Welcome to the Dork Side, ladies.

Okay, last Twilight-related post, I promise.

Another benefit to Twilight, in my opinion, is that it acts as a gateway to nerddom for young girls as a whole.  This doesn’t necessarily mean that when they’re taking down the poster of Rob Pattinson they’re going to put up one of Matt Smith.

What it does allude to is that once they’ve gotten a taste of the joys of camaraderie and sense of inclusion into a group that shares a very specific subset of shared interests, that can be a powerful sensation that they may choose to replicate, leading them to seek out new facets of fandom targets for their newfound OCD tendencies.

After all, Twilight‘s now pretty much spent, with the conclusion of the film adaptations.  Unless creator / author Stephenie Meyer either decides to write new material, or allows others to do so in an official ‘this is canon’ capacity, all that’s left now for fans to scratch that particular itch is terabytes of speculative fan fiction, including some, er, questionable extrapolations of the relationships between the characters.  (Although it would take even the most dedicated ‘Twihard’ a while to work their way through the some TWO HUNDRED THOUSAND Twilight stories posted on Fan Fiction.net. )

I’m really, really sorry, folks. I’ll clean up those fish bits and what’s left of that barrel, I swear.

That’s the great thing about nerds: somewhere, there’s someone who is not willing to let the object of their obsession pass quietly into that good night when pop culture’s relatively short attention span turns elsewhere to the next shiny thing that catches its eye.  And with the Internet, the warm glow of nostalgia (and acrid scent of flame wars between self-appointed guardians and experts) is usually but one quick Google search away.

” But we’re not nerds, ” many of the Twilighters might mumble, still reeking of this weekend’s Breaking Dawn Part 2-fueled overindulgence of Junior Mints and Diet Coke, and shaking the stray popcorn kernel from their hair.

These are nerds: ”

As one highly experienced in the qualifiers for this particular social group, I’m afraid I beg to differ with your assertion that you are not a nerd, Miss McFly.

EXHIBIT A:

Painstakingly crafting not just a shrine to the fictional object of your affections, but a temporary one, inside a tent in a movie theatre parking lot?

This, young padawan, shows you are well on your way to turning to the Dork Side.  Real ‘Not Nerds’?

They just go to the movies without making camping-friendly collages.

EXHIBIT B:

Willing to wait interminable lengths of time in a queue and risking blunt force trauma and suffocation to get in close physical proximity to a celebrity-slash-object-of-obsession?

That’s classic nerd behavior.  Although it should be duly noted there is a lot more fashion consciousness here, and I’m sure that throng generally smells a lot more pleasant than your average, usually male-dominated gathering of nerds.  A little more Christian Dior and Estee Lauder, and a lot less anxious perspiration and Red Bull thinly masked by Brut and Axe body spray.

(And bonus nerd points for a hand-lettered sign with a bad pun.  Nerds LOVE bad puns.)

EXHIBIT C:

Spending irrational amounts of money and willing to plan a multiple-day itinerary as in, oh, say and travelling TWO THOUSAND EIGHT HUNDRED AND SEVENTY SEVEN MILES to see a movie?  (Man, I’m not going to complain the next time I have to pay full, non-matinee price.)

That’s not just being a fan.  Fandom is maybe taking the day off work.  Going no more than, say, fifty miles out of your way.

Double-nerd-score.

Also see, Nerd Narcissism, which really has little to do with looking into a mirror.  It’s about how others see you:  all that hard work and sacrifice means nothing if people don’t know about it, right?

EXHIBIT D:

Indelibly marking your undying appreciation for a book-slash-movie into your skin?

N-E-R-D.  That spells nerd.

And don’t sweat it: upon full graduation with honors to the Dork Side, if that tat embarrasses you among your peers, a good tattooist can just slap a nice TARDIS or Bat-symbol over that, and once you’ve deleted or Photoshopped the old pics from Facebook and Tumblr, no one will know the difference.

Well, almost no one.

EXHIBIT E:

Completely losing your @#$% in public over a work of fiction?

Oh, that’s sooooo nerd.  I can personally empathize, that’s pretty much what I looked like coming out of the theatre after seeing Avengers.  (Not quite as much mascara, though.)

Last but not least, EXHIBIT F:

Realizing you’re probably a bit too old to engage in this sort of behavior . . . then realizing you’re also old enough to not a give a damn with other people think.

Good-natured ribbing and snark aside, I think it’s fantastic to now have a culture where some of the above examples isn’t considered as extreme as it might have once been.  Twilight’s ‘quality’ and ‘worthiness’ as an object of such fervent obsession might come into question, but that’s a matter of opinion.  As an intellectual property and artistic venture, I was never really going to be part of it’s core demographic.

