fans. Instead of positing that vampires do not need to be the bloodthirsty, evil, revolting creatures that Knives feels they must be, Jazz Girl is stating that this fact is actually a given. The Cullens are an exception to that general rule, a rule that is so established that Stephenie Meyer did not feel a need to thoroughly elaborate on it in the books. Jazz Girl views the Cullens as the exception while Knives views them as the prototype, a very basic difference in perception.

A fan whom I’ll call H offers one more opinion on vampires. H believes that vampires lose their humanity, empathy, and compassion. In addition, they have “an incredible craving specifically for human blood.” H calls this a thirst that is “beyond hunger.”

 G asserts,

“Again, there is NO defined parameters that have withstood the test of time for vampires except that they come out at night and kill people by sucking blood. That’s it. They can sparkle or be striped or dress as drag queens on Sunset Strip, but only those two things define them for what they are.”

 To G, the prototype for vampire is a basic set of two characteristics, and beyond that, variation is permitted.

I’ll end the fan discussion of vampires with Rollie715 again, who consistently offers original ideas on the thread that stretch into the spiritual realm. In one post, this fan states, “…to be a vampire is the choice leading to Life.” This idea of vampirism deviates from thoughts of eternal deathlessness as a curse while embracing the idea of immortality. Rollie715 later suggests, “…maybe being a vampire was part of what typical humans would normally go through after they die, but in the vampire’s case, they continued on in a partial ‘live’ physical state…” These ideas move into a discussion of life and death, a topic that I plan on addressing in a forthcoming post. For now, we see that Rollie715’s ideas of vampirism are infused with spirituality and thoughts of eternity. This almost religious perception of vampirism is yet another add to the mix of Twilight fan culture.

In the final analysis, for this topic anyway, I come to a tentative conclusion. Twilight fans vary in their opinions and definitions of vampires. They disagree on the nature of vampires and on whether or not the vampires in Twilight conform to any specific idea of vampires. This disagreement does not mean that there is no Twilight prototype for vampire. Instead, it means that the prototype is flexible. Fans see the benefit of rules, but allow for changes in the rules as a matter of course. The Twilight version of a vampire is in creative flux, constantly being shaped by fans who discuss it and contemplate it. Anti-fans tend to veer away from this flexibility, holding fast to specific definitions of vampires drawn from other literature. This strictness is not an abiding characteristic of Twilight fan culture in this regard. In Twilight fan culture, vampires do have a chance to be different than their traditional label would indicate. They are allowed to be vegetarian, to feel human, to conquer their thirst, or to become spiritually redeemable beings. They are also allowed to be vile, weak, and dangerous. It is this openess, this acceptance of variation, that lies at the true heart of the Twipire idea.

There is still much more to come on the Explorations thread! Stay tuned.

Student L

P.S. The other day, I toured a university campus with my younger brother. The tour guide mentioned, in passing, that the improve club at that university had done a popular spoof of Twilight. When we got to the university book store, there was a front display of Stephenie Meyer books. I asked if they were popular, in a gracious effort, the bookkeeper looked into the computer and found that they had sold about 30 copies of the book Twilight so far. I’m interested in the fact that Twilight seemed to have come to this university campus! I hadn’t heard much about it at my university at all, although I’m sure that college age students are involved in online forums or Twilight conventions. I’ll keep my eye out for more Twilight on this trip!

August 5, 2010

What is a myth anyway?

In my previous blog entry, the discussion revolved around whether Twilight should be classified as a realist, mythological, or fantasy story. There were a variety of thoughts on either side of the question, and most of the differences in opinion were rooted in differences in understanding of myth.

So what is a myth anyway? I have already offered the opinion of Northrop Frye, a literary critic whom I respect. Although his theory of myth may be widely accepted in the literary world, my concern is the prevalent theory within the Twilight world. In keeping with that goal, I will rephrase my original question. What is the Twilight prototype for myth? Here are some of the ideas that I’ve collected on the Twilight Lexicon “Explorations” thread.

