The Twilight Saga [June 28 - July 2, 2010]

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Monday June 28, 2010 – Maggie Parke (Bangor University Wales, and Elfin Productions) presents: Twilight: The Multi-Media Marketing Machine 

Tuesday June 29, 2010 – Natalie Wilson (California State University, San Marcos) presents: Twilight Fandom: Taking a Bite out of Gendered Backlash

Wednesday June 30, 2010 – Courtney Brannon Donoghue (University of Texas at Austin) presents: “Twilight is a License to Print Money”: Selling the Female Film Franchise

Thursday July 1, 2010 – Rebecca Housel (Editor, Twilight & Philosophy and True Blood & Philosophy) presents: Eclipsing the “Real”: Twilight & Simulacra

Friday July 2, 2010 – Jennifer Stevens Aubrey (University of Missouri) presents: Contemplating the Franchise, the Fandom and the Celebrity Juggernaut of the Twilight Saga

 

Theme week organized by Darcey West (Georgia State University)

Picture from bark_it via Flickr, used and altered under Creative Commons License permission.

 


  • Twilight: The Multi-Media Marketing … by Maggie Parke

  • The third installment of the Twilight Saga, Eclipse, is out as of June 30 and will likely cause box office records to smash once again as the beloved fictional vampire has another remediation on screen. I was on the set of the first film and part of Twilight’s premiere in London, and while the crowds were fanatic at both, the studio did not yet know what to do with that level of passion. But now, they’re hitting their stride, combining the multimedia elements of the Twilight world and perfecting their timing. The thing I’ve been thinking about recently is the development of the saga’s promotion, and the trans-textual realms drawn upon for Eclipse. One example of this is the promotion of a recently released novella for the development of the film.

    Eclipse is coming out shortly after the best-selling The Short Second Life of Bree Tanner: An Eclipse Novella, which tells the story a seemingly trivial character from Eclipse, but who apparently inspired Stephenie Meyer as she indulged the character with her own story. It was an enjoyable romp through the development of a periphery character, and I’m interested to see what aspects are taken into Eclipse as it’s fresh in fans’ minds, the filmmakers had early access to it, and they certainly seem to be pushing the attachment to characters from that story and its place in the film.

    For example, with the creation of the Newborn Army, the audience now have specific descriptions of what their ‘homebases’ looked like, how Newborns think, and how they were ‘raised’ and treated before marching on the Cullens. Director David Slade has said he is using these descriptions. Most importantly, where the readers probably originally just viewed the Newborns as the enemy because they wanted to destroy the heroine Bella, they now have some sympathy for their situation as victims of random slaughter and understand the raw violence in their lives. It raises their profile as a threat, but also humanizes them. This is something Slade would have been thrown to the wolves for (pardon the pun) had he tried to put it into Eclipse, but as Meyer did it, it is acceptable and the fans take her word as law!

    Returning to the promotion discussion, it’s interesting how much the characters from this short novella are playing into the promotion, and apparently the story, for the film Eclipse. Shortly after TSSLoBT’s release, an online featurette that introduced Bree Tanner appeared on fansites as well as on the Saga’s official YouTube page, and the latest Eclipse TV spot features Riley as the main threat and villain. There’s no mention of Victoria, which is surprising if you haven’t read TSSLoBT, as Riley is certainly secondary to the terrifying Victoria in Eclipse, who is the horror-striking threat while Riley is her minion. However, in TSSLoBT, Riley is the ringleader. He’s the guy in charge, and the TV spot sure portrays him as such… I can’t help but wonder if the filmmakers found a male threat more terrifying and stronger than a female threat, and are thus making him the focal villain using TSSLoBT to heighten the threat of the newborns, the threat of Riley, and raise the action quota. We shall see, I suppose.

    So, are the confluence of a novella, interviews online and TV spots featuring the novella’s characters to heighten their roles in the film the icing on the cake? The US release happens just a few days after a lunar eclipse; well played…

    Author’s Blog: http://www.imstillwandering.blogspot.com


  • Twilight Fandom: Taking a Bite Out … by Natalie Wilson

  • With Eclipse due to premiere in theatres this evening, the past week has been brimming with Twilight-related events. Last week, for example, a so-called “tent-city” brimmed with fans camping out in anticipation for the Friday night Los Angeles premiere. Then, on Saturday evening, the night of the lunar eclipse, Summit Entertainment hosted “Twilight Night” events around the country that included celebrity appearances, live music, and back to back screenings of the first two film adaptations. A review of San Diego’s “Twilight Night” by Conception Allen reports such events reveal Twilight “fanaticism” continues to “cause hysterics.”  Describing fans’ “ardent screams” and noting that those turned away once the venue had reached capacity “threw tantrums,” the piece represents fans as temperamental toddlers.

    Such a tone is typical in mainstream depictions of Twilighters that rather uniformly depict fans as childish and/or hyperfeminine. Words such as hysteria, fever, obsession, and mania are often deployed - words that the recent text Bitten by Twilight: Youth Culture, Media, and the Vampire Franchise aptly describe as “Victorian era gendered words.” This rendering of fandom in terms that simultaneously infantilize and feminize it reflects the historical repudiation of females and femininity generally and the derision targeted at female fandoms more specifically.

