Top Ten Things I Learned From Twilight

The Twilight phenomenon has faded out. Since then, many of us have asked how we allowed ourselves to get sucked into a series that is so embarrassing to even think of now.

I’ll admit it, in the seventh-grade, my favorite books were the Twilight series. My inner English major cringes at the thought, but it’s true. I read the first three in a week and waited for bated breath for the final installment. I am 100% sure I wasn’t alone.

Now that we’ve all had a little bit of time and distance, I’ve compiled a list of the ten top things I learned from Twilight. Despite her lack of personality, I just really get Bella Swan.

1. It’s okay to like reading fiction that isn’t great literature.

I think we can all agree that Twilight is not great literature. At best, it’s good but it probably doesn’t even make that mark. I would even question using the term “literature.”

But, that doesn’t mean I didn’t absolutely love it when I read it for the first time in seventh grade. It was enjoyable. It was fun. It was not making me reconsider anything about my life and that was actually okay.

I’m not saying that you shouldn’t strive to make educational and enjoyable literary choices. I’m just saying it’s okay if not everything makes you smarter.

2. Vegetarianism is just a matter of perspective. So is everything else.

I think this is probably one of the things I like best about the Cullens. It’s an inside joke that I think resonates with me because, as an English major, I like playing around with definitions.

Obviously, the Cullens are not conventional vegetarians. They only eat meat. But from their perspective, they are doing the same thing as human vegetarians when they eat animals rather than humans. I think that’s fascinating.

I think what this really shows us is that definitions are a matter of life experience. What makes sense for one person may not make any sense to another. This is why we all have different political opinions, because we all think different things are important.

Maybe it didn’t really take Twilight to show me that. But it certainly didn’t hurt.

3. Harry Potter splitting its final part into two movies may have been the worst thing to ever happen to YA Fiction novels that become movies.

I was confused when Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows decided it had too much material for simply one movie. But I accepted it, thinking that they might actually have more to cover in that movie than would reasonably fit into a two-to-three-hour movie.

When Breaking Dawn decided to do the same, I got serious chills about the disaster that would be. We already knew the Twilight movie series was questionable—the acting was mediocre at best, the plotline was primarily moved through voice-over and even the presence of a shirtless Taylor Lautner couldn’t make up for the fact that nothing was ever happening.

Clearly, I understand the business decision behind making two movies—if you get an equal size audience for both, you make twice as much money. Even if the second audience is slightly smaller, you still make more total profit.

But it doesn’t always work—Breaking Dawn was definitive proof of that. They invented entire scenes to fill all the time they gave themselves. Still, they didn’t learn their lesson.

They just keep splitting up the final chapters of these YA series, making what could be mediocre movies into absolutely horrendous ones.

4. I can channel my inner Bella circa New Moon—and it might work out for me inside my head. But in the real world, no one is going to appreciate that.

Consider the Twilight novels. I don’t know how you feel, but I always found New Moon to be the most difficult to get through. As in, I nearly quit the entire series when Stephenie Meyer gave me four blank pages and then a simple, melodramatic paragraph.

I know Bella was going through an emotional crisis. But it was kind of driving me, as the reader, crazy.

Nothing was happening. There’s four months where so little is happening, the author only tells me that time passes. When we finally hear from our protagonist, it’s merely a nod to the fact that time must go on. Nothing else.

I think the reading of New Moon taught me, as a fourteen-year-old, that I could go into melodramatic states like this. It was possible. I could get consumed in my own angst, unable to recognize anything but the inevitable passing of time. 

I could spend all my time whining about how hard things are for me, and I might even have legitimate reasons to back that up (Does Bella? Really? These are the important questions).

But reacting like that to things wouldn’t get me anywhere. I’d only end up like the worst installment of an already mediocre teenage series.

5. Fanfiction is popular fiction, without all of the required editing.

Okay, maybe Twilight itself didn’t teach me this. It was probably more the whole 50 Shades of Grey phenomena that followed it. But I’m counting it, because 50 Shades of Grey is really a Twilight fanfiction. It’s all a bit much for my English major self to handle.

