Saturday, March 28, 2009

What does "Twilight" have to do with Citizen Media?

Yes, this is going to be a post that focuses on the Twilight series but there is a point, trust me. Last week in class we learned about cultural convergence and how it affects fan culture and the example I kept coming back to in my head was of Twilight. Someone else in the class has already posted about fan culture and used Twilight as an example, but I thought I’d put my own spin on it and focus more of what we learned on just this one example.
First up, a history lesson about just how popular these books are. The first of the four novels was published in October 2005 but Twilight didn’t become as huge as it is now until a little bit later. That’s not to say it wasn’t popular right away – it reached #5 on the New York Times Bestseller List for Children’s Chapter Books. When New Moon was released a year later it debuted at #5 and rose to #1 two weeks later. The other two novels were just as popular, just as quickly. Bookstores caught on that they could have success at launch parties (like Harry Potter) and the final book, Breaking Dawn, was released at huge parties at bookstores across Canada and the United States. In April, the first three books had been on the list for a combined 143 weeks on the best seller list. This is a huge deal, just for books. But the Twilight phenomenon didn’t stop there.
Like most books that are turned into movies, there was a ton of merchandise to go along with the movie’s release. There are unauthorized and authorized movie books, clothing, key chains, posters, jewellery, and the list goes on and on and on. Even if you walk into a store like Bluenotes, you’re going to get shirts like this one and this one. The books, movie and merchandise are unavoidable. But what about those things that are harder to find, like what the fans themselves are producing? (And yes, this is when my post finally starts to have a point that relates back to this class)
Typing in “twilight fans” into Google gets a ton of hits, which shows how the fans of the books and movies are utilizing the Internet to showcase their devotion. This website has fan art. There’s a Twilight puppet show you can watch on YouTube as well as a video someone made of several comics she found about Twilight. The possibilities available to fans are endless. Like we discussed in class, fans are given a huge amount of raw material to do with what they will and because they always want more they are going to be spurred on by their love of the Saga to create more things for themselves and other fans.
Fans are able to network in so many ways now. There are more traditional ways, like communities on sites like Chapters but there are also new ways that utilize social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter.
Fans have immense power as well. Who knows if Stephenie Meyer would have been able to publish all four books in the Saga if the fans had not wanted them? There was some hesitation with the Twilight movie as well because no one knew if it was going to be successful (but really, come on, teen girls and a good looking guy?) so there was not any definite comments on New Moon until after Twilight was released. Since Twilight did so well in theatres, New Moon is now in production and scheduled for release for this November. This goes to show that the fans have the power to influence what happens with a mainstream cultural product.
Henry Jenkins wrote about cultural convergence and said,

“The explosion of new forms of creativity at the intersections of various media
technologies, industries and consumers. Media convergence fosters a new participatory folk culture by giving average people the tools to archive, annotate, appropriate and recirculate content. Shrewd companies tap this culture to foster consumer loyalty and generate low-cost content. Media convergence also encourages transmedia storytelling, the development of content across multiple channels. As producers more fully exploit organic convergence, storytellers will use each channel to communicate different kinds and levels of narrative information, using each medium to do what it does best.”
This explanation describes the sort of fan culture that surrounds almost anything, including the Twilight Saga. Fans are able to take what Stephenie Meyer and the producers and directors of the movie have offered them and create things for themselves. They have used multiple ways of communicating with each other – using the Internet mostly since the majority of the fans are teenage girls who are incredibly technologically savvy. Different online platforms have different uses and most of them are being utilized by the Twilight Saga fans – YouTube, blogs, Facebook, Twitter, and so on. Jenkins also hits on the point that companies are going to capitalize on the popularity of the books and movies to make more money for themselves. They know they can make money of these teen girls who have disposable incomes. Just look in any book or CD store – there’s Twilight merchandise everywhere.
The Twilight Saga is just one example of many fan cultures that can be related back to cultural convergence. Plus, it’s a lot of fun to talk about – and it’s not just for teen girls! :)


  1. It's interesting to think about technology promoting creativity as it almost seems like a redundant idea. Technology is often regarded as the exterminator of all things creative and individual. Weirdly enough, I'm starting to feel like technology has provided the world with a more competitive and anonymous environment to contribute wacky creations without feeling judged.

    I also feel like the internet promotes creative competition. While creativity is an inherent quality, it often thrives on feedback and competition. People are more inclined to push themselves when they see others being awarded for their fruits of labour.

    Great article, your blogs are concise, clean and entertaining!

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