Let’s Look at Twilight’s Impact on Fandom, Ten Years Later
And no, we're not talking about the rebirth of the vampire obsession ...
Of three things, I was absolutely certain: (1) Twilight was a deeply flawed, if fun, teenage romance that was neither the rebirth of romantic literature or the death of feminism that many claimed it to be. (2) It left an indelible mark on pop culture as both an actual piece of media and as a meme. (3) We will be writing hot takes about it until we all die and the universe collapses in its inevitable heat death.
The love story of Bella and Edward has been mystifying, enchanting, and enraging people around the globe since the original book’s first publication in 2005, but it really burst onto the pop culture stage ten years ago with the film adaptation by Catherine Hardwicke. Starring Kristin Stewart and Robert Pattinson, the film was the highest grossing live action film by a female director for nine years, until Patty Jenkins’ Wonder Woman took the crown.
It led to Twilight sweeping the pop culture stage, with Team Edward vs. Team Jacob being the source of a massive debate and more memes than you can possibly count.
It also, probably to author Stephenie Meyer’s chagrin, inspired a discussion about fanfiction and erotica when the Twilight-inspired fanfiction Fifty Shades of Grey was published and then turned into a movie. People eagerly discussed the pros and cons of fanfiction, and that—gasp! —women actually liked and read erotica. Not to publicly call out any fandoms, but anyone who’s taken a gander at LiveJournal and Archive of Our Own knows that fanfiction writers have been publishing far better erotica since the days of Kirk/Spock slash zines.
(Also, I’m pretty sure I read the original Fifty Shades back when it was a Twilight fic, and the erotica wasn’t even that good. Trek fandom does it better.)
Twilight‘s success as a franchise aimed at young women did do some good; it somewhat did away with the myth that stories about women couldn’t do well at the box office, though not enough that we’re not still fighting for equal representation onscreen. It should have also done away with the myth of the female filmmaker—as either somehow nonexistent or not able to produce blockbusters—but that didn’t work, either. The larger impact was that it somewhat normalized the idea of fandom existing in a public sphere before Marvel and the superhero film genre made being nerdy mainstream.
We still mock teenage girls for being excited about things, but when Twilight was queen, it dominated the pop culture discourse so much that even making fun of it still meant you were talking about it. Twilight fever swept the globe, turning each movie into an event. (The books had all been published by the time the first film was released.) More importantly, people are still talking about it. The Twilight anniversary panel at NYCC was packed, and Tumblr has started a Twilight renaissance that’s part shitpost, part legitimate.
There’s also the fact that critiquing Twilight from a feminist point of view was, for many, baby’s first feminist critique. I know it was my entry point into definitely taking a good, hard look at the media I loved and why it was problematic, albeit without the vocabulary I use nowadays. Recently, while texting with another friend, she spoke about how watching videos critiquing Twilight also shaped how she consumed media. There are probably more stories like ours out there of people who got their media criticism start by fighting with diehard fans.
People have long sought to mimic the Twilight craze, as well. Every single show or movie with a love triangle and a fandom inspires a wave of “Team X vs. Team Y” posts. And yet, we still mock teen girls for being invested in things. If Twilight has taught us anything, it’s that the passions of teen girls should be respected and treated as a viable market, not just mocked and ignored. Let teen girls live! And also give them better media that doesn’t have gross relationships in it.
Twilight has impacted modern fan culture in many ways, from showing it’s a hot commodity to shaping the way a generation of young women engaged with their texts. How did Twilight affect your youth? Let us know in the comments or on Facebook!
(image: Andrew Cooper, SMPSP)
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