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Love Bites for Twilights Gay Fans


COMMENTARY: New Moon is almost here. You may not be one of the bloodthirsty "fanpires" who have been camping outside of theaters waiting for the premiere on Monday, but still it's hard not to be as giddy as a teenage girl about it. Breaking records in advance ticket sales, its stars plastered on every magazine cover and mindless website, the Twilight follow-up is turning out to be a gigantic pop culture tidal wave that has the potential to engulf Titanic and every previous blockbuster in box office sales.

Gay and lesbian audiences are certainly not immune to the hype, and who can blame us -- the cast is chock-full of heartthrobs who are impossible to ignore. Not only do we have Robert Pattinson with his wintry beauty and red, red Kool-Aid lips, but there is Kellan Lutz with his lusty frat-boy bod, Taylor Lautner's sweet face and concertedly ripped physique, and a slew of steamy minor roles (like crazy-cute Peter Facinelli's Daddy Cullen or Edi Gathegi's stern, dreadlocked Laurent). Even Kristen Stewart is turning out to be a hot goofy tomboy object of desire -- the Shane we have all been longing for since The L Word finished its run.

Moody, alluring, even a little campy, the Twilight saga has all the sexy requirements it takes to go down in the gay -- ahem -- annals of pop culture history. It's not hard to see a future of Taylor Lautner shirtless montage videos playing in a loop at gay bars ... or even an Edward Cullen drag king contest.

The only problem is -- it's not really that gay. At all. A quick scan of the books (it doesn't take that much time) finds absolutely zero confident, out gay or lesbian characters. Maybe there is a scene or two where guys get all half naked and fight with gushing testosterone, or a girl strokes Bella's hair, or an androgynous vampire in Italy acts suggestive -- but there is nothing more.

This lack of pink makes sense once you know that the author of the mega-popular series, Stephenie Meyer, is a devout Mormon who is a faithful member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and graduate of Brigham Young University -- not exactly the most gay-friendly environment.

Meyer's religious background hasn't escaped the gay blogosphere. There have been some intelligent, penetrating questions among many sites about the motivations of Meyer and the subsequent film projects -- and whether this is something we gays and lesbians should be obsessing over. It brings up an interesting quandary: In our current political state as a minority, just how are our dollars and sexual energy being used?

Many bloggers wonder whether Meyer (pictured) had directly or even indirectly supported the infamous Mormon-backed campaign to pass Proposition 8 in California. Noting that the LDS Church imposes a compulsory 10% income tax on ots members, some question how their money, as fans of Meyer's books, may have been used to dismantle the effort for gay and lesbian marriage equality.

"What if we are a fanpire nation, allowing the passage of Prop 8 via our Twilight obsessions?" wonders Professor, What If ... ? in his/her blog.

Defenses of Meyer (from The Mormons Are Coming! blog and, for example) stipulate that LDS's contributions to Yes on 8 campaigns were through individual contributions and "in-kind donations"(free or discounted services) that total about $190,000. Defenders also contend that support for the campaign only came from congregations within California under the direction of the Protect Marriage Coalition.

Still, this is a huge mega-industrial church which does not condone gay or lesbian existence and (according to Time magazine) enjoyed $5.2 billion in tithes last year. Excusing its direct responsibility for the success of Prop. 8 is like arguing over the innocence of an icicle on a monolithic iceberg.

Infinitely more savvy than she was perhaps five years ago (and also probably armed with the shrewdest publicists in the history of Hollywood]) Meyer has, smartly, stayed away from the bubbling controversy, avoiding any discussion of her politics. On the other hand, she has publicly discussed how important her Mormon faith was in the creation of her multimillion-dollar saga.

Her sensibilities are evident in the story itself. This isn't the most sexually experimental bunch of vampires out there. Edward and Bella barely touch or kiss. They make Vampire Lestat and Buffy look like they are from '70s San Francisco. But still, Edward, Bella, and all those hot half-naked werewolves have struck a chord. It's not Meyer's fault that she is a success and has created a striking, absorbing piece of cultural property. Who knows what and who will create something that will captivate the public's imagination?

Arguments about the power of art and the moral compass of its creator have been debated for hundreds of years. Just look at the work of Wagner, Leni Riefenstahl, Elia Kazan. Or, conversely, the work of the countless gay and lesbian writers or artists who have transmuted their sexual desire into heterosexual characters.

But this isn't simply "art" we are talking about, it's a marketing juggernaut. Tied to the publishing industry, tabloids, iTunes, Meyer's Mormon-inspired saga is a major media event and marketing campaign -- a huge multiplatform effort demanding our attention as consumers, no matter what sexual orientation. This makes Twilight,New Moon, and the next 13 sequels a definitive way to take temperature of gay and lesbian representation.

As we all flock to the theaters and fawn over the beautiful faces and flawless bodies, maybe we should take a step back and notice how surprisingly unevolved it appears. It's 2009, and this is a major piece of pop culture, but the resolutely heterosexual film could have happened in 1955, starring James Dean and Sal Mineo. Or in 1980, starring Kristy McNichol and Matt Dillon.

It makes you wonder: the vague state of gay life in the mainstream entertainment market is still a big annoying cock-tease -- and it's uncomfortably reflective of our fangless mundane reality: a world where we can't get married, adopt children easily, or even make out in public. And in places like Rhode Island, we can't even die equally.

Will an openly gay vampire ever come to Forks? When will we be allowed to get married? It all seems like themes in a shelved screenplay at this point.

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Mike Albo