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Published: Sunday, 11/29/2009

Crazy for ‘Twilight'; Girls just wanna swoon over Edward and Jacob

FROM BLADE STAFF AND WIRE REPORTS
In this film publicity image released by Summit Entertainment, Kristen Stewart, left, and Robert Pattinson are shown in a scene from "The Twilight Saga: New Moon. In this film publicity image released by Summit Entertainment, Kristen Stewart, left, and Robert Pattinson are shown in a scene from "The Twilight Saga: New Moon.
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Taylor McCollum stood in line for more than 90 minutes and waited another hour in the theater to see a special midnight screening of The Twilight Saga: New Moon in Toledo.

Marah Sarrouj waited 90 minutes, too. Viviana Krall got her tickets "way ahead of time" and was there early on opening night.

The three young women from Toledo and Sylvania come from different backgrounds, but they all have one thing in common that they share with tens of millions of their peers across the country:

A serious passion for the girl-meets-vampire series of books — by Stephenie Meyer — and movies. New Moon is a sequel of Twilight and both have been massive box office smashes.

New Moon, an inexpensive sequel from a 3-year-old independent studio, sold a supernatural $140.7 million in tickets over its debut weekend in North American theaters. The huge No. 1 opening gave New Moon a rarefied perch in the motion picture industry's record books. It ranks as the third-biggest opening on record, behind the pop culture behemoths The Dark Knight, which sold $158.4 million last year, and Spider-Man 3, which sold $151.1 million in 2007.

Twilight is based on a four-book series by Ms. Meyer being made into a four-movie series about a girl who falls in love with a vampire while being courted by a werewolf. Young, beautiful actors portray the characters — the vampires and werewolves are particularly gorgeous — and the hype is intense. Twilight merchandise is everywhere, and teenage girls, especially, swoon over it all.

Female moviegoers, particularly teenage girls, drove ticket sales on the debut weekend, as expected. Summit Entertainment said the audience was only 20 percent male, an improvement from the first movie; 50 percent of the audience was under the age of 21.

Ms. McCollum, Ms. Sarrouj, and Ms. Krall all said that once they read the books they were hooked.

"My sister actually read them first — she's two years younger than me — and she got me into them," said Ms. McCollum, a St. Ursula Academy senior who has read all four books twice.

For Ms. Krall a key element of the books' and movies' appeal is the combination of the exotic vampires and the "every girl" quality of the Bella character.

"I think it's more relatable because not everyone's like a beautiful queen girl and she's a normal girl and you can relate to it and see yourself as her," said Ms. Krall, a 13 year old south Toledo resident.

"I agree," Ms. McCollum said. "She's not popular and she's not what people expect."

"When you read her thoughts you think that they're yours," said Ms. Sarrouj, a St. Ursula senior. "She's just a common everyday girl and I think when people read that they can relate because they think that can happen to them."

She originally wasn't interested in the book because of the vampire angle, but the way Meyer created the Edward character makes it work.

"Girls started seeing it more as a love story than a vampire book. and everyone just loves Edward and they want Edward in their life," Ms. Sarrouj said. "I think him being a vampire is what makes him edgy and different than all the guys in books that people are obsessed with."

"It is, at its very heart, an old-fashioned romance story," said Liz Gialanella a New York school psychologist, who has read the books and discussed them with students. "It is the same type of romance story that has been popular throughout history."

Bella, the female star, "is like an every girl," she said. "She's not a perfect human being. ... But she's got this very loving side, this very compassionate side. I think girls identify with her."

Edward, who's a hunk, is head over heels for Bella. He's a vampire. And Jacob, another hunk, also is head over heels for Bella. He's a werewolf. So you've got two adorable men in love with the "every girl." What's not to like if you're a teenage girl (or once were) who falls in the pecking order somewhere below homecoming queen?

Bella and Edward's relationship, however, has spurred debates. Is Edward so protective and controlling that it's unhealthy? Will girls be given unrealistic expectations of a relationship?

"I would say not to overanalyze it," said Ms. Gialanella, the psychologist. "The kids I've spoken to recognize it as fantasy and idealized. I don't ever hear kids say, ‘That's what I'm looking for in a relationship. I'm waiting around to find a man just like Edward.'"

And the debates aren't limited to teenagers. Valerie Karas, a seventh-grade teacher in New York, has read the books and shared them with friends, who in turn gave them to their mothers.

"We've been preoccupied with these ideas for a long time — the idea of star-crossed lovers or the idea of a passion so powerful that it can destroy people," Ms. Karas says. " Look at the connections and comparisons between Twilight and Romeo and Juliet and between New Moon and Wuthering Heights."

They can consider their classics as they stand in line with all the squirming teenagers. Seven of them — Ms. Karas included — bought tickets for the midnight show. Even though their ages range from their 20s to their 50s, Ms. Karas says, they remember when they, too, were teenagers.

Blade features editor Rod Lockwood contributed to this story.



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