The Twilight series and movies

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Stars, Taylor Lautner, Kristen Stewart and Robert Pattinson at the 2011 San Diego Comic-Con International. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Biting into “Twilight” – the books, the controversies, the phenomena

If you haven’t come across the infamous “Twilight” series by author Stephenie Meyer, then “Where the hell have you been, loca?” The series follows the tumultuous love story of the curious Bella Swan, a girl who moves to Forks, Washington to live with her father, and the elusive Edward Cullen, a 104-year-old vampire who takes refuge in Forks and attends Bella’s high school. Edward is explicitly drawn to Bella, and the two obsessive lovers, akin to Romeo and Juliet, attempt to make their romance work in a dangerous world filled with unruly vampires and hostile werewolves.

The novels were an instant hit, as the four “Twilight” books consecutively set records as the biggest-selling novels of 2008. Over 120 million copies of the books were sold internationally and translated into at least 38 different languages. The books then sparked the equally popular “Twilight” series films into existence with the roles of Bella Swan, Edward Cullen and Jacob Black being played by Kristen Stewart, Robert Pattinson and Taylor Lautner, respectively. The movies, though criticized for questionable acting and slightly awkward dialogue, grossed over $3.1 billion at the box office worldwide.

In 2020, especially during the months where most people were quarantined due to the COVID-19 pandemic, “Twilight” had found itself in a “renaissance.” During a time of forced separation, the online resurgence of old comforting media found its way back into the spotlight, with fans finding solidarity with each other and solace within the pages of “Twilight.” Thanks to the rise of TikTok, a countless number of parody skits and memes were created in celebration of the series. In “TwilightTok” – as it’s been lovingly dubbed by fans – people came together to celebrate the series, in all of its dramatic, unironic glory.

Back in 2008, the adoration of fans allowed it to achieve cultclassic status, but others looked skeptically upon Meyer’s glittery angsty vampires. Many people at the time saw this romance series targeted at tween girls as inherently crummy and found the over-the-top plot laughable. It was seen as “cool” to make fun of the series, especially in online fandom spaces of the 2010s, which hated on “Twilight” and its fans.

Another cause that rekindled the flames of the “Twilight” fandom was Stephanie Meyer releasing a new novel. Meyer authored a new re-telling of her story from the perspective of Edward Cullen, naming it “Midnight Sun.” “Midnight Sun” was released in 2020, right when the pandemic started. Sparking the match that would help revitalize the childhood nostalgia rooted within the series, “Midnight Sun” helped launch Twilight back into pop culture.

For many fans, they discovered and read “Twilight” as teens, and failed to notice certain off-putting details that many readers have discovered as they aged. “Twilight” is no stranger to controversy, with many criticizing its romanticization of abuse within the lead relationship of Bella and Edward. Examples of this abuse are seen in Edward’s possessive behavior over Bella by his frequent threatening of Bella’s life through constant dangerous activities and even threatening to kill himself if Bella is ever harmed. It’s quite clear that Bella and Edward do not have a healthy coupling, when the only positive of their relationship is that they stand as an example of what should never happen in a healthy relationship.

Another controversy found within the sphere of “Twilight” was the author, Stephanie Meyer’s interpretation and treatment of the Quileute tribe native to Forks, Washington. This Native American tribe and its mythology were the inspiration for the werewolves within “Twilight,” and were featured front and center in the “Twilight” saga. Even though the Quileute tribe held great importance to the series, they never received compensation for their name and likeness being used within the franchise. Their heritage was used for profit and wasn’t correctly interpreted by Meyers, with certain inaccuracies being obvious through her storytelling.

In the book, “Twilight: New Moon,” the Quileute tribe member Jacob begins to tell Bella Swan that his people are blessed with the power to transform into wolves. According to Quileute legend, this is false, with the only mention of human and wolf transformation being described with the first two Quileute humans being transformed from wolves. Many members of the Quileute tribe weren’t happy about their culture and likeness being sensationalized within “Twilight,” and disliked their portrayal as wild, aggressive and overly sexualized.

In the end, “Twilight” is an interesting series that became a world phenomenon not only in text form but also through film. Even though the series has its controversies, slews of people still see “Twilight” as their favorite comfort media amidst its many problematic features. It seems like the newfound resurgence of “Twilight” fans won’t stop soon, so “hold on tight spider monkey!”

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