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  • Writer's pictureAmanda

I Just Watched Twilight for the First Time

Updated: Feb 29

The Feminine Escapist Fantasy and A Couple of Vampire Movies

In retrospect, this entry makes me cringe a little.

Remind me not to try to critically analyze teen films anymore.

Oh well, make bad art.


I'm currently on a middle school Amanda renaissance.

It seems like that's pretty on par with the way the cultural pendulum is swinging, too- like we collectively needed a break from the neutrals and brutalism and craved the sparkles and sap from a decade ago.

None of that's new commentary. Sorry I'm not overly original today.

Recently- and I honestly don't know why- I had the desire to watch the Twilight movies. Maybe it's the fact that the Hunger Games resurfaced and those two franchises seemed to singlehandedly steer American fifth graders' culture.

I've never actually seen Twilight.

I'm guessing it was little Amanda's "not like the other girls" complex. I remember eying Tiger Beat magazine as I waited for my mom in the Hy Vee checkout aisle. The headlines simultaneously drew me in and served as my personal poster child of girly embarrassment: "All About the Jonas Brothers," "Deep Dive into Taylor Swift's Boyfriends," "Who Will Bella Choose?"

I saw girls around that same time posting about the Twilight movies on Tumblr or early Instagram, and it made me cringe. Who cared, and why were they so obsessed over two men who weren't even real?

And so, little me got my first glimpse into the modern American woman's "guilty pleasures."

Here I am in 2024, experiencing a cultural phenomenon more than a decade since it was born into the world. Better late than never, I guess. Time to embrace being like the other girls. I know you all have been on the edge of your seats waiting for my thoughts on the Twilight Saga. Wait no longer.

I'm sitting in my living room, watching the blue filtered first movie featuring a long haired Taylor Lautner and a pasty Robert Pattinson. I've got no clue on what to expect besides "Where the hell have you been, Loca?" And "Hold on tight, spider monkey."

My first thoughts: I understand why this thing got shit on so much.

If guys had a Bechdel test, I don't think this movie would pass it.

If Bella's not in the frame, the men are talking about who would be best for her. Who does Bella like most? Bella's so perfect. Bella needs to be protected, needs to be happy, so on.

Meanwhile, Bella's probably sighing or crying because other than that, I haven't seen a single hobby this woman has besides pining over a guy that's been 17 years old for about a century.

Why was this shit so popular though? Thinking on guilty pleasures: what need did Twilight fill? Where did the demand come from?

Because you know, I can never just watch a film aimed at middle school girls without a tedious critical analysis. Maybe next blog post, we can do a deep dive on why I am the way I am.

Anyways, Twilight.

Twilight is escapist by nature. You've got a love triangle, magical eternal beings, high school men with six packs and unending monologues on young love.

I believe that Twilight is created as a daydream by women, for women, and I believe that's very telling. After all, this franchise was popular with women of all ages- not just tweens.

Stephenie Meyer (author of the series) had a chance to create a romantic world tailored to the female psyche. She created multiple men and scripted their interactions to what readers had always dreamt would be said to them.

I think that how she chose to demonstrate desire (and by extension, how well that demonstration was received) deserves to be analyzed. I am excited to be the woman to do it.

To Be Loved Without Proving Worth

I already touched on one of the most immediately annoying things about this franchise: the fact that Bella Swan truly is one of the most uninteresting characters to watch on the big screen.

Why would you purposely make a main character so bland?

The first answer: to serve as a self-insert. Without strong traits or flaws, it's easy to resonate with a character's perspective. Bella lacks a personality, so the viewer gets to fill her with their own. Self insertion can be a powerful tool, though it's often seen in juvenile writing and looked down upon.

The second, more compelling answer: a feminine fantasy to be loved regardless of proving "lovable" traits.

Why would this fantasy exist?