    Scholars such as Angela McRobbie and Milly Williamson document this enduring contempt for female fans, examining how cultural studies has tended to position male fans as resisting or subverting mainstream culture while female fans are either not considered at all or framed as dupes, uber-consumers, or, most often, as silly girls. This framing is particularly apparent with regards to the Twilight fandom, with fans depicted as crazy, frenzied hordes that shriek and gasp over “anything possessing a penis.” This gendered backlash dismisses the productive and engaged nature of Twilight fandom, allowing for widespread ridicule that is not only about not liking Twilight but also participates in the historical tendency to mock that which females enjoy (such as romance novels, soap operas, teen idols, etc).

    There are, however, exceptions. For example, the Vampire-Con Film Festival (which took place June 24 through June 26 in Los Angeles) distanced itself from the Twilight phenomenon via its promotional clip. Featuring an Edward-looking vampire enjoying the viewing pleasure of fellow cinema goers by “sparkling” in the theatre, this “All bite, No Sparkle” parody distances “real” vampire fans from Twilighters in a way that is humorous rather than derisive, clever rather than mocking. Similar to the “Vampires Protest Z Day” clip that promoted Vamp-Con 2009, this year’s video relies on parody rather than attacking the Twilight fandom directly or framing fans as “silly girls.” The clip proves that differing fandoms can be critical of one another or disagree about what cultural products are deserving of fans without resorting to misogynistic laced disdain.

    As argued by Melissa Click, the Twilight fandom “presents an opportunity to disrupt the persistent stereotypes about girls, the media they enjoy, and their cultural activities.” She insists cultural studies scholars must not “let the gendered mockery of Twilight fans continue unchallenged.” I agree entirely – Twilight may sparkle, but the critique of it need not bite…


  • "Twilight is a license to print … by Courtney Brannon Donoghue

  • A recent cycle of high earning female stars and female-driven pictures has created quite a bit of hype around the battle of the sexes at the box office. Much of the current discourse began around 2008 with the successful translation of two female franchises from the page or small screen to film—Twilight and Sex and the City—followed by subsequent sequels released this summer. While SATC 2 fizzled under critical weight upon its May release (or was it those wretched flying carpet jokes), the coverage of The Twilight Saga: Eclipse, released this week, predicts the opposite.  What may have been dismissed initially as a mid-range chick flick has matured into a sustainable and lucrative transmedia franchise, as the online comment in my title, or the recent Forbes breakdown suggests. Yet, is the hype around Twilight a real game changer for the contemporary film franchise, an industry strategy historically directed towards/by and oriented around male action heroes, comic book characters and literary icons, or just the exception to the rule?

    Indie studio Summit Entertainment may have been slow to recognize the audience power behind the first film, already mentioned by Parke. Oh boy, what a difference two films, and two years, can make, as illustrated by Summit’s amped marketing strategies ranging from fast food to credit cards. With Eclipse, Summit expanded the series through a larger budget, prime summer release date, wider theatrical release including IMAX, record yearly advanced ticket sales, massive fan mobilization online and in person through week-long tent city at the LA premiere site, etc. This blockbuster discourse around the colossal size and market share are not new but reflect releases surrounding Avatar, Dark Knight and, even earlier, Jaws

    Yet, the strength and saturation of each film continues to receive the same pushback or negative reaction as the largely female fan community. As the Twilight marketing machine has grown and eclipsed spaces such as MTV Movie Awards and Comic Con previously held by franchises such as Pirates of the Caribbean, Transformers and Lord of the Rings, there is increased reaction that these girly movies have “ruined” them. I propose the idea that Twilight’s size and saturation ruins spaces intended for selling traditional franchises needs to be interrogated further. Why does the Twilight juggernaut playing the game give rise to this level of anxiety? In joining the blockbuster boys club, it is not only the fans who are constructed as unruly, but Twilight itself is an unruly female franchise taking over the industry and the box office. Despite the film’s questionable gender politics, is this franchise uncontainable within previous understandings of the male-oriented blockbuster?

    What I find so interesting about the Burger King campaign is how it fully embraces the “Twi-Hard” label and Team Edward/Jacob debates. In this video clip, the BK commercial utilizes “real” fans in a playful attempt to exploit the hysteria and further fuel the unruly perception of this franchise.

     


  • Eclipsing the "Real": Twilight & … by Rebecca Housel

  • “Does my being half-naked bother you?” -Jacob Black, Eclipse

    We all feel vulnerable once in awhile, especially in light of the rampant joblessness, natural disasters, potential for terrorism, and global economic decline. It’s a scary world, and sometimes, being human isn’t enough. That’s where vampires come in: somewhere between the new moon, dawn and twilight. And as far as escapist entertainment goes, vampires have it all, especially the vampires in Stephenie Meyer’s world!

