Sunday, March 23, 2008

Prediction: This Christmas, Hollywood Will Discover Teen Girls

It's not unusual for the big holiday blockbusters to become blockbusters because they appeal to the 14-21 crowd. Or, rather, one half of the 14-21 crowd. Everyone knows, after all, that Hollywood is often desperate to capture the attention of teen boys because everyone knows that they are the ones who go to the movies all the time, and will go again and again to the over-hyped movies.

So, watch out for lots of freaked out critics this coming Christmas, when the two biggest blockbusters are going to be made that way by the other half of the 14-21 crowd. Because not only will Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince will be coming out late November, but Twilight is set to come a mere three weeks later.

What isTwilight you ask? Twilight, for those of you that have been living under a rock, is a YA series about vampires and full of teen angst. It's also going to be the blockbuster that no one expected.

When it was announced a while ago that Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows was going to be broken up into two movies, who didn't cynically think "Oh, so you'll break up DH, but you still kept OotP all in one movie. wtf?" Yeah, I'm sure we're all believing that this is all about staying true to the source material and not at all about WB getting worried that their HP cas cow is almost over.

And WB should be especially worried about HP, because while they may have other blockbusters in the works, they don't really have any that are made to appeal to the demographic that made the HP movies such huge successes. The HP books may have been initially made famous by adorable 9 year old boys sporting fake glasses and lightening scars, but it's the teen girls that have been most consistent about showing up in their Hogwarts gear for the midnight screenings of the HP movies as well as the latest Midnight Magic Parties.

Both the books and the movies appeal to a wide variety of people, and neither would have done as well as they had if they hadn't. But that doesn't change the fact that the core audience for the HP movies is the very one that Hollywood has consistently pretended doesn't exist. The one that they make half-hearted attempts to lure into the the theatre every so often, and then pronounce not worth bothering for when their often lame attempts flop.

Which brings us to Twilight. The movie that MTV ignored until their rights expired, despite the fact that it's also based on the books one that the teen girls (and a good number of adult women) I know cannot stop talking about. Yes, my cousin and her friends are all still looking forward to HBP, but it's the casting announcements for Twilight and the speculation about Breaking Dawn - the upcoming fourth book - that dominates the conversation whenever the subject of books and movies come up.

Anyone who had bothered to check's top ten last summer wouldn't have been surprised to find various versions of the Harry Potter books dominating the list. What went largely unnoticed, however, was that all three of the books from Stephanie Meyer's Twilight series were consistently on the top ten throughout the summer as well. (Unnoticed enough that my store ran out of our 200+ copies on the first day.) If you need any further proof of the insane popularity of the books and the huge anticipation for this movie, just go to the MTV movies blog post that's prefaced by the announcement that the number of comments on their first post for Twilight left all other comment threads in the dust.

For years (decades?) Hollywood has said that teen girls don't go to movies - or if they do, they go to whatever their boyfriends want to see. HP has already shown that not to be true, but it's not widely acknowledged for fear of scaring off the HP fans who aren't teen girls. (cuz girls have cooties, yannow)

Juno has helped, but adults like to pretend that their teen girls are completely unaware of sex, so it's popularity among that group has been largely ignored. As has the fact that pre-teen crushes on Harry and Ron have grown more adult in past few years.

Plus, god forbid they mention "teen girls" and "Oscar worthy" in the same sentence.

But all this pretending that the adults are doing isn't going to last when Twilight hits the screen.

(shirtless vampires, oh my!)

ps - also expect a more than decent box office performance by YA novel inspired and October release Nick and Nora's Infinite Playlist, starring Michael Cera and Kat Dennings, thus solidifying the trend.

pps - expect Kirsten Stewart to blow everybody's socks off as Twilight's Bella as well.

ppps - Will someone please make sure that she, Ellen Page, and Emma Watson all continue to have roles worthy of their talents? thxbai


Amy Reads said...

Hi Mickle,
I feel as if I am one of the few people who does not like Twilight, and here is why: two people cannot be "Star-Crossed Lovers" if nothing really stands in the way of their being together.
That is to say, I loved the first half of the book, an excellent tale about a young girl feeling out of place, and therefore becoming attracted to other out of place people. But the second half felt a bit too smug to me. I wanted more difficulty in their loving, perhaps?
Or maybe I'm just crazy :)

Mickle said...

