Why Twilight Captivated a Generation

By Shannon Bowes-Cavanagh

When the first of the Twilight saga movies were released in 2008 many teenagers rushed out to buy the Stephanie Meyer books. Whether you were an avid fan or not, everyone seemed to be caught up in the Twilight phenomenon. But why was it so popular among this generation? I think the main the reason that the books were so enticing to young people was the damsel in distress aspect. There are numerous occasions where Bella is reliant on Edward because she is “fragile” as a human. In the first book, Edward pushes a van away to stop her being crushed, he saves her from some leering men in a dark alley and in the climatic ending, he rescues her from another vampire trying to kill her. All of these things were idealistic to young girls. I think we all had that naivety of thinking real love was dependant on the knight in shining armour trope.

A secondary element of what made the novels so enticing to young women was how Stephanie Meyer portrayed Bella Swan. She wasn’t overly beautiful or traditionally the “popular girl” who comes in and steals the hot guy. Critics called her a “placeholder.” Not giving Bella an unattainably beautiful description made the stories easier to relate to. Once Bella becomes a vampire, she and Edward have the perfect life. They have a private cottage; Edwards sister buys Bella’s expensive clothes, and this love story could seemingly go on forever.

However, there are a few reasons why Twilight wouldn’t be such a hit with today’s generation. Stories of vampires have been told and retold hundreds of times over the years with True Blood and The Vampire Diaries all featuring male characters as the heroes. The Twilight books especially rely on Bella being a fragile character so that Edward is able to take care of her. This demonstration of romance idealises old fashioned beliefs that women need to be saved. Edwards mysterious background disguises his controlling behaviour. Bella is not allowed to do certain things; she is only allowed to talk to him when he lets her. For example, at the beginning of the novel Bella is fascinated by Edward, but he avoids her for days and their relationship is dependent on what he wants. This is continued in the second book, New Moon. Edward decided for Bella that she is not safe with him and then leaves town with very little explanation. Their dynamic glorifies a controlling relationship which young, impressionable readers can confuse with love. Even Robert Pattinson, the actor who portrays Edward Cullen, compares the character to an ex-axe murderer.

Not to mention, Edward is 104 and Bella is 17 when they get married. Her school friends even display suspicion and wonder about the reasons why they married so young. I think that it is important to remember that these books were published in 2005. One of the reasons the books were so popular was because there was room for a raunchy vampire romance novel aimed at young people in this particular time period. Now the market is saturated with books that are far better written. In our culture now, I think that young people grow up a lot quicker. With social media and various other internet platforms, teenagers have access to a wide variety of materials that make the Twilight books seem old fashioned and unnecessary. I also believe that the younger generation now are less naïve and so would find being married at the age of 17 to a man that is 104 more inappropriate.

We can see how the Twilight phenomenon wouldn’t work now with Stephanie Meyers new book “Midnight Sun” not generating even half the hype of the Twilight saga. The book has been published 12 years later recounting the love story from Edward Cullen’s perspective.

Conclusively, there was an enticing naivety about the Twilight saga which made it what it was. Despite the books questionable writing, it was a simple and intriguing concept for young people. Now however, we have seen stories like this come and go constantly and the tragedy of it all has been lost on us. We are also able to decipher the parts of Edward and Bella’s relationship that doesn’t seem right because we have moved on from the days where women are portrayed as helpless and clumsy and innocent and need to be consistently rescued.