FANPIRE is a Fascinating Examination of Fandom

FANPIRE:
The Twilight Saga and the Women Who Love It
Tanya Erzen
October 30, 2012
Paperback 182 pages
Also in Ebook formats
Obtained at BEA. No remuneration exchanged and all opinions expressed herein are my own, unless otherwise noted or cited.
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An author immerses herself in the frenzied fandom of Twilight, the young-adult vampire romance series that has captivated women of all ages

Why have the Twilight saga’s representations of romance and relationships enchanted millions of fans and generated millions in revenue, selling everything from Barbie-type dolls to blockbuster films? Tanya Erzen—herself no stranger to the allure of the series—explores the phenomenon of Twilight, books and films influenced by conservative Mormon religious ideas, by immersing herself in the vibrant and diverse subculture of “Twi-hards” to understand why so many love the series (sometimes in spite of themselves). She attends Edward-addiction groups, Twi-rock concerts, and fan conventions, and looks at the vast world of online fandom that Twilight has generated. Part journalistic investigation and part cultural analysis, Fanpire will appeal to obsessed fans and haters alike. (Amazon)

With the final movie in the TWILGHT Saga set to open in November, it’s apt to examine the Twilight phenomenon and the fans who run the spectrum from read the books and see the movie, to those who treat TWILGHT as a religion (some do!).
Don’t get me wrong, I love TWILGHT, but over the years my analytical side has been poking at my fangirl side.But her analysis is very articulate and many of her hypotheses are similar to statements I have made.
The first of these is that there is much about Twilight that reverberates with what little I know about the church of Latter Day Saints.  TWILGHT’s creator, Stephanie Meyer is a devout member of the LDS, and has, according to Ms. Erzen, related that the Book of Mormon is the most important text in her life.
As I have said, my knowledge of the LDS is minimal and largely derived from watching HBO’s “Big Love.” But, as we watched an episode about one of the characters in the story’s mother being sealed with her second husband and thereby being with him for all eternity I turned to my husband and said, “That’s an important part of Twilight’s story.” After all Bella gets to stay with her family forever as an immortal vampire.
Another insight similar to my own is that of a parent using the books to discuss choices.I asked Professor Erzen Did she set out to her first Twilight event as an academic preparing to write a book or dissertation?
She kindly responded:

No, I came to my first Twilight event in Forks, WA, which was the Summer School in Forks, a one-time event because of my interest in the phenomenon and in seeing Forks since it had become a Twilight tourist mecca. All my books are based on ethnography- interviewing people and participant observation so I was always more interested in the people who loved the books rather than the books themselves. Once I spent the weekend in Forks and talked to people, I became interested in doing an article or book because everyone was analyzing the story, and I found the fans much more interesting.

While reading the book yesterday I also found that Erzen’s insights, an rhetorically analyzed theories offered me new insights into the characters in the book and why the books are so appealing to women from their teens through middle-age (and beyond).
English: Stephenie Meyer talks with one of the...
English: Stephenie Meyer talks with one of the winners of her auction. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Stephenie Meyer (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Young women have a lot to decide, and a huge onus placed on them for fulfilling contradictory signals about everything from education to with whom she should sleep and when.  Bella turns her choices–many of them, over to Edward and his family.
For women past their teens, it may be that life as Bella is somewhat more appealing than what many feel is the constant drudgery of adult life and parenthood. After all, since Bella and Edward’s daughter  Renesme grows up overnight there are no 3 AM feedings, not that that matters as vampires don’t sleep in Meyer’s world. And, living in a communal, and devoted family, she and Edward will never lack for baby sitters. Plus, add in the permanent and irrevocable “imprinting” of Renesme onto Bella’s werewolf would-have-been lover. And, the family is filthy rich besides!
Wow, who wouldn’t want to be Bella?
Erzen examines everything from a “Summer School” in Forks program, to TWILGHT conventions to the web presence of and development  of friendships among “Twihards.” She looks at many aspects of fandom that I never thought of. She shows how lives have been changed, for better and some not so much.  And, she discusses the subject of fan fiction, a phenomenon which launched the blockbuster FIFTY SHADES as Master of the Universe. Erzen’s work lead me to the conclusion that Bella was a sub even before E.L. James got all kinky with it.I asked Professor Erzen if she write the parts about Master of the Universe, which has obviously become Fifty Shades, prior to or without knowing about FIFTY SHADES? Has that section been rewritten to reflect the new status of the fanfic to blockbuster book?Again, I appreciate that she took the time to respond:

I wrote about Master of the Universe before it ever became Fifty Shades of Grey. It was the most popular smut story on Twilighted.net, and I read it while it was still up there before the author pulled it. I focused on the story because I was writing about smut fan fic, had been to fan fiction workshops, and it was the most read and commented upon story. Unlike most people who don’t understand why Fifty Shades is so popular, it makes perfect sense to me because it already had a huge readership as fan fiction, and the romantic storyline and characters are still practically identical to Twilight.

In the final chapter Erzen deals with the inevitable let down fans, Forks and TWILGHT conventions will feel after the November release of Breaking Dawn 2.  Where the inception of the saga changed lives its inevitable fade as the “next big thing” takes over will change lives as well.
To accomplish her somewhat academic work, Erzen attended events and premieres; she read the books, and while she didn’t drink the kool-aid, she sniffed the pitcher to check out the contents. She follows several fans over time and conducted an online survey.  I think the work is a valuable look into popular culture and the effect of fandom, the internet and mass media have on individuals and culture.  I think it’s a little repetitive and wonder if it merits an entire book. But, it’s insightful and entertaining.  I can easily recommend it to readers who marvel (or scoff) at, or who are part of, the phenomenon of TWILGHT.
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