2013 was a wonderful year. It was not just the year when selfies became a thing and Candy Crush one of the biggest addictions, but also when the internet was still high on the popularity of author Stephanie Meyer’s Twilight. The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn Part 2, the last movie in the series, had just released a few months ago and the internet couldn’t seem to get enough of it. It was a glorious time to be online—there were the “Still a better love story than Twilight” trolls, constant fan-wars with other fandoms, some real strong opinions on Team Edward vs Team Jacob, and a host of digs at the series’ plot writing. It soon became one of those things people loved to hate.
2013 was a wonderful year for me as a girl who had just stepped into her teens. I had just discovered popular fiction and spent most of my time either reading it or on the internet screaming about it. And so, when the internet screamed back, warning me to stay away from the cringe that was Twilight, I couldn’t help but believe it.
As a kid, I thrived the most on being popular and likeable. And of course, what I believed as a kid—and on some days, still believe—was that I could only be so when I was doing the things everyone around me wanted to, which also meant bidding goodbye to all of the ‘girly’ things I loved. “That’s just teen romance, it’s so corny”, “The leads in these other books are so much stronger and powerful”, “Scrap popular fiction altogether, read The Catcher in the Rye” were just some of the things I was told, both in real life and online. So, what happened in the subsequent years as I grew up, was that I started believing two things: One, that Twilight was a corny romance book and anybody who read such things could never be taken seriously; and two, that I was so much “better than it”.
So, as an early teenager who was trying so hard to be taken seriously and be ‘cool’, both among her peers and the adults, the only way I thought I could do so was by consuming ‘mature’ literature, which was something which usually involved less romance—less of that ‘corniness’. At the same time, I also noticed that all of the ‘cool’ things somehow involved (largely, or at least a significant percentage of) a male fanbase. So obviously, I hid that part of me and started living with an inflated ego, thinking I was so much cooler and better than all of these feminine cheesy romance-loving nerds. While I was already a Directioner and a Swiftie back then, dipping my feet into the romance world through Twilight was a sin I thought I could never return from.
It is only now, several years later, that I finally feel ready to accept how much fun all these things I denied myself as a kid are. Now that I’ve grown up and into my skin a little, I wish I hadn’t spent my childhood forcing myself to dislike things I have a natural penchant for—I would be living with less regrets now. This development wasn’t easy though—it was the result of seeing all these people who I thought were ‘cool’ enjoy what they truly liked, and understand that maybe I could do that too without feeling the need to apologise to the world for what I like.
My point here isn’t that Twilight is a great book—I think it is average at best, with tons of flaws, and there are much, much better romances that I’ve read—but the fact that I let the internet decide what I should be doing. Years later, it’s not like my desire to be universally accepted and loved has in any way decreased. I still crave validation—finding myself not being socially acceptable for my choices is still one of the worst nightmares that haunt me.
But, while it has taken a lot of time, now, as I write this bopping off to BTS, I’ve realised that I can crave this validation and still not force myself to change in the scenario where I don’t get it. I now spend my free time shamelessly binging on Korean dramas, with clichés surpassing that of all the books I refused to read as a kid. And I really can’t help but love every bit of it. Liking romance and clichés and all things pop doesn’t make me ‘uncool’—trying to be something I am not, does. So, while I don’t think I’d be reading Stephanie Meyer’s new addition to the franchise, Midnight Sun, coming out in August 2020, 12 years after the last book and telling the story from the vampire Edward Cullen’s perspective, I really hope everybody who wants to, does so without any shame.
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