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Interview with the Twi-Hard: Explaining Twilight Fandom

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Nov 16, 2011 | 12:32pm EST

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The Twilight books and movies don't lend themselves to being half-heartedly endorsed or protested. No, the saga of supernatural romance—comprised of Twilight, New Moon, Eclipse and Breaking Dawn—is one of this past decade's truly polarizing pop culture entries. You either hate 'em, or you love 'em.

But why? The naysayers have plenty of ammunition, which has been piling up steadily since the first novel debuted in 2005, but rarely do we hear from the people who've helped the film franchise gross billions worldwide: the Twi-Hards. Believe it or not, they're people too—and bright ones at that.

With The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn - Part 1 on the horizon, I wanted to gain a better understanding of the pro-Twilight opinion. So I sat down with a friend who is fully committed to the world of Twilight (Team Edward, if you were curious) and picked her mind on what makes the series so alluring for its passionate fans:

First, an important confirmation: do you consider yourself a Twi-Hard?

Yes! Definitely.

ALTNow that that's settled, what is it about the Twilight franchise that makes you such a fan? The books, the movies, the whole concept?

I think the characters themselves are very easy to relate to. Not so much the vampire aspect, but the whole idea of love and loss. That's a really big thing throughout. With Bella, she goes through her first love, and every girl sees themselves in that way, going through that the first time. Other women, older women, like it because they're able to reminisce about when they had their first love. She's really relatable—especially in the books. To get a sense of what she's going through, what girls go through, what women have gone through.

Do you feel the Twilght presents a truthful depiction of that experience?

I do. As far as first time love can seem like, 'I can't lose this person.' And when Bella lost Edward in New Moon…unless people are still with their high school sweetheart, they've gone through a similar thing of losing a guy that's really important to them. They can feel for her.

Whenever a popular book gets the big screen treatment there's always a fury from fans over the transition. How does the cinematic saga fit in with your fandom?

The movies are good because you can place what's happened, how it deviated from the book.

They've changed a lot?

They stick to it, but it's hard, because the voice is all inside Bella's head. It's not so much the things she's saying, as much as things she's thinking. In the first Twilight, I found that movie to be more awkward because it's so much of her wondering, 'Does he like me? Does he not like me?' You can't portray that as much…with them just staring at each other.

For something that a lot of people care about, Twilght gets a pretty bad rap. Why do you think that is?

If you think too much about the book and movie, then I think it can really upset you—thinking that Bella is this weak person that needs a man to be happy—that's taking it too far. The book is simple. It's not a hard read, and it's not meant to be. Same thing for the movies. A lot of feminists look at the movie and think, 'This doesn't empower women,' but I don't think that's the point. It gets you to relax and go into a different world and enjoy the ride.

But do you think, because of the subject matter the books and movies are dealing, that it's OK for the movies to be that thin?

Stephanie Meyers isn't that experienced a writer. It's not Harry Potter—the differences in the writing are vastly different. It's a tricky issue, but I do think if you look into anything too much you're going to lose some of the value. You're talking about vampires and werewolves—obviously there's a lot of stuff that's otherworldly.

I've seen all the movies so far and I don't have a strong reaction to them, but I can understand why someone may take concern with the picture they paint. Obviously, the supernatural can be used as a metaphor for a lot of situations and emotions. Serious ones. So why should we settle for something like Twilight, if you can't dig deep into it?

As the movies are concerned, I think…for guys…I'm not sure what guys really see in it. There's some action, but it's not an action movie. But for girls…Bella is supposed to be an ordinary girl. Average looking. Yet, someone so beautiful, so special sees something in her. It kind of passes a message that, "Even if you think you're average, you can be above average to anyone."

Do you think the movie sticks true to that idea? People are very connected, not just to the characters, but to the people playing those characters.

Personally, I'm not a big Kristen Stewart fan. Bella is always concerned about…she doesn't want to hurt others, she doesn't think of herself. But she's so in love with Edward…I don't really get that feeling from the movies.

Then I'm surprised you like them. She seems like the person you have to connect with to find enjoyment in the films.

