Like other grown fangirls, I have a recent history of reading fantasy literature book series that I’m too damn old for. (Harry Potter, Twilight)
While not an active fan of either, I’ve certainly followed both series, their subsequent status as a pop culture phenomenon and the resulting psychotic fan activity they’ve both engendered. (I’ll get to that later.) Even before the movie came out (still haven’t seen it, BTW) some media critics were already eager to make Twilight into the next Harry Potter, and the book sales alone offer plenty of hard evidence to base that declaration upon, though it’s clear that Twilight has a long way to go to reach the incredible global influence that Harry Potter has: Stephenie Meyer’s series has,of now, sold 25 million copies worldwide, impressive until you compare J.K. Rowling’s 400 million copies sold worldwide.
Either way, it’s easy to see that both series are bonafide fan phenomenon and even if there is not direct overlap of fan involvement from Harry Potter to Twilight, (though I suspect there is) Twilight fandom activity certain matches the fervor HP fandom. Harry Potter wiki? Meet Twilight Wiki. Huge semi-academic convention? Oh yeah, they’ve both got it. (Though HP has several.) Delusional fandom acting out in bizarre ways? Settle in and spend some time reading about Twilight and HP fans’ crazy antics. It’s gonna take a loooong time.
But the most interesting shared phenomenon is the trend of garage rock bands being formed by fans of both novels. Harry Potter fandom started the trend with its own brand of Harry Potter inspired music, “wizard rock,” which is a bonafide phenomenon in itself: the genre has spawned over 200 bands, according the Wizrocklopedia, the genre’s own news blog, an EP of the month club, even a documentary that came out earlier in the year. Harry and the Potters, a pioneering Wrock band, started their own label.
Not too long ago, I learned that Twilight fans have jumped on the rock bandwagon too, Check out the Bella Cullen Project’s YouTube Music video:
and these dudes, the Mitch Hansen band and their ode to Twilight werewolf Jacob Black:
I’ve been following the Wizard Rock phenomenon for awhile now because of my interest in music and my own fascination (and admiration) of these bands (mostly kids and teens) who have fashioned their own DIY subculture and microeconomy, selling CD’s, playing alternative spaces like libraries and coffeeshops, building a subgenre and a community from the ground up. Once again, it’s the 1000 true fans idea put into practice.
Once you can get over the fact that its rock based around a children’s book series, and the music is of … er… varying levels of quality, you see that these kids are creating an infrastructure for DIY music production and distribution that rivals what a lot of professional punk and hardcore bands are doing these days. It’s pretty inspirational and something that even professional bands could take a page from.
There’s a very long history, of course, of filk music, sci-fi and fantasy devotees creating music based on their fannish preoccupations, but the music itself, more often than not, stayed contained within fan communities, Wrock and Twirock bands appear to have bigger goals. These kids are playing out, performing for fairly large audiences, distributing their music to other fans across the globe. Are they professional? Semi-professional? Something in between? Are they threatening the brand integrity of the media that they are helping to promote or do they deserve corporate support for pouring time, energy and cash into what is essentially grassroots promotion of these book series? I doubt most of these kids even think about these issues, they are more concerned with expressing themselves creatively and sharing their efforts with other fans.
Last week, the LA Times published an article about the Twilight Music Girls, several musicians inspired by Twilight director Catherine Hardwick to write music based on the books.
“It was back in July that we got to meet with Catherine Hardwicke and talk to her about the movie,” [musician Kris] Angelis says. “We were saying that we had been inspired to write songs about ‘Twilight,’ and she said, ‘You should form a group. That would be so much fun.’ So it was Catherine Hardwicke who put the idea in our head. We formed the MySpace page that night.”
I highly doubt we’ll see Warner Brothers or Little, Brown and Co. the respective corporate owners of Harry Potter and Twilight) come out publicly in support or even acknowledgement of Wizard Rock or Twi-Rock, but at least in the case of Twilight, there is some definitely buy-in and support of the fan-inspired music from some of the creative voices behind the series, who see the value of encouraging this fan activity. I have a feeling we’ll see more of this.