There is one participant in the thread, Knives, whose opinion diverges from most of the other participants on this thread. There are a few fans who agree with Knives’ idea about what constitutes a myth, but as we’ll see, most have a different viewpoint. I’ll begin with Knives’ as a spring board for discussion about how most other fans disagree, and how that shapes each of their readings of the story.

Knives believes that Stephenie Meyer “[violated] myth” by failing to address the “moods and themes” that have accompanied vampires for centuries. This is a gross oversimplification of Knives’ point of view, but I’ll be coming back to the thread discussion of vampires, specifically, in a later post. The important concept here is that, in Knives’ opinion, myth can indeed be violated. Myth, after “centuries of mythic evolution, cultural expectations, and the works of other authors” can attain a resonance that is recognizable and unchangeable.

Adding to Knives’ own definition of myth, Knives later writes,

“The exact specifics of a mythological creature and archetype don’t matter; how those specifics make the creature feel to the reader do. It’s a complex tapestry of factors, including, but not limited to, the creature itself, how the author presents it, its abilities & appearance, and how pivotal a role it plays in the story.”

This idea of myth emphasizes the nature of the subject in question, be it a vampire or a superhero. The specifics are secondary to the general feel and quality of the creature—which must conform to certain pre-ordained standards.

Knives later continues, saying that a story should be consistent in portraying its mythic elements. In Twilight, we should not be able to forget the vampires and werewolves and just call it a love story because, as Knives says, “those times in which you forget the inhuman aspects of Twilight, Ms. Meyer is wounding her own story.” Knives calls this tension a “needless dichotomy.” This rule of consistency is an important part of Knives prototype for myth and how Knives views the story, but as we’ll see, it is not necessarily as hard and fast for many of the other forum participants.

Jazz Girl begins with a point of view in complete opposition to that of Knives. She asks,  

“The preternatural/mythical elements of vampire and werewolf lore are exactly that; MYTHS & LORE. Where is it written that you cannot create your own elements of them to create a new myth?”

This idea that traditional myths can be changed and adapted to new myths is a crucial point of contention in the discussion. She later says,

“…there are millions out there who look at SM’s version of the vampire as a possibility just as likely as the next. There is no rule of law that says she can’t change the mythology or the story a little.”

Again, I’ll get to the specific discussion of vampires later. The important point here is that Jazz Girl sees no problem with changing myth. Older mythologies are not binding, and newer mythologies are not illegitimate.

Rollie715 is a fan whose ideas about those conform very well to Jazz Girl’s point of view. Rollie715 says,

“…I think as an author, Stephenie wrote a fictional story claiming to be her own making and not claiming to follow any pre-established pattern. I believe she has the license to develop the setting any way she desires. Her characters do not have to fit into how we think they should…In experiencing the adventure she has laid out for me, I accept without question the world in which she describes, even if I don’t understand how it could be so.”

This idea about artistic license to create any and all imaginary worlds stretches to an idea of myth as a flexible and changeable entity. Rollie715 doesn’t mind that Twilight has diverged from older myths, so long as he can journey into the newer myth and personally engage with the story.

December’s discussion of myth diverges a little bit from the points I’ve laid out already. December begins by separating fantasy and the supernatural from myth, saying, “paranormal or mythic elements do not themselves make a story mythic.” Instead, December posits,

“…there’s a looser sense of ‘mythic’ which is a freestanding characteristic of narratives themselves, irrespective of their place in a wider mythos, and that’s what I’d argue Stephenie’s original story has got. I’m having a terrible time pinning down precisely what that quality is: some constellation of attributes which doesn’t correspond precisely to “myth” or “epic” or “Romance” or “Faery” or “morality tale” or to our notions of the primal, archetypal, emblematic, allegorical, etc., but overlaps with all of them.”