ALTSee, it's different: in the books, you feel closest to Bella. In the movies, I felt the closest to Edward and Jacob. A lot of people, I've heard, have even switched over—in the books, they're Team Edward, but in the movies, they're Team Jacob. Taylor Lautner does a really good job of portraying all the struggles Jacob is going through; falling love with Bella, even though he's not her first pick…it's just a whole teenage dynamic that draws people in.

And it's honest.

His portrayal is very genuine. It's so hard—I'm a big fan of the books and I like the movies, but it's hard to convey all their emotions in a look. He does a good job doing that. Then of course, there's the fact that everyone loves Robert Pattinson.

Dreamboat.

People definitely joined the bandwagon after finding out he was cast.

As an honest depiction of romance, have you been able to take anything away from the book and movies?

Bella's reaction of being so upset is honest, but she was also able to come back from it. She was devastated when Edward left, but she was able to find someone else in Jacob, as a good friend. And it would have gradually led, you can tell, to something else if Edward hadn't come back. I think it shows that even in your darkest time, there's stuff for you. You'll still have other people in your life. I don't think they really try and take it to that point where they'd die without each other. To be fair, Edward's already dead [laughs], but he's definitely one to be very dramatic, but girls love that because they love the idea that, "Oh, he loves me so much." As opposed to, "Whoa, he's crazy." I never took the books or the movies to be…I could see part of myself going through losing a boyfriend, but maybe not spending weeks and weeks and weeks in bed. But I can still relate to what she's going through, but it's not like, "Oh, I'll be exactly like her."

Do you think the franchise has an influence on the fans?

I think that some people can take it as far as expecting to find a love like that, but you've really got to be…I know people have joked to their husbands, 'Why can't you be more like Edward!?' But I don't think they're getting divorces or anything's happening because of it. Just having a reminder that romantic stuff can happen. Each character you get to know pretty well, and they all have unique qualities and abilities to them. You're diving into a whole different realm. Like in Harry Potter, you wanted to join Hogwarts. In this, it's like, 'I'd love to fall in love with a vampire.'

So even the parts that feel like reality, you're able to embrace as fantasy.

Yeah. You can see yourself in it, but you can also take a step back.

ALTI was reading an article by a woman who finds Edward to be an abusive boyfriend, and that his relationship with Bella is unhealthy. He tells her he can't live without her, he's thrown her around, unintentionally or not…we're talking about the movies being honest and people connecting with that honesty, but what happens when it starts feeling like a really awful relationship?

I think that's taking it too far. It's supposed to be a romantic notion more than anything else. Someone you'd be willing to sacrifice yourself for. Real people, we don't have to do that, but we want someone who has our back. That idea with a romantic twist, which I think gives it an appeal. Like a fairy tale. You could go back and look at Disney fairy tales and try and find the same things. Go back and say, 'This is unhealthy and this is unhealthy.' Maybe Twilight is seen differently because it's not animation.

Do you think Twilight is a pop culture milestone the way many consider Harry Potter to be?

Definitely. I used to substitute teach and I would always see middle schoolers and high schoolers reading the book. People who may not be prone to reading. It's an easy read, but it has enough depth to it to hold your interest. It gets you invested in characters.

But do you think the lessons of the series have permeated through the culture that's devoured them? This new movie deals with getting married, teen pregnancy, the experience of being a young mother—is Twilight teaching people about that?

I don't think it's trying to promote getting married and having children at a young age, but I think it's trying to relate to a problem that we're faced with today. It does say 'marriage comes first,' but…you know Stephanie Meyer was a Mormon and she definitely brings those aspects into the movie. But I don't think it says that this is how it should be done and you should be young when you do it. The books are not meant to do that and neither are the movies.

Also, I think another reason it's popular, but some people will join because so many other people like it.

You mean you've met people who've jumped on the Twilight bandwagon?

Yeah. I think that some people do. Though for people who haven't read the books, who just see the movies…I think they miss out. In fact, I wouldn't call them Twi-hards.

Diss!

I think you need to know the books and the movies.

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