I’m about to say something controversial: the Twilight movement of the late aughts rivaled that of Harry Potter. Before you gather the villagers and come after me with raised pitchforks, it’s important you hear me out. Think back to 2007. You’re in middle school, likely sporting layered Hollister tanks, an aggressive side part, and thick black eyeliner. (Or maybe this was just me?) You pick up Twilight at Barnes & Noble and are introduced to a world you very much wish was real.
During those few years, Twilight mania was real. And I know this because I was there. I waited in line at midnight for the release of Breaking Dawn, saw all the movies on release day, and was passionate about Team Edward. In the years since then, my love for Twilight has become nothing but a distant memory and one I’m at times ashamed to admit was ever real. These days, whenever anyone (be it on Twitter or in real life) makes fun of Twilight, I’m right there along with them. But, the truth is, I might still have a soft spot for Bella, Edward, and Jacob in my cold, dead millennial heart.
To test whether this was true, I ordered some Ramen, poured myself a glass of wine, and started watching Twilight again. Over the course of one weekend, I watched every movie—here’s what I thought of Bella Swan’s story as an adult 13 years later:
Edward and Bella’s “Love Story”
At the height of Twilight, Edward and Bella were true relationship goals. I dreamt of one day having a love like theirs. After watching the movies now, though, I can’t believe I ever felt that way. Sure, Kristen Stewart and Robert Pattinson might have really great chemistry, but the one question I consistently asked myself throughout every film was: why do these two love each other? We’re treated to a couple of scenes of them talking and getting to know each other and then BAM! declarations of love.
Of course, the books likely spend much more time developing their relationship, and when I first watched the movies, I probably had all the information I needed. But today, I had no idea why I was supposed to be rooting for these two crazy kids to beat the odds and be together.
Each film revolves around Edward and Bella’s need to be together without ever really showing us why that is. We’re told over and over again that they love each other, that they can’t live without each other, but for the life of me I have no idea what their relationship is even about. When it comes to movie relationships, Bella and Edward are nothing to write home about.
To make matters worse, whenever I wasn’t questioning what Edward and Bella could possibly have in common, I was thinking about the bonkers Twilight timeline. Bella moves to Forks in the middle of her junior year, Edward leaves Bella in September of her senior year, and by the following September, they’re married, have a kid, and Bella’s a vampire. That is absolutely wild no matter how you try to spin it.
Jacob: No Longer the Actual Worst?
Is it just me or did Bella, Edward, and Jacob introduce us all to the concept of love triangles? I’m sure they weren’t the first, but when it comes to the now-overdone trope, Twilight certainly set the stage. I was extremely invested in Bella’s choice, and, as I mentioned earlier, a very vocal advocate for Edward. Going into this re-watch, I expected my stance to be unchanged. It largely wasn’t, but not at all for the same reasons I had as a teen.
When the books and movies were first coming out, I was annoyed at Jacob for daring to interfere with my beloved Bella and Edward. Now, I feel terrible for him. Bella kept Jacob around when she knew she’d never feel the way he did. It was actually cruel and hard to watch. Jacob’s not entirely innocent here either. Whenever Bella did attempt to draw a line with him, he reacted as poorly as one could.
The rivalry between Edward and Jacob originally thrilled me, but now, I’m extremely turned off by their tough-guy acts and constant posturing. In a perfect world, Bella would have shut down Jacob’s feelings as soon as she realized what was happening, Jacob would have respected her boundaries, and Edward would have actually trusted Bella. Instead, we get a mess of a love triangle that could be Exhibit A in a study of unhealthy relationships.
Charlie Swan, The Underrated MVP of the Series
It took all of one scene for me to realize that Charlie Swan is the best character in this entire series. I’ve talked a lot about how time has made me think a bit more critically about Bella, Edward, and Jacob, but when it comes to the father figures in the Twilight series, I have nothing but praise to give. In the first few Bella-Charlie interactions, it becomes very clear that Charlie absolutely adores his little girl.
Throughout the entire series, Charlie’s only concern is making sure Bella is safe and happy. He may not always get it right, but you can’t ever say he doesn’t try. While there is a nearly endless amount of sweet Charlie moments to choose from, my personal favorite came in New Moon. Following Bella and Edward’s break-up (which is still devastating a decade later), Charlie plays the part of Bella’s guardian angel, rushing to her side every night she has nightmares.
From a parent’s perspective, Bella is kind of a nightmare child. In the space of two years, she runs away twice and then decides to marry her high school sweetheart. It would be beyond understandable if Charlie were to have lost his cool just once. Instead, he guides Bella towards choices that he believes are good for her (like spending time with Jacob after Edward leaves her), while still allowing her the freedom to make her own choices, no matter how much he may disagree.
While he’s not entirely perfect (if my future daughter tried to get married at 18 I would do everything physically possible to prevent that from happening), Charlie provides a real masterclass in parenting throughout the entire series.
The Cullens as #FamilyGoals
The Cullens aren’t a traditional family by any means (understatement of the year), but I was very touched by their dynamic throughout every film. They stand by and protect each other unconditionally, even when they don’t agree. Carlisle, Esme, and Alice lead the way, welcoming Bella into their family almost immediately. I lost count of how many times one of the Cullens said, “she’s one of us now,” when referring to Bella, but each time, it made my heart swell… and my eyes roll, because while very sweet, it’s cheesy as hell.
The Cullens are a sterling example of what a family should be. What’s more, they prove chosen families are just as valid as blood ones. Despite everything they’ve been through (both as individuals and as a family), they’ve managed to create a family life I, for one, would love to be a part of. (Yes, I might still be harboring dreams of becoming a vampire.)
In 2008, I watched Twilight for the love story, proudly sporting my Team Edward t-shirt. I may no longer be as obsessed with them as I was back then, but I’d be lying if I said the movies hold absolutely no appeal to me anymore. They’re a nostalgia-inducing guilty pleasure and though I’m not blind to their faults, I still love them—and there’s truly no shame in that, no matter how much the internet wants me to believe these are bad movies (which, if we’re talking about true Cinema, they might be, but who cares?!).
While I’m now an adult who doesn’t necessarily view love with the same rose-tinted glasses I did as a kid, I can see why Edward, Bella, and Jacob appealed to young girls everywhere (myself included). When we were young, the drama of a love triangle and finding our soulmate were thrilling prospects. And let’s be honest: we all wanted to be Bella; we are the Main Characters of our lives, after all.
As an angsty teen, the movies offered me a story I could escape in. While I can’t really do that anymore, I can absolutely still appreciate them as part of my childhood. And on rainy days when I’m feeling a bit overwhelmed by life and all the things that come with it, the Twilight movies and a warm cup of tea will be a welcome reprieve.
Ready for your own trip down memory lane? The Twilight series is now available on Netflix.