I would argue that the shared female experience is feeling the need to "earn" attention, and ultimately to deserve love. I think of the pressures of beauty. I think of the desire to be calm but confident, never nagging, always radiant. To attract men but to never let on that you want to be found attractive.

Bella is boring, and she doesn't achieve any of these standards set. And still, multiple men in this series lay down their lives for her.

I wonder if the frustration toward her character is really just a masked sense of injustice: a jealous underlying current of "What did she do to deserve that? And why can't I just exist and achieve the same thing?"

Or maybe she's just a shittily written character. I digress.

Feminine "Purity"

This is my first time writing about sex on my blog. Here we are, firsts for everything.

Bella practically begs Edward to sleep with her, and he maintains that he wants to wait until after marriage.

I don't really know what happens next- I'm only on the third movie.

But I did find this interesting.

On one hand, it feels dated, especially since it's made clear that Edward is only making this decision to "ensure that she remains pure." I'm not a huge fan of the terminology. It's also worth noting that sexual liberation for women played out more in the later 2010s- notably after these movies released.

But Edward's inclination to wait also makes a point about the feminine fantasy regarding men and sexuality: in a culture where women's bodies are social currency, women daydream about being chosen for their essence first.

Maybe promoting virginity side steps the potential objectification otherwise. I guess there's nothing that says commitment quite like a "Til death do us part" oath.

Slightly unsure of the weight of that when you're marrying a vampire.

But anyway, I just find it intriguing that Stephenie Meyer chose to uphold the concept of purity. Do women want to feel like they've been "kept pure?"

Coming out of Cult School, I'd personally like to never be immersed in that worldview again.

My guess is that the purity thing in this context is deeper than that: it's a fundamental desire to choose and be chosen. To be held with care rather than viewed as the next notch.

To have Edward say "I love you," without looking to Bella with some sort of owed physicality.

Men, Written by Women

Often times, and in the case of Twilight especially, I find myself "reading between the lines" in a book or a script. I see shirtless Taylor Lautner speaking, but I can't help but picture the millennial woman behind him pushing up her glasses and excitedly scribbling down more sappy dialogue.

It feels like a woman wearing a muscle suit. That is what these men feel like to me.

But despite the woman hiding behind this masculine cardboard cutout, I also see all of the intensely "alpha male" characteristics written for him: fiercely protective, strong, angry, loyal.

A woman wearing a muscle suit with an ego, anger issues, and a soft spot for our protagonist.

In this fantasy world of men written by women, the only reason Edward or Jacob would leave Bella is because "they love her too much, and they don't want her to get hurt."

Interesting to me that Twilight's primary cause for breaking up is "too much love."

In the female fantasy, men don't fall out of love with the main character. Why would they? She's the center of their worlds.

They hate each other because they are in competition for her love, but at the end of the day, they'll respect her decision "as long as she's happy."

I wonder how this narrative would play out in the real world.

And I know that this can veer into "men in the real world are the worst" territory way faster than it needs to. That's not what I want, and I truly do believe that there is so much value in love and romance and platonic dynamics between the genders. I've just personally found a bit of a cycle that Twilight seems to play a perfect part in:

Amanda's Steps: How Shit Like Twilight Happens

  1. There is a reality being experienced that is worth escaping

  2. Women create escapist art

  3. Women are shamed by society and men for enjoying escapist media

  4. The cycle repeats

Soap operas, Tiger Beat, those cowboy romances that your grandma reads. All supposedly the lowest rung of literature and art.

Should we be shaming the media created by this experience?

And you know, at the end of the day- this is a vampire movie written for imaginative women and tweens and anyone else who wants to go on a mystical rollercoaster ride.

Maybe it's not that deep. But maybe it's a modern cultural allegory.

Maybe Twilight just sucked.

That was a vampire joke.

In this post, I attempted to use stereotypical male/female interaction to look for themes and trends and compare them to what I saw in the movies. I know that not every man or woman acts like this, and I know that not everyone's straight. Just saw Twilight and gave analyzing it a shot.

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