Sunday, November 30, 2008

Anatomy of a Pop Phenomenon

'Haven't you read the Twilight series yet?', my friend asked, as we chatted over a cup of tea."It's all the rage now. My 11 year old wanted to read it, so I got her the series. She's read all of them, except the fourth one, which I didn't allow her to read, because of a couple of rather more graphic scenes than she can handle at her maturity level."

I had already read 'The Host' by author Stephenie Meyer, and had been favorably impressed. For a popular author, she had a good sense of how to phrase the inner voice and it lent itself well to the sci-fi backdrop of 'The Host', about an alien host injected into a human body, which unfortunately has not completely lost the original soul dwelling in it, written for the adult market.

And now, everywhere one looked, especially in the print media, the internet websites, 'Twilight' was being pushed as the next greatest invention after the Harry Potter phenomenon, and it draws from much the same demographic- primarily girls who came of age as they waited breathlessly for the next JK Rowling installment. All those hormones had to be channeled somewhere after that franchise outlived its usefulness, with the postponing of the new Potter movie release certainly not helping.

So, in rushes the next publisher's darling, a made-for-the-movie tie-in vampire-teen romance in which the heroine embodies (as another critic astutely put it) Jane Eyre lite, while the hero (named Edward) is a conflicted Edwardian-gentleman-morphed-into-eternal teenage vampire, who despite the traditional biting propensities, fights against his attraction/desire for Bella .

Seeing that many teens at the dance class were religiously glued to the various books in the series as they sat waiting for their turn at rehearsal, I tried to reserve a copy online at the library, when it came up with '546 of 546 holds'. At this rate, I might be able to get my hands on it about one year from now, even with the multitudes of copies in the library system. I gave in and picked up a copy at the local Kmart, figuring it was easier to return if I chickened out on reading it due to lack of time.

The movie advertisements seemed to have worked their magic, along with the cult-status of the books propagated through a million MySpace and Facebook pages. The box office verdict has been astounding: almost $70 million raked in for the first week, already well over the modest $46 million or so budgeted to make the movie. A sequel is in the pipeline, after all there are 3 more books waiting to be filmed.

I sat down to read the book, and finished over the course of one afternoon. My verdict: perfectly targeted to its main market, overfilled with hyperventilation and breathless moments but vastly tamer than the average teen crush novel. Zero humor. Again, this is Book 1 of 4, so I didn't get to any 'graphic' scenes. But then, after skimming through the whole book in a few hours, I didn't really feel like doing the same with the rest of the series.

(I'm overdue for a re-reading of Jane Eyre and Wuthering Heights. Those had much better writing and inner voices, even if the times are a couple of hundred years before the present era.)

In the interest of honest reporting, I dutifully checked out the movie trailer online, and think that the book is less annoying. The trailer is typically a compedium of most dramatic and action-packed moments, but this one didn't capture my interest despite following the formula faithfully. I will wait for the DVD rather than attempting to view it on the big screen.

I think I prefer any violence on paper(or DVD, thanks to the fast-forward), it's so much easier to gloss over. I remember remarking the ubiquity of fighting scenes in the Lord of the Rings. With books, you can choose not to visualize certain scenes, but in films molded by directors and screenplay writers, you are forced to see their visualizations which may totally clash with yours.

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