The ridiculing of Twilight Saga fans has long been a favorite pastime of many critics and some quarters in the media. Now, Robert Pattinson and no-holds-barred director David Cronenberg have spoken out in defense of those fans, and some – including this writer – think they have a point.
Repeatedly asked on a recent Cosmopolis press junket whether he thought fans would support his latest film, Pattinson told the BBC,
“I think a lot of them will really connect to it […] Some of them will follow – some of them will just want you to play vampires, but most people don’t want you to repeat yourself. So hopefully they’ll like it.”
On a roll, the 26 year-old Brit didn’t stop there.
“People put down Twilight fans, but yesterday I got given on the red carpet in Berlin all these books from people who are lined up in the rain and are probably judged by everyone to be crazy,” said Pattinson.
“I got a signed first edition of the Martin Amis book Money; a Lawrence Ferlinghetti book; the new [Michel] Houellebecq book. All these people come up and give what they’ve been reading and found interesting. This is not giving you teddy bears!”
In fact, what those fans were doing was responding in kind to literary shout-outs Pattinson gave in a recent interview with French cultural magazine Les Inrockuptibles (also known as Les Inrocks.) In other words; they paid attention.
Warming to his theme Pattinson explained to heyuguys,
“The Twilight fanbase is very much maligned for their tenacity for sitting out in the rain […] Twilight has attracted such a broad spectrum of people, and they have all kind of been lumped together because it’s much easier to get these images of people screaming and stuff.”
This article is probably a niche argument, mainly because having legions of fans willing to endure bad weather, hours of waiting, expensive air flights, and the bafflement of others just to catch a glimpse of the object of their affections – isn’t something that happens to most people.
But it did happen to Robert Pattinson.
Four years ago, Twilight – the first installment in The Twilight Saga series – kickstarted a $ 2.5 billion (and counting) juggernaut that will shortly be rolling to its final pit stop this November. During that time Pattinson’s life has changed immeasurably.
An ever-present minder accompanies the actor everywhere he goes, to either protect him from over-ardent admirers or the attentions of the paparazzi. Which is more invasive? Probably depends on the day.
Pattinson has spoken often about how his enormous success has contracted his world, to the point where he feels virtually imprisoned. When at any one time at least 5 paps are following you, and taking a stroll in New York (during a downtime stretch while filming Remember Me – 2010) looks like this – clearly the starpower that can generate that is off the scale.
Pattinson could perhaps be forgiven for having a Christian Bale style freak-out, but – apart from commenting on it – he hasn’t.
Instead, he’s gone to bat for his fans over the pretty outrageous way an entire demographic that encompasses young adolescent females to young women and older – a proportion of that is also male – have been largely written off as an unintelligent and critically undemanding audience. Also discussed here.
More recently, those accusations have charged Pattinson fans as being both blissfully ignorant of what Cosmopolis is actually about, or having any knowledge of Cronenberg’s body of work.
Indiewire film critic Eric Kohn, while scoring Cosmopolis a ‘B’ Grade said, “Twilight‘ fans won’t respond to Pattinson’s uncharacteristic turn and only diehard Cronenberg fans are likely to spread positive word of mouth. In short, its commercial propositions are dicey.”
While the latter part of that statement remains to be seen, inherent in Kohn’s primary note is the idea that those fans that hitched a ride on Pattinson’s star from Twilight onwards, simply won’t understand the undeniably high brow nature of Cosmopolis when (or if) they do see it – or have any idea what to expect from the film.
In a surprisingly (the title’s a peach) reductive piece for Time, Richard Corliss accused Cannes Film Festival high priests, Gilles Jacob and Thierry Fremaux of shamelessly playing to the gallery when they selected Cosmopolis, On The Road and The Paperboy for their 2012 program.
Claiming these films were undeserving of inclusion, serving only to court the “avid teen following” he imagines are the sole constituency of Pattinson, Kristen Stewart and Zac Efron, Corliss warns TwilightSaga fans won’t be enticed into multiplexes by Cosmopolis because “The word will get out.”
