Today sees the release of Twilight: Something About Dawn, Part Nine in cineplexes across America and already every American girl between the ages of 10 and 18 has screamed herself hoarse at a midnight screening. But I don't care one lick about this movie or the whole franchise, and here's why.
The glib answers that I'll drop in cocktail conversation range from is, "It's for kids! It's a kids' book, kids' movie, and a kids' world" to "Mormonism disguised in a vampire novel is still repressive Christianity, no matter how you slice it," to "Robert Pattinson looks like a potato with vitiligo and Kristen Stewart is like a Bratz doll left out in the rain," to "Vampires are stupid." There are two of those I don't really believe in, but they suffice for an excuse—not a real reason—to completely ignore what has become, yes, a cultural phenomenon.
The new movie will probably make $140 million this weekend. Some people camped out for a week at the premiere for a chance to scream at the stars of the movie and not even see the movie itself. It's just completely insane. There reaches a saturation point in any franchise—whether this, Harry Potter, or the next anointed king The Hunger Games—with so many people telling me I have to watch/read/pay attention to this that I just start to balk. After the 19th Entertainment Weekly cover, it is no longer something you can ignore, it becomes something you have to have an opinion on. So often with these things, my opinion is "No!"
I think it has something to do with always wanting to be on the cutting edge of something. If I'm not the first to discover it, I feel left out and like people are telling me I'm doing something wrong by not paying attention. I hate being told what to do and I hate being told I'm wrong, so when asked about Twilight (and when you hang out with Real Housewives mad pop culture addicts like I do, you will be asked about it) I can't simply say, "I don't pay attention to that," I end up saying, "That's stupid."
I think some of my adverse reaction has to do with fanaticism in general. Sure, I have 20 years of X-Men comics arranged in chronological order under my bed, but there is nothing that I'm absolutely rabid about. I've never waited in line for concert tickets for my favorite band, I've never sat in a tent for five days waiting for a movie, I've never camped out to see one of the original cast of Rent in a revival: nothing. Sure, I go to midnight screenings and get really excited about the next season of my favorite shows (Yay Downton Abbey season two!) but I would never even dream about marrying Edward Cullen or god forbid cry because a certain series of movies is over.
There's something so scary to me about that, about finding so much of your identity in an affiliation in some thing that you didn't have a part in creating. Being a fan is fun, but being a superfan is super crazy. It's like without Bella in your life, you're going to just wash away to nothing. You will still be you, no matter what you watch or listen to or read and being obsessed with anything seems like a way to fill in a personality when there isn't much else there. Being into things is cool, but being consumed by them is pathological.
As my former (sniff!) colleague Richard Lawson points out don't even try to offer up one bit of criticism of Twilight, because the Twihards will turn on you and attack. It's like firing off a gun around a pack of the zombies from The Walking Dead (another thing I like but don't love) and they will turn their heads and then pounce with their sharp teeth and dead eyes.
That is why I don't care about Twilight, because so many people already do and they care about it so damn much and they affiliate with it so deeply that they're smothering it like Lenny's mice (yes, that was an allusion to literature that teens are actually forced to read). The media coverage insists we have opinions on the matter, but the fans try to dictate what those opinions are and police that they are free of criticism. That's why I don't care about Twilight, because, as Captain Picard found out when battling the Borg, dealing with a hive mind is always a losing proposition and very, very scary.