'Twihard' with a Vengeance

Posted: Wednesday, July 07, 2010

The Bible says "Judge not, lest ye be judged." But these days, as everyone seems to be judging everyone else - or at least commenting on their Facebook status - I believe we're granted dispensation. By all means, judge away.

To that end, I must cast a small modicum of judgment on both the "Twilight" saga and its diehard fans, or "Twihards," a legion whose ranks include my own wife.

This makes me a Twilight widower - a Twidower, if you will. And I suspect I'm not alone. Remarkably, Twilight manages to appeal to tween girls, teen girls, moms and grandmas (not to mention gay men). There must be a million dudes out there who've lost their significant others to this particular vampire romance series, of which the latest installment, "Eclipse," premiered in movie theaters last week.

For those of you not familiar with the pop-cultural phenomenon, let me enlighten you. Twilight is a series of novels and subsequent film adaptations about a broody alterna-chick, Bella Swan, and her immortal beloved/prom date Edward Cullen, a 108-year-old vampire passing himself off as a perpetual high school junior. Talk about a living hell.

In essence, Twilight is a bodice-ripper, but with one important distinction: no one's bodice ever actually gets ripped. In fact, there's barely any kissing.

In this way, Edward represents every woman's fantasy: a dangerous though non-threatening protector with great hair and a bulletproof jaw-line who never gets old, never gets fat and never gets drunk. Instead of always trying to put the moves on you, he chooses instead to cradle you in his sober arms all night long, rapturously listening to you talk for hours on end without saying a word or ever falling asleep.

This fictional chastity is especially ironic, considering that in real life the actor who plays Edward, Robert Pattinson (or "RPattz" as he's known in the gossip rags), is noted for sleeping with - and then stringing along - a collection of barely legal co-stars. Among them: Kristin Stewart, who plays Bella, which makes sense, considering neither Stewart nor Pattinson are talented enough performers to achieve their on-screen chemistry. Even a Twilight hater like me has to admit the movies get pretty steamy for PG-13.

Before I forget, there's also a rival fictional/real-life suitor, a werewolf with eight-pack abs played by fellow tabloid mainstay Taylor Lautner. Poor Taylor Lautner - to have done so many sit-ups and still so obviously be destined to wash up on Dancing with the Stars or in porn. Or running for vice president. Or some combination of all three. Sad.

Anyway, that's Twilight, at least as I understand it. Sounds great, right? Oh, throw in some clunky, cheese-filled dialogue, some super budget special effects of the kind you'd see on old "Star Trek: The Next Generation" re-runs, and an emo soundtrack featuring several songs by one of the actors. Woof.

Naturally, this makes Twilight one of, if not the most successful series, of all time. As a pretty serious "Star Wars" guy, it pains me to say that. It really does. But money talks and a certain type of animal's excrement walks, I guess. The movies have netted more than $1 billion, and they're only halfway done. The books have made even more money, which is incredible, considering nobody reads anymore.

And this doesn't even factor in merchandise and licensing. For instance, promotional tie-ins abound, and not just fast food joints, either. Have you seen those "Eclipse" commercials for Volvo? Come on, do they really expect me to believe that vampires really drive Volvos? Are vampires that concerned about safety? Aren't they immortal? In that case, why not ride a motorcycle?

Even the tiny town of Forks, Wash., where the series is set has cashed in on the craze, witnessing a 600 percent increase in tourism since the first book came out. Next time you're at Sea-Tac Airport, take a browse over at the "Made in Washington" shop. They've taken all the Mariners gear out and replaced it with all sorts of Forks memorabilia. My personal favorite: the "Bite Me, Forks" boxer shorts. It's classy, and that's why I like it.

In the meantime, take heart fellow Twidowers. Only two more film sequels to go, and maybe in the interim the vampire craze will go the way of low-carb dieting and "Who Wants to be a Millionaire?" Also, Stephanie Meyer doesn't plan to continue the series, and, as she's already made more money than 10 JK Rowlings, really has no incentive to put out anything else for a while.

That should give my plan just enough time. Twilight books mention a clan of vampires living in Juneau. Let's draft a petition and collect signatures lobbying Stephanie Meyer to develop a spin-off series about that particular clan of pale, angst-ridden, permanently adolescent members of the undead.

Hell, I'll even serve as the model if you like. Maybe then I'd get my wife back. And think of all the "Bite Me, Juneau" boxers we could sell in process.

• Geoff Kirsch is a writer in Juneau. His column publishes every other week, with the next one running July 21. Visit his website at www.geoffkirsch.com.

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