Las Vegas artist Lauren Adkins has been under fire from tabloid readers from across the pond lately. They're miffed that she's marrying Edward Cullen, the dreamy, brooding, sparkly vampire with the thick coif of hair, known for obsessing over, endangering and protecting his love, Bella, in the misty backdrop of the romantic Twilight series.
The lambasting of the Adkins/Cullen nuptials is based on the fact that Adkins is actually marrying a cardboard cutout, purchased a couple years back at a record store in Tennessee. The wedding is scheduled to take place in a Las Vegas wedding chapel, among 50 of Adkins' closest friends.
Comments on the Facebook page for Metro (U.K.), the tabloid that wrote the story, ranges from "mental slut" and "freak” to "twisted silly girl" and, of course, the old reliable, "She must b fat and ugly can't get a real man has to marry a cardboard cutout how pathetic is that.”
What the ranters didn't know, and maybe still haven't realized, is that they're unwitting (and unintended) pawns in Adkins' effort to examine female fandom and reactions to it.
That's because the November 18 Metro article headlined, "Obsessive Twilight fan to marry cardboard image of Edward Cullen" failed to mention that the wedding is the thesis for the MFA student at UNLV, one that explores gender, fantasy and the expectations Hollywood places on relationships.
The response plays directly into her objective. Essentially, the manipulated story handed hungry anti-Twihards the mother lode: the chance to verbally insult a seemingly hysterical Twilight fan.
Adkins, whom we first met in October when she was the relatively unknown bride-to-be, took on the project, titled "Love Is Overtaking Me," as a way to explore the hostility toward female fandom, particularly Twihards, and other facets of the issue, including gender roles, expectations of women and relationships. "Generally, there's a dismissive attitude to female fandom,” she says. “Women I know who are Twilight fans are afraid to say that they are Twilight fans."
She compares this to other types of fandom. A love of Star Wars, James Bond, superheroes or sports teams are tolerated while romance, particularly of the Twilight variety, is characterized with a crazy pre-teen persona (though Twilight female fandom extends to married mothers and young adults).
The 24-year-old Adkins has long examined portrayals of romantic and idealized Hollywood relationships that are unrealistic in nature. She grew up consuming fiction, from Disney fairytales to Pride and Prejudice, and was a Twilight fan before the first movie came out. A previous work, titled The Look, served as the centerpiece of her midway show at UNLV and featured streams of Hollywood film segments of women, all caught in the same hopeful emotion over a lost love possibly returning.
As for Edward Cullen the cutout, that was something she brought to Vegas when moving here for school, because he was one of the few things could fit into her car. She had no big plans for him, but figured that at some point, he might play into her work. The movie has drawn feminist discourse, female fandom and what some might call insanity.
Her invite-only wedding to the Cullen cutout is scheduled for January 26 at Viva Las Vegas wedding chapel. The art reception for the project will double as traditional exhibition reception and wedding reception. Despite tabloid reports, her outings with the Edward cutout have been purely performative.
"Part of my point is that this character does not exist. This character is not real. It creates an expectation that we have engrained in us and I think it's dangerous."
But the sensationalized media attention, from a handful of British tabloids to a Huffington Post story, has yet to focus on that angle in its reporting. "I did not expect the media hype," she says.
How does it feel? "I have to say that I'm already satisfied. I've generated conversation. I'm hoping to get some critical thought process going.”