I’m not opposed to fanfiction. Read it, love it, please don’t try to live it. It’s a great space for writers to practice and a good creative outlet. But I suppose, until 50 Shades of Grey came out, I wasn’t quite clear on how closely published novels and fanfiction were really related.

On reflection, Twilight could totally read as a fanfiction of some other, more literary vampire novel. Bella is a typical Mary Sue, easily relatable without much personal description. Edward is the idealized love interest. The love triangle adds suspense.

I think Twilight both raised and lowered my estimation of fanfiction. Clearly, it’s relatable and taps into some human desire. The popularity of both series shows that. But I have to wonder, if I can find the equivalent for free online, why am I purchasing anything?

6. Events are really all about the people you’re with—not what you’re doing.

This is because one of my best memories from middle school is actually going to the Twilight midnight premiere. I don’t really have a defense for why I thought that was a good idea. But eighth-grade me thought it seemed like a fabulous plan.

The thing is, I don’t really remember watching the movie. I remember having my friends come over and we ate pizza. Then we drove to the movie theatre, dancing wildly in my  mom’s car. We must have watched Twilight. Then we returned home and I saw the 1980s vampire-flick Lost Boys for the first time.

It was a great night. It was centered on Twilight. My brain thinks these two things should be mutually exclusive and yet, it was still a lot of fun. I’d do it again. So I think, in hindsight, that night was so much fun because it was never going to be anything but silly.

My friends and I accepted this. As a group, we enjoyed (probably? I don’t remember exactly) the movie but more than that, we made sure we had fun before and after. The event itself was really rather forgettable.

7. Internal dialogue is great and all but it doesn’t actually transfer to real life.

Isn’t this the real problem with all of the Twilight movies? They are trying to take book centered on one character’s internal monologues and transfer them to a screen. It doesn’t work. No amount of dramatic staring will get all of those feelings across.

What this teaches me is that if I think about doing something or saying something, thinking will never be enough. I have to actually say or do it. Or it doesn’t count, at least not to anyone else.

Twilight showed me that while introspection is great, it isn’t everything in life. In fact, your life will have very little action if you never actually use any of that introspection.

8. I should not name my child something strange and hard to pronounce. If I do, I should fully accept that nicknames will be inevitable.

This one is pretty self-explanatory. But seriously, while unique names are fun, I have to respect that three syllable is probably a bit much for every day use.

9. The idea of soul mates can actually be a little discomforting.

This is point where I tell you how I identify with Bella. She reacts angrily when she finds out Jacob imprinted on her three-day old child. And I totally get it.

I know that Meyer tries to explain that it’s not all sexual or romantic, that they’re just best friends and will eventually grow to more. But seriously, she minutes old when she finds her “soulmate.” What does that even mean?

The more I think about it, the more I find the whole idea to be a bit daunting. Only one person out there who is perfect for you. You don’t have a choice, not really. Things like age don’t matter. Nor does it matter if your potential love interest was really into your mother at one point. It’s fine. It’s all the same thing.

I find imprinting disturbing. I find the whole concept weird and I think Twilight taught me that not only do I not believe in soulmates, I really don’t want to. 

10. If I write a story centered on finding self-worth through someone else, I might be happy for a little while. But that it will definitely change.

Bella is almost a non-character at time. She’s incredibly passive, complaining about decisions she makes (i.e. the move to Forks) as if they were forced upon her. She appears out of nowhere, with no past in Phoenix and a sketchy one in Forks.

Her entire plot line is based off of falling in love with Edward, choosing between Edward and Jacob and then becoming a vampire to be with Edward forever. It’s all about using someone else to make herself happy. I’m quite sure she taught me that’s not what I want.

Look at the reaction to Twilight. It was huge for a while, incredibly popular with teenage girls around the world. It was romantic. It was supernatural. It was inspiring until we realized Bella didn’t give us much to aspire to.

Bella’s total lack of a strong personality was the death knell for the Twilight series. She is the protagonist and she centers her entire life around another person. She taught me, very quickly, that I never want to be in that same boat.

I firmly believe I will be happier if I trust in myself. That doesn’t mean no friends or significant others. But it does mean being able to be happy when I’m by myself, because my self-worth isn’t based on what anyone else has to say or do. 


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