When I was 12, Twilight happened. I was in sixth grade, I was over Harry Potter, and I was ready to sink my teeth into some YA lit with content I’d never read before. The movie was coming out that November and I was excited by the brewing phenomenon. I had little knowledge of what the Twilight saga was about but I had seen the huge novels prominently displayed in Target, and I had seen the promotional posters. I had no idea it was about vampires until a friend told me about it, and so my lack of knowledge made it more appealing. I also loved thick books, and I knew I needed to get my hands on a copy of Twilight.
I was gifted a copy around the same time my mom banned me from reading the book series. I don’t remember exactly how she told me I was not allowed to read them, but I remember knowing that I had to keep the book under my bed for all of winter break. But during winter break, a friend called my house and snitched on me, and after my mom had parent-to-parent talks, I was forced to give up the book. My mom read all four novels before I could, and by the time she had passed the book series to my aunt, she was bored of them and told me I could read them. By the time I finished the books, it was January. Not much time passed between being banned from reading them and me finishing the series, but the months in which I couldn’t read the books were aggravating. I read all four books in about one month, and I know because I begged and begged to see the movie and finally made it to the dollar movie theater on Valentine’s Day the following month, where I was able to catch one of the last showings of the movie before it left theaters for good.
And then, a few weeks later when I spent the night in Pasadena for my birthday, my parents let me rent Twilight on the hotel television and watch it in front of all 3 of my family members until it finished around midnight. That was a huge difference between initially being told that it was too inappropriate for me to read and being able to freely watch the movie.
What started as a parenting act and an attempt to preserve my innocence (as if I was not already receiving “the talk” around that time too) morphed that time of my life into what can be considered my true teen angst phase where Twilight was the cause of me being a “bad kid” to my parents. It was difficult. And all I wanted to do was read some books.
I don’t understand why my parents thought the first Twilight book had too much sexual content. It really did not. And to this day, my argument against being banned from Twilight is that it wouldn’t have made me pursue sexuality at just 11 years old. (As if sixth grade was not a time when everyone had their biggest crushes lmao). Looking at the sexual content and possible sexuality-inducing effects (really, mom?), would it have been bad for me to think about sexuality at 11 and 12? Would it have been bad for me to maybe question romance and heteronormativity? I’m pretty sure questions I would have asked about serious romantic relationships would have been answered in a pretty shielded way anyway. I would not have gotten the best answers but I think opening up my mind to sexuality would have been better than saying “it’s wrong.”
Once I got through all of the books, I bought into the Twilight film phenomenon. I learned to love Hot Topic. I was Team Jacob. I had t-shirts. I wanted merchandise. My parents took me to see the films in theaters as they came out. (But my parents made me close my eyes when Bella and Edward had their first discussion about sex in Eclipse.) By the end of the film franchise, I was a sophomore in high school. I was almost sixteen.
I thought the two Breaking Dawn films were a lot more entertaining than the book. (I personally think that the end of Part 2 where Bella shows Edward a flashback and it has a sequence from the first film is one of the best film sequences I’ve ever seen. It makes me cry.) But when I watched the last movie, the hype for Twilight that was there when I was only 12 was not there anymore. Twilight was not new. So the meaning of me getting to watch Breaking Dawn and my parents not batting an eye was not as present or as meaningful as it is now to me.
But now. I am 21 years old and I just ended a five day binge-watch of all the Twilight films. I am a senior English major in college, and after having the task of reading books to survive for the last three years, I’m pissed. I was able to graduate undergraduate college in three years as an English major because I love reading and I like popular novels. I love stories that I can really get lost in that the world also is really invested in. Twilight was a book I was ready to get lost in and I’m still heartbroken that my parents didn’t trust me with that literature, as basic as it was. So I’m here, graduating, with love in my heart for Twilight like I’ve never felt before.
I was the kid who read the most books all throughout elementary school and middle school. I am willing to bet money and go back to my old elementary school and collect statements that reflect how I was that student who did nothing but read. So how on earth could the one student with great literacy skills be banned by her own parents from reading a book?
Let’s talk about the quality of content that I wanted to consume. I know that Twilight is not top-notch literature. I read some Mommy Blog about how if their daughter wants to read romance, they should read Jane Austen and if they want fantasy, they should read Beowulf. And to that I say: I did not want classic romance and fantasy. I wanted cheesy 21st century vampire romance. I wanted to join the teen literary movement that was emerging while it was still fresh. I wanted to be in the know. I wanted to learn about Twilight and what made it the popular. I don’t think Twilight is trashy, but if that is the only way you will view Twilight, then so be it. I wanted to read trashy literature. I didn’t want to use the book as a guidebook for how to become sexually active. I was 12. I wanted to be a kid and read a book because I was a kid who loved to read.
(Also, how is trashy content different from those cheap highlander novels that everyone’s mom reads? AND… I was more horrified at the end of the Hunger Games series when Prim was killed than from the minimally-described sex scene in Breaking Dawn.)
There was a lack of sexual content in Twilight and that should not have been the basis of why I could not read it in sixth grade. The “adult” relationship between Edward and Bella should have not been why I could not read it in sixth grade. These models of romance and sexuality and violence between vampire clans was not anything that 12-year-old me would have been alarmed by. Just a year later, I was already reading Ellen Hopkins’ Crank series, Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher, andWintergirls by Laurie Halse Anderson. All books with much more mature content than Twilight, but did it affect me as a kid? No. They were just books I enjoyed reading.
