Teen vampire drama Twilight arrives in theaters on Nov. 21. With a huge teen audience ramped up for it, cultural critics have already started deciphering the meaning of Twilight's popularity, a thankless task that resulted in a massive Vanity Fair photoshoot this month. For people who will take anything seriously, James Wolcott's essay on Twilight proves the movie is the ultimate shell for anything and everything: Gossip Girl, Michelangelo, Chopin, Into the Wild, Superman, the gays, Sarah Palin and, of course, Bob Dylan. What are adults who should know better trying to read into Twilight?Here's the full list of cultural references from Wolcott's piece: Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Dracula, Vampire Academy, Gossip Girl, The Morganville Vampires, Vampire Kisses, The Vampire Diaries, Anita Blake: Vampire Hunter, Into the Wild, Mary-Louise Parker, Charlaine Harris’s Southern Vampire Mysteries, Six Feet Under, Harry Potter, Debussy, Rudolf Nureyev, Chris Isaak, Michelangelo, Chopin, Superman, the gays, Sarah Palin, James Dean, David Lynch, Bob Dylan, Abel Ferrara’s The Addiction, and Brideshead Revisited. An impressive array, to say the least. Even the books themselves are part of the Twilight phenomenon, says Wolcott: "The physical properties of the books themselves may explain their popularity. They’re thick, chunky, promising a fat read—you don’t so much curl up with them as gulp them down." Salon's Laura Miller also noted the chameleon-like qualities of the series written by Mormon housewife Stephenie Meyer:
Bookstores have been known to shelve the Twilight books in both the children's and the science fiction/fantasy sections, but they are — in essence and most particulars — romance novels, and despite their gothic trappings represent a resurrection of the most old-fashioned incarnation of the genre. They summon a world in which love is passionate, yet (relatively) chaste, girls need be nothing more than fetchingly vulnerable, and masterful men can be depended upon to protect and worship them for it.
Add nostalgia for a time you can't remember to the rest. While the quality of the Twilight series isn't particularly high, the subject matter makes for compelling fun. What does the popularity of the book and film have to say about kids? Probably nothing too interesting, as we found out when the young author revealed the actual inspiration for the book, which includes the band My Chemical Romance. I can't blame James Wolcott for not getting that one. We should just be thankful kids are still reading — soon we may have to discover emerging cultural trends from actual observation and research. Here's the new TV spot for the flick: