As someone who carried a “Twilight” blanket around for the larger part of my freshman year of college, I might be a bit biased about this news. But the day is finally here: Netflix announced that the entirety of “The Twilight Saga” joined their platform on July 16. It’s a long-awaited moment for fans everywhere, with the franchise hitting the streaming giant over 10 years after the first film’s release. The news has evoked quite the uproar among audiences, leading many to wonder: How did “Twilight” create a legacy so influential that the series has successfully maintained its longevity to this day?
The “Twilight” film franchise has been a hit with viewers from the moment it reached theaters — but with an objectively cheesy plot, subpar acting and all the elements of melodrama that accompany films of its genre, “Twilight” was an easy target for pretentious film critics everywhere. It was mocked endlessly during the peak of its popularity and, to some degree, it is still film buffs’ favorite punching bag today. Critics cited the lack of realism, bad acting and a generally ludicrous plot as their main issues with the films. Despite all of this backlash, “Twilight” was a massive success and continues to flourish. Its success might seem to be a mystery, but in truth, the saga’s ticket to fame is its self-awareness.
“Twilight” has an incredible cognizance of both its audience and its credibility. It is a film franchise that doesn’t take itself too seriously. People tend to mistake cynicism and cryptic plots for intelligent filmmaking practice — but that’s not what “Twilight” is about. It’s a fun, dramatic, feel-good series that was never meant to win an Oscar. Its target audience was mainly teenage girls and that’s exactly who it appealed to in script, plot, casting and general branding.
“Twilight” doesn’t attempt to give itself credibility as a serious, intelligent film. The franchise, like many romantic projects, prioritizes emotion over realism, and it doesn’t care! Director Catherine Hardwicke definitely did not set up the baseball scene and superimpose it with Muse’s “Supermassive Black Hole” for someone to tear the film up for its “lack of artistic integrity.” It’s funny. It’s very cognizant of the fact that it’s funny. It was meant to be a guilty pleasure and it served that purpose beautifully while changing the film industry as we know it.
“Twilight” had an impact on pop culture that isn’t discussed nearly enough. Love it or hate it, the “Twilight” series rebranded the vampire genre forever. Hollywood went from seeing monsters lurking in the murky streets of London to seeing sparkly creatures with perfectly coiffed hair frolicking in the woods.
True fanatics of the vampire gothic film niche see this as blasphemy — undermining gothica into a Dracula for dummies. “Black Mirror” creator Charlie Brooker referred to it as “a humiliating climbdown for a monster originally inspired by Vlad the Impaler,” but this rebrand actually expanded the audience of the genre immensely. Whereas the vampire archetype had been a bit constrained to horror films, “Twilight” was able to intersperse it quite successfully into a very different light.
The franchise also had a significant impact on the expansion of film aesthetics. The first film was fully intended to be a small indie film, but its triumph led to fast-tracked professional made-for-profit sequels. With this exponential growth in success and name value, “Twilight” also saw a change in color palettes. One of the first film’s most defining qualities is Hardwicke’s choice of a teal-gray overlay. It blended perfectly with the film’s setting in Forks, Washington, which is described in the book as quite dreary. It also balances out the elements of vampirism, paleness and danger that were brought to the forefront.
The palette starts to use gold tones as the story becomes more romantic, but the color scheme of that first film remains revolutionary. It branded itself onto the film. To this day, there are certain scenes in different films where that palette is used and people often relate it back to “Twilight,” proving that whether or not the film was artistically your cup of tea, it was ahead of the game nonetheless.
The film was also ahead of its time in that it was entirely female-driven. Written by Stephanie Meyer, directed by Catherine Hardwicke and telling the story of Isabella Swan, played by Kristen Stewart, the film was by and for women (which probably contributed to the hate train). Hardwicke remarks, “Patty [Jenkins] was able to do ‘Wonder Woman,’ and I’m sure part of the ammo was, ‘Okay, women came out for [‘Twilight’], so maybe they’ll come out for this.’ You need that when you’re going to pitch your movie.”
The film brought about a new-age genre of cinema for women. It paved the way for film franchises such as “Divergent” and “The Hunger Games” — a sort of meshing of romantic fantasy dramas that were centered around women for the first time. It moved female-led cinema from a niche choice for audiences to having a huge public impact. After all, it meant a lot for feminist filmmaking that one of the most consequential projects of the 2000s was about a teenage girl and her romantic love triangle with a vampire and a werewolf.
Apart from the fact that it was a pop-culture phenomenon, is it really so difficult to appreciate “Twilight” simply for what it is? Sometimes, I don’t want to watch a hardcore film about Vlad the Impaler. I don’t want to hear a heavy dialogue. I don’t want to see “gritty violence juxtaposed with a haunting realism” in critically acclaimed films like “Pulp Fiction.” Sometimes, I just want to curl up in my “Twilight” blanket and watch a family of beautiful sparkly vampires frolic in the woods and play baseball to the tune of Muse.
Since the series’ arrival on Netflix, it has continued to prove its legacy and establish its history as one of the largest media blockbusters to date. Film does not always have to be deep and meaningful, it just has to evoke emotion and incite joy — and for millions of fans, myself included, “Twilight” does exactly that.