You don’t hate Twilight, you just hate teenage girls

On the tenth anniversary of Twilight, it is time to reassess the overblown and vitriolic reaction to the YA franchise

Image: Summit Entertainment

Twilight isn’t that bad. It’s a perfectly fine young adult book. The film series is also perfectly fine. It’s just fine. This is still a controversial opinion to hold apparently, as those who were young adults or teenagers when this franchise arrived still often hold onto the hatred that surrounded it. It’s now ten years after Twilight hit cinemas, which sparked this cultural phenomenon, but moreover, it created a zeitgeist that really hated teenage girls.

Twilight quickly went from a thing that teenage girls simply liked to the worst blight on humanity ever witnessed. It’s perfectly fine to dislike the franchise, but people didn’t simply dislike Twilight. The discourse surrounding Twilight was simply venomous and certainly not proportional to the quality of the novel. At worst, it’s a slightly trashy novel, not the death of the English language. The problem that people seemed to have with Twilight was its audience – that it was for teenage girls.

“When you start to read the criticism of Twilight, it’s just vitriol, it’s intense, the contempt.” said Melissa Rosenberg, the screen-writer for Twilight in an interview with IndieWire. “We’ve seen more than our fair share of bad action movies, bad movies geared toward men or 13-year old boys. And you know, the reviews are like okay that was crappy, but a fun ride.” The criticism thrown at Twilight most often concerns the more “problematic” elements, but rarely is this criticism made in good faith. There are certainly troubling elements, but they pale in comparison to other contemporary media. In the same year, Quantum of Solace and Taken came out which depicted women as sex objects to be kidnapped or murdered. With films marketed to women there’s Sex and the City and The Hottie and the Nottie – what fantastic role models for women. Don’t pretend it’s Twilight that invented misogyny, and don’t champion the cause, but simultaneously call the girls who like Twilight dipshits.

Also, why does the responsibility lay on Twilight to provide the ultimate feminist role model? Why is it such a bad thing that a teenager wants a sparkly vampire to fall in love with her? It’s quite understandable that a young girl can identify more with the introvert-ed Bella Swan than battled-scarred Katniss Everdeen. Teen-age girls are allowed their wish fulfilment fantasies – even if it’s a bit silly. Again, this criticism isn’t thrown at male wish fulfilment fantasies – dark, brooding superheroes aren’t accused of being bad male role models. Also, give young women some credit: they can separate fantasy from reality. Call me controversial, but I think that teenage girls can tell the difference between dating an ageless vampire hottie in a book and actually dating a creepy paedophile in real life.

However it’s not only teen-age girls’ books and films that people hate. It’s their selfies, and their fashion and music. When some so-called “proper music fans” discuss One Direction and Taylor Swift, they make it sound like these musicians go around pissing on Bibles. The bands themselves also seem to dislike their own fans, gnawing off the hand that feeds them. As 5 Seconds of Summer said in an inter-view with Rolling Stones: “Seventy-five percent of our lives is proving we’re a real band. We’re getting good at it now. We don’t want to just be, like, for girls.” Shocking it is I know, girls might have the capacity to like good music.

The Beatles were one of the first groups that amassed such a fan following from young girls – and people were not happy about the scourge of “Beatlemania”. As Paul Johnson wrote in the New States-man, “Those who flock round The Beatles, who scream themselves into hysteria, whose vacant faces flicker over the TV screen, are the least fortunate of their generation, the dull, the idle, the failures.” Sounds familiar to the description of anyone on “Team Edward.” Also the use of the word “hysterical,” is a term that’s been lobbied at women for centuries when they dare show emotions. A term that implies that these teenage girls aren’t in control of their emotions, they’re beyond reason, as opposed to the answer that they’re just happy because, you know, they’re watching The Beatles. Now, The Beatles are deemed as classic music and are the favourite band of the guy you don’t want to speak to at parties.

This topic is more important than defending the sparkly vampire books. As Melissa Rosenberg said: “It’s also because it’s female it’s worthy of contempt. Because it feels female, it is less than.” It’s not particularly surprising when you get many teenage girls declaring themselves “not like other girls” because society has made the things teenage girls like, and by extension young girls, objects of contempt. Just let teenage girls enjoy things. Let them believe their opinions are worth something. Even if that opinion is loving that daft and melodramatic sparkly vampire man.

One comment

  1. I personally am meh about twilight. It’s a fine, formulaic supernatural romance series. Nothing hugely wrong with it other than beomg young adult fiction.
    A lot of adults look back and cringe at the young adult fiction they read.

    The main problem I have with it is that it resulted in 50 shades of Grey (which is just eroticised abuse). But that’s not really twlight’s fault.

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