You either hate it or love it. The series that has grossed more than $2 billion at the box office is set to release its fifth and final film this fall. Yet, even during this long lull between parts one and two of “Breaking Dawn,” it seems like you can’t sit in a dining hall without hearing the word “Twilight” at least once while you’re there. “The Twilight Saga” has a massive following of Team Edwards and Team Jacobs that has led to its cultural and economic influence across the world. But what is it about “Twilight” that made it into the multi-billion dollar franchise it is today?
As films, each piece of “The Twilight Saga” has many aspects of an attractive indie flick. Set in a very hipster area of the country, there’s an air of carefully thought-out artistic direction throughout each film meant to bring audiences into an alternative lifestyle. Shots of beautiful Washington forests and coastlines are set to music just obscure enough to be considered not-mainstream but still by well-known artists with wide fan bases to keep soundtrack purchasers feeling like part of a community. The films master creating a mood of peace and suspense at the same time. Even during battle sequences there is a calm that is almost unsettling and gives audiences a shiver, as if Edward had just touched them with his icy hands. This adds a level of depth that is subtle, albeit not unique, but that’s almost sensual and helps maintain the flow of the films.
Complaints about the “Twilight” series stem mainly from its plot and how it relates to traditional images of vampires and relationships. Edward’s sparkling skin has been the butt of countless parodies in all forms of media. The emotional ups and downs of Bella and Edward’s relationship are also hammered on, but there is an appeal in why they are attracted to each other. Edward is attracted to Bella because of her “scent,” something inside her – i.e. her blood, but this could also be read as her essence – and not because she is the most stunning woman in the room. Being the awkward kid at school and suddenly having someone as “hot” as Edward not only come to your rescue but trust you enough to reveal all his secrets is very appealing. Edward is strong, sophisticated and can provide for her.
This does open the discussion as to whether “The Twilight Saga” is a parallel for an abusive relationship in which Bella is dominated by Edward. Graeme McMillan highlighted a very eye-opening list by LiveJournal user kar3ning in io9 in which kar3ning blatantly states Edward is controlling Bella. Kar3ning has many good points, including how Edward has thrown Bella across a room, but the fundamental fact that Edward is a vampire is ignored. Things are very different for Bella as a human who often must trust Edward’s judgment because she is in his world. As a participant in a human/human relationship, Edward would have a lot of explaining to do for his actions. But the series’ plot details how Edward is guiding Bella into a different world; as a vampire, he must take the lead because of his lack of weaknesses Bella could exploit. This is not “Fright Night” – Edward loves Bella and is not trying to use her for his own purposes.
The evolution of Bella and Edward’s relationship was purposefully modeled after the ideals of the Mormon religion by novel series author Stephenie Meyer. Bella and Edward abstain from sexual intercourse until after they are married, and both of their struggles against natural urges are clear with Bella’s longing stares at Edward and his battle against his lust for her blood. While a majority of readers aren’t Mormon, abstinence in the series can be seen as a form of respect. Both are willing to wait until after they are married because of the potentially disastrous effects of Edward’s monstrous thrusts. Their abstinence is, to an extent, blatant religious propaganda, but the flip-side – Edward waiting for Bella’s sake – is selfless and touching.
Behind many of the more ridiculous plot points in “Twilight” is the love triangle in which Bella finds herself with Edward and Jacob. Being fought over by two beautiful people, both of whom you can imagine having a meaningful relationship with, has a very strong appeal, if some massive emotional drawbacks as well. Bella probably couldn’t have gone wrong with either option, but she chooses brains over brawn in the end.
The acting in the series is nothing special, but it does play to the blank-stares-and-open-mouths-are-sexy craze. Really not much else to talk about in this department, so let’s wrap this up.
In the end, “The Twilight Saga” is written on basic romantic principles under the guise of a serious look at vampire politics and interactions. The appeal is visible – all the “Twilight” movies are easy to get sucked into, but some obviously take to it more than others.
Tim Hadick is a sophomore majoring in Japanese and journalism. You can email him at firstname.lastname@example.org or tweet him @RealCollege.