As the first Twilight film came out 10 years to the day (let that sink in), I think it’s time to reconsider just how important that film was – and why you’re all wrong for hating it.
Remember Twilight? That vampire-werewolf-human love triangle story turned cinematic juggernaut came out 10 years ago today – all the way back in November 2008. Since then, the movie studio landscape has changed a fair bit, and in no small way is it down to this weird little adaptation of a YA romance series.
Of course, there are many, many people that would have preferred this series didn’t succeed as strongly as it did – most of which curiously share some particular characteristics (read: straight, white and male). It seems to be the same angry voice that kicked up when The Force Awakens and The Last Jedi dared to make the Star Wars universe a bit more diverse, and as with that series, the majority of the vitriol came from a few dark corners of the Internet.
I’m sure that many of the people reading this will already be familiar with the memes that the Twilight series has inspired – so many different love stories declared to be “better than Twilight” – and while some elements of the series are easily mocked, eg. vampires that glitter in sunlight, most of the mockery had a very uncomfortable tone. The most hostile comments reeked of homophobia or pointed attacks at Kristen Stewart specifically.
At its most elementary, the criticism of the Twilight series came down to pure snobbery, almost to the point of gatekeeping against young girls and women to the fantasy/horror genre.
However, despite the many loud and angry voices that refused to accept a film series led and defined by a young woman’s actions and choices, the Twilight franchise resonated strongly with the aforementioned girls and women, and finally gave them a stepping-on point to a genre that was otherwise reserved for young men.
Twilight signalled a massive paradigm shift in how and for whom huge studio films are made. Not just because of the influx of YA adaptations that followed – The Hunger Games, Divergent, Beautiful Creatures and heaps more – but studios finally started to pay attention and give focus to an audience that had for so long been deprived of these kinds of movies. Don’t believe me? Just look at the reaction to the announcement for the newest DC comic book film.
When you peel away the years of cultural impact and look at the film itself, Twilight is a very interesting beast. It’s unashamedly camp – something that continues through the series, up to and including the gloriously over-the-top finale. Given its source material’s unnervingly traditional Christian agenda, the film series comes out refreshingly progressive; at no point does our human protagonist Bella get stripped of agency. This is entirely her story, and the events of each film are a direct consequence of the choices she makes – for better or worse. Given the major supernatural elements around her at all times, that’s an especially important message for young women who might otherwise be told by the media they take in to sit back and let the world happen around them.
Everyone involved in front of, and behind the camera, knew exactly what kind of story was being told here, and it’s absolutely no surprise that both Kristen Stewart and Robert Pattinson have become very accomplished actors since the Twilight Saga ended. Despite the aforementioned heaps of abuse thrown at them each time one of these films came out, both Stewart and Pattinson threw themselves into their respective roles and it was always greatly entertaining to watch.
Their supporting cast sadly wasn’t always up to the task throughout the series – pity poor Taylor Lautner – but when it all came together, you end up with scenes like this:
History will be kind to the Twilight series, as its influence on popular culture becomes more apparent over the coming years. As long as blockbusters continue to listen to and speak up for female audiences, Twilight‘s legacy will only strengthen. For me, as long as that means a continued trend of interesting stories and fun spectacle, that’s never going to be a bad thing.
Long live Twilight, may you remain immortal.