Remember that