“Hold on tight Spidermonkey;” the Twilight movie franchise turned 15 on Nov. 21, 2023! To celebrate the anniversary of what we consider the most iconic romance franchise in this century, we decided to present our argument on why Twilight deserves more recognition for its unintentionally comedic aspects and brilliant visual effects.
A lot of Edward's attempts at wooing Bella involve him explaining all the ways that he could easily harm her. In fact, he spends the majority of the first movie telling Bella to avoid him at all costs and giving her multiple reasons to fear him while also not allowing her space to take his advice into consideration. His actions are terribly contradictory to his words, and to us, there are many indications that he is clearly obsessed with the idea of causing physical harm to Bella and using manipulative tactics to induce what can be closely compared to Stockholm Syndrome. He has a tendency to follow her around, keeping a close eye on all of her actions, including the time she spends with her friends at lunch. In doing so, Edward slowly reveals his supernatural abilities, like super strength and super speed, and uses them to remind Bella that he is a natural-born predator and is fully capable of killing her at any given moment. However, he makes it abundantly clear that he won’t actually harm her but is rather infatuated with her and astonished at her naive lack of concern.
We’ll say it, Twilight is camp. Oxford Languages defines camp as “deliberately exaggerated and theatrical in style, typically for humorous effect”. The acting throughout the series subtly mocks the melodramatic nature of the plot, and whether intentional or not, it’s subjectively hilarious. It’s no issue of the actors themselves that the dialogue comes across corny and inhuman, the dialogue is just corny and inhuman. I mean who calls their boyfriend their “monkey man” in daily conversation? Perhaps the most recognizable line is Jacob’s “Bella, where the hell have you been loca?” This line feels so out of place we had to laugh out loud the first time we heard it. And who tells their crush/new girlfriend that they have no thoughts? In one of the first few one-on-one interactions he has with Bella, Edward makes a point to tell her he can read everyone’s mind, except hers, which comes across more like he's telling her she’s brainless. Aside from goofy dialogue, the nonverbal acting is also, for lack of a better description, certainly a choice. Kristen Stewart, who plays Bella, will not stop biting her lips and twitching her eyes, which we get multiple close up shots of that were entirely too long. Edward always looks like he’s holding a frog in his mouth, and Jacob is just weird-looking. There’s a scene with Bella and her father Charlie, arguably the only sane character, eating lunch in a diner, where Bella picks up a ketchup bottle, shakes it over her food and then puts it back. She doesn’t even use it! There’s another scene where Edward gathers Bella onto his back, jumps out of his open window, and proceeds to claw up a tree telling her to “hold on tight spidermonkey.” The use of monkey as a term of endearment has become a real theme with the Cullen family, but that doesn’t make it any less weird. The scene is a good reminder of Edward’s freaky vampire abilities, and once again, Bella sticking around after this is almost impressive. When Bella confronts Edward about being a vampire, she says he speaks like he’s “from a different time”, which is a ridiculous accusation because not once has he said any old fashioned vocabulary. The only indication of his existence in another time period is his insistence that he has “old-fashioned” values when Bella attempts to become more intimate with him. When Edward exposes his skin, he says, “This is the skin of a killer Bella; I’m a killer.” Once again, this absolutely does not match the tone of the actual event, because Edward’s skin is just glittery, nothing that would suggest his supposed killer tendencies. Overall, Twilight has real Rocky Horror Picture Show Live potential just based on the easily mockable dialogue.
In contrast to Edward’s introduction in the series, Jacob is introduced as the wholesome “boy next door” who cares about Bella in ways that Edward clearly does not. Jacob’s first appearance in the movies entails him gifting her an old pickup truck that he fixed up himself, and he continues to craft her gifts throughout the series, like a bracelet and a dreamcatcher. Aside from his generosity, Jacob generally displays more charisma throughout the film series in his usage of cheesy lines and his ability to make Bella smile. After Edward breaks up with Bella in the second movie and she falls into a pit of despair, she begins to spend more time with Jacob. Bella herself says that being around Jacob is one of the few things that makes her feel better. Her father Charlie also notices that Bella is much happier with Jacob around, and slyly suggests that he may be a better match for her than Edward. And who can blame him for the suggestion? He’d been witnessing Bella scream herself awake for months following Edwards departure, and Jacob was minimizing that. Despite having the ability to turn into a werewolf, he never uses it to make Bella feel small or threatened but rather displays them to show that he would happily keep her out of harm’s way. There are multiple instances where he quite literally leaps into action to defend Bella against vampires and even the members of his own tribe. However, there are also instances in which he displays red flags, such as small outbursts of toxic masculinity and hints of jealousy and possessiveness, but who can blame him for being skeptical of Edward in terms of Bella’s safety?
