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A beginner’s guide to ‘Twilight’

How to pretend like you know what your teenage daughter is talking about. And maybe, just maybe, you'll get addicted to “Twilight,” too.
/ Source: contributor

It’s a big deal, this “Twilight” stuff. Maybe you haven’t been paying attention. There was just a history-making presidential election, after all. And Rob Lowe’s house is on fire. And Beyonce just changed her name to Sasha Fierce. There’s a ton of stuff to keep up with. You can be forgiven for not knowing about “Twilight.” But let me fix that for you.

It’s this bookThe author’s name is Stephenie Meyer. She lives in Arizona. She went to Brigham Young University. Now she’s J.K. Rowling except less rich by about one billion dollars. For now.

“Twilight” is the first in a series of young adult novels about a teenage girl named Bella and her vampire boyfriend Edward. Bella is somewhat emo. OK, more than somewhat. She begins the first book as a too-smart, too-pale, too-clumsy girl from Arizona transplanted to extra-cloudy, extra-rainy, extra-gloomy Forks, Wash.

She meets a perfect guy named Edward. He’s blizzard-white and beautiful and perfect and gorgeous and aloof. They fall in love. Then some more stuff happens. (I’d love to spoil that stuff but the “Twilight” fans would have me killed if I spilled too much. No, seriously, killed to death. They’d send whoever shot Tupac my way and no one would ever find out who did it.)

This book and its sequels are kind of popularSomewhere in the neighborhood of almost 20 million copies have been sold and consumed and re-read and obsessed over and turned into fan Web sites (more on those in a second) and treated like life-instruction manuals. Which is awesome. Anything that gets kids reading.

Again, this is not “Harry Potter”-level saturation but “Twilighters,” as they are often known, are devoted people. Again, this is a good thing. Because, really, have you ever met a boring teenager? One that doesn’t do anything or read anything or seem to care or get excited about anything? I have. And those kids are a drag. Give me an obsessive any day of the week. At least they’ll have something to talk to you about.

Now it’s a movie you won’t be able to avoidIt stars Kristen Stewart (you remember her as Jodie Foster’s 11 year-old daughter in “Panic Room,” the one who used to look like Jodie Jr.) and Robert Pattinson, a guy you barely remember from, oddly enough, one of the “Harry Potter” movies.

From this point on Pattinson’s life is going to be Leonardo DiCaprio/Zac Efron weird. He already has an Internet-ty nickname: RPattz. And every lust-bursting Twilighter and a sizeable contingent of their mothers have decided that every tousled hair on his head is NOM-NOM-NOM-DELICIOUS.

That expression “OMG?” It’s been replaced by “OME,” as in “Oh, my Edward.” So good luck, man. Hope the house you buy with this money has a very tall gate and 24/7 security staff.

It’s not like ‘Buffy The Vampire Slayer’Main reason is because it’s not funny. Remember how witty and self-effacing “Buffy” was all the time? These books — and, if accounts of the serious young actors behaving super-seriously on the set are to be believed, the movie, too — are not that.

This story is about love and death and the urgency and drama of a first love that is way too amazing and special for anyone else to EVER — EVER! — understand. It’s also about death and and immortality and blinding perfection and sparkling dazzlement. Yes, sparkling. This guy literally sparkles. And dazzles.

At one point in the story, Edward even asks Bella if he dazzles her. As if he really needed her to answer that one. Guys are vain, though, ladies. That’s one of the story’s life lessons. You have to keep praising them.

It’s also not super hornyYou’d be forgiven for thinking that it was if you look at the movie’s poster where they’ve given Pattinson orange-glowy eyes. He looks like he’s about to do a really bad thing to her at some awful frat party. But remember the part about author Stephenie Meyer attending BYU? It matters, sort of.

From the silent classic "Nosferatu" to the romantic chiller "Twilight," screen vampires seem to just keep coming back.

These vampires, Edward’s perfect family, are quite Osmond-y in their way. I wouldn’t go so far, as some critics have, as to call the novels Mormon tracts, but most authors tend to draw inspiration from their own lives, and the very un-vampiric way some of these characters behave is unusual to say the least.

Edward’s family may not sing and dance on their own variety show but they do play vampire baseball. That’s not me trying to be funny. They actually play vampire baseball. I know, isn’t that kind of rad? How often to you get to see vampires do that sort of thing?

Meanwhile, getting back to the horniness issue, Edward doesn’t want Bella to be transformed into a vampire either even though she wants to be transformed really badly. And that means sex. Is there one single person left on the planet that doesn’t get that yet? Because not counting The Count from “Sesame Street,” vampires have pretty much one item on their agenda: robbing you of your precious virginity. But this Edward is such a perfect vampire and loves Bella so much that he refuses to do “it.”

My favorite “Twilight”-related blog, the hilarious loves-it-and-hates-it-and-is-totally-obsessed-with-it “Cleoland,” at (note to readers: adult discussion and language sometimes exists on this particular blog, so don’t say you weren’t warned), puts it this way: “Yeah, it’s like, Bella wants to be a vampire but she doesn’t want to be a vampire before she’s had sex as a human, and Edward doesn’t want her to be a vampire but he wants to get married, but Bella doesn’t want to get married unless she can be a vampire, but Edward won’t have sex with her until they get married, and then you put the fox and the grain in the boat and you leave the goose back on the riverbank.”

It’s not just for teenage girls and their gay best friendsThe movie studio wants that lucrative hetero adolescent/young adult male audience to pony up the bucks, so it would appear that, based on the trailer, the action has been revved-up to appropriately super-hero-adjacent levels. Why not? They already play baseball. Why not zoom around like Iron Man too?

And speaking as someone who just watched “Quantum of Solace” and now wants to have his own personal speedboat chase with machine guns, I welcome that slight tweak. As for you parents, some of you have already caught on. The Web site is all the proof you need that media aimed at young people cross-pollinates and has the ability to turn adults into the Nelson fans they were back in 1990.

But don’t be embarrassed, “Twilight” moms, I can tell you pretty much everything about Manny from “Degrassi: The Next Generation” myself. It happens. Next stop: sequel mania. Brace yourself.

Dave White is the film critic for and the author of “Exile in Guyville.” Find him at