Vampire Nostalgia and the Twilight Renaissance of 2021

6 min read

LIZ FOSTER ’22

BITS&PIECES EDITOR

Nostalgia holds a suffocating grasp around the neck of Gen-Z and millennials. Most recently, this yearn for the past has taken the shape of a newfound, or re-found, obsession with the Twilight saga. The book series, which expanded into five films and a massive, world-dominating franchise, was originally consumed during the late 2000’s and early 2010’s. Something within the Obama era alit a collective burning fire for vampires, and later the ensuing, and inevitable conflict, the creatures would have with their mortal enemy: the werewolf. Most OG Twilighters now hover somewhere in their early 20’s to 30’s, a significant number of years away from their initial, youthful exposure to the beloved series. As a self-admitted Twilight obsessed preteen, this cultural revival is near and dear to my heart. I once sobbed violently because my parents wouldn’t allow me, at the mere age of ten, to attend the midnight premiere of Eclipse. The previous year, my fourth grade Christmas list filled top to bottom with Twilight and Twilight-related merchandise. My Twitter timeline flooding with memes of Robert Pattinson and clever quips about the sheer campiness of it all spoon fed me the bursts of childish joy that I so desperately needed. 

Stephanie Meyer’s glorified self-insert fanfiction—inspired by the band My Chemical Romance no less—also serves as complete romantic escapism. Come on, who wants someone with dull human skin when shiny, blood-sucking predators inhabit the rainy, melancholic town of Forks, Washington. A normal guy who lives in the middle-of-nowhere? Hard pass. A vampire who relocates to relive high school every four years in a new middle-of-nowhere town? Sign me up. 

The new era of Twilight has reemerged from a primal instinct within us. We live in chronically uncertain times, and our coping mechanisms have grown into uncertain measures. The nostalgia resurgence has thrived in the COVID-19 era. Streaming services have also successfully timed several throwback releases in the past two years: iCarly, Victorious, and other Nickelodeon properties made the leap onto Netflix, something that allowed users born between 1998 and 2002 to indulge in the shows that raised them. Some aged well, others not so much. Weeks spent inside throughout 2020’s various quarantines let the collective become all too familiar with video streaming, leading Netflix to garner 36 million new subscribers by the end of the year. The Twilight Saga grossed hundreds of millions of dollars and recently surged to dominate the top five spots of Netflix’s “Most Watched” immediately after its July arrival. 

One Twitter user “predicted” the rise of the Delta variant in writing that, because Netflix was debuting the Twilight Saga, mankind would soon be returning to the indoors. This resurgence is not to be neglected, but we can also hope that the addition of the vampire saga was also simply arriving ahead of sweater weather. Twilight is appropriate for any season, but Halloween will no doubt show the influence of the series on fans both old and new. Keep your eyes peeled for couples clad in the frumpy wardrobes of Bella and Edward or groups costumed as the red-eyed members of the Volturi. 

With age and re-watching also comes the realization that childhood, teen-hood, and even young-adulthood favorites aren’t necessarily the fantastic films our brains prefer to remember. The first Twilight film is not conventionally good, but it’s by no means what one would call a bad film given that the audience member is entertained from front to back. A painfully cool blue tint covers the screen for the entirety of Twilight’s two hours and sixteen minutes, but imagining Kristen Stewart or Robert Pattinson in any warmer hue feels wrong. The tension between the duo is sometimes palpable, but often forced and awkward. In 2021, Edward Cullen’s obsessive behavior and Bella Swan’s pure desperation tastes a bit less sweet. Yet, a more important question lingers: what did these two see in each other? 

Bella is awkward, bumbling, and speaks rarely. She cracks a few attempts at one-liners—one of the most iconic being in Eclipse where she declares neutrality: “I’m Switzerland” in her love triangle with Edward Cullen and Jacob Black—but is otherwise flat and boring. Her mumbling, falling, and stumbling is a consistent annoyance rather than a charming quirk. Nonetheless, everyone in Forks High School is captivated, either crushing on her or trying to be her best friend. Notably, Anna Kendrick’s appearance as Jessica stands out as a legitimately charismatic among the other side characters in Bella’s circle. Edward is heinous. Upon their first meeting sitting next to each other in science class, Edward holds his nose as though Bella smells like a walking garbage can. His reaction is actually a product of the overwhelmingly sweet, unbearably delicious scent of Bella’s blood, but Edward looks more like a bully than a future boyfriend as he storms out of the class and demands to be switched into another. He watches her sleep and tracks her every move. She ruminates obsessively after every interaction between the two. Bella and Edward’s relationship is completely barren of classic cutesy romanticism. 

Yet, watching these two fall in stupid, stupid love gripped audiences for years and continues to do so over a decade after the original movie’s premiere. The escapism provided but such a dumb yet darling relationship between a human and the vampire she’s willing to die for is incomparable. Most of us won’t get married at eighteen to a vampire, leave behind our families and chance at a real future, or birth a half human-vampire child that is “imprinted” upon by our male best friend that we’ve rejected. But imagining a world where these things truly happen is lightyears away from the depressing, dejected timeline we currently inhabit. The tragedies are inescapable, but as is our most recent attempt to continue forward: the Twilight Saga. Let yourself let loose and ask, “Bella, where have you been, loca?” in a staycation to a little town called Forks. 

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