Bella! Where the heck have you been in pop culture Loca?

By Riley Dauber
Elm Staff Writer

When Stephenie Meyer first released “Twilight” in 2005, no one knew that the series would soon become a cultural phenomenon. The first novel follows seventeen-year-old Bella Swan as she moves to Forks, Wash. with her father.

Once there, she meets the handsome and very pale Edward Cullen, and after a few conversations in biology and a dangerous car accident, Bella realizes she loves Edward. The only problem?

He’s a vampire.

The “Twilight” saga took the world by storm. Young readers, teenage girls in particular, ate up the love story of Bella and Edward, and teams were formed. Some readers were “Team Edward,” while others were partial to Jacob Black, Bella’s childhood friend who turns into a werewolf in the second novel.

The novels revitalized the vampire trend and the love triangle trope. “Team Edward” and “Team Jacob” are part of our society’s vernacular, and many novels following “Twilight”’s publication featured vampires and other supernatural creatures as the love interest.

Despite “Twilight”s effect on our culture, the series was not always beloved. The main demographic for both the books and movies was teenage girls, and like most media enjoyed by said demographic, they were ridiculed.

“The series was all about teenage girls and teenage girls’ lust. It was mocked for the fact that older women were reading the books as well, as if they were romance novels. That was definitely a part of it; those stupid, horny women who think Edward Cullen is dreamy,” English Professor Dr. Courtney Rydel said.

Nevertheless, people have started to notice the growing interest in the “Twilight” series, and have dubbed it “The “Twilight” Renaissance.” There are a few possible reasons why the series has become popular again: the films were recently added to Netflix; Generation Z’s desire to revitalize popular content from the past and make it trendy once again; and it’s because Meyers released “Midnight Sun” in August of 2020.

“Midnight Sun” follows the story from “Twilight”, but it’s from Edward’s point of view.

The novel’s release could also explain the resurgence of the “Twilight” series, but social media’s influence is still important to note. TikTok has made it much easier for fans of the series to make skits and fashion inspiration videos about the books and films.

Content creators tend to poke fun at the sillier aspects of the films such as the line in “New Moon” where Jacob says, “Bella, where the hell have you been, loca?” Yet at the heart of the videos are a general love and appreciation for the series and its characters.

Sophomore Delaney Runge says, “I think that TikTok has brought a new life to the series…it has allowed fans of the series to come back to it to create both content about the lore of the “Twilight” world as well as funny content that adds to the laughability of the series.”

Dr. Rydel, who read the books during graduate school, is surprised by the “Twilight” Renaissance.

“When I was teaching college after I read the books, I heard a lot from students who had read the books…they had learned from “Twilight” what a toxic relationship looked like,” Dr. Rydel said.

Part of the “Twilight” Renaissance is the reader’s ability to reflect on the popularity of the series and think critically while reading the original series.

Since their publication, the “Twilight” books have been criticized for their romanticized portrayals of toxic relationships, mainly between Bella and Edward.

Now that most readers have this understanding, they can read the novels and watch the movies through a critical lens.

Despite the negative sides of the series, “What Meyer did well was she captured what it feels like to be a teenage girl. The heightened sense of emotion, the inner monologue, that feeling that if the boy you like isn’t in class it ruins your entire life. Girls identify with it; we were seeing something that was especially for us,” Dr. Rydel said.

Compared to the other literary heroines at the time, Bella was focused on her relationship with Edward. She wasn’t concerned about overthrowing the government or saving the world; she just wanted the guy to like her, even if he was a vampire.

The nuances of the series are finally being brought to the forefront, when they might not have been mentioned in 2005. Sixteen years later, there is still more to say about the “Twilight” series.

Photo courtesy of Flickr

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