Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Transmedia and properties for young people

As I learn more about Twilight during the release of New Moon as my wife reads them for some market research so that she can learn what all the fuss is about, I have come to a question that I find to be interesting.

Twilight is essentially the story of a nihilistic young girl who wants nothing more than to die. She has an abusive vampire boyfriend who keeps her alive and tortures her throughout the course of the story. But he does it 'all for love' so it's ok.

A lot of Twihards are over 30 and lonely. Apparently the desire to have someone make all of your decisions and treat you like shit is sexy for a much larger segment of the population than may have been apparent to most of us.

The girl I lost my virginity to left me for someone who treated her like shit, whereas I was generally pretty nice to her. She wanted me back later, and wanted me more when I was cool, diffident and kind of a jerk to her, but I'd moved on and had an older woman I was dating by that time. Though, I think I internalized a lesson, "Girls wants to be treated like shit.", and so I treated some girls like shit before I learned that it's not really the right thing to do, and more importantly that I didn't need to act like that to get women. So I hope that today my wife agrees that I am doing a much better job at treating women properly. Having a daughter has definitely opened my mind to this.

What I have discovered in reading discussions of the inherent misogyny underlying the Twilight Saga is that this is actually common for adolescent girls. This says a lot about the thirty-something women who still want this in their lives. First it says I am glad I am not with that kind of woman, second it tells me something I always kind of knew about the vampire genre, but had difficulty articulating.

Twilight has both more literary merit than people give it credit for, and less literary merit than its fans give it credit for. In a way it's a very good portrayal of the poisonous nature of a vampiric relationship. It seems to show the essential nature of the separation between the ages of a vampire and a human. Essentially, Edward is a pedophile who has kidnapped and isolated a young child who is powerless to stop him. She embraces it, but who knows how much she actually wants it? Is it vampire Glamer? I don't know, I haven't read any of it, I am going from pure commentary. I will not spend my time reading something so universally reviled as one of the worst pieces of shit ever written just to make a pedantic point. So may the Twihards forgive me.

This may explain why young girls are so enamoured of older men. It may explain why they are enamoured of abusive men. It doesn't explain why older women are so enamoured.

Which brings me at long last to my question: To what degree is it essential that your property grow with your audience?

I ask this question as I have been reading (anecdotally of course) reports of kids who loved the first movie coming back with stark derision for the second movie. Of course it grossed a ridiculous amount of money on opening night and over the weekend, but what will it's staying power be? Are there enough women with stunted sexual and emotional development to continue to propel this franchise in the coming weeks? Are the adolescent girls who were 13 before and 15 now and growing out of their Twilight phase easily replaceable by girls who are 13 now?

I would argue that for a successful franchise to properly assert itself, it should grow with its audience. This is rarely done. Right now Gossip Girl and Heroes are the two shows that come to mind immediately where the shows are growing up with their audience. But the question as it regards Twilight is: Is it essential?

Does it even matter if a franchise matures? If it does mature, what are the benefits and drawbacks? If it doesn't mature, what are the benefits and drawbacks?

I would like to think it's important, but that could just be my aesthetic sensibilities asserting themselves. It seems to me that Twilight is a good case-study, because in the coming years we'll see how well it continues to do.