Twilight, Fandom, and the Fanpire

Kelly Baker

Over at the Bulletin for the Study of Religion blog, I review Tanya Erzen's Fanpire: The Twilight Saga and the Women Who Love It. Her previous book, Straight to Jesus: Sexual and Christian Conversions in the Ex-Gay Movement, is one of my favored books to teach because it such a compelling and sensitive ethnography of the fraught relationship between religion and sexuality. This means I was delighted to see Tanya turn her attention to the fans of the Twilight series with both empathy and sharp gender analysis.

Here's a glimpse of my review:
The appeal and fandom of the Twilight universe is the subject of Tanya Erzen’s new ethnography, Fanpire: The Twilight Saga and the Women Who Love It. The Twilight books, after all, outmatched the Harry Potter novels in the amount of time they remained on the New York Times bestseller list (xiii). More importantly, Erzen provides glimpses of the female, and occasionally male, fans of the series, in an empathetic and thoughtful way. Unlike the media coverage of “Twihards” that documented this fandom as hysterical and problematic, Erzen offers a much-needed gender critique of both media coverage and the larger “Fanpire.” She aptly summarizes each book between her chapters to show the consequences of their anti-feminist storyline in constructions of femininity, romantic love, and normative heterosexuality. Twilight functions as both “a supernatural heterosexual model of eternal passion and monogamy” (xvi) and a postfeminist fantasy that uplifts any choice as empowerment.

Rather than dismiss the books as sheer escapism, Erzen documents fan pleasure (and displeasure) with Meyer’s universe. Moreover, Erzen simultaneously documents the commodification and consumerism attached to Twilight, the glorification of heterosexuality and marriage, and the unpleasant representations of women as damsels (constantly) in distress. 

Read more here


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