You Can’t Kill the Undead: The Twilight Renaissance in 2019

Written by Frida Silva.
Graphic by Emma Robinson.

When the Twilight films first started being released, expressing any positive feelings for the movies meant enduring endless shame and online harassment. Just like any other pop culture phenomenon with a fan base consisting of mainly teenage girls, Twilight generated endless memes and jokes at the expense of the franchise and the fans themselves. Twilight was often insulted and referred to as“gay”, screencaps of the films were often used to make derogatory and offensive jokes, and the caption “still a better love story than Twilight” was found nearly on every social platform. Now, ten years after the release of the first film, Twihards find themselves in the middle of a Twilight Renaissance. Being older, a little wiser, and more in tune with their personal identities, Twilight fans have unashamedly reclaimed the series they love and are enjoying it through a different perspective. These new perspectives offered by feminist, race, and queer theory paired with today’s absurd for absurdity’s sake meme culture has led to an online movement pioneered on Tumblr which has spread onto more current mainstream platforms such as Twitter.

Historically, vampires have been meant to represent people within the queer community as a way to demonize and discourage any sort of “deviant” sexual activity, so it’s no wonder a large part of the members within the Twilight Renaissance identify as part of the LGBTQ community. Similar to the fact that many people were shamed for liking Twilight, many people at the same time felt ashamed of their sexuality and were forced into keeping it repressed. In this new era, however, people are able to express their love for Twilight AND their sexuality freely and without guilt. This has led to an interesting phenomenon where characters that were originally coded as straight are now being read as queer, and it’s given rise to very niche and amusing memes. 

Similarly, fans have challenged the traditional gender roles that are heavily emphasized by the author of the Twilight book series, Stephanie Meyer. Meyer consistently kept her characters confined to specific gender roles, with the women seeming frail and in need of saving and with the men being seen as the powerful saviors. After some slight film analysis and close readings though, one can make good arguments about how Twilight actually ignored traditional gender roles, which is what most current Twihards seem to be doing online.  These analyses can be found on Tumblr both as long blog posts and, of course, as easily digestible memes.

Of course, not all memes are intended to provide a somewhat thoughtful analysis of the series. Some are memes are just intended to memorialize iconic moments, such as the outfit Bella first wore to meet the Cullen family in the novels.

Or Edward’s absurd answer when Bella asks him why his eyes look so unnatural.

The fact that so many people today are still enjoying this series doesn’t mean that highly problematic issues within the novels aren’t being acknowledged. Cultural appropriation, lack of representation, and glamorizing traits of harmful relationships to impressionable young teens are things that the fandom is still critical of to this day and even more so now than ten years before. Fans aren’t trying to ignore these problems but rather are using memes to change the narrative of the story and give an iconic series a breath of fresh air.

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