The first time Edward interacts with Bella personally, aside from being introduced as a bit of a snob in his classic slow-motion walk-by, he is seemingly disgusted by her presence. They have a biology lab together, and of course, since Bella is the new student, all of the seats are taken except for the one right next to Edward. Once she takes her seat, Edward’s reaction becomes even more prominent as the viewer is given a montage of him gagging, gripping the desk, and covering his nose and mouth in disgust. He spends the entire class period shifting uncomfortably and trying not to throw up at the smell of Bella, and naturally, the camera does pan over comically to show her checking for body odor. As soon as class is dismissed, Edward wastes no time evacuating the classroom and going to the administrative office to get his class changed. We have both agreed that if someone had acted so appalled by our apparent smell or presence, we would not have interacted with them any further than that class period. It should have been clear to Bella that he was uninterested, to say the least, and her interest in him is concerning considering she witnessed him gagging and frantically trying to avoid her. The viewer finds out later that his repulsed behavior was caused by his vampiric impulses and was his attempt at refraining from devouring her. In the next interaction they have in their lab while examining the phases of mitosis, Edward almost acts like the whole thing didn’t happen and decides that it is appropriate to properly introduce himself after the matter.
You can’t talk about the Twilight series without talking about the baseball scene in the first movie. The reason this scene has garnered such a large fanbase is because of the outfits, the song choice, and the overall sense of fun. “Supermassive Black Hole” by Muse provides a progressive rock sound for the scene which a lot of fans really enjoy. The Cullens are wearing baseball uniforms in this scene, but the overall costuming of the Twilight movies creates a sense of nostalgia for many viewers, as the outfits are a time capsule for fashion in the early 2000’s. The baseball scene provides a nice break from the melodramatic romance blossoming between Edward and Bella and allows the main characters to have fun. It’s a bit ironic that the most recognizable scene from a teen romance is the one with the least amount of talking. Another aspect of Twilight that lends to its uniqueness is the color grading. The first movie takes a cool blue tone, and the second is a dull orange. The blue color grading of the first movie was an unexpected choice, but adds to its ‘campiness.’ It's ridiculous, over the top and unnecessary, but many people have come to love it (us included).
The Twilight book series began in 2005 and the first movie was released in 2008, so its initial appeal was to the teens and young adults of the 2000s, or at least it should have been. The first generation of Twilight fans is responsible for Twilight’s marketing as a romance series following two unlikely lovers and a heated love triangle. However, the newer generation of Twilight fans and its renaissance have deemed the series more of a satirical piece than what it was intended to be. The whole franchise (not just the second movie) is a warped Romeo and Juliet story, unintentionally reflecting the already satirical nature of Romeo and Juliet. Further analysis reveals many flaws in the series’ plot, like Edward and Bella’s relationship as a whole, overlooked lore, and random plot holes and additions that are rather incohesive. After doing some research into the series, we found that Stephenie Meyer based the entire series on a dream she had about a sparkling vampire and a girl in a meadow discussing their complicated emotions toward each other. Twilight experienced a massive resurgence on Tumblr in late 2020, led by adults who were mocked into silence about their interest in the franchise as teenagers. Adults rewatching the movies discovered the overlooked comedy of the franchise and brought it to the forefront of the new Twilight discussion.
Twilight, despite all its cliqued aspects, was never a bad movie, or a bad franchise. The truth is that it receives a lot of criticism based solely on misogyny. People hate to see women enjoy things, and teenage girls even more so. Twilight was groundbreaking in the sense that it was one of the first movie franchises produced for an audience of mainly young women. This already hindered its mainstream acceptance, but it also limited its allotted budget. After the first Twilight movie was released, it was mocked. Critics bashed the movie and its fans relentlessly, by labeling the movie as vapid, superficial and mindless. This reputation reflected onto its fans as well. Kristen Stewart received the brunt of criticism about the acting, likely because she’s a woman, and subsequently her career and reputation were constantly undermined by her involvement in the franchise, something that didn’t happen to her male co-stars. The reviews of the movie are another issue entirely; reviews came from everywhere, but they were all made by adults. Of course adults were critical of the movie, it was never for them; the Twilight franchise was made with a young female audience in mind. This doesn’t mean that it’s meant to be mockable. Young adult content is just as valid as any other genre, but it’s a different kind of style that should have never been examined from an adult lens. We need to just let teenage girls enjoy things, no matter how cringy we think it might be. Not every movie needs to be a cinematic masterpiece, not that Twilight isn’t, but some movies are allowed to be fun and a little dumb.
By Elaina Irving, Contributing Writer and Liese Devine, Features Editor