Fandom is fun, and incredibly so (even though sometimes it can seem as much punching-the-time clock as it is leisure).  There’s a tribal mentality at work behind it, where sense of identity and belonging to a group to share these passions with is paramount.  Twilight has given an age group and a gender that is often almost intentionally excluded from the festivities a chance to experience this.  The idea that young girls ‘can’t’ be as dedicated (or, let’s not forget, as lucrative) a fanbase as young males has been proven wrong, and perhaps that will spur the Powers-That-Be to develop more, and perhaps subjectively ‘better’, material to follow in this mold and capture this audience.

(That’s sort of like saying that a pack of sharks might possibly, on occasion, go into a frenzy if they smell a little blood in the water from a previous kill.)

With Twilight out of the way, will Hunger Games step up to be the next thing for this demographic?  Perhaps.  Or maybe they’ll mature a bit and embrace the gospels of Joss Whedon or Neil Gaiman.  Just as likely, they’ll gravitate toward something else that will come out of left field the way Twilight itself did, the creation of an unknown, first-time author that just catches absolute napalm and nitro fire with an audience, almost despite itself.  (I personally feel you can’t really plan for and manipulate the market for that level of success.  It’s almost always got to be a happy accident of sorts.  Sorry marketing folk, but when you try too hard to hit your bullet points and overthink it to craft a sure bet, you lose that wide-eyed underdog naiveté that sends critics into a foaming-at-the-mouth pooh-poohing frenzy, but often causes an audience to really latch on with a pitbull’s ferocity and tenacity.)

It’s almost getting to the point where the concept of fandom itself is taking on a new paradigm, where the pedigree of specialization and niche is giving way to a more mixed breed sort of fan who has varying levels of dedication and allegiance to a wider spectrum of interests.  There’s the stereotypical hardcore otaku — to whom, sadly, sometimes the act of obsession itself is far more important than the object it’s attached to — and then there comes a whole spectrum of those with lesser levels of fandom, but sometimes still very strong and dedicated tastes.

These part-timers spread the love around between a few things in a more friends with benefits mode instead of developing a stalker-like creeping ever-present outside-the- window-at-3 A.M.-and-sifting-through-the-trash sort of fandom that can sometimes be detrimental to the evolution of a property or franchise.  Both audiences are important in very different ways to the survival and growth of an IP, and despite what the fanboys will very vocally express when given a forum to do so in, they can and do co-exist.  The more casual fans are never that welcome in the otaku’s lairs by their very nature, so they’re oblivious to the hardcore vitriol against them, and probably wouldn’t care even if they were: they enjoy the thing, read the book, watch the show or movie, play the game, and maybe buy the occasional merch without letting it influence or dominate their every waking thought.  They don’t demand complete and total ownership; they’re quite happy with a weekend time-share. They keep the IP economy going beyond the super-ultra limited edition, ridiculously expensive trinkets that the otaku will probably still find fault with, even though it was made specifically for them.

Ask George Lucas what it’s like to deal with them day in and day out.

The Twilight girls are likely going to be part of that more multifaceted fandom audience going forward.  As author Rob Salkowitz observed in his excellent book, Comic-Con and the Business of Pop Culture, females are coming into fandom in larger and larger numbers each year, and they’re coming from often completely different vectors than their young male counterparts, more from “manga and young adult fiction; not just Twilight, but also Baby-Sitters Club, Diary of a Wimpy Kid, and, of course, Harry Potter“.

And that’s a good thing, as far as I’m concerned.

So, welcome to the Dork Side, ladies.  The guy to girl ratio is still a bit off, so it’s a little untidy, and may smell funky at times.  Tell you what: we’ll work on that . . . if you promise to never, ever refer to our action figures as ‘dolls’.

We may be kind of insensitive as a whole, but some things just plain hurt.

— mal

*****

Thanks for stopping by Public Domain!  It may not have been the droids you were Googling for, but since you’re already here — and in the spirit of the endlessly spiralling, time-devouring Habitrail of Doom the Internet best embodies  — why not check out some of our past posts?

The funny stuff is here, comics reviews here, and thoughts / opinions / observations on various writing-related topics here.  Two of our regular ongoing features are Tales to Admonish!, which pokes sarcastic fun at old comic books, and we’re big on memes in these parts, which you can find over here.  (Wow, it’s like having your own personal digital concierge.  Now if only we could figure out how to make a spout pop out of the side of your monitor / laptop screen / tablet / smartphone and serve your favorite beverage.  Science, forget the jetpacks and flying cars, and get on that instead.)

I’m always up for new people to virtually stalk friends, so if you’re so inclined, add me on Facebook.

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