After the trauma of fighting with my parents about not being able to read about Jacob Black morphing into a werewolf, and Edward NOT sucking Bella’s blood, this has impacted me a lot as a young adult.
I. Can’t. Believe. My. Mom. Banned. A. Fictional. Book.
I would have skipped over a huge portion of my teen angst phase if my mom just let me be a girl who enjoyed the things she truly enjoyed. I would have been a happier kid. (And that goes for being part of online fan clubs for the Jonas Brothers and Miley Cyrus, and High School Musical, and everything I enjoyed but always got in trouble for spending time on). I just wanted to enjoy and understand pop culture at a young age but it was always denied. Twilight was just a book I liked. It was just a book that blew up into a franchise that I wanted to celebrate too, because even at 12-years-old it was publicly known that I wanted to be fully immersed in pop culture.
And so I’m here today as a senior English major to tell them that I loved Twilight as a 12-year-old, I should have been allowed to read it, and I will never forget that it was taken away. I had no intention of taking ideas from the book and applying them to my own life. I was jut a girl who wanted to read a book about a vampire and a girl. I was innocent, yeah, but it would not have changed anything. I’m still a human being. I’m still just the girl who wanted to READ A BOOK!
I’m here, sitting at my kitchen table at 21 years old. I just purchased Stephenie Meyer’s novel Life and Death, which is a gender-bent version of the first Twilight novel. I’m listening to the first Twilight soundtrack, where Paramore released their best song ever “Decode.” I’ve been live-tweeting the films and sending my props to Taylor Lautner telepathically, because he really held some of those scenes together and carried the love triangle on his back.
Seriously, I’ve talked to teachers about how Jacob sitting outside the Cullen house sobbing broke my heart for 21 years.
I’m here to appreciate Twilight like I wanted to when I was 12. I’m here to give 12-year-old me that fan experience I didn’t get. I’m here (like usual) to tell myself that what I love is important and worth it. I’m here to tell myself that being told that I can’t like a book series because of my age is wrong.
What I mean by I’m here for revenge is that I’m here to celebrate this literature and constantly remind those around me that I don’t care what they think of the content I invest in. It’s become part of my growing experience, as you can see with my amount of posts about One Direction, but Twilight is special because it was such a harsh rule that really hurt me as a kid. Why couldn’t my parents just let me be a happy little book nerd?
I’m even going to argue that the reason why I attend UCLA is because both the Twilight and New Moon films premiered in Westwood. I just have that connection to that space.
As an English major, I’m hoping to go to grad school where I and write some articles on Twilight so that I can show my parents I pursued higher education on the topic they tried to shield me from the most. I want to study these topics:
- Space in Twilight
- Cultured Spaces
- The difference between the Quileute reservation and the Cullen House… as in white space and indigenous space conflicts
- Vacation Spaces
- Italy as a historic
- Rio as sexualized
- Cultured Spaces
- Gender in Twilight
- Virgin Bella
- How sex devalues Bella as a human
- Queer Relationships
- Queer Cullens or forced heteronormative relationships
- Queer Wolfpack?
- Virgin Bella
and topics with less formulated ideas…
- why is there no sense of money in the films like ever
- Jasper was in the Confederate Army and yet he is still “saved”
- also his love interest in Eclipse, pre-Alice, is a villainized latinx woman… all villains of the Cullens’ are people of color and WHY IS THAT A THING
- Leah Clearwater as a spinster? cuckold? someone who breaks up the pack?
- sex is almost meaningless to vampires and Rosalie hates that because she wants a baby
And I’m here to show you that kids who are told what they can’t do find a way to do it. I’m a graduating English major and I love Twilight with all my heart. I will cherish the movies and the books and I will always be against parents banning books from kids, especially if your kid just loves to read.
I love the books. I love everything about the pop culture phenomenon it became. I love these scenes of “forever” and the belief that Bella and Edward were destined to be together before either of them knew it. Stephenie Meyer writes at the beginning of Life and Death that “Twilight has always been a story about the magic and obsession and frenzy of first love.” That’s what I wanted to know when I was 12. That’s all I wanted to know.
I love the films. I think we owe a lot to Catherine Hardwicke, the director of the first Twilight film, for creating the vision for the films and casting actors who grew into their roles. The production value increased as the franchise grew, so we can’t really compare Breaking Dawn Part II to Twilight, but I love love love the way it was wrapped up in the end sequence with Christina Perri’s song “A Thousand Years.” My college roommates and I would listen to that song and fight over Team Jacob and Team Edward, and that was eight years after the first film was released. Twilight has a big impact on my teenage social experience and my appreciation for literature. In my first Jane Austen and Gender class, I associated so many characters and concepts with Bella and Edward, and I’m excited to do the same in my Shakespeare and Gender seminar this spring. And at the end of it all, Robert Pattinson is my Edward and Kristen Stewart is my Bella and Taylor Lautner is my Jacob because I wanted them to be. I accept everything Twilight is. It was the literary movement of my youth.
Also, I’m going to be looking into Julia Jones’ films. Julia Jones played Leah Clearwater and she has massively changed my perspective on the wolf pack and their importance to the story. I think that the wolf pack actually held some of the narrative together when the Cullens couldn’t in the films. And Julia Jones is so badass. I followed her on all of her social media. I need to see more of her films.