Unconditionally and Irrevocably In Love with Forks?: Fan Tourism and Twilight

Curator's Note

Twilight is a series of books (and films) about Bella Swan who moves to Forks, Washington, befriends a shape-shifting wolf (Jacob Black), and falls in love with a vampire (Edward Cullen). Twilight gathered acclaim among fans the last half of the last decade for its gripping story. In 2008, Time stated that, “People do not want to just read [Twilight]; they want to climb inside and live there.”

They can! Unlike Hogwarts or Middle Earth, Forks is a real place with real people. What’s special for us Twilight pilgrims is the extent to which the citizens of Forks also play with the intersection of fictional and real geographies, allowing visitors to experience a state of hyperreality. Fans can walk the halls of the real Forks High School where Bella and Edward first met, stroll along the coast in La Push where Jacob shared with Bella the Quileute legends about vampires, or hike the misty Hoh that acts as Edward’s hunting grounds. Other spaces are constructed by them for fans (i.e Edwards and Bella’s homes) to enhance our enjoyment. Their engagement creates an immersive experience, transporting us from the everyday into an imaginative realm. 

I’ve traveled to Forks during various phases of Twilight hysteria. The first in 2009 near the height of the craze when the Chamber of Commerce reported 70,000 visitors, the second in 2011 as it began to die down (45,000 visitors), and in 2015 well after the release of the final Twilight film (35,000 visitors). Each time, I wonder what impact we are having on this town that only averaged around 5,000 visitors before Twilight? Then, Forks was struggling in the wake of a dying timber industry. With Twilight tourism, the Chamber reports hundreds of thousands of dollars in sales tax revenue contributing to school, medical, and housing construction projects. Are these economic benefits sustainable? Many Twilight themed businesses have closed, though the town continues to hold festivals such as the annual "Forever in Twilight" celebration. What will happen when the Twilight ember finally fades? When it does, what is our responsibility, as fans, to the town of Forks that has given us so much?

 

 

 

Comments

Alexandra Edwards's picture

This made me wonder as well

This made me wonder as well if Stephenie Meyer has a responsibility to Forks, since she set her book there? How does the town view the (now very famous) woman who put them on the map?

Melissa N Miller's picture

What does SM owe Forks?

Hi Alexandra!

It’s been my experience that many of the people who are directly impacted by Twilight fans (shopkeepers, motel/innkeepers, volunteers at the Chamber/Visitor’s Center, for example) have all been complimentary toward Stephenie Meyer and the notoriety that Twilight has thrust upon Forks. Of course, one might expect this kind of messaging from customer service professionals who want to make me feel good about my visit there and continue to spend my time and dollars in their town. However, I believe there is likely a kernel of truth to their statements — the town continues to host an annual “Stephenie Meyer Day” (recently rebranded as “Forever Twilight in Forks”) in honor of her and Twilight (which she has attended), and in this interview (http://vamped.org/2015/10/05/ten-years-of-twilight-visit-to-forks-washin...) the mayor states that he’s pleased she painted the town in a positive light. Still, that’s not to say I haven’t felt twinges of Twilight fatigue from community residents over the years. Tens of thousands of visitors to your town of 3000-4000 has got to be overwhelming after a while.

Meyer had never even visited Forks before publishing the first Twilight book - she just Googled “rainiest place in the US” and Forks was the lucky hit. While no one could have expected that Twilight would become such a success, it doesn’t negate that its popularity was a lot for the town to handle and they have really managed to take the whole thing in stride. But you are right that it begs the question of what she may owe them in return for accepting the monumental responsibility of acting as caretakers to a fandom that they didn’t ask for. The philanthropic opportunities that must exist in the small communities of Forks (and also neighboring La Push), are likely great. One would think someone of her capacity must be making contributions to these communities. But, no one is saying - if she is.

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