by Alicia Rudnicki, Library Mix
It was the opening night of New Moon, the second movie based on Stephenie Meyer’s four-book Twilight saga. My older sister and I were watching the movie at the only shopping mall in our hometown.
A multicultural audience
We both fell in love with vampire stories long ago when we were young children and would walk for miles to attend creepy movies featuring pale, fanged creatures. This time, I had flown more than a thousand miles for the pleasure of sitting beside her during one of the biggest opening days ever for a Hollywood movie.
When we were growing up, our city was white, white, whitey white. Now, it is integrated, although still very Anglo.
But as I looked around the audience while waiting for the movie to begin, I noticed a fascinating phenomenon: about five out of every six moviegoers were some shade of brown.
There were lots of Hispanics, blacks, and Asians. And there were a number of men. It further strengthened a previous observation that people of many cultures and ages are drawn to Meyer’s books.
Fans of the wolf pack
I asked the African-American middle school girls sitting next to us whether they had read all four of the Twilight saga novels and they nodded yes. They said that they liked the “originality” of Stephenie Meyer’s work.
But as the movie progressed, it became apparent that the real magnet drawing this lively, multicultural audience was New Moon’s pack of muscular, nut-brown young men who transform into werewolves whenever vampires are nearby.
There was a raucous concert of oohs and ahs whenever the bare-chested wolf pack appeared. In contrast, when Edward, the pasty white, brooding, perennially 17-year-old vampire stripped off his shirt and revealed a pitifully gaunt chest, the middle schoolers next to me gasped and couldn’t help themselves.
“Ooooh, that’s just nasty,” their voices rang out.
I had to agree. Despite Robert Pattinson’s chiseled features, his scrawniness just didn’t match up to my expectations based on the many descriptions of Edward’s powerful, sculpted, stone-hard body in Meyer’s books.
Jacob the reluctant werewolf
The audience rooted for 18-year-old Bella to choose 16-year-old Jacob, the sometimes amiable, sometimes snarling, and ever reluctant werewolf who yearns to wrap his bulging arms around her.
For those who haven’t read Meyer’s books, it is necessary to note that the vampires and werewolves of the Twilight world are enemies for most of the series. So it is especially painful to Jacob that Bella loves a “bloodsucker.”
It is also necessary to know that Bella sinks into a deep depression when Edward abandons her in an ill-conceived attempt to protect her from his own “soulless” kind.
Jacob literally leaps into the void, fur flying, ready to protect and cheer up the grieving Bella.
An involved audience
The teacher in me gave the audience an “A+” for participation. They were wrapped up in the story and eager to express their opinions.
The viewers were far more interesting than the movie, which was really more of a lengthy soap opera or telenovela episode. This is one where the book is so much better than the movie.
It is difficult to follow or appreciate the movie if you haven’t read the first two books of the series or at least seen the first movie, Twilight, which was based on the first novel. Yet New Moon, which cost $50 million to film, grossed more than $320 million worldwide by Thanksgiving Day.
Hollywood should pay attention not only to the popularity of vampire lit but the need for more people of color in positive, mainstream roles.
A giant step for teen literacy
Perhaps Stephenie Meyer could be persuaded to consider the possibility of taking her work a giant step further and purposefully fostering a literacy initiative based on the saga.
Teachers and librarians from the upper elementary through community college levels—especially those who work with student populations that struggle with language arts—would probably welcome curricular ideas and materials for Meyer’s novels.
Then maybe those middle school girls could sigh, “ Ooooh, that’s tight!”