These snippets of December’s post are not enough to summarize all of December’s ideas, but they are instructive in illuminating December’s idea of myth. Rather than a story with recognizable mythical elements,  like magic portals and talking lions, myth is a less tangible resonance within a story. December even provides us with a few examples of this type of myth. December says,

“Twilight is not about a dark, insatiable craving for human blood per se, but something much more abstract and mythic: a beautiful sparkly boy balancing on a knife edge between adoring a girl and destroying her. The fact that Edward wants do drink Bella’s blood is almost incidental to this central truth: it’s Edward’s terrible struggles against his own nature, the eerie overlapping of tenderness and menace, which matter.”

Later in the post, December writes “…the sacrifice of everything for love. Pretty mythic in my book anyway…”  And so, although December does not exactly define for us the meaning of myth, these examples do shine some light on the matter. I may not be hitting the nail on the head, but perhaps in this case, myth must evoke a central human truth and meaningful way. To be mythic, a story must stretch into the depth and breadth of humanity, and explore a universal element of our lives. To December, a story about fairies in the shopping mall would be fantasy, but not mythic. A story about fairies fading into darkness because people don’t believe in them would be fantasy, and it would also be mythic.

Perhaps echoing this point of view, another fan whom I’ll call G for now, says, “If a story touches a core truth of humanity to such a degree that we are illuminated about them—or argue about them—it is indeed mythos.” Expanding on this point in a post a month later, G says,

“As a historian, I define mythos and myth as separate entities. Mythos are those beliefs, manifested in stories or characterizations, that have as their center a human truth. Love, sacrifice, duty, etc…The truths remain and stand the test of time. This is why the great myths of the ancient world still hold truths for us. Myths are the creatures and stories created by each culture in attempt to define mythos. They change from generation to generation with regularity.”

 Some examples? G points out the apple on the cover of Twilight. G says, “What does it represent? Temptation and fall; the two oldest themes in mythos.” Later, G writes, “The innocent saving the monster. Deeply mythological again.” These general themes qualify the story to be mythic, not the presence of supernatural creatures. G’s idea of mythos also addresses the argument of whether myths can change. To G, of course they can, and they must, with changes in culture and time. It is the mythos, the human truths, that do not change. As G says, “Tolkien changed elves forever—but the mythos remain intact.”

All of this is not enough to definitively describe the Twilight prototype for myth. The discussion does show that the categories of myth and fantasy are important, and perhaps that Twihards do indeed separate those two categories. For the most part, Twilight fans are flexible about myth. They would have to be—Stephenie Meyer’s creations do diverge from previous mythologies, and to be satisfied fans of Twilight, individuals would have to accept those changes. Twilight fans are concerned with the deeper truths embedded in the stories, and in many cases, call those truths “mythic.” Most importantly, most Twilight fans do categorize the Twilight world as something other than “reality.” Whether it is myth or fantasy, Twilight connects to reality an a way that Twihards can re-imagine the world and approach their day-to-day lives from a different angle.

More to come soon!

Best,

Student L

P.S. In other news, I happen to be a on a family vacation. We were at an amusement park yesterday, and guess what I found! Actually, my mom saw it first. It was a t-shirt air-brushing station, with examples of finished designs hanging on the front. Among the air-brushed representations of names and titles like “princess” was a large red air-brushed picture of Edward Cullen. The shirt said, “Team Edward.” I love to see how Twilight has manifested itself into our culture, and this is one mainstream venue that it has entered. I wonder what other Twilight merchandise I’ll see along my merry way as a vacationing tourist…

August 2, 2010

What Kind of Story Is Twilight? A Discussion of Realism, Myth, and Fantasy

The first book I read for my English class in junior year of high school was titled, The Educated Imagination, by Northrup Frye. To this day, it remains one of the most illuminating books I have ever read, and also one of my favorites. The book is a collection of discussions about myth and archetype, recorded from radio talks  given by literary critic, Northrup Frye. He defines myth as “a simple and primitive effort of the imagination to identify the human with the nonhuman world, and it’s most typical result is a story about a god.” (110) He also defines myth as “a structural principal of story-telling.” (110) Why am I bringing any of this up? As a student of literary criticism, I could discuss Frye’s theory of myth all day. As an anthropologist, I need to recognize that Frye comes from a specific literary culture. His ideas about myth are influenced and reinforced by the intellectual community to which he belongs. As an anthropologist, I need to recognize that his ideas are not sacrosanct. They belong to a specific culture, and other cultures have different prototypes for the category of mythology.

