I struggled with this assignment a bit – not because it was too difficult to think of potential topics, but because there are so many to choose from. I considered several that apply more to my age group and interests – coffee (really, how many cups of coffee can we possibly have in one day?), wine (similar question as to coffee, and how many kinds of cheese can possibly be paired with the wine?), or barre3/yoga/pilates (at least these phenomena are more health oriented – a “better” obsession, or so I tell myself). I realized, however, that there was no real possibility of the class as a whole choosing any of those, so I started thinking more along the lines of what would interest the 20 year olds (or, what I imagine would do so at any rate).
All that said, the topic of study I would like to suggest is the phenomenon of young adult speculative fiction novels turning into worldwide obsessions – in movies and television and even expanding into entertainment news and magazines due to an obsession in the lives of the actors who portray the characters. There are many examples of this to choose from – Harry Potter, Twilight, The Hunger Games, The Vampire Diaries, The Secret Circle, The Chronicles of Narnia, The Caster Chronicles (apparently upcoming – though I have no idea what it actually is). Each of these began in book form (some new releases at the time, others much older and rediscovered), which has/had been losing its appeal to many teens with the more exciting options technology has provided. The voracity with which young adults and adults alike (and younger children as well) tore through these novels inspired the film and television industry to scramble for production rights.
It is difficult to determine whether this is consumer-centric or production-centric because it seems to me that it is some of both. Initially, the popularity grew because of the consumers’ insatiability. Eventually, it seemed to switch though. The more popular the genre became, the more it was produced and the higher the advertising budgets became – everyone in the film industry jumping on the bandwagon to take advantage while they could. The more it was produced, the more popular it became. It is even somewhat Gramscian. I myself (and many other people in my age range) resisted reading any of those novels for quite some time because, in my mind, they were “kid” books. I struggled against it, but I gave in. And I admit almost shamefully that I thoroughly enjoyed most of them. It has even expanded toward an older audience (or perhaps returned to if one considers the works and relatively recent commercial film success of Anne Rice, Bram Stoker, Mary Shelley and JRR Tolkien) with things like True Blood and the books it is based upon.
As to the importance of this phenomenon, it bridges generational gaps. At 31, I can easily have an in depth conversation with some friends’ twin 15 year old daughters. Also, in a class like this one, in which most of the students are in the 18-22 range, the few of us who aren’t can still relate to the popular interests. It creates a shared experience and allows for conversation between the generations.