Don’t ask me why I felt the need to rewatch The Twilight Saga 12 years after the release of the first movie, but part of it stemmed from the curiosity inside me that strived to see if I would look at it the same way after the relationships I have had since. I decided to rewatch the films and not reread the books for one simple reason: the soundtrack (Alex Patsavas is and always has been a musical genius).
The first time I watched Twilight upon its release in 2008, I was in the middle of high school and had not yet had a real relationship. I went to the movies with my friends and, while I cringed every time all the girls in the cinema would sigh and scream for Edward, I understood the need to feel loved and desired by someone else on this planet. The need to make sure it lasted forever. I’m not gonna lie, watching the movie really made me want to have a seemingly powerful relationship like Edward and Bella’s, which was a huge problem.
Coincidentally (or maybe not so), before New Moon dropped the next year, I caught myself in the beginning of my first relationship with my very own Edward: a really hot and mysterious guy, but toxic as fuck. We even went to see the movie together and joked between us the same way Bella and Edward did, but overall in our two-year romance, our relationship had a huge problem: I was forcing it into being a good one, despite being constantly cheated on and lied to. The promise of eternal love had subconsciously imprinted itself on my brain. I got out of that toxicity and went on to have three more relationships during the next 10 years, each time with a lot of learning, mainly on the subject of self-love, the main issue in The Twilight Saga, among many others.
Watching it all again, I get how fascinating it seemed to 17-year old me. Its greatest appeal is the fact that it depicts being in an eternal loving relationship as the endgame, the one thing to which we should all aspire. We devoured the books and movies as teens because it was easier to focus on the importance of meeting Mr. Right than to think about the glooming future and a bunch of exams. Choosing a career and our own path seemed certainly harder and more boring than imprinting on someone. I’m not saying that having a relationship at 17 is a bad idea—it is quite important—but the fact that it should eclipse the other parts of our lives is damning.
Bella Swan taught kids that one should sacrifice everything for a codependent relationship, even family and friends (let alone one’s humanity), and that is a message we are so ready to discard in 2021. I will say this, the author did a really good job at shaping her as an introvert, always out of place with family and with school friends, so that her transition to a vampire would seem natural. In the first film, she is willing to discard her friends and family for someone she just met, and in the second film she even risks her life to be able to see him again, while Edward was willing to kill himself after mistakenly thinking she was dead. This is the basis for toxic relationships, people!
During this movie, Bella’s dad looks like he might be giving her the only good advice I could gather: to abandon all hope for a toxic relationship with Edward and settle for Jacob, a person who clearly loves her and who she might have feelings for. I haven’t quite figured out if settling for this is an actual good advice, since I’m only 30, but during Eclipse, Jacob would turn out to be worse than Edward, so abandon all hope for this saga! Aside from kissing her without her consent, he would join Edward in thinking they could make decisions on Bella’s body (mainly her desire to transform into a vampire), even though she never hesitates on her choice (another damning mistake from the books—I mean, not even a little doubt on leaving the life and people that shaped you for the past 17 years?). In Breaking Dawn Part 1, this discussion evolves to the subject of abortion, and again, when Mr. Always Forever first learns his wife is pregnant, he single-handedly decides his father will perform an abortion on her without even listening to what she has to say.
By Breaking Dawn Part 2, I was ready to see a lot of characters die, even if it only happened in a vision. I remember watching this for the first time with my second boyfriend, a film buff who I practically dragged to the premiere. When the vision finished and no battle actually happened, he got up from his seat and left in anger. At the time, I thought he was exaggerating, but now I see the problem more clearly. This happy ending in which nobody dies and literally every main character is in a relationship is fitting for a Disney movie, a movie for kids under 12, not a saga for young adults. Teenagers need to learn grief, loss, and that our actions have consequences! I believe happy endings like this are vicious—they manipulate us into believing there will be a utopian time in our lives that is free of trouble, free of conflict. This, in turn, makes people too lazy to look for solutions to actual problems.
Watching all these movies all over again made me realize how much I had grown emotionally. I no longer think the possessive behavior Edward had towards Bella is cute: sneaking in and watching her sleep before they were even dating, or damaging her car so that she wouldn’t see her friend, of whom he was jealous. I certainly never thought suicide after a loved one’s death was cute. Love is the greatest power, I’ll give Stephanie Meyer that, but it should never be concentrated in just one person. Every villain’s scheme that moves the plot forward is based on the killing of their plus one, while most of the main heroes are only seen next to their significant other (all the freaking time). It’s very important to have your own space, and I hope all my friends that danced their first dance as husband and wife to “A Thousand Years” by Christina Perri know this.
A few important questions that are impossible to answer:
If I hadn’t been caught in the Twilight frenzy, would I have had less levels of toxicity in my relationships? How many twi-hard fans never assimilate the toxic patterns of the saga? Is it the author’s fault for writing without thinking of the consequences or the audience’s for blindingly swallowing anything that’s trending? If we would have gotten more insight into secondary character stories (like the Cullens origins or the Quileute legends) and less cheesy toxic dialogue, would this actually be good?
Edward’s vegetarian joke in the first film is not so funny anymore; you can be perfectly satisfied without eating any meat for the rest of your life, thank you very much.
“Today’s the big day, Bella! Romeo and Juliet essay’s due.” No one speaks like that in high school, Anna Kendrick. (New Moon).
Kudos for an accurate portrayal of hands waiting to be held at the cinema in New Moon.