Fantasizing escape

It can be easier for students to immerse themselves in fantasy than final exams.

It can be easier for students to immerse themselves in fantasy than final exams.

With three papers due tomorrow and five exams next week – followed by a month of working so next month’s rent check is on time – it’s no surprise college students are immersing themselves in fantasy.
The new hit saga Twilight, a four-book series of 17-year-old Bella’s love affair with a vampire named Edward Cullen, has generated a craze among young people.

The public’s draw to fairytale films has been a trend that may correlate to times of high public stress due to economic or social conditions. Psychology professor Donald Hantula said movies – especially fantasy movies – are forms of escapism, giving people a chance to take a break from life’s stresses.

“The movies are a perfect way to take a break,” Hantula said. “You can sit in an air-conditioned room for a few hours, turn off your cell phone and just enjoy the movie.”

But something specifically about the Twilight series drives fans to love it so much they are willing to camp out to see the movie showings.

According to a Fandango survey, 67 percent of respondents said they are attracted to the series because of the love story between Edward and Bella.

Senior health information sciences major Abigail Fallen said she agrees with the survey’s results.
“I like the romance, even though I don’t usually like romance novels,” Fallen said. “It’s the struggle between werewolves and vampires and the love between Bella and the vampire and how the love between Bella and Edward is forbidden that makes it so attractive.”

Some Temple students are fans of the series for other reasons.

“It’s what the series is about,” junior art education major Kristina Jones said. “The series is addicting. After reading one book, I had to read the next.”

But no matter their reasons for becoming fans of the series, Twilight enthusiasts seem to be quite devoted – like Fallen, who said she is “officially obsessed with the series” and has “no patience” when it comes to waiting for new installments.

The first movie of the novel series, simply titled Twilight, debuted in November 2008 and closed about five months later with a domestic lifetime grossing of more than $192 million and a total lifetime grossing of more than $384 million.

The second film installment, New Moon, which premiered Nov. 20 this year, had a first weekend grossing of $142,839,137, earning it the third largest weekend gross in history. Both Fallen and Jones said they attended midnight screenings of New Moon, along with many other Temple students.

But the movies aren’t the only installments of the series generating a frenzy.

Stephanie Meyer’s Twilight novel series appeared in 2005, debuting at No. 5 on the New York Times Best Seller list. In 43 weeks on the list, it peaked at No. 1.

The story seems to have bitten fans, having sold some 17 million copies worldwide, been translated into 37 different languages and spent a total of 91 weeks on the New York Times Best Seller.

The obsession has even extended to dolls, umbrellas and clothing, encompassing everything from pillow cases to T-shirts that read “Team Edward” or “Team Jacob.”

Nowadays, the craze for fantasy movies has extended far past Twilight, and vampires are no longer the only fantasy archetype the public has been going gaga for. Werewolves, pirates, wizards and witches have been generating the box-office hits of late.

The trip of the Pirates of the Caribbean film series is one of the top 30 domestic box-office successes in American history, grossing more than $1 billion altogether.

Pirates attracted fans with the outlaw character. English professor Anne Horn said pirates get to do all the exciting things the good guy usually can’t.

“Most of the handsome princes in fairy tales are very dull,” Horn said.

The Harry Potter brand is also another series racking in the cash, since publication of the first book in 1997.

The series’ six movies filled the top 10 spots on the list of worldwide highest grossing films. The first movie, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, holds the highest rank at No. 5 on the list, with a total worldwide grossing of more than $974 million.

Horn said people are drawn to fairy-esque tales because of the battle of good versus evil is more black and white than in real-world scenarios.

This raises the question as to why young people are then lovers of fairytales and folklore. Hantula said it is because they encounter the same amount of stress as adults.

“In order to understand adult and child behavior, you have to understand work,” Hantula said. “Adults spend the majority of their time at work. If the adult is concerned about losing their job, the child will notice their tension.”

The year 2010 won’t be a year to end the fantasy movies either. With releases like the highly anticipated third Twilight movie, Eclipse, set to release on June 30 and the Alice In Wonderland remake – which stars Pirates’ Captain Jack Sparrow, Johnny Depp – coming out in March.

“Anything can happen to you [in a fantasy-based story], almost like in a dream,” Horn said of the popularity of these fairytale books and films, which doesn’t seem to be going away any time soon. “You can be cut open and sewn back together.”

Nadia Elkaddi can be reached at nadia.elkaddi@temple.edu.

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