I’m wandering among the convention center downtown, with its glass lobbies and skywalks and identically boring-looking buildings, looking for the Official Twilight Convention (which took place this past weekend at the Sheraton City Center). Everyone I see is too handsome to ask for directions; I kick myself for not having found some tween to bring along. I could make her ask the handsome men where the actual convention is, while I fondly roll my eyes in a way that indicated that I am not a Twilight fan, but merely a good-natured adult woman who is kind to tweens.
Okay, so I’m not exactly a Twilight fan. But I’m not not a Twilight fan, either. I’ve read all of the books and seen all of the movies, a couple of them even at midnight on opening day. I like to tell people that I enjoy the phenomenon as a phenomenon. Maybe that just means I’m uncomfortable with my own fandom and try to shroud it in something like anthropological interest.
Eventually, I spot a couple twelve year-olds in all black and follow them up the appropriate escalators. They’ve got goth-ish outfits on, but they’re actually skipping up the steps. First revelation of the evening: Edward Cullen may be mopey, but everyone at the Twilight Convention is sunny and kind.
I arrive just after a Q&A with Chaske Spencer, who plays Sam Uley in the films. This weekend’s celebrity guests are second- or third-tier characters, which seems to make them all the more beloved by the fans. (Something like how Ringo was the Beatle who got the most fan mail.) The crowd is approximately 95 percent female; I spot a couple boyfriends/husbands, and one frustrated younger brother. Little girls with thick, vampirish eye shadow look odd under the flourescent lights. Second revelation of the day: The Convention is like a machine for spending money: $20 to enter (per day); $20 per autograph; $40 and up per photo op; $79 for the Saturday Night Volturi Vampire Ball; $175 for the private meet-and-greet with Peter Facinelli, who plays Carlyle Cullen (Edward’s dad). And then there’s the merchandise: Body glow and shimmer powder and chap stick and lip gloss. A keychain that says Caution, I drive like a Cullen. Guitar picks and lunchboxes and umbrellas and photos – lots and lots of photos.
I spend some time talking with Shelly, who runs the Twi-Gear site. Her merch goes way beyond the standard Team Edward/Team Jacob stuff – I linger over a “BRONSON: Real Men Don’t Sparkle” shirt and pretend to have any idea what that means. I am clearly in over my head here. The shirts look great, though, with bold graphic design that Shelly does herself; as of this spring, selling Twilight merchandise is her full-time job. People like that her t-shirts feature more obscure characters (like how Ringo was the Beatle who got the most fan mail – a true fan loves an underdog). Her favorites are the Volturi (“I like those bad-ass kind of characters”).
The guy who’s helping set up for the afternoon’s live auction – bald, affable, wearing a plaid button down shirt – doesn’t look like your typical Twilight fan. “Oh no, I’m a volunteer,” he tells me. I ask him if he gave up his Saturday because he was excited about the conference, and he looks at me as if I’m crazy. He’s here to get volunteer points for future Creation conferences – “Stargate and Star Trek, mostly.” Aah. It all makes sense now.
Forever Is Only The Beginning, The Hand That Rocks The Cradle Is The Hand That Rules The World, If You Can Live Forever What Do You Live For?: as cheery as they are, the Twilight crowd also puts a premium on intensity. At the Volturi Vampire Ball, this translates into high heels, gunmetal eyeshadow, lots of black and red. The line between fan and celebrity starts to blur – people are recognizing one another from viral videos; the biggest fans themselves become a kind of mini-celebrity.
I stick to the edges of the room and think about how fandom is a funny thing. It allows you to feel connected to something bigger than yourself, maybe even something a little scary. “This is an autographed photograph of Robert Pattinson, which he touched,” the auctioneer trumpeted earlier in the afternoon. “And if you buy it, and touch it, it’s pretty much like you’re touching Robert Pattinson.” After some heated bidding, it sold for $175. But no one had come away seeming disappointed, and no one here at the Vampire Ball seems to mind that we’re just a bunch of ladies in a hotel conference room all dressed up for each other. And finally, I think, I’ve figured out where I stand. I’m not a fan of Twilight, but I’m a fan of Twilight fans.