COLUMBIA, Mo. - As fans eagerly await The Twilight Saga: Eclipse set for release on June 30, University of Missouri communication experts have published a scholarly book on Twilight, Bitten by Twilight: Youth Culture, Media, & the Vampire Franchise, that analyzes the Twilight franchise and finds it to be unique for a variety of factors. In their book, communication professors Melissa Click, Jennifer Stevens Aubrey and Elizabeth Behm-Morawitz analyze the importance of gender dynamics to the Twilight franchise.
Despite the record-breaking success of the first two Twilight films, Summit Entertainment shifts marketing strategies with its third film to attract a male audience, MU researchers said. With the latest Twilight film, the researchers observe that the marketing of Eclipse highlights a subplot of Stephenie Meyer's book that is dark and violent, a ploy to draw male moviegoers. The official full-length trailer for Eclipse promotes the film largely as an action movie instead of focusing on the love triangle that is established in the third book of the Twilight series.
"Although the establishment of a love triangle in Eclipse is central to the story and marks a very important turning point in the series, the movie trailer highlights the action, rather than the romantic, elements of the story," Aubrey said. "Why is Summit doing this? From a cultural point of view, the media industry doesn't confer cultural legitimacy on texts until they are embraced by men, not just women."
"Summit's desire to draw a larger male audience signals a discrepancy in the way Hollywood values male and female moviegoers," said Click. "What Summit fails to see is that by courting male audiences, they are devaluing Twilight's devoted female fans and missing an incredible opportunity to develop the terms for future female franchises."
"The success of the Twilight franchise is on par with other culturally legitimate franchises, such as Star Wars and Harry Potter, but it has a largely female fan base, which makes it easy to ridicule," said Behm-Morawitz. "Twilight's story line shares much in common with these other franchises - including against-the-odds romance, super powers and epic battle scenes - but it has become clear that to be granted the same level of respect Twilight must get the boys and men on board. It is disappointing to see that many people dismiss or ridicule Twilight fans instead of truly trying to understand the fan experience and the appeal of Twilight."
In their book, the researchers analyze the Twilight fandom from a variety of perspectives.
"One of the interesting things about Twilight is that fans want to live in the Twilight universe," Click said. "The franchise capitalizes on this need by providing merchandise that supports this fantasy."
For example, fans can purchase clothes and jewelry worn by Bella Swan and other major characters in the film and books. In addition, the success of the franchise has largely been built on the celebrity of the actors who play the main characters so that fans have an embodiment of the fans' beloved characters.
Bitten by Twilight: Youth Culture, Media, & the Vampire Franchise was released this month by publisher Peter Lang.