Is the media fair to fans of the 'Twilight' franchise?
During Jimmy Kimmel's special devoted to "The Twilight Saga: Eclipse," which aired on ABC last week, the host invited audience members to ask questions of the cast members assembled on stage.
A teenage girl who looked as sweet and innocent as a newborn Care Bear immediately stepped up to the mic and kicked off the Q&A by asking Taylor Lautner, very politely but with no apparent sense of shame, if he could take off his shirt so the crowd could verify that his abs are real. The request prompted a chorus of whoops and screams from the Twi-hards around her.
For the record, Lautner did not comply with the request. In fact, he looked a little embarassed. And, perhaps, so were many of the "Twilight" fans watching at home.
There's a reason the mainstream media often depicts the admirers of the "Twilight" franchise as a bunch of screaming teen and tween girls: because many of them are. I've gone to my share of "Twilight" events. I've stood among the shriekers. And I have the semi-altered sense of hearing to prove it.
But the emphasis on the more hormonal aspects of the fandom sometimes obscures the fact that, as the Post's Monica Hesse pointed out last year, plenty of "Twilight" fans are intelligent women who could care less about Lautner's abs or the possibility of touching Robert Pattinson's deliberately tossled hair. In fact, as the documentary "Twilight in Forks" demonstrates, some of them are even guys.
Yet -- and I freely admit that I have been guilty of this on more than one occasion -- the language most frequently used to describe "Twilight" fans often makes them seem like a bunch of screaming ninnies.
Melissa Click, a professor at the University of Missouri, took note of this in a post on the site Flow TV.
"The media have belittled the reactions girls and women have had to the Twilight series and the actors who play their favorite characters, frequently using Victorian era gendered words like 'fever,' 'madness,' 'hysteria,' and 'obsession' to describe Twilighters and Twi-hards," she wrote, later adding, "These reports of girls and women seemingly out of their minds and out of control disparage female fans’ pleasures and curtail serious explorations of the strong appeal of the series."
Those reports also sometimes frustrate "Twilight" fans, who appreciate the Bella/Edward experience for completely different reasons.
"We pick apart the books like we were in English class and we really delve into the lore and the sc-fi fantasy and the symbolism and all that stuff," says Britten Johnson, an administrator for Twilight Moms, the Web site geared toward adult female "Twilight" fans. "That’s what really gets us going."
Johnson, 34, says she and some of her friends in Twilight fandom have been bothered by segments like the one that ran last month on "The Oprah Winfrey Show" in which Ali Wentworth interviewed a few cocktail-sipping Twi-moms who host Twilight parties, complete with life-sized cutouts of Edward Pattinson.
"For the most part, most of the women I’ve met are not like that," the Fresno, Calif., mother of three says. "We really get annoyed with the way that the media portrays that."
Jen Yamato, a film critic for movies.com and writer who closely follows the "Twilight" series, acknowledges that some fans do squirm when they see fellow Cullenites asking questions like the ones posed during that Jimmy Kimmel Q&A. But she notes that there isn't any animosity among Twilighters because of it.
"The 'Twilight' fandom is really one of the most inclusive fan bases there has ever been in pop culture," she says. "They are very welcoming."
In fact, Johnson says it's that welcoming spirit -- the sense of sisterhood born out of a shared interest in Bella Swan -- that has ultimately made "Twilight" so meaningful to her.
"We do like seeing the books portrayed in the movies, but we aren’t really oogling over the actors and screaming like banshees," she says. "We're really in it for the friends now, for the close connections we've made with other women."
What do you think? Does the media really get the "Twilight" phenomenon and portray its fans fairly? Weigh in with a comment.
| June 30, 2010; 3:45 PM ET
Categories: Movies, Pop Culture | Tags: Twilight
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