At first, the idea that a movie about a sexually flabbergasted Lisa Frank mansquito (and his human moll) made $175.3 million over July 4 weekend is dumber than dumbfounding. But the dovetailing of these two events makes perfect sense.

First things first — this is not a Twilight hit piece. As Annalee's previously pointed out, complaining about Twilight has become gauche. It's on par with grousing about humid days and colonoscopies — most folks suffer these annoyances but sporadically (unless you live in the torrid zone or belong to some Reichian fringe cult that worships Sir Mix-A-Lot).

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No, this is more an essay about saying exactly what occurs in the Twilight saga and gleaning the innate strangeness therein. Warren Ellis demonstrated this rather aptly when asked if he was Team Edward or Jacob:

The crappiest vampire in all of fiction - and I include George Hamilton playing Dracula in that - and a werewolf that wants to fuck a baby. Those are my choices? Get out of my house before I set the hounds on you, you little bastards. [Geeokosystem]

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Well, Ellis may have been editorializing a bit, but you get my point. Like the Super Bowl Shuffle and moonshine, Twilight hysteria has grown like lichen on the American pop cultural morass, occupying a spot once occupied by Edward and Jacob's sex symbol antecedents: Count Chocula (a.k.a. the only other mainstream vampire less interested in sex than Edward is) and Teen Wolf (a.k.a. the originator of the lycanthropic jock archetype).

[Side note: I guess the Count from Sesame Street was never really a sex symbol, but he totally stole Screamin' Jay Hawkins' look, and Screamin' Jay had — by his own estimate — 57 illegitimate children. Obviously, the Count was angling for something there.]

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So now that we've established that Twilight is A.) ubiquitous and B.) responsible alone for its own googly-eyed bromides (it doesn't need a peanut gallery), what does Twilight have to do with the Fourth of July? For that, dear readers, we must look at the series' belle dame sans personnalité, Bella Abzug Swan.

In most blockbuster origin tales, the protagonist has at least some preternatural pedigree — it helps explain why they're ever so important in the first place. Harry Potter exiled Voldemort with his magical forehead. Luke Skywalker was a hillbilly with a bowlcut, but his dad was Space Jesus. The X-Men have recessive laser-eye genes, Sookie Stackhouse has telepathy and is allergic to shirts.

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How about Bella? Well, other than the fact that her blood smells awesome to vampires (not making this up), her defining trait is her averageness. Yes, barring the fact that her blood is Nosferatunip™, it's Bella's utter normality which draws supernatural wackadoodles to her like a neutron star. By simply existing, Bella is the Most Important Person In The Greater Seattle Metro (heck, a bunch of vamps go to war over her for a lark). She's an accidental fameball. Twilight is the inversion of the Horatio Alger myth, as her bootstraps are pulled up by The Munsters.

I'm not saying that Bella is entirely devoid of agency in Twilight (she has those screw-you-Edward adventures in cliff-diving and Harleys in Full Moon, I guess), but Forks' community of weirdness finds her, not vice versa. In Alexis de Tocqueville's 19th century travelogue of the USA, Democracy in America, the French political philosopher lauded Americans for their strong, local civil societies — particularly those of the New England townships — which allowed for regional and minority opinions mores to flourish. You could say that the supernatural underbelly of Forks is the Tocquevillian ideal (discounting its disproportionately high murder rate for a town of ~3,000).

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Americans are a footloose and self-selected lot — thanks to modern transportation and technology, we have almost no neighborly duties. In Twilight, Bella — a new resident to Forks — is almost immediately inducted into its community of weirdness. After all, it doesn't get much more parochial than hidden covens and wolfpacks. In fact, you can argue that the Volturi vampire overlords fill in for Tocqueville's centralized, federal despots, but — for my future children's sake — there's no damn way I'm going to be pegged the forefather of the political theory of Twilight.

Point is, the Twilight series hearkens back to a Grover's Corners society that you just don't see these days. Forks is like Mayberry, but Opie is immortal. The Twi-narrative mixes woozy 19th century communitarianism with 21st century instant gratification. No doubt, it's alluring. Now you know why Eclipse advertised with Burger King, a public space where both commoner and tycoon intermingle and are united by their love of exsanguinated meat.

[Inflatable Uncle Sam via Jim's Big Things]

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