This article studies the success of the Twilight franchise in relation to the stardom of Robert Pattinson by proposing a model of interpretation called “the poetics of addiction.” The term addiction is used in this essay not as a top-down form of dependency but as a multilateral and multilayered network of mutual dependency and interactive/interpassive reconfigurations. The article asks in what ways the Twilight films construct or imagine their targeted audience — teenage girls, Twilight moms, and gay men — and how such desires are then consumed, multiplied, and circulated on textual, industrial, and transnational levels. In the Twilight series, Pattinson's highly flexible star image appeals to audiences with different kinds of sexual or romantic desires, for if we look carefully at the way Edward Cullen is represented, and how Pattinson is marketed in the media, he is portrayed as both sexy and sexually unavailable. In this light, teenage girls, Twilight moms, and gay men could fabricate their own individual ideas of what it means to fall in love with the idea of love for the first time, with a figure that is both abundantly available as a sexual imagination but physically unapproachable, sexually undefined (e.g., Is he straight? Is he gay? Or does it matter?), or even potentially dangerous. The article develops this idea via a close analysis of the films and seeks to extend this idea to an understanding of how Hollywood and the international market form a similar pattern of codependence among various gendered, sexualized, and racialized groups, between the US and its overseas market, and between China and the US.

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Author notes

Victor Fan is assistant professor in the Department of East Asian Studies and the World Cinemas Program at McGill University, specializing in Chinese cinema, media, and literature. He graduated from the Department of Comparative Literature and the Film Studies Program at Yale University. His works have been published in Film History, Screen, and CLCWeb: Comparative Literature and Culture, and his book manuscript is titled “Football Meets Opium: Sovereignty and Cinematic Imaginations — A Sino-British Perspective.” He is also a filmmaker, composer, and an active contributor to the communal blog Printculture.