Film Criticism’s “New Moon”

I’ve been thinking about the Twilight series quite a bit lately.  No, I haven’t developed a thing for vampires or Kristen Stewart, although my girlfriend’s daughter, Yasmine, is a huge fan of the series (and I happen to think that Stewart is a talented young actress).  Instead, I think it’s a fascinating example of how internet buzz can develop around a transmedia franchise such as the Twilight books and movies and what it might mean for film fandom.  Anne Petersen, gossip scholar extraordinaire, has a witty, thoughtful post about this phenomenon, noting that her web traffic spikes considerably whenever she mentions the movies or pretty much anyone connected to them (and, no, this isn’t *really* a shameless plea for traffic).  More significant, however, is that Petersen also points out that gossip sites that are dependent upon building high volumes of traffic to build advertising revenue might be tempted to drop a few Kristen Stewart-Robert Pattinson rumors just to keep the fan base clicking in.

I mention these details because I’ve been reading John Hartley’s Television Truths, a book that devotes significant attention to the speed of publication (or transmission) associated with various media.  The sections I’ve read focus less on the web or bogosphere than older media, but I think his arguments are perfectly suited to describing the accelerated pace by which information is produced in the film blogosphere.  I’m not ready to argue that this process–in which gossip and entertainment bloggers rush to satisfy the voracious interest in the Twilight films–is harmful.  After all, I use Twitter, the microblogging tool known for short, quick posts.  Nor am I a purist about posting ads on blogs.  But I think it does speak to one of the ways in which the “industry” of blogging–the modes of producing a profit–begin to shape how film gets covered and even risks drawing attention from lesser-known films.  As Annie’s colleague, Nick, observes: “there can never be enough information on a star; therefore, more information is always needed.”

That being said, I think we lose a lot if we don’t reflect carefully on the specific attractions Twilight and its sequels offer its (predominantly, though not exclusively, young and female) audience.   With that in mind, I’m intrigued by a couple of stats mentioned by Anne Thompson, who notes that New Moon ticket pre-sales are significantly outpacing Twilight.   On one level this shouldn’t be surprising: more audiences have had a chance to discover (or become devoted to) the series through the original film, the DVD, the books, and online fan cultures.  More intriguing is Thompson’s discussion of the high level of activity on Flixster surrounding New Moon, which Thompson reports is seeing more discussion than the biggest grossing film of 2009, Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen.  I’m not sure that this metric can be used to predict that New Moon will surpass Transformers‘ numbers, but it does show that the fan base for it is probably quite a bit deeper and may (I’d imagine) attract more repeat viewings.

I don’t really have a grand conclusion here, but it’s interesting to see how social media tools such as Flixster and blogs have become an important part of the reception, promotion, and discussion of New Moon and other Twilight films.

4 Comments »

  1. Annie Petersen Said,

    November 15, 2009 @ 7:29 pm

    I’m also super interested in the gendered aspect of all the talk on Twilight — is it as simple as “girls like to talk” and “fan boys like to talk” but there are more girls than fan boys? I’d also really love to see an analysis of the discussion — how, or if, Twilight discourse tends to focus more on the stars, whereas Transformers (and other more traditionally masculine films/genres) tends to focus on technology, plot, etc.

    Either way, you’re right — it’s an intriguing puzzle, but one that we don’t have the tools to solve. At least not yet.

  2. Chuck Said,

    November 15, 2009 @ 8:21 pm

    Yeah, the stars (other than Megan Fox) seem incidental to The Transformers, while they are (or at least seem) crucial to the reception of Twilight. The latter film was often denigrated for its aesthetic (as we might see in blog friend Craig Lindsey’s review).

    It would be interesting to see whether the Flixster noise is (at least partially) due to increased membership or whether some other factors might be at play. Still, Twilight is a meaningful text for many people, and I think it’s worth investigating that.

  3. The Chutry Experiment » Twilight, Sandra Bullock, and Taste Cultures Said,

    November 21, 2009 @ 12:57 pm

    [...] how film criticism, cinephilia, and taste cultures intersect.  Although I’ll admit that I know little about the Twilight saga beyond what I’ve absorbed from observing and talking to my girlfriend’s daughter, [...]

  4. Godzilla » The “New Moon” Craze. Said,

    November 21, 2009 @ 4:27 pm

    [...] and “New Moon” allowed the fan base to increase  almost exponentially.  Tryon, in his blog,  gives the credit for this rapid expansion to speed of publication, but is unable to determine [...]

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