Within the Twilight Lexicon discussion thread, “Explorations,” most fans define the story as myth or fantasy. A few disagree, and the difference in opinion comes down to what each group believes to be the definition of myth. I’ll begin with the fans who believe that Twilight should be read as a realistic novel. One participant, whom I’ll call “A” for now, initially lays out an argument for a realistic reading in two parts. First, Stephenie Meyer expends tremendous effort in the novels to ground the reader in the “real world.” A lists, “Bella doing house chores, her boredom with Forks, fixing up her car…” To A, Stephenie Meyer does not set up the reader’s expectations for fantasy, but rather for a realistic story of a high school teenager. A also states that a large number of fans, including Stephenie Meyer herself, choose to read Twilight as a character story. A says, “…in a sense, I must judge it that way, if I’m to understand how it’ll shape the literary world in the decades to come…” A makes a very interesting point here, aside from our discussion of realism vs. fantasy. In deciding what defines a culture, do we focus on what most of the people involved are thinking, regardless of whether participating individuals agree? Does it matter what every body thinks? I would answer, with my beginners anthropological understanding, with a resounding yes. A’s remark that most people judge Twilight as a character story, if that is true, reveals the reigning discourse among Twilight fans. That being said, the majority opinion isn’t the whole opinion, or the entire culture. And so I continue.

A, in a later posts, adds to the first two arguments for a realistic reading with a third. A says, “Ms. Meyer’s attempts to create her own mythos are clumsy.” She doesn’t draw on “centuries of mythic evolution, cultural expectations, and the works of other authors, all of which—amazingly—have some commonalities in terms of mood and theme.” This argument is mostly with regards to Stephenie Meyer’s re-imagining of the vampire. A feels that she has violated the traditional idea of a vampire, and thus, deprived her own work of true mythic resonance. I’ll come back to this later.

There is another participant on the thread that does not necessarily agree with A, but also chooses to read Twilight as a realistic novel. This fan, whom I’ll call B, says,

“In regards to Myths or Reality, this story has drawn me in so far personally, that it becomes a Reality in my mind. Even though my brain tells me there is no such thing as Vampires, my feelings have accepted them as an alternative reality and I embrace their life and live their choices and actions with them as if they are real. To me, even though the setting is Mythical, the issues and principles being dealt with are Real. I know the story is Fictional, but the subject matter is more than Real, it contains Moral and Eternal principles that reach out and touch me.”

To this fan, the fantasy trappings of the story do not take away its realism. Instead, so long as B relates to the characters and their  choices, the novels strike him as real and he allows himself to believe in the reality of their worlds.

As I mentioned before, these ideas of Twilight as a realistic novel are rare on this thread. Instead, most fans see Twilight as some combination of fantasy and myth, whatever that means! As I’ll be hopefully showing, those terms are not as easy to define as one might think. One of the first mentions of Twilight as a myth comes December, another participant involved in the thread. December writes,

“I should perhaps emphasize that in saying this, I’m not making a judgment about whether there’s something unhealthy about Bella’s preoccupation with Edward. The way I read this story, that isn’t really the right question to ask in the first place—any more than one should enquire into Snow White’s mental health. For me, Twilight is a fairy story. Realist considerations don’t apply.”

I’ve addressed this issue before on the blog. A few fans, and many Anti-Fans, have criticized Bella’s relationship with Edward and labeled her as an inappropriate example for young girls seeking a healthy partnership with a committed, but not over-protective, boyfriend. December makes a key point in defining the difference in the basic premise between this view of Bella, and other fans’ views of Bella. Those who criticize Bella’s unhealthy obsession are reading the story as a realistic one, applicable in many ways to our daily lives. Those who do not gaze at Bella’s relationship with Edward through a mental health lens come from a mythological point of view, separating the story in many ways from the real world. And that does, I think, support my original idea that the Twilight prototypes for healthy and unhealthy are actually not different from our mainstream cultural prototypes. I would imagine that most Twilight fans would not support Bella’s behavior if it were directed towards Mike Newton, or even Brad Pitt. They simply do not apply realistic categories of health to a supernatural world.

