In late 2008, teens and tweens everywhere knew there was something particularly attractive about Edward Cullen, but we didn’t quite have words for it. Now that fans of Twilight, known then as “Twihards,” have grown up and gone to college, they confidently refer to him as a troubled Byronic hero, that problematic but beloved archetype of English literature.
As much as Harry Potter shaped millennials in their formative years, so did Twilight to the generation after. Those of us born in the late nineties can remember the contention between the “Twihards” and “Potterheads” as being a practically partisan in their divide. The most pretentious of fourteen-year-old nerds continually would consistently insist to their Twilight-loving enemies that Edward Cullen actor Robert Pattinson’s more esteemed role was as the short-lived Cedric Diggory in the Harry Potter franchise.
For Twilight fans, however, the story of Bella’s love triangle with vampire Edward Cullen and werewolf Jacob Black, played in the films by Taylor Lautner, was more than just a simple romance. It was a heartbreaking story of strained family ties, self-sacrifice and the concept of immortality. Team Edward and Team Jacob wore t-shirts to announce their loyalty, and both sides of the age-old argument wrote detailed fanfictions further developing the beloved franchise with their own imaginings.
It’s now the ten-year anniversary of the Twilight saga’s first film premiere, and while the generation who idolized the work of Stephanie Meyer in childhood are now adults, many remain fans of the enduring romance series.
Even many of us who hated Twilight on principle in childhood can now appreciate the series purely in terms of nostalgia value. And while the films may have been mocked, they did prove to be the launchpad for two talented actors. Kristen Stewart, who played the love-stricken heroine, was widely mocked for her underwhelming “Twilight” performance and facial expressions which rarely changed between scenes of joy and heartbreak. She is now considered a gay icon with tons of respected film credits.
In addition to special tenth-anniversary screenings in movie theaters, fans and journalists alike have taken to the internet to reminisce in light of the milestone. The Guardian, for example, published an article titled “Ten years of Twilight: the extraordinary feminist legacy of the panned vampire saga,” while USA Today recounted the saga’s enormous impact on the film industry in “’Twilight’ turns 10: How Bella and Edward’s girl-meets-vampire love story changed Hollywood.”
Following Twilight’s popularity came other romance-focused films aimed at teen audiences, like “The Fault in Our Stars,” as well as the development of major paranormal and science fiction young adult franchises, such as “Divergent” and “The Mortal Instruments.” Even controversial bestseller “50 Shades of Grey” and its sequels began as Twilight fanfiction. Twilight’s legacy is remembered as having emphasized the validity and profitability of epic romance, and its lasting popularity continues to remind even its detractors that there are strong cases to be made for fantastical fluff.
While the Twilight books may not be great literature, they introduced many young people to a love of reading. The Twilight movies provided solace and fantasy for young people disillusioned with reality. Even now, Twilight exists as a place of refuge for nostalgic viewers still secretly infatuated with the idea of werewolf-vampire love feuds. Twilight has now even entered the realm of scholarly analysis and is considered by some to be a modern cornerstone of feminist franchises.
On the story’s ten year anniversary, let’s remember to take the interests of teen girls seriously. Their values eventually shape the world’s; Twilight’s influence on young adult literature and modern storytelling is just one example.