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The 'Twilight' Effect

The polarizing vampire franchise has left a mark on pop culture, changing everything from the way books are promoted to the way movie tickets are sold

Whether you've spent the past seven years loving Twilight or hating on it — and rare is the moderate when it comes to Stephenie Meyer's vampire novels — the end of Edward and Bella's tortured romance is upon us. And yet long after giddy fans have watched the credits roll on the final Breaking Dawn film (in theaters Nov. 16, rated PG-13), and the naysayers have posted their last die Twilight scum! comment online, the influence of the franchise will still be circulating in our culture's bloodstream. Consider this one Möbius-strip effect: Twilight created a tidal wave of interest in the paranormal — vampires, werewolves, zombies, all of them with enviable cheekbones and abs — which helped get shows like The Vampire Diaries greenlit. Meanwhile, a British woman named E L James began noodling around with all of Edward and Bella's pent-up desire in Twilight fan fiction. Today her ubiquitous ` erotica trilogy is every bit the polarizing sensation as its inspiration, and The Vampire Diaries' Ian Somerhalder is campaigning for the lead role in the movie adaptation. Last week Simon & Schuster, sick of being a mere voyeur to all this action, shelled out a hefty amount in a two-book deal for more Twilight fan fiction. Christina Lauren's Beautiful Bastard, in which Edward and Bella types, here reimagined as a demanding boss and his young, ambitious assistant circling each other wantonly at the workplace, will land on unapologetically horny women's nightstands in February 2013. Edward and Bella spend some 2,000 pages in tortured anticipation of sex — which is one of the series' chief draws for many readers — but copycat characters tend to hop right to it.

What's unique about Twilight, and consequently about Fifty Shades of Grey, is that the phenomenon speaks to a distinctly female fantasy. ''Twilight is about being loved completely for who you are, not for what you look like or what you say or do, but for the very cells of your being,'' says the franchise's screenwriter, Melissa Rosenberg. ''That's a universal desire, but one that's largely embraced by women. And, by the way, it is no more or less reasonable a fantasy than the big-budget tentpole movies that appeal to 13-year-old boys.''

So now teen girls and their mothers are flexing their buying power like never before, at movies like The Twilight Saga, The Hunger Games, and Snow White and the Huntsman. ''Women wield an enormous amount of influence in the film marketplace,'' says Hunger Games producer Nina Jacobson, whose adaptation of Suzanne Collins' dystopian thriller made more than $400 million in domestic box office. ''Hollywood is getting wise to that later than perhaps they should have. But better late than never.''

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