December continues,

“Bella…is an archetypal heroine, deliberately under-specified to allow every girl to project herself into the character’s place…Maybe we need to think of Bella’s bookishness more like Homeric epithet: Far-throwing Zeus or Brilliant Agamemnon. An attribute which sets up this mythic character in its place. We don’t expect to be shown Agamemnon’s brilliance through constant repartee—it’s not that kind of story.”

This idea indeed supports the assertion that Twilight is indeed a mythic novel. Bella is, perhaps purposely, not a fully characterized girl. Yes, she is given certain enduring qualities, but her every personality trait, memory, and thought isn’t fed to us step-by-step as it would for perhaps a more realistic character. December’s suggestion about Homeric epithets is a possibility that would certainly qualify Bella as mythic rather than realistic, and thus that at least part of Twilight is a mythic story.

In response to December’s first post on the topic, another fan, whom I’ll call C, agrees with December’s thoughts about Bella’s mental health. C says, “Yes, this is a fairytale…When you are looking at, evaluating, critiquing these characters, one absolutely cannot fail to account for the supernatural circumstances woven throughout.” To C, the supernatural elements of the story contribute to its mythical nature, separating it from the typical realist story with realist considerations.

Another fan, whom I’ll call D, adds another element to the discussion of Twilight as myth. This fan states,

“She’s trumped up as this “real” girl, this heroine. But why? Because she has weaknesses? Because she has great strengths, according to some? These qualities do not a real girl make…Also, while I agree this is a fairy tale, and so we have to remember that, I think it’s also interesting, since we live in the real world, to draw real world parallels, as long as we continue to acknowledge the difference. Like, ‘it’s cool that in the story Bella did this, but in the real world, I would do that.’”

This fan echo’s December’s original discussion of Homeric epithets, emphasizing that Bella’s character isn’t developed enough to qualify her as a realistic character. That being said, D sees value in comparing the world of myth to the world of reality. This is one of the concepts that Dr. K discussed with me when we first began the project. Twilight, and other similar works, provide an alternate reality with different rules. Fans can use those realities to navigate the real world, and to re-imagine how our own categories and prototypes might exist. Fantasy can be a lens into our real lives. So, here, it seems that D has touched on the very basic core of this research project. How exactly do Twilight fans categorize their world, and how do they use the Twilight universe to re-imagine reality?

December offers a number of other points to support the idea that Twilight is a mythic story. December compares Twilight to a medieval Romance like Tristan and Isoldt,. The factor that makes it difficult for us to grasp Stephenie Meyer story is that “it’s fluffy AND it’s dark, though the darkness is shot through with an insistence on the possibility of joy.” December compares this dynamic with “Tolkien’s notion of Faëry.” This comparison of Twilight to other mythical traditions is part of what makes it resonate as “the modern fairy tale.”

December also makes a novel point about how, in modern times, realist trappings can actually enhance a mythical story. December points out that much of our modern literature is “oriented towards the novel rather than the Romance/Myth/Fairytale,” and so, in order to bring myth to life for modern readers, authors must make the characters seem more realistic. December calls this a “hybridizing of the genre,” and makes an important point: realist trappings don’t necessarily make for realism.

December also mentions that, after all, Stephenie Meyer’s story did begin with a dream. December calls it “A stunningly potent, almost primal, image of love and danger entwined, balanced on a knife-edge…” This dream-like quality that permeates the story is part of what endows it with “mythic force” and allows it to travel to the deepest recesses of human thought, or emotion. In line with this thought, December later writes that Twilight is a fantasy but also a myth. The subtle distinction lies in the idea that Twilight strikes at a “central truth,” namely, “Edward’s terrible struggles against his own nature, the eerie, overlapping tenderness and menace…” Since Twilight deals with this universal theme of struggling with our own violent natures to achieve a higher purpose, it qualifies as myth.

