Why 'Twilight' fascinates today's teens

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Stephenie Meyer's "Twilight" series (in case you somehow don't know, that's four books chronicling the love story of a vampire and a human girl) has sold more than 17 million copies worldwide.  On Friday, Nov. 21, the film version of "Twilight" will arrive in US theaters.

If you think you've seen "Twilight" mania at work already, just brace yourself for 11/21. There's a lot more to come.

Not too surprisingly, the media is all over it. This month's Vanity Fair features a big photo shoot of the "Twilight" cast, accompanied by an essay by James Wolcott that draws together various cultural trends in an attempt to explain the hold that "Twilight" seems to have on today's teens.

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Alex Carnevale, writing for Gawker, notes that Wolcott pulls out the stops in trying to get a handle on "Twilight" mania.

Carnevale even keeps a tally: "Here's the full list of cultural references from Wolcott's piece: Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Dracula, Vampire Academy, Gossip Girl, The Morganville Vampires, Vampire Kisses, The Vampire Diaries, Anita Blake: Vampire Hunter, Into the Wild, Mary-Louise Parker, Charlaine Harris’s Southern Vampire Mysteries, Six Feet Under, Harry Potter, Debussy, Rudolf Nureyev, Chris Isaak, Michelangelo, Chopin, Superman, the gays, Sarah Palin, James Dean, David Lynch, Bob Dylan, Abel Ferrara’s The Addiction, and Brideshead Revisited. An impressive array, to say the least. "

Then Gawker then cites a much simpler explanation offered by Laura Miller, writing for Salon last summer at the time of the release of "Breaking Dawn," the fourth novel in the series.

The gist of the Miller hypothesis: old-fashioned love stories still sell.

She writes: "Bookstores have been known to shelve the Twilight books in both the children's and the science fiction/fantasy sections, but they are — in essence and most particulars — romance novels, and despite their gothic trappings represent a resurrection of the most old-fashioned incarnation of the genre. They summon a world in which love is passionate, yet (relatively) chaste, girls need be nothing more than fetchingly vulnerable, and masterful men can be depended upon to protect and worship them for it."

It's a formula that's worked for many years and has sold millions upon millions of books (and not just to teens.)

Even when things get tough economically, you don't hear much talk about publishers of romance novels retrenching. Nor do you see them revamping their formulas in any significant way.

Trends come and go but this is a basic story that continues to sell.

So as the movie approaches and cultural critics and parents scratch their heads as to why so many are so ga-ga, just remember: The answer may actually be quite simple.

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