    Vampires have a long history with humans, whether early tales of the goddess Kali sucking the blood of unstoppable demons to Vlad the Impaler to Countess Elizabeth Báthory, the allure of the vampire has stood the test of time. Anne Rice brought vampires back into the pop culture spotlight with her 1976 novel Interview with a Vampire, later made into film in 1994 starring Tom Cruise and Brad Pitt. Following Anne Rice’s vampire acclaim came a slew of vampire-related pop culture, including LJane Smith’s Vampire Diaries in the early 1990’s, Joss Whedon’s Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel, Charlaine Harris’s Southern Vampire Mysteries (the basis for the HBO series, True Blood), and of course, Stephenie Meyer’s Twilight saga. The caveat, as with all popular culture, is to remember what’s real and what isn’t.

    Jean Baudrillard’s seminal work, Simulacra & Simulation (University of Michigan Press 1994), first published in French in 1981, warns us about the problem of substituting artificial representations of reality, like we see on movie screens or television or read in popular books or graphic novels, for what is, in fact, true reality: “Never again will the real have a chance to produce itself—such is the vital function of the model in a system of death, or rather anticipated resurrection, that no longer gives the event of death a chance” (2).

    In other words, Baudrillard warned, without even directly referencing the later advent of the popularized vampire, that by replacing our reality with artificial representations, influencing our real attitudes and ideas, we have lost touch with the most real thing we have…our humanity.

    Being human is all about being vulnerable. You can’t appreciate life in the same way if your existence doesn’t include mortality. By looking to the undead for real-life empowerment, we don’t give ourselves much of a chance. When we look to undead resurrection, we devalue our own lives. And the value of human life is greater than that of even the oldest vampire in our popular culture.


  • Contemplating the Franchise, the … by Jennifer Stevens Aubrey

  • One fascinating element of the Twilight franchise is the way that Summit Entertainment has so successfully cultivated a type of celebrity that conflates the beloved characters from the books and the actors who portray them in the films. Considering that a core demographic of the franchise is young girls, it is not surprising that a key marketing strategy was to plug the actors into the “teen idol machine,” capitalizing on the tendency of adolescent girls to idolize teen celebrities.

    Psychologists recognize that developing a crush on a teen idol is a developmentally appropriate way for girls to acknowledge their emerging sexual feelings in a safe, non-threatening way. Teen idols project a rather feminine form of masculinity that is sexually non-threatening and thus accessible to young girls.

    And Robert Pattinson, who plays Edward, is an ideal teen idol. First, he has “the lean body of youth” (Raphael, 2009, para. 2), and is described as “gloriously handsome” (Brown, 2009, para. 9). Additionally, in line with teen idols, he exudes “a tough femininity” (Raphael, 2009, para. 2). In interviews, he is endlessly self-deprecating, quite opposite to an aggressive masculinity that might be intimidating to young girls.

    A central issue to the teen idol fantasy is the romantic availability of the teen idol. In the case of Twilight, fans generally accept Pattinson being off the market because it translates to the romance of Edward and Bella. I suggest that imagining Pattinson being romantic with Kristen Stewart, who plays Bella, is a way for fans to imagine their own love story with Pattinson; after all, many see themselves as every bit as average as Stewart’s Bella.

    Incidentally, “Robsten” is technically rumor. Pattinson and Stewart have not confirmed the relationship, and Summit has remained silent. The unconfirmed nature of the relationship allows fans to imagine that the characters have a life outside of the text. Edward and Bella’s story is scripted; Robsten’s “story” is not. Rumors about snuggles in airports (E! Online, May 7, 2010) and love nests hidden in the woods (US Weekly, June 16, 2010) provide fans with extratextual information to continue their fantasies of Edward and Bella.

    And this brings us to the fan-made video posted here, which features the astute detective work examining the facial expressions, the eye contact, and the physical touch that these two celebrities have shared in public. Set to the music of Jesse McCartney’s Tell Her, for fans, these visual cues serve as evidence of a tender, intimate private relationship. Tellingly, this video focuses mostly on Pattinson’s reactions to Stewart, rather than vice versa, which is all the better for the fans to fantasize about being in Stewart’s position.

    What does this fan work tell us? In Bitten by Twilight: Youth Culture, Media, and the Vampire Franchise, my co-authors and I report focus group and survey data that suggest fans’ connection to Edward, and by extension, Pattinson, epitomizes the conflicting needs of adolescent girls who have sexual feelings but are nervous about acting on them. Fans told us that Edward is a powerful exception to typical teen boys, who are often viewed by girls as only interested in sex. Thus, the fantasy that Pattinson represents provides a cultural breather for girls who realize that real boys will expect much more from them.

    References

    Brown, L. (2009, December). Robert Pattinson & Kristen Stewart’s wild ride. Harper’s Bazaar. Retrieved from http://www.harpersbazaar.com/magazine/cover/robert-pattinson-kristen-stewart-new-moon-1209

    Raphael, A. (2009, May 2). Bloodsucker blues. The Guardian. Retrieved from http://www.guardian.co.uk/film/2009/apr/30/robert-pattinson-twilight-film

Publication date (from feed): 

Mon, 28 Jun 2010 04:01:00 +0000