I remember the exact moment "Twilight" finally arrived on my radar. It was San Diego ComicCon 2008, and I’d just joined the line for Hall H. I can’t remember what panel I was queuing up for, but it was early, and the line seemed incredibly long for what was scheduled that day.
“What are all these people here for?” I asked, not really expecting an answer. But the lady in front of me turned around, and smiled with a mixture of smug knowledge, excitement and pity.
“Twilight, of course!” She stuck her hip out, and jerked her thumb towards her back. The back of her T-shirt was a riot of floating heads, all looking sorrowful, arranged around a title that baffled me: “Twilight.”
I still didn’t know what “Twilight” was. I wasn’t sure I wanted or needed to know. But it was too late. There was no ignoring “Twilight” after that. It’s as if the series jumped off that lady’s T-shirt and stuck to me. Suddenly, work demanded I had to write about “Twilight” – and write authoritatively about it – and I was studying my Cullens, Blacks and Volturi so I could not only induct newcomers to the cult, but pepper articles with references only a “Twilight” fan could appreciate. Every Comic-Con now found me found me yawning my way through “Twilight” press conferences (which had a nasty habit of being at 8 a.m.), too far away to see which werewolf or vampire was speaking so that my notes were filled with question marks.
I did what everyone else did: I snarked. Being thrust into the middle of an enthusiastic (and often hysterical) fandom that I didn’t really share irked me. Writing endlessly about it (and the news, photos, posters, rumors and rumblings never ceased) exhausted me. “Twilight” earned my disdain, and I enjoyed needling its fans whenever I could. Team Edward or Team Jacob? Please. Team Alcide Herveaux, thank you very much.
But before long, I realized picking on “Twilight” wasn’t fun anymore. Everyone was doing it, and it wasn’t productive. We did it to upset fans, they reacted predictably, we laughed and did it again. It didn’t add anything to the pop culture discussion. It didn’t lessen their fandom, and they couldn’t convince us to share in it. “Twilight” was here to stay until it had played out, and it wasn’t going to do that for years.
I even began to empathize with them. I knew how it felt when a writer dismissed or derided something I cared about. It felt terrible. Everyone was a fan of something, and that something deserved to be written about with respect and accuracy. It didn’t deserve to be mocked. While I was never going to be a fan of “Twilight,” I understood that level of enthusiasm and dedication. When I walked into the Comic-Con panels, and listened to the crowd shriek and cheer over footage, even my grumpy heart was warmed. They, of all the grim con attendees, were actually having fun. They were in love with what they were seeing. What was wrong with that?
But the thing I found sweet about “Twilight” fans – the “in love” bit – became the focus of well-meaning critics who began to decry the series as damaging to women. Women would spend their lives pining for an Edward or a Jacob, and ignore the guys in front of them. Bella taught girls they were nothing without a boyfriend, and that a boyfriend who hurt them was desirable. Bella taught women to be passive, Bella was a void, Bella was the worst thing to happen to literature and cinema ever. Now, I’m not saying these opinions had no merit, but why wasn’t that passionate criticism directed at other portrayals of women in media? Why weren’t those voices championing the strong female characters that did appear in film? For every furious tirade against Bella Swan, there was a photo gallery (often on the same site) that leered over a scantily clad Megan Fox or Mila Kunis. That wasn’t damaging to young women, but a lovesick heroine was?
Did critics really think women were so weak as to take “Twilight” seriously? Were we suddenly incapable of rational thought when faced with supernatural melodrama? Did they not realize we’d been reading, watching and thoroughly enjoying romantic pulp for decades? What did they think was underneath the covers of Harlequin novels? Recipes? Beauty advice? Poetry? Nope, and many a sturdy feminist has read one of them, enjoyed the moment when a Highlander or cowboy ripped off a bodice, and survived with her backbone, intellect and morals intact. To insist women and girls shouldn’t see or read “Twilight” for their own good was an ugly echo of those medieval relics who argued we shouldn’t even be taught to read or write because we’d ruin our moral fiber with love letters. Women, it seems, still can’t be trusted with the written word, and I didn’t like that insinuation.
I did what I never expected: I became protective and defensive of “Twilight” fans. I knew the phenomenon would pass, and young women would tire of Bella’s lovesick monologues, and seek out a heroine who offered more in the way of action and independence. I’ve seen that come true as girls swap Bella for Katniss Everdeen. It’s a cycle. People, young and old, need different fantasies for different moments in their lives.
Never fear. “Twilight” is over. The world survived. Women survived. I survived, and I won’t miss writing breathy love letters to Robert Pattinson or Taylor Lautner. (Sorry guys – I thought of Joe Manganiello the entire time.) I won’t miss the furious emails from Twi-Hards, screaming for my head because Edward’s “human birth” and “vampire birth” dates were swapped in an article. I won’t miss getting up at 6:30 in the morning to make that early Twi-junket, and I won’t miss standing in scorching lines to try and get into Comic-Con’s Hall H to witness the newest piece of Twi-footage. I won’t miss the headlines about whether Pattinson and Kristen Stewart did, didn’t or are doing it. I won’t miss the memes, spoofs and sarcasm that litters Facebook after every movie. I won’t miss the rants from critics and columnist lamenting what Stephanie Meyer has done to vampires, literature or feminism. It was all ridiculous and exhausting. I’m glad it’s all over. I’m thrilled this is the last thing I’ll ever write about “Twilight.”
But it’s been an interesting phenomenon to be caught up in. I never expected to actually grow as a person because of reporting on “Twilight,” but I did. I became more tolerant, and developed new outlooks on fandom and feminism. I remembered the embarrassing things I was into as a teenager, and when and how I snapped out of them. I even became more comfortable with indulging my own tastes in lurid romance, confident it didn’t make me less of a thinker. Who would think one franchise about mopey teens could do so much? Not I.
So, “Twilight,” we’re cool. We are. But we’re done, and I’m so happy. Good luck to you and yours. But try not to inspire any more S&M trilogies, ok? I don't think I can take another round of this.
Supercut: Robert Pattinson Stares Intensely