Since I discovered the Twilight Renaissance, I’ve been obsessed with the phenomenon. I spend hours watching Tik Tok compilations and YouTube videos dedicated to the franchise. Watching so many fans, especially women, reclaim the franchise they grew up with in their youth screams a feminist reckoning that is overdue, which is an understatement.
Society has woken up to a fact that many feminists have known all along. Much of the backlash Twilight received was misogynistic. People balking that a franchise aimed at women, especially teenage girls, became a cultural phenomenon.
We have a disturbing double-standard when it comes to media aimed at women vs. media aimed at a “mainstream” audience (i.e., men).
Films, books, and television series aimed at men can be of high quality. In contrast, films, books, and television series aimed at women are inherently deemed inferior.
Unlike media aimed at men, media aimed at women has to prove itself worthy of critique and respect. More often than not, no one takes it seriously. YouTuber Lindsay Ellis describes this phenomenon perfectly in her video essay critiquing the misogynistic criticism that Twilight received. We can sum it all up as this simple, sexist idea: society really, really hates teenage girls.
We can find valid criticisms for Twilight. The franchise glamorizes problematic relationships and appropriates the Quileute tribe, and I think the story and characters lack much development. However, too much of the backlash Twilight faced in its prime—and still faces today—rides on the idea that anything teenage girls like is inherently bad.
The parody channel, Honest Trailers made a video for the first Twilight film and jokes that the franchise is for “teenage girls who aren’t smart enough for The Hunger Games.” People have complained that teenage girls are impressionable and need role models, which, by itself, doesn’t sound so bad, but the same argument rarely applies to boys.
The truth is, many people hate the fact that a franchise aimed at women, written by a woman and directed by a woman, made millions of dollars. They don’t see women as legitimate audiences, so the fact that women made the franchise a household name leads to irrational, misogynistic backlash.
To all the haters of the Twilight franchise, the ones who hate on the fans, I have a question: why can’t we accept that many women and girls enjoyed Twilight? Calling people “stupid” for liking the franchise is neither valid criticism nor fair.
In fact, I can think of plenty of reasons why many girls and women enjoy the franchise. The main character is female, she narrates the story, and she makes her own decisions. Many of us love fantasy and vampires in general. Whatever the reason someone loves Twilight, the reasons are always valid. Yes, even if the reason is the two “hot” guys in the love triangle. That argument is heteronormative and sexist in itself.
Let’s also stop using the excuse that Twilight has “bad” role models for girls. I won’t argue that Twilight isn’t problematic, but it’s condescending to assume girls and women are much more impressionable than boys and men. The truth is, being impressionable has nothing to do with your gender. People are all born differently.
No one has to like Twilight. People can criticize the franchise. Like all works of media, Twilight has problematic elements in it, and it’s a sign of maturity when we acknowledge them and demand better from future media. But let’s not criticize Twilight for having a large female fanbase and being aimed at a female audience. It’s better to judge media based on its merits and push aside biases when we recognize them.
Insulting fans of a franchise, especially teenagers, doesn’t make you cool or “woke.” It just makes you an asshole.