Book Excerpt: Fanpire: The Twilight Saga and the Women Who Love It

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by Tanya Erzen
November 6, 2012 10:25 AM
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Many Twilight fans had never read an entire book before picking up the series, and now they are inhaling it in repeated readings of ten, fifteen, or fifty times. They build websites like Twilight Singapore, gay and lesbian fans create Facebook pages dedicated to the series, and through it discover lifelong friends. At conventions, they donate blood, exchange extra Twilight buttons and t-shirts, and bond over bonfires, lunches, and volleyball games. They book tickets for the Twilight cruise to Alaska to mingle with fans and celebrities from the films, read the Twilight graphic novel, meet up with a Twilight mom’s group, or buy Twilight merchandise like Sweetarts, a heart-shaped candy that says “bite me” or “soul mate.” They wear the au courant raincoat from Nordstrom’s Twilight-inspired fashion line. Fans like Rachel do not want to merely read the books; they want to climb inside them and live there.

This book is about the pleasures of the millions of devoted Twilight fans like Rachel who have transformed the Twilight saga into a cultural phenomenon. Thirteen million copies of the books have been sold in the United States; 116 million copies, worldwide, with translations into thirty-seven languages. The film adaptations are some of the highest-grossing movies of all time. Meanwhile, the Twilight saga has spent more time on the New York Times best-seller list than even the Harry Potter novels. Its appeal can be encapsulated in the fact that it was recommended to me by my daughter’s forty-year-old preschool teacher, a fourteen-year-old neighbor, and a university colleague as must-reads.

Fanpire, one of the collective terms Twilight fans use to describe themselves, evokes the ubiquity and popularity of the Twilight phenomenon, as well as the fact that its readers cross generations, economic strata, and countries. Fans from Romania to Salt Lake City have invented a Twilight-inspired universe that encompasses all aspects of their lives: from Edward-addiction groups and “twi-rock” music to Cullenism, a religion based on the values of Edward’s family of vegetarian vampires. There is a lexicon of fan terms: Twilighter: a Twilight fan; Twi-hard: a die-hard Twilight fan; and Twibrary: your collection of all things related to Twilight.

I met fans on tour buses to Twilight-inspired sites; attended thousand-strong conventions; danced at a vampire ball; watched the film premiere of New Moon with four thousand primarily Mormon Twilight moms in Utah; befriended people who adorn their bodies with tattoos like the one on the cover of this book; observed vampire baseball games; and struggled through a Bella self-defense class. Approximately 600 people responded to my online fan survey within a few days after some of the major fan websites provided links to it. Their responses, as well as the interviews I conducted with fans in person and online, and my own participation in the fanpire, form the basis of this book.

Is a fan someone who camps out for weeks in a grimy parking lot for a glimpse of a Twilight film star, or is it the person who feels ecstatically transported simply while reading the books? We are all fans of something, whether our fanaticism is private or public, shameful or prideful, steadfast or capricious. Scholars have extensively researched fans and fandoms.  Fans are nomadic, and the way they relate to texts is never stable or final. Many travel between fandoms and tastes: young adult fantasy literature, vampire lovers, and romance readers.

The fanpire in the United States, based on my online survey, tends to be almost 98 percent women. Eighty percent identify as nondenominational Christians or Catholics while the remainder self-describe as “spiritual.” In my survey, 85 percent of respondents were white, and most respondents over age eighteen had completed at least two years of higher education. However, like any amorphous and heterogeneous phenomenon, the fanpire eludes easy classification.

Editors Note: The final film in the Twilight Saga - Breaking Dawn Part 2 opens on November 16

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Excerpted from Fanpire: The Twilight Saga and the Women Who Love It by Tanya Erzen, published in October 2012 by Beacon Press. Next up on the Fanpire Blog tour is Feminism and Religion.

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