In the male-dominated world of geekdom, women are often left behind when the Next Big Thing comes around. They'll wonder what weirdness the boys are up to, or look on with bemusement as the fellas get rabid over something that holds no interest whatsoever for them.
But in the case of Twilight, the bestselling novel that's about to become a film, it's the women who are going crazy while the men are left scratching their heads. Men had never heard of this book, and now all of a sudden the Internets are ablaze with giddy fan talk. Websites that post minor updates about the film are flooded with extra traffic. Women are erecting statues of author Stephenie Meyer and praying to them thrice daily.
The part that really has a lot of men befuddled is that the book is about vampires -- the domain of MALE geeks, thank you very much! How did a vampire novel-turned-movie escape their notice?!
Ah, because it's also a romance, told from the point of view of a teenage girl who falls in love with a teenage vampire.
It's funny to hear some male geeks talk dismissively of the Twilight movie. They wonder if the film will really do any business. They wonder if the fan base is really THAT big. (The subtext often seems to be: It can't be THAT big a deal, or else I'd be a fan.)
But let me tell you: Yes, the fan base is huge. Meyer's website (which itself is heavily trafficked) has a list of Twilight fan sites that has 200 entries on it -- and that's just the ones in English. Foreign-language sites (the book has been translated into 20 other tongues) abound as well. People devour Twilight and its two sequels, New Moon and Eclipse, ravenously.
(Speaking of Meyer's website, I want to brag and point out that in her bio she declares that I, Eric D. Snider, am her favorite movie critic! We went to the same university. My mom once made cookies for her and took them to a book signing, where she was whisked to the front of the line once Meyer learned she was there. DO YOU SEE HOW AWESOME I AM???)
Anyway, this intense devotion to the book means the film, due in December with Kristen Stewart and Robert Pattinson in the leads, could be a major hit. The story strikes a major emotional chord with female readers, and it's being directed by a woman (Catherine Hardwicke). And look at the components: a weepy romance, a strong heroine that girls like to see as representing themselves (smart, pretty, misunderstood), and a male lead who's a "bad boy" and cute in a non-threatening, not-overly-masculine kind of way. What film does that sound like? Yep, Titanic. And if Titanic taught us anything, it's that women -- especially teenage girls -- will pay to see a movie over and over and over and over and over and over again if it flutters their hearts.
None of this means that Twilight will automatically be a gigantic hit. Eragon was also a fantasy novel that sold millions of copies and inspired much adoration, yet the movie flopped in the United States. (It did better overseas.) Let's not forget, however, that the Eragon movie was also really, really terrible. Assuming Twilight avoids that pitfall, it could prove to be something we haven't seen in a long time: a supernatural/fantasy hit whose audience is mostly female. Take back the geekdom, ladies!
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Eric D. Snider really is awesome.