This article originally appeared on VICE Canada.
Here’s my confession: I own the Twilight Saga on Blu-ray. I’ve read every book, and to this day, I’m team Jacob. I admit this wholeheartedly too, while I also consider this statement a top-tier self-sacrifice—one of which, may haunt me for the rest of my life.
But I believe there’s more of us out there, who act like we’re wise to this blight on society—that unashamedly sappy Twilight, based on Stephenie Meyer’s book about a vampiric romance—but hide the fact that we enjoyed this shit. Young men like myself were pretending as if we were dragged to this franchise by our girlfriends; that we didn’t come in loving this franchise, with the full understanding that it was being lambasted for poor sappy writing. And we couldn’t admit this; I couldn’t admit this. I was about to become a future fucking filmmaker, and here I was confused by my love of this girly claptrap.
The odd part is, I can’t tell you that I was fan of young adult novels before Twilight because one: I wasn’t the target audience (teenage girls), and two: The genre wasn’t quite the behemoth it would become by the time the four-volumed Twilight series ended. We didn't have To All The Boys I Loved Before, Vampire Diaries, Hunger Games, or Divergent to draw viral comparisons from. But thirteen-year-old Twilight fans were creating a literary craze with an enthusiasm you couldn't quite escape. I’d spot girls rocking copies of a book with a two-handed apple-holding cover. I’d hear about malls getting shut down for actor signings. And my female friends would then repeat the hype in my space, knowing my child-like weakness for vampires, werewolves, and all that paranormal shit. Days later, I’d be curled in a room—bootleg copy in hand—reading this teen diary about boring Bella Swan, meeting the also boring vampire, Edward Cullen. Next thing I know, I’m turning pages like they’re laced with heroin.
You just had to be there in 2008: There was something rebellious about letting my chauvinistic guard down to take part in this every-day-girl craze in silence. The books were laced with cheesy lines like:
“About three things I was absolutely positive: First, Edward was a vampire. Second, there was a part of him—and I didn't know how dominant that part may be—that thirsted for my blood. And third, I was unconditionally and irrevocably in love with him.”
And cheesy creature mythologies for the teenage digestive system—vampires sparkling like diamonds from sun exposure. And of course, with the PG-13 stakes between an old vampire who can’t fully love a young human, because you know, he wanted that neck juice—two gorgeously tragic supermodels. Everyone in this damn series strutted like a touched up supermodel too, with the perfect hair and chiseled cheeks; injecting hormonal extras an experience of what it feels be gawky, young, and sentimentally driven to the point of disorientation.
I never got that from the teen films of the 90s and early aughts—most of which came in the form of campy horror presentations like I Know What You Did Last Summer, Idle Hands, The Craft, and Scream. They concealed teenage themes in the belly of very scary eroticism/sexism, and that always felt high-key acceptable for my gender. With Twilight, there was a cheesy honesty—while hardly the most progressive—that followed it movie after record-breaking movie. New romantic rivalries and family dynamics were introduced, and beat after beat, it amounted to a feeling, as Quentin Tarantino once summarized on the History of Horror series by Eli Roth, of what it might be like for a grown man to stan like a 13-year-old girl.
I still remember being in a theater, holding a fake-scowl next to my closest female friend who promoted her fandom proudly. She never knew my love for it, but as I sat there quietly, appreciating the ideas that drew me to the novels, I felt that same refreshing newness—something I love as a critic—that was so similar the first moments I sat in on 90210, with its notions about rich white folks. By contrast, Twilight was a path into a different kind of “real” that’s more innocent, far removed, awkward, and real for the demographic I wouldn’t take the time to understand.
Twilight had no interest in bending to the appeal of Hollywood’s most hand-fed demographic—young men. And because of this, matched with the mania, and critical reaction that earned it a Rotten Tomato score, it was more than qualified to attract the mockery that came its way.
It marketed itself for teenage girls and was adored over it. Bold, considering that no demographic like the teenage girl has been as shitted on and underestimated; extending to the very products that are marketed to them. Twilight naturally became easy prey for every holier-than-thou critic looking to pile on more shit—which the series chose to ignore by maintaining its teenage girl sell across four subsequent flicks.
Even with the silly plot aside, There was always something I could dig about Twilight as a straight male: The franchises unwillingness to bow down to a male idea of entertainment. (Director Catherine Hardwick fought off executives who wanted to make the first movie more appealing to boys.) Before this franchise, my ideas about media consumption were male-driven. The choice to avoid a young adult film, or listen to a Britney Spears joint was a reflex being surrounded by hyper-masculinity. In coming to grips with my thing for Twilight, I was able to separate the societal definition of manhood; it was my boy playing with a doll moment. Being able to dig a young adult movie wasn’t contrary to my DNA like I once thought, it was as natural as the love between a vamp and a young woman.
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