By Rebecca Williams
In its first weekend of release The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn – Part 2, the final instalment in the vampire fantasy films, debuted at the top of the US box office with estimated takings of $141m (£88.6m). The concluding film was equally successful in the UK, knocking James Bond’s Skyfall – the 5th biggest UK movie of all time – off the top of the chart.
This success comes against a background of some snobbery and derision towards the Twilight saga which has often been subject to criticism for its writing and plotlines, its characterisation (with the lead character Bella often heavily criticised for being passive), and the acting abilities of its three leads Kristen Stewart, Robert Pattinson and Taylor Lautner. However, there is no mistaking the enduring popularity of the saga, as the enthusiastic activities of Twilight fans makes clear.
The Odeon cinema chain in the UK screened Twilight marathons on Thursday 15th November, beginning with the first film at 4pm, then screening New Moon, Eclipse, and Breaking Dawn: Part 1 before a midnight showing of Part 2. In the US hundreds of fans in LA spent days and nights camping in a makeshift Twilight village before the film’s premiere.
For some, though, such behaviour is seen as abnormal. Twilight fans have often been ridiculed and dismissed as crazy or hysterical, and associated with immaturity and childishness. Some publications have described them as rabid or frenzied. However, for many fans it is precisely this ability to express desire, attraction, or interest that has led to the series being such a success.
Whilst many sections of the mass media, and other fan groups, have derided the saga and its audiences, there is no mistaking the connection that some fans have formed with the characters and actors from the series. Indeed, in many ways, the desire to “be there”- to experience communal excitement and share happenings with other Twilight fans – is no different to the shared experience of attending a football match or a live music gig; two other examples of attending events with like-minded fans.
As the Twilight saga draws to a close – and its fans either maintain their interest or move onto other stories and texts – perhaps one of its lasting legacies for our understandings of media and culture is the way in which it cast light on the fan practices of young females, forcing us to consider these to be as culturally acceptable and significant as other forms of fan activity and opportunities for communal and shared experiences.
Dr. Rebecca Williams is Lecturer in Communication, Culture and Media Studies in the Division of Media. She completed her PhD, a comparative study of online TV fans and their use of fandom to perform identity work, at Cardiff University.