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Is Twilight‘s Appeal A Generational Dog Whistle?

by  in Comic News, Movie News Comment
Is <i>Twilight</i>‘s Appeal A Generational Dog Whistle?

This week sees the release of the third Twilight movie, The Twilight Saga: Eclipse, and while stocking up on enough snark to make every single sentence I write about the movie drip with enough disdain, I started to wonder: What if Twilight doesn’t actually suck?

Okay, I admit it: That seems like the sort of question that should be answered with a quick “No, it’s really not,” before moving onto something more interesting, but I can’t help but wonder whether all the distaste for the franchise is based on something other than Twilight itself. I mean, yes, the Twilight novels aren’t especially well-written, but neither were the Harry Potter novels, and yet people line up around whatever metaphorical block you want to imagine to praise those for whatever reasons (For my sins, I read all seven of the Potter novels, and I really think that each one contained some terrible examples of writing). And sure, nothing in Twilight seems particularly revolutionary or original, but since when does that innovation actually denote quality (And, again, Harry Potter – Not the most original ideas, and yet escaping the scorn that Twilight gets). So why do people hate on Twilight so much, really?

Part of me wonders if it has to do with the same reason that Twilight has so many hardcore fans. Clearly, something this popular has to have something going for it. I went to a press screening of the first Twilight movie, and it was one of the more surreal experiences of my life, just because of the sheer enthusiasm of the fans who shared the theater with the critics. The screaming! It was like Beatlemania all over again, and that sticks with me every single time I think about Twilight‘s inexplicable popularity: What if Twilightmania really is like Beatlemania, and we’re all the people who complained that those youngsters with their overgrown hair and wobbly heads weren’t writing real songs like they used to?

It’s a depressing thought, but maybe Twilight‘s appeal really is generational, and I’m just too old to get it; at 35, I’m more than a decade older than the majority of the franchise’s hardcore fanbase, after all, so why should I “get it”? Especially when my generation – and, I’m betting, yours too, majority of the people reading this – have already had our own vampire epiphany in the form of Buffy and the attendant mythology. Twilight really isn’t for us – We had snark and sarcasm to protect us from the sincerity of Angel’s brooding, romantic heroism, and Buffy was more proactive than Bella ever managed to be, after all, but what if today’s audience doesn’t want that kind of thing? What if romance, surrendering to an idea of fate/destiny and a refusal of irony is exactly what they’re looking for, and we just… don’t understand?

Okay, I know that any suggestion that Twilight and all its sequels are somehow unrecognized masterpieces may be a bit much, because… Well, it’s really not that well-written, let’s face it. But I’m saying it here and now, and entirely seriously: I’m not convinced that Twilight is actually as bad as it seems. I just think that everyone who thinks that it is – myself included – is too separated from some zeitgeist that makes it make sense to everyone else. Face it, daddios: We’re not hep to that beat.

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