Well, first I should say that, while I do love Twilight, it is a bit of a guilty pleasure bc it has some huge flaws. I just don't have to treat it as such bc it's so damn popular I won't get any flack for admitting that I like it. It has that in common with Harry Potter as well.

Back to your specific complaint though....

I guess I never really saw them as "Star-Crossed Lovers" bc Edward is just far too flat compared to Bella for it to really be a "Romeo and Juliet" type story. Happy ending or not.

I always saw them much more as Teen Protagonist and Broody Vampire With a Soul - oops! - I meant Melancholy Vampire That Doesn't Eat People - who has a supporting role in Teen Protagonist's coming of age story.

I get that Buffy and Angel are supposed to be Star-Crossed Lovers and all, but I never really saw them that way - not exactly, anyway. Maybe it was because I started watching Buffy in the fourth season, (I think Hush was literally the first episode I saw. Damn was I impressed. And confused. And hooked.) but Angel always seemed much flatter to me than Willow and Xander, or even Giles and Tara. (Not Dawn, though. :) )

At least, when he was on Buffy anyway. When Angel was on his own show, it was a whole different story. Same for Buffy when she was on her own show vs. Angel. And it wasn't just screen time. Nor just the different tones of the two series. It was that the characters were written in such a way that when Angel was on Buffy he acted according to how Buffy saw him but when he was on Angel he acted according to how he saw himself. Same for Buffy when she was on Angel vs. Buffy. It wasn't just that each furthered the plot and theme of the other's show when they were on it; their whole demeanor would change to fit the main character's worldview.

Which makes it much less of a love story, and instead makes the love interest more of a thematic/plot device. That's always how I saw the love story in Twilight, as well. Just cuz Edward always gave off that same vibe to me. He's just too damn perfect.

To me, it's not the story of two Star-Crossed Lovers. It's a coming of age story where the love story plays the role that "saving the kingdom" plays in adventure stories. Which makes it sound kinda lame and makes Bella seem like a shrinking violet. But it's not. And she's not. As you know.

It's more like a teens' version of girl stories like A Little Princess, where the "adventure" is more internal and people focused, because the final destination is not learning to become a useful member of society, it's learning how to carve a space for yourself in a world that expects you to give a lot of yourself to other people.

Which is why I love it so much.

bc as much as I love action and adventure, I think we need these stories as well. Especially girls, who are asked far too often to be more considerate of other people than they are of themselves. Especially teen girls, who are constantly asked to pretend as though whole parts of themselves don't exist bc they make certain grown-ups uncomfortable.

Amy Reads said...

Hi Mickle,
I believe the "star crossed lovers" thing was part of the book jacket blurb or the author's own words on her website, or something. I remember it sticking with me really tightly, and then when it didn't fulfill, I was Rather Perturbed.

I absolutely 100% agree with you on the Buffy-on-Angel and the Angel-on-Buffy. Thank the Whedon gods that Spike never suffered the same flatness. He was, in Whedon's own words, I believe, the ingenue to Angel. Perfect description, no?

The boy, Edward?, is not nearly as interesting as the girl, Bella. She fascinated me the first half of the novel, and then she wilted when Edward became Boy Wonder. Blah. And I am All For Romance. I swoon for star-crossed lovers, for the tragic love, for the best friend in unrequited love with the girl or guy, you name it, I adore it. Maybe I will try the books again?

My YA adoration right now is for Rick Riordan's Percy Jackson series. So much fun!

Mickle said...


I so need to read that.

And yeah, I can see being annoyed with Twilight if one was expecting actual star-crossed lovers. I probably read that too, but I read so many YA blurbs that anything re: romance just kind of gets lumped together as "has love interest." After all, isn't every teen's first romance their one true love? :)

I think it's very popular despite it's faults in part because the teens that are expecting romance are not annoyed by the not quite romance bc they tend to still be very self-focused. Especially when it comes to things first anythings, even when the "first" is a relationship. Not in a bad way; I think teens have a lot more empathy than most people give them credit for. It's just that they are still going through a lot of firsts, and firsts tend to be about how they affect you and how you adjust to them. Focusing on the big picture comes with experience.

As for Bella going flat, I would say that I think that's a fault of having Edward be so flat to begin with. More of the plot/theme/emotion/etc. should have fallen his shoulders at that point of the story, but it couldn't do so properly and so it just felt like we lost something rather than switching characters.

Except that I think I need to reread it to remember exactly how and when and why Bella started becoming so blah.