So are they right?
A prohibitive (for some) R-rating aside, while there will be some fans who won’t go for the premise of Cosmopolis – a heavyweight yet absurdist, 24-hour trek though the psyche of a billionaire asset manager and an imploding Manhattan, while exploring the “psychosis of capitalism” as Catherine Bray rather brilliantly put it – there are plenty that will.
The truth is most Pattinson fans are not just fans of The Twilight Saga (in fact some emphatically aren’t), they are first and foremost fans of Robert Pattinson. This distinction – lost on some critics and most media – is an important one.
For those that think fans that do go and see Cosmopolis will only do so out of some mindless savant-like support of Pattinson – the Internet is your friend.
Take a gander at these sites: Acres of highly detailed, organized, informed analysis about not onlyCosmopolis, DeLillo and Cronenberg,but also Pattinson’s past and upcoming films. [Note: This list is by no means comprehensive.]
Indeed such is the mobilization capacity of fans, that at the beginning of this year when MTV held a ‘Most Anticipated Movie of 2012’ brawl – even without a trailer or significant promotion – Cosmopolis wiped the floor with much more resourced contenders like The Hunger Games and The Dark Knight Rises.
Without doubt the ‘screamer’ component of Pattinson’s fan base exists – and frankly, so what if it does? – but they are only one part of a much bigger picture. Repetition of a myth doesn’t make it any less a myth.
From the reader comments on the aforementioned sites, it seems many fans are eager to go on a journey with this young actor as he makes the leap into challenging — and from the sound of Pattinson’s own comments — less mainstream waters.
As Pattinson recently acknowledged in Premiere, he knows his fans want him to succeed. They want him to explore his craft and reinvigorated trust in what he can do. And if that means taking the cinematic road less traveled and possibly less commercial return – so be it.
Regardless of the end box-office, those fans will be there to support Pattinson’s future films; Mission:Blacklist, The Rover, Map To The Stars (when and if financing comes together), a talked about portrayal of The Band – and his career as a whole.
No-one denigrates the millions of fanboys (and girls) who poured into multiplexes to watch a bunch of actors in lycra play superheroes (Joss Whedon’s superb screenplay notwithstanding). So it’s interesting, to say nothing of hypocritical, that fans who long ago saw something in an actor the majority of critics are now coming around to accepting, are still routinely dismissed.
Is it sexism, elitism, anti-populism, envy – a little of each? Whatever the reasons, isn’t it time to put down the sweeping generalizations and recognize – as Robert Pattinson does – that the demographic he appeals to spans a wide and varied spectrum and their consumer voice is as valid as any other.
As Cronenberg recently commented, “The websites that were made by girls, young girls, Twilight fans, while we were shooting, they all had read the book – and they were still excited about the project. Some of the websites were gorgeous, really sophisticated and great. Ok, maybe they’ve only read Harry Potter and Twilight – and now they’re reading Don DeLillo! What’s wrong with that?”
Though mistaken about the age range and – as some fan sites attest – their reading material, Cronenberg does raise an interesting question.
So are Pattinson fans poised to support Cosmopolis in droves when it opens in the UK on June 15 and the U.S on August 17? Figures for the (limited) overseas box office so far indicate there is still some way to go. But the Asias, the rest of Europe, the UK and the U.S will be the significant markets to tally. [Update: Canada’s B.O. totals $ 56,566 since June 8.]
Corliss, Kohn and others have laid down the gauntlet. Now it’s up to the fans and the rest of the movie-going public to do the rest.
Cosmopolis stars Robert Pattinson, Paul Giamatti, Juliette Binoche, Mathieu Almaric, Samantha Morton, Sarah Gadon, Jay Baruchel, Kevin Durand, Emily Hampshire and Patricia McKenzie. Distributed by Entertainment One.