Another fan, whom I’ll call E, adds even more ideas to the discussion of Twilight as myth. E writes,

“But I have to remind myself that although I would love for it to be real it is a fantasy story…for me it’s the best rewritten Romeo & Juliet there is….If the Twilight Saga should be read as myth or realist novel…I don’t know…vampire stories have been around for as long as humans can remember, it was Stephenie who brought them into the 21st century, but where do the stories come from, fear, knowledge, badly told stories and legends…same goes for werewolves…”

E gives the idea of Twilight as fantasy legitimacy by comparing it to another fantasy story. Although many people may debate E’s point that Romeo & Juliet is fantasy, the point is well taken. E also classifies Twilight as myth because of the presence of vampires and werewolves, mythic creatures that have inhabited the imagination of human beings for centuries, and in E’s opinion, sprung from the deepest recesses of the human psyche.

Finally, for now, I will bring back C again. This fan describes the setting inside the Twilight novels as a “mythical world.” To G, the most crucial element of the story is “the danger Bella faces from the mythical world she makes herself a part of, particularly one where she is what facilitates the danger she faces.” C discusses Edward, the Cullen’s, and Jacob as mythical creatures that pose a serious threat to Bella’s life, but also the invaluable gifts of true love, family, and friendship. It is this “specific push and pull” between the mythical world and the real world, danger and safety, threat and tenderness, that form the core of the story.

C also brings up, in a different post, the possibility of mixing genres. C asks why “you can’t have a realistic fairy tale” or “[find] a new literary niche.” C is asking much the same question as I am. Where is the separation between reality and myth? What is the difference between fantasy and realism? Where do these categories overlap? I’m not quite done with this topic yet, and I haven’t even begun to construct prototypes out of this discussion yet, so definitely keep checking back.

Till tomorrow,

TwiAnthropologist

August 1, 2010

Introduction to “Explorations,” A Twilight Lexicon Thread

Hello everyone! I’m back! After a couple days hiatus on this research blog, I am finally ready to begin reporting on a Twilight Lexicon thread titled “Explorations.” The prompt for this thread is a series of open-ended questions. It reads, “How do YOU read the Twilight story? Fluffy romance or morality tale? Realist novel or fairy story? Is it just a supernatural novel with the trappings of myth, or does it have a genuine mythic dimension?” The thread begins with detailed responses to these types of questions, and then naturally as a conversation takes its course, moves on to different sorts of questions.

With 166 posts, this was a long discussion to read! It was even more difficult to organize into manageable ideas about categories and prototypes. The moment we try to distill a discussion, it loses its give and take, and perhaps some meaning. While remaining cognizant of the fact that I do take something away from the discussion by re-organizing it, I’ve grouped the comments and posts into open-ended questions, many of which are related. I’ll be blogging about the thread a few of these questions at a time. Here are some blog posts you should expect to see:

1)    Is Twilight a Realistic or Mythological/Fantasy story?

2)    What constitutes a myth?

3)    Is becoming a Twilight vampire a difficult or obvious choice?

4)    What does it mean to be human? Do Twilight vampires lose their humanity?

5)    What is moral and immoral in the Twilight universe?

6)    What does it mean to be a vampire?

7)    What is love?

8)    Was Bella’s transformation too easy? If yes, why was it so easy?

9)    Is being human a good thing? Is it sacred?

10) What defines life and death? Are vampires alive or dead?

11) Thoughts on Renesmee

12) Thoughts on Happily Ever Afters

13) Thoughts on Breaking Dawn

14) Should Edward have bitten Bella?

15) Thoughts about Jacob

16) General interesting thoughts about the Twilight universe

These were the general groupings that came out of my reading of the discussion. As you’ll notice, many of them are quite related and interconnected, and I may report on several at the same time. The 16th category is simply a random page where I recorded thoughts that were meaningful but didn’t necessarily fit into any specific grouping that I could imagine. I’ll be back with the first post this evening.

Best,

Student L

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