The books, which have been made into two blockbuster movies with a third debuting June 30, have set off a bitter rivalry between fans of the vampire Edward Cullen and those who sympathize with Jacob Black, a shape-shifting werewolf. Judging by the wholesale embrace of their names, Team Edward and Team Jacob aren't doing too bad, Groper said.
Since the series reached red-hot status, more new parents than ever are choosing the names Bella — after protagonist Bella Swan — Jacob and Edward. Cullen, a surname from the books, leapfrogged nearly 300 names, dropping to 485 from 782.
Poorly written and rife with repetitive adjectives, Groper said, the tales of teenage angst and sparkling vampires has changed the way millions think about young love and the supernatural.
"Sorry if I am ruining this for anyone, but vampires aren't real," Groper told a room full of fans gathered this weekend at the Chevy Chase Library. "The rules about vampires are kind of whatever you want them to be."
Before author Stephenie Meyer, vampires avoided daylight, slept in coffins, had a problem with garlic, could be killed with a stake through the heart, had fangs and turned into bats.
"As we progress, Hollywood make vampires more attractive," she said. "There's something seductive about them."
The discussion, involving children and adults, ranged from whether Bella was a good role model for young readers, to why so many fans of the series feel so embarrassed to be fans?
"People kind of look at you weird. I am trying to progress in academia and here on my resume I have 'presented on 'Twilight' and has an article,'" Groper said. "People are embarrassed. They're embarrassed that they're reading about vampires. They're embarrassed that they're reading about a teenage girl. But, at the same time, they're reading."
Nick Martin, 11, said his friends have mostly embraced the stories.