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A decade ago today, Twilight opened in UK cinemas following its release across the pond in America.
Based on the series written by author Stephenie Meyer, all four books in The Twilight Saga had already become best-sellers by the time the first film hit cinemas.
But while there was an already established fan base ready to buy tickets for the opening night, no-one was quite sure whether Meyer’s story would transfer well to the screen.
Although some critics praised the film for its merits, the vast majority slammed as it as being trash for teenagers which quite frankly, please excuse the pun, sucked.
Despite these reviews getting worse for each new instalment in the series, the moody critics didn’t stop Twilight from becoming a multibillion dollar franchise thanks to all five films in the saga raking in the cash.
Describing Twilight as just being a commercial success though is not only an understatement, but it also would be doing the film a disservice.
Hate it or love it, Twilight undoubtedly was a cultural phenomenon making vampires mainstream, letting teenagers dominate the box office and sparking a rise in the popularity of young adult novels and movies, many of which were female led.
You were unable to escape the impact of Twilight as millions of ‘Twihards’ ensured its takeover of the world.
I am proud to say I was one of those fans, waving the ‘Team Edward’ flag, clutching my well loved copy of Meyer’s novel to my chest as I queued time after time to watch Twilight on the big screen.
To quote Edward, Twilight was ‘like my own personal brand of heroin’.
In 2006, two years before the film was released, my best friend at school lent me her copy of Twilight describing it as one of the best books she had ever read.
Aged 12 and an avid reader myself, I had never heard of either Twilight or the author Meyer and so I was intrigued, especially when I realised the story involved vampires and werewolves.
As soon as I picked the book up I was unable to put it down as I became lost in Bella Swan and Edward Cullen’s world. It really was unlike anything I had ever read before.
Very much the book’s target audience and a part of the Twilight generation, I loved everything about it from the mysterious Cullen family, Bella’s hilariously awkward dad Charlie, the thrilling ending as tracker vampire James goes on his hunt and of course the central romance.
From there I read the rest of the saga but also became obsessed with vampires buying every supernatural book about the fanged creatures I could from The Vampire Diaries, The Morganville Vampires and The House of Night series.
Twilight also encouraged me to read classic fiction which inspired Meyer’s writing including Jane Eyre and Sense and Sensibility.
Being honest with myself, I wouldn’t have gone on to get a degree in English Literature if it wasn’t for Twilight!
My love for Twilight further developed when the film was released as it blew me away, bringing to life on the screen the world I was so absorbed by.
Aged 14 I remember dragging my friends and family with me to see it on multiple occasions and they too fell for Edward, Bella and co.
As a fan of the books I was of course more inclined to enjoy the cinematic adaptation but Twilight was both a brilliant and impacting film which the uninitiated could appreciate.
While yes, admittedly the majority of the audience were teenage girls like me, Twilight was enjoyed by all genders and generations. Just ask my dad!
Rewatching Twilight 10 years later being much older and wiser, I still enjoyed every moment of the film gaining a further understanding of why it had such an impact on the world.
While there are flaws which can’t be ignored including Kristen Stewart’s continually irritating lip biting, the poor dialogue and the fact the Edward and Bella relationship can be seen as abusive, I found the film as compelling as I did a decade ago even though I am less filled with teenage angst.
But for me, as cheesy as it sounds, Twilight is much more than a film or a book as it helped define my teenage years which helped make me the person I am today and I will never forget that.
To learn more about what drew people to Twilight making it hugely successful, I chatted to some fellow fans of the series to hear what sucked them into Bella and Edward’s world.
25-year-old Alannah Fleming from Glasgow, Scotland, bought a first copy of Twilight when she was 13, before it became a phenomenon.
For Alannah the film spoke to her in a way no other movie at the time was doing telling UNILAD:
Twilight, despite everything wrong with it, had such an impact on young audiences, girls especially because it was uniquely for us. It didn’t talk down to us or try to badly imitate us, in the way so many films featuring teenagers do. It depicted love as how we as overly emotional teenagers experienced it, or at least as how we thought it should be; maddening, obsessive and all consuming.
It struck a chord with me because it had everything a teenage girl could want, a relatable protagonist, a
handsome but tormented love interest, a beautiful setting and of course vampires, always vampires.
Twilight’s impact also derives from that fact that it follows a tried and tested formula for romance, like Romeo and Juliet before it and Fifty Shades of Grey after it, it features star-crossed lovers and the all important love triangle. Stephenie Meyers’ story wasn’t all that original, but she took what worked and
reintroduced it to a new generation.
Although 22-year-old Kacy from Calgary, Canada, wasn’t a fan of the film watching it upon release finding it ‘dumb’. She also admitted she enjoyed hating it as ‘disliking something so popular made me feel a little bit cool’.
