Twilight forever: meet the new generation of twi-hards
10 years on from the final film, Gen Z has discovered a blue-tinged universe of forbidden love and teen angst
image Twilight / Summit Entertainment Temple
words Lucy O'Brien
Are you team Edward, or Jacob? If you too spent your teen years reading and watching along as Bella Swan attempted to navigate this tumultuous love triangle, you won’t be needing any added context to that question. No doubt, you once carefully considered your answer before finally choosing your fighter; you might've even lost friends while defending your choice religiously to the end. Ah, good times. Yet while this conundrum is nostalgia-tinged for some, for others it’s as relevant today as it was 10 years ago, when the final film of the Twilight franchise, Breaking Dawn Part 2, made its cinematic debut.
With the finale grossing $829.7 million back in 2012, solidifying Kristen Stewart and Robert Pattinson's international fame, it’s only fair to acknowledge that the films were a true cultural reset. The distinctively moody, blue-toned cinematography of the original 2008 film, directed by Thirteen and Lord of Dogtown's Catherine Hardwicke, put a teenage spin on the Lynchian tradition of the American gothic on film. Without this daringly dark approach to the high school drama, it would be hard to imagine the supernatural, surreal teen tv juggernauts like Riverdale or Pretty Little Liars which dominated screens throughout the 2010s.
And while most individuals may look at Twilight through a nostalgic lens, there'a whole new new cult following of self-proclaimed twi-hards discovering - and loving - the series today.
Yep, you read that correctly. There's still a lot of die-hard Twilight stans around, ranging from young fresh bloods to the OGs who continue to worship the genius of Stephenie Meyer’s original novels. The hashtag #twilightrenaissance has racked up over 631 million views on TikTok, and fans are doing anything from creating vampy-inspired looks to discovering places across the globe that mirrors it’s dreary, main-character aesthetic.
But the fandom expands way beyond just double-taps and hashtags. Every September, hundreds of fans will trek across the US to a quaint little town over in Forks, Washington to get as close as they possibly can to the eerie, pine-tree ridden forests where the books were originally set. And as it turns out, there’s a whole twi-hard culture ready and waiting to greet them. The Forever Twilight festival welcomes between 400 and 500 cult fans into the Forks community for a week-long series of immersive events and celebrations. Participants can do anything from visiting the Forever Twilight Gallery, which has the most extensive Twilight film set memorabilia collection in the world, to simply exploring and lurking around the enchanting and vast wilderness, Edward Cullen-style. But the small rural town gets visitors year-round, and the Twilight series has breathed new life into its local economy. Lissy Andros, executive director of the Forks Chamber of Commerce and senior organiser of the festival, sees first-hand the dedication of these travelling fans. “Before the books were published we averaged 5000 visitors to Forks per year. By 2009 [the year after the first film was released] we had around 69,000 people sign our guestbook.”
Maybe it’s because we’d all rather be re-living the 2010s, or maybe because a mystified world full of forbidden-romance and eternal youth feels like a far better alternative to world we currently face, but there seems to be an unshakeable need among fans to connect with the Twilight universe. And it’s created a full-blown community: “When you come to the festival, you’re surrounded by your people,” says Andros. “You get to meet those you’ve already befriended online in person – people are really connecting and using the event to express their creativity.” But over the past three years, Andros has noticed the demographic get younger and younger. Who are this new generation of twi-hards?
“All of my friends and co-workers know me as the Twilight girl,” 21-year-old Angel tells me. “I could recite the movies almost word-for-word, and with all the daily stress of the world, it’s nice to turn something on that you know won’t disappoint and will leave you feeling good,” she goes on. And while young people like Angel would have been mere kids when the films and books first rose to prominence, Twilight seems to be the gift that keeps on giving; passed down from millennials to Gen Z like a spooky heirloom. “I must’ve seen it when the films first came out because my mum was reading the books,” Angel recalls. “But now I watch the movies about every other week. I love how the fandom acknowledges that because the acting is so bad, it somehow makes the films really good.”
And she’s not wrong. Part of the franchise’s renewed appeal is the pure meme opportunity. Think of Kristen Stewart aka Bella’s infuriatingly coy “um’s” and constant hair-behind-the-ear tucking (Debby Ryan is shaking). Then there's Robert Pattinson (Edward, duh) literally glittering in the sun, a moment that has lived in our heads rent-free ever since. And don’t even get me started on the "it was all a dream" sequence in Breaking Dawn Part 2. Iconic. Gen Z are revisiting some of the franchise’s most funny and unrealistic scenes, and are absolutely loving it.
Instead of being turned off by the notoriously “bad” acting, fans are almost protective over it, finding comfort and nostalgia in the fantastical themes of eternal youth and forever love. This is exactly what still attracts long-term fan, 24-year-old Savannah. “Twilight just doesn’t seem too far out of reach. The films were such a huge part of our lives in 2008-2012: meet and greets, premier nights, merchandise," she recalls. "I remember going to a midnight merch release where we literally had voting polls for team Jacob or Edward. It’s just so nostalgic for me.”
While for some Twilight is their ultimate comfort fix, for others, it’s a way of life. The franchise has given way to a huge cosplay culture, and young people who are only just discovering the films are jumping on the bandwagon. 20-year-old Hailey cosplays as well-loved figure of wisdom, Alice Cullen. “I grew up around Twilight a lot as my mum was a huge fan, but I was 18 when I first watched the whole series. Because of our personality similarities, cosplaying Alice just really fell into place for me,” she says. Hailey finds a sense of escape when doing things like visiting Forks and inhabiting the persona of Alice: “It’s like going on vacation – but instead of going to a resort, I go into the mindset of Twilight.”
If there’s a word to sum up our relationship with Twilight, it’s escapism. Whether you’ve recently delved into the mystical world of vamps and werewolves, or are constantly revisiting the franchise to bring back those fond feelings of teen nostalgia, it seems Meyer’s Twilight universe is holding a firm place in all of our hearts. “It really is the Romeo and Juliet of our generation,” Hailey suggests – and perhaps she’s right.
After all, who wants a romantic tragedy when you can have supernatural powers and battles for eternal love, right?