Can you buy that Twilight feeling?
As my regular perusal of fan-sites obsessively reminds me, the Bella-Esque green dress is a MUST HAVE! Nordstrom’s offers Twilight clothing and cosmetics! Hot Topic will hold a listening party of the New Moon soundtrack! To add to these monumental (?!?) consumer fests, Twi-conventions offer t-shirts, posters, and merchandise galore, the vendor sections functioning like overpriced crack dens for Twi-addicts.
While at TwiCon 2009, I met a woman in the registration line who told me she has spent $10,000 on Twi-parerphernalia. Talk about a habit!
According to many Twi-sites, fans such as this women must (or should) be able to afford endless Edward stills, cd’s, 100 Monkeys concert trips, pilgrimages to Forks, and perhaps even their own shiny Volvo. If not, will maybe they can sell their soul on ebay or pints of blood on Craigslist. What is the class demographic of the fandom I wonder? Certainly not all lovers of the series can afford the usually $250 plus registration fees for the likes of Comic-Con or Twilight conventions…
Might the impetus to spend (even when spending is not advisable given the emptiness of one’s Twi-wallet) be an attempt to buy back that 1st experience of reading the books? A mad scramble to pocket that 1st high? To buy back that Twilight feeling?
I will admit it – I am no better than the next consumerized inhabitant of United Shoppers of America. Sephora beckons me. I find the siren call of t-shirts, buttons, or bumper-stickers with clever sayings hard to resist. Like other convention attendees, I peruse the vendor sites, basking in the glow of enticing commodities.
Yet, I am worried about our collective consumer obsession. In the case of Twilight, everything from the author to the actors to the Forks setting have been churned through the profit-mill and mass marketed to fans whose desires are seemingly endless. Meyer’s life in comic book form? Check. Your own plasto-form Edward to stick to your bedroom wall? Check. Twi candy, cards, lip gloss, perfume, sheets, pillows, contact lenses, and costumes? Check.
Now, for a moment I am going to sound like the Literature Professor I am:
Please, can we get back to the books once in a while? Remember that storyline that kept you flipping the pages? Couldn’t we focus on that now and again?
For all the claims I hear that Twilight is creating new generations of book lovers, I rarely come across much discussion of the actual books in the Twi-universe. Seems instead Twilight is creating hordes of consumers – a new “target market” of already commodified girls and women (for more on girls as a “key market” see books such as Branded, Packaging Girlhood, and So Sexy So Soon.) Thus, it’s especially ironic that two new books on Twilight, Touched by a Vampire and Twilight and Philosophy have been accused of “capitalizing” on the popularity of the series with commenters griping that academics are writing about Twilight only for their own gain. So, it’s ok if you make your living stalking stars, hawking “Mrs. Cullen” t-shirts, or running Twilight events, fan-sites, conventions, etc, but, if you want to write about the series from an intellectual perspective, head straight back to your ivory tower, damn you!
The turn away from books, and the derisive response to “think books” on the series, combined with the mega-consumption of Twi-products, leads me to think the phenomenon is not so much creating new generations of readers as it is feeding our addictions to commodities and celebrity. This turn is something I think Stephenie Meyer and I just might agree on – as much as she seems to love the proms, the stars, etc, I suspect she might be saddened that the books, amidst all the consumer/celebrity blitz, are getting lost in the mix. What literature major wouldn’t?