While others hated Twilight because they found it dull, silly and aimed towards teenage girls, which means it is automatically a target for parody and mockery, I imagine some, just like Kacy, also disliked the movie because the majority enjoyed it.
Now having rewatched Twilight, Kacy can see its appeal enjoying the romantic story that is at the heart of the film:
I think Bella Swan was a very relatable character that lots of girls could identity with; her parents were divorced, she was the new kid at her high school, she was shy and didn’t have many friends, she didn’t think she was very beautiful and she just fell in love with sort of a bad boy. Every girl wants a bad boy to be good just for her, and that’s what Edward was.
Twilight wasn’t extremely face-paced or complex, it was just a beautiful love story. I’ve now kinda, sorta, developed an itty bitty crush on Edward, and if someone asks me Team Edward or Jacob, I wouldn’t hesitate to say Team Edward 100 per cent.
I’ve come to accept the fact that I am a closet romantic. I’ll never admit it, but I love romance. Personally, I think it’s better that I’ve waited until now to see Twilight and all its sequels because I appreciate it a lot more than when I was 12.
While Chloe acknowledged the fact the film does have ‘potentially dangerous messages’ and ‘serious problems with the way it handles relationships’, she also found it fresh and new being a movie aimed at teenage girls which ‘wasn’t in some way telling them how to behave’.
She explained to UNILAD:
Twilight had no real moral lessons at the end of it, no nerdy girl makeover, no Mean Girls-esque realisation and no shouting about virginity and sluttiness and all that other rubbish that was being fed to us. It was a franchise that girls completely claimed for themselves and could run with their fandom in any direction they pleased.
I don’t think teenage girls are so stupid to believe that a fantasy film would be anything like reality, contrary to what Twilight‘s critics thought at the time. I think the first film is honestly stunning, Catherine Hardwicke is one of my favourite women directors and I think she did such a fantastic job at bringing a gritty, indie feel to what could have been a glossy, over the top showboat. She definitely should have been kept on for the rest of the franchise.
I couldn’t agree more Chloe with all of the above!
50-year-old Lissy Andros was older than the target audience when she watched Twilight being aged 40 when it was released.
That didn’t matter though as Lissy also connected with the movie telling UNILAD it completely changed her life even encouraging her to move to Forks, Washington, where Twilight is set.
Still living in Forks, Lissy is also the director of the Forks Chamber of Commerce, the tourism marketing agent for the city arranging events for fans:
After Twilight my whole trajectory changed. It woke something up inside me that brought me back to life. I was at a pretty low point in my life. I was divorced and my mum and dad had just split up. My mum was living with me and she and I were both ready to leave the area. Once I read the saga, we decided Washington was the place for us. I never thought I’d actually end up in Forks. I visited here in 2009 for the annual celebration and completely fell in love with it. The town, the people, the scenery – it felt like the hometown I was always meant to be in.
Being a huge fan of the saga, I am very interested in Twilight tourism and keeping fans coming to Forks.
I love every part of my job! The best is getting to organize the FTF Festival for 500 of my closest friends every year!
Lissy believes, and I agree, the film transcends age as at the end of the day it is a love story and so anyone could connect with it.
For her it was also an opportunity to reconnect with the teenager within her and form bonds with new people telling UNILAD:
I think it was something geared towards the teenager in us and it was a bonding opportunity for friends, relatives and fans that met through the love of the series. It was a love story and made me feel like I was going through that first love again.
For me personally, I was at a crossroads in my life. I was preparing to move and start over prior to reading the series. Twilight helped me feel a fire inside, feelings that seemed dormant started to come alive again. I felt invigorated. I wanted to live inside the story. I started researching Forks online and fell in love with it from various real estate websites and searches. I imagined myself living Bella’s story. It changed everything.
For many, Forks feels like the hometown they always wanted. Like they belong here. Their heart feel full when they are in Forks. As far as the long lasting effect – I really think it’s the friendships that were made. People bonded online, at meet-ups, in line for the movies, at the bookstores, and at the annual festival of course!
Twilight didn’t just become a cultural phenomenon because it was a popcorn film made for teenage girls about vampires.
It was and always will be so much more than that changing lives, defining childhoods and helping people form friendships.
In Edward’s words, ‘I don’t have the strength to stay away’ from Twilight and nor should I or anyone for that matter.
If you have a story you want to tell, send it to [email protected]
Emily Murray is a journalist at UNILAD. She graduated from the University of Leeds with a BA in English Literature and History before studying for a Masters in Journalism at the University of Salford. Emily has previously worked for the BBC, ITV and Trinity Mirror. When Emily isn’t writing about topics including mental health and entertainment, you can find her at the cinema which is her second home.