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New Moon--the second film based on the series of books about a teenage girl who falls in love with a vampire--is released Friday, and Hollywood execs are crossing their fingers for an explosive debut. The odds are certainly with them: Twilight's staggering popularity--70 million copies of the books have been sold, and the first film grossed $384 million worldwide--has been endlessly discussed and dissected on the Atlantic Wire, in The Atlantic, and elsewhere, but as the New Moon release date drew closer commentary around the second movie has swirled around one big question: why is Twilight's universe of hormonal angst so popular among grownups? The books and films focus on the forbidden love between a withdrawn 17-year-old girl and a hunky 104-year-old vampire trapped in the body of an adolescent. What could adults possibly find appealing in that?

  • They Want to Recapture That Teenage Feeling "I don't think it's about vampires at all. Part of the appeal for adults is it's a guilty pleasure going back to your teenage emotions, like your first love and first heartbreak and obsession," New Moon director Chris Weitz told New York Magazine's culture blog. In a Washington Post article about why the films appeal to sophisticated, "literary" women, Monica Hesse agrees, writing, "It's a time capsule to the breathless period when the world could literally end depending on whether your lab partner touched your hand, when every conversation was so agonizing and so thrilling (and the border between the two emotions was so thin), and your heart was bigger and more delicate than it is now, and everything was just so much more."
  • They Want to Spice Up Their Love Lives Members of TwilightMoms.com, a fan site with 34,000 registered members, told New York Magazine columnists Em & Lo they saw the series as "a how-to guide to romance." A mother of two is quoted as saying, ""I've always felt plain and ordinary. And after seeing the way Edward saw Bella and felt about her, regardless of how she felt about herself, it kind of gave me more confidence in myself and my relationship."
  • They Like Seeing Men Objectified for Once Weitz offers NYMag another theory--the series' multigenerational popularity stems from the fact that it offers a refreshing reversal of gender roles. While most romantic films have men as the hyper-masculine aggressor and women as the passive sexual objects, ""I rather love that it's men being objectified and the attitude towards sex is "think about it, be careful, this is a really big deal." Considering the number of 17-year-old girls objectified in film, I think this is just one back for the ladies. It's almost revolutionary for a character to be a virgin and for the male to want to wait."
  • They Are Deluded The Atlantic's Alyssa Rosenberg isn't buying the hype, saying the characters aren't compelling enough to interest a child, let alone an adult. "Earlier this week, when I stumbled over the Twilight finish line, reaching the final page of Breaking Dawn, the series' last book, it seemed clear to me that even in my younger days, Bella Swann would never have captured my imagination," she writes.

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