As a new Twilight book is announced, former Twi-Hard Emma Clifton takes a stroll down memory lane
Eleven years ago, there was a different kind of contagious disease sweeping the world. No, I’m not talking about Swine Flu (although I could be, the dates fit). I’m talking about…
This week, Stephenie Meyer took us all back in time by announcing she was releasing a new Twilight book in August. Sure, of course she is. Time is meaningless in this new world. Why wouldn’t we want to go back to a different decade? Midnight Sun is the plot of Twilight told through the eyes of Edward Cullen, deceased dreamboat. Yes, I’ve already read it when it was a leaked Word Document a decade ago! I am a serious journalist!
When Edward Cullen mania hit, I was in prime position to catch this wave of hysteria. One, I was a disgruntled adult virgin. Two, I was working for Creme magazine, which was aimed at tween and teenage girls. In hindsight, the growth pattern of Twilight fever was probably similar to Covid-19; it started slowly over the summer of 2008, and then by early 2009, it was everywhere (I fear this line of jokes might be in very poor taste, and so will stop now).
Everything about the first book, and the first movie, was absolutely ridiculous and therefore, perfect. I mean, no more ridiculous than a series of films dedicated to driving cars fast (and furious). Or cars that turn into monsters/fighters/Transformers. Or any other car-focused content that is totally legitimised by mainstream pop culture and it’s male-only audience.
The Twilight franchise was just for the laaadiezzzzz, which meant it was supposed to be a guilty pleasure.
I feel absolutely no guilt over my raging 2009 love for Twilight. It was a beautiful time and the plot line of mysterious hot student falling for clumsy, ‘awkward’ brunette is one for the ages. Twilight was the Normal People of a decade ago, only with more action and character growth. (Normal People is for people who think they are too good for Twilight, and turns out, they’re not.)
The movie was directed by Catherine Hardwicke – something I didn’t even need to Google, so imprinted is this franchise in my mind*. Catherine was an indie director who had already done Thirteen, a gritty drama about sexually active teens. She knew how to capture the bubble of teenage lust and put it on screen, and that’s why Twilight became the hit it was. Catherine understood horniness… and she respected it.
The books were nonsense, but the kind of nonsense you can’t put down, even though when you look back they’re very problematic when it comes to the power dynamics of relationships; right from Edward’s control of Bella through to Jacob… falling in love with a newborn baby.
Writing this now, I’ve just realised that it’s probably no coincidence that my first proper boyfriend was an emotionally withholding British man who turned up and then disappeared from my life over and over again. But, well, at least I didn’t fall in love with a baby.
Because we worked for Creme Magazine, it was our job, nay, duty, to become obsessed with Twilight and we committed 100%. Alice O’Connell, then Creme editor and now Capsule contributing editor, was the first editor in the world to put Kristen Stewart on the cover.
This made us, a tiny NZ magazine with the budget of a child’s science fair project, immediately a valued part of the worldwide Twi-Hard community. Here is me, with my Wall of Rob, featured on a Twilight fan blog called ‘Letters to Rob’. I am 23 in this photo (no regrets).
Like all obsession bubbles, it had to end at some stage. While the initial book was cannon, the rest of the series disintegrated quickly. Because the first movie was such a hit, the studio immediately assumed a female director wouldn’t be able to live up to the hype, or some other sexist bullshit, and so they took Catherine – an auteur of hormonal teen lust – off the sequels and put in some out-of-touch, middle-aged male director instead.
Everything immediately got worse.
Robert Pattinson’s lighting was suddenly terrible. Kristen Stewart’s wig was an atrocity. Taylor Lautner, supernatural sex pot #2, wore long denim shorts – ‘jorts,’ if you will – for every scene. All of the sneaky, forbidden, seductive energy of the first one was reduced to the wet rag of a man’s interpretation of what young love should be. Too many fight scenes were added to encourage a male audience (honestly, in what world), replacing the many hours of endless, longing glances and steamy make-out sessions us virgins viewers wanted.
But I will always look back fondly on Twilight: the book, movie, soundtrack and corresponding merchandise (I owned the Edward doll. Again, I was 23.). I have no interest in re-reading Midnight Sun, because I don’t need to relive what Edward thought of Bella. But I’ll be damned if I’m not going to force my bubble to watch Twilight, immediately.
Am I trying to escape the realities of life? Am I trying to relive my youth? Or am I just in need of the specific high that comes from that movie; in particular the scene where Rayban-wearing Edward puts his arm around Bella in the Forks High School carpark? You know the scene. It’s perfect.
*Yes, this is a Renesmee reference.