The Twilight series is something I have been wanting to talk about for some time now, but lacked the courage to do so. It is potentially one of the most openly hated books to come out of the 21st century (a position only recently overtaken by 50 Shades of Grey) and is still mocked to this day in spite of the fact that it is nearly 20 years old.
However, with the release of Midnight Sun, the first book told through the perspective of Edward Cullen, I thought now would be the perfect time to talk about my relationship with the franchise and how it effected my worldview.
I was 14 years old when I began reading the series, and I instantly loved it. I loved the grim atmosphere, the characters, the backstory, and the vampire and werewolf lore. It was all so engaging to my teen brain.
I embraced the fandom with open arms. I wrote unfinished fanfictions about it, I looked up fanart about it, and I engaged with other fans on various websites about it.
For a while, all was good in the world of fandom.
Then a tidal wave of hysteria hit and everything changed.
Not only had the court of public opinion decreed Twilight a bad series, but everyone who liked it was a moron that stomped on puppies’ faces with stiletto boots for fun.
Stephanie, the Mormon mother of three who wrote these books, was the devil incarnate; a vehicle designed to systematically corrupt the minds of our youth.
She was encouraging young women to engage in toxic relationships!
She was dumbing down our culture!
She was discouraging people from reading classic literature…somehow!
To this day, I can’t remember a time when liking something was so unpopular…. at least anything not relating to politics.
It was mercilessly mocked and parodied in all forms of media from books, to Youtube videos, to full-length movies. Every show had to have some sort of comedic nod to it, every variety show a skit paying homage to it.
What once had been an escape became unescapable.
I’m not against people critiquing stories or parodying things I enjoy, but the hatred for Twilight become so caustic that many of us had to go to ground, resorting to placing book-covers over our copies when going out in public to avoid a cavalcade of ridicule. We spoke about Twilight in hushed tones, throwing surreptitious glances over our shoulders to make sure no one in the Inquisition could hear us.
We, the readers, became “those girls” that the more educated “special” girls regarded with contempt. They weren’t like “us,” the dumb girls that drooled over Edward Cullen. They were the enlightened few; the shining beacons of hope for the younger generation. And all because they didn’t like a popular YA novel.
But I digress.
While the constant mockery was unpleasant, I believe it ultimately benefited me. Because I was able to experience first-hand the type of moral panic this sort of book can cause, I was able to take away a few lessons that have followed me into adulthood.
Don’t Jump on the Hate-Bandwagon
I rarely discussed my thoughts on this series with people I wasn’t close friends with, but whenever the rare opportunity presented itself, I discovered a trend: Most of the people who truly hated Twilight– with a preoccupying, consuming hatred–had never actually read the series.
This became clear when I mentioned basic elements of the story and they had no clue what I was talking about. They knew the details that made it into the mainstream (for instance that the vampires sparkled like diamonds), however, they were totally ignorant of the fact that Meyer’s vampires were virtually indestructible.
Stakes and crucifixes? Useless. Holy water? Forget about it.
No human, no matter how cunning or prepared, was a match for them. No questions asked. The only way to defeat them was to literally tear them limb from limb and set those limbs on fire.
Not to mention they were as fast as The Flash on cocaine so running away was useless. Wesley Snipes’ ass would have been sniped in a millisecond.
That’s not even counting all the other supernatural gifts they are imbued with: precognition, mind-reading, psychic emotional manipulation, etc. One vamp in particular is able to torture a person to the brink of insanity using only their mind.
I’m not saying people would have converted into TwiHards if they read the series, but in my biased opinion, if you are going to devote so much energy into hating something, you should know what you’re talking about first.
Don’t trust other’s interpretations on things. Look at the original source for yourself and draw your own conclusions because someone else’s word could be flawed.
Extremists Always Receive the Most Attention
When I bring up the Twilight craze, the image that most likely comes to your mind is deranged teenagers adorned in Edward and Jacob T-shirts sobbing about how much they love the series as they claw at their necks in the hopes of drawing blood.
In some much more disturbing cases, these fans are middle-aged white women fawning over teenage boys.
Yeah, I’m not going to defend that. That’s just weird.
Unfortunately, this is the aesthetic the media went for when showcasing the fans of this franchise.
Fifteen-year-old me cringed every time a clean-cut reporter shoved a microphone into the swollen face of a 300 lb “Twi-mom” who would gush about how much she loved Edward. I wanted to sink into the earth whenever a teenage girl wept hysterically, declaring this YA book to be her Bible.
“This is what the Twilight fan-base looks like!” they said. “A bunch of fat, desperate idiots!”
