At first I thought the Twi-hard thing was just another dumb-squealy-girl phenomenon, but then I saw Catherine Hardwicke‘s original 2008 film and went, “Okay, I get it…there’s something happening here with the film, which is pretty good, but also with Kristen Stewart and Robert Pattinson and the whole I-love-you-so-much-we-can’t-have-sex thing — a very clever packaging of conservative values.

The abstinence thing wasn’t about Mormonism or conservatism per se, but about how the current between a couple can feel much more powerful and transporting before sex — not just to hesitant younger women but anyone of any age. As Carly Simon noted many years ago, anticipation is almost more erotic than the act itself.

“I think it’s fair to call Twilight the most effective covert-conservative-values movie to be released since Four Months, Three Weeks and Two Days,” I wrote on 11.23.08. “Because it makes sexual abstinence seem like a fairly hot, pure-of-spirit state of being. And I say this as something of a lifelong libertine.”

But then Summit and Hardwicke parted ways, of course, and along came Chris Weitz‘s Twilight: New Moon a year later, and quality-wise the whole thing went into the crapper.

On 11.20.09 I wrote that “New Moon will obviously make financial history this weekend but it’s a total zombie franchise now — it walks and morphs and vacuums up revenue and makes teenage girls swoon, but it’s made of dead gray tissue and huge, stupid-looking, dinosaur-size cartoon wolves. It’s been smothered by Rob Friedman and Chris Weitz and all the other Summit bottom-liners who didn’t understand what they had. They’re be rolling in dough Monday morning, but they’ve totally killed the goose.”

Did the Twi-harders care about the franchise being degraded by hacks? Apparently not. Apparently they couldn’t tell the difference between Weitz’s film and Hardwicke’s.

And then it started to dawn on some observers that Pattinson isn’t that terrific an actor (especially after his work in New Moon, which he was stiff and lifeless in, and Remember Me ) and that the Twilight franchise was starting to droop along with him. Were Twi-harders in any way dissuaded? Did they think any less of him? Of course not.