When a guy who can't tell Jacob from Edward joins a theater of screaming tween girls...
Fans react as actors arrive for the British premiere of 'The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn' at Westfield in east London (Toby Melville / Reuters)
Late last night, I stumbled out of a movie theater in a daze, and not just because it was after 2 a.m. I had just spent the past two hours of my life immersed in a strange world of pale-eyed vampires, CGI wolf packs, and conservative sexual mores. And I did it all while surrounded by glitter-bedecked, cat-calling fan girls.
I had just survived the midnight screening of the latest entry in the Twilight franchise: Breaking Dawn: Part 1.
Let's take a step back. It's safe to say that Twilight—a paranormal romance film series based on young adult novels by author Stephenie Meyer—is something of a phenomenon. At a time when Hollywood is desperate for hits, Twilight is essentially a license to print money. The previous film, Eclipse, earned the third-highest opening-day gross of all time. As a film franchise, Twilight has earned nearly two billion dollars at the global box office—and that's with two movies left to go. Among certain subsets of the population, Twilight lies somewhere between an obsession and a religion.
I brought my reporter's pad and my girlfriend in an attempt to feel slightly less creepy
With all that in mind, I have a critical confession to make: I have somehow managed to avoid virtually any exposure to the Twilight franchise. I've never cracked the cover of any of the books, or seen a minute of any of the movies. Of course, I know the basics—a vampire and a werewolf fight for the love of a teenage girl (I'm informed that the werewolf is technically a shapeshifter, though a wolf is the only shape he ever shifts into). But on the whole, my knowledge of Twilight was remarkably unsullied. I was a tabula rasa upon which Edward Cullen could leave his toothy mark.
It was in that spirit that I decided to catapult myself directly into the heart of the Twilight franchise with a midnight screening of the fourth and latest entry in the franchise, Breaking Dawn: Part 1. Could a non-Twihard crack the appeal of the franchise—and, perhaps, even enjoy it—by attending the Twilight event of the year? I swallowed my pride, gathered up my garlic and holy water, and entered the theater.
The first obstacle, inevitably, was the massive line of Twihards waiting in line—and my own queasiness about questioning them. (I brought my reporter's pad and my girlfriend in an attempt to feel slightly less creepy about interviewing preteen girls at midnight. Neither helped much.) When I copped to being a Twi-soft, my interviewees were eager to sell me on the franchise; I heard passionate sales pitches from numerous members of Team Edward, and one meek member of Team Jacob (she was quickly shouted down). The theater had set up a life-sized cardboard standee of Edward that earned dozens of pictures and a comparable number of kisses. Several Twihards pored over dog-eared copies of the book, as if conducting a last-minute cram session before a major exam. The men's room was conspicuously empty.
As for the theater employees? Markedly less enthusiastic. Late Twihards were generally unhappy with the spots remaining in the already-packed theater, and the theater dispatched an usher who had the thankless job of finding them new seats. A brief squabble erupted outside a theater when one Twihard—clad in a homemade "Edward loves Bella" t-shirt that replaced Bella's name with her own—accused another of cutting in line. A seasoned employee behind the concession stand told me that Harry Potter has been even worse. He wore a tie that said "I'd rather be golfing," and clearly meant it.
As we took our seats and prepared for Dawn to break at midnight, I could feel the audience's excitement growing, and the feeling became sort of contagious. I thought, there must be a reason that so many people obsess over this, right? I may not be a preteen girl, but vampires and werewolves are pretty awesome, right? Maybe this won't be so bad. That optimism lasted for about 15 seconds, when it became clear that I was way out of my element pretty much immediately. Title card? Applause! Edward on screen? Ow-ow! Jacob takes his shirt off? Wooooooooo!