But that isn’t what I looked like.
That isn’t what my friends, many of which also enjoyed the series, looked like either.
Twilight wasn’t our religion. It was escapism. Harmless escapism.
We read the books because they were fun.
We discussed them over lunch, sharing our thoughts over the latest plot developments and characters. We weren’t obsessed. We weren’t dumb either. Most of us were straight-A students taking accelerated classes.
Sadly, that didn’t matter.
It was always the loud-mouthed crazy ones the media focused on because they elicited more of a reaction.
Average Joes don’t get views or clicks so only the most insane are heard.
I’ve vowed never to judge a book/show/movie by it’s fandom. This goes for more serious avenues as well like theological or political perspectives. I reserve judgment until I have researched the material itself.
Criticize Ideas, Not Fans
Saying Twilight has ethical issues is not exactly a hot take at this point. People have underscored all the obvious problems with Bella and Edward’s relationship a million times and, as the years have gone by, I understand their grievances more and more.
That being said, I think I would have been much more receptive to other people’s critiques on the subject at the time if they hadn’t been so rude and elitist about their feelings.
Rather than calmly explaining why certain elements are problematic, critics thought it would be more productive to sling vitriolic bile at fans and slander them as people.
While I will mock a book until the cows come home, I try my level best not to insult its audience, at least not directly.
If I have learned anything from my experience as being a Twilight fan it’s that you aren’t going to change anyone’s mind by being hateful towards them. Quite the opposite. The more hostile you come across, the more likely they are to hold onto their beliefs and opinions.
Would I enjoy Twilight today as much as I did years ago if I chose to revisit it? I can’t say. I think my nostalgia goggles would be too firmly affixed to my face for me to make an objective decision about it.
Nevertheless, I am not sorry I read it as it provided me with positive memories and gave me a much-needed distraction at a time where things seemed to be much more out of my control.
I don’t begrudge the people who didn’t have an enjoyable reading experience like I did. I would only ask that they attempt to see the other side of the coin.
Regardless of how you might feel about the franchise, I believe it did me significantly more good than harm, and it will always have a cheesy, clunky place in my romantic heart.
Thank you for reading!
6 thoughts on “What the Backlash of “Twilight” Taught Me”
This judging-idea-systems-from-afar is definitely a problem we can all fall into and also be on the receiving end of. When I read your description of people contemptuously dismissing anyone who likes a book, which they themselves have never read, I of course immediately thought of my many, many experiences with that very attitude in how people approach the Bible and the assumptions they make about the beliefs and intellectual capacity of those who believe in it.
I never read Twilight. (I was busy with life at the time. I also missed the first wave of Harry Potter.) The last time I got excited about vampires was in middle school, with Bram Stoker’s Dracula. In fact, one of my girlfriends was writing her own vampire romantic fiction at the time, and this was years before Twilight. So I understand the appeal, especially to a certain age group when your interest in fantasy starts to turn towards the darker aspects.
I have read a fairly detailed analysis of the first Twilight book (a chapter by chapter book review, in fact), that I thought made a pretty convincing argument that the book glamorized abusive relationships. That said … it is hardly the only book to do so. The “bad boy” as romantic lead appeals to an awful lot of people, and perhaps the vampire trend taps in to that.
I remember reading Piers Anthony’s “Chronicles of a Space Tyrant,” which is interesting, but a theme of the series is “there are worse things than getting raped.” Yikes.
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Lol yeah, vampires have been sexy for decades. Just ask Anne Rice.
Yes, unfortunately, abuse is pretty common in a lot of romances, but I’m not sure why. I don’t really know if it’s nearly as problematic as people think it is; however, I’m not blind to its flaws, either. I don’t really know if you would consider Edward a “bad boy” though lol. In his own words he’s a vampire “vegetarian” a.k.a. he only feeds on animals, not humans.
Yikes indeed. I think I may avoid that book lol.
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I was in sixth grade when the Twilight craze hit. Every girl in my school was divide on team Jacob or team Edward. As for me, as soon as I hard that there romance I had no interest in the books what so ever. I never read the books. I’ll admit that I watch the first two only just to make fun of them. I don’t really care if people like Twilight or not.
A lot of the same thing can be said about the hostility towards anyone that doesn’t like Harry Potter.
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Yeah, I never minded if people didn’t like it or not. I’ve just always thought the hatred was massively overblown. There were other books that were far worse than it and yet it was treated like it was the Leviathan of horrible literature. I read a Twilight clone that was truly heinous and nobody ever mentioned it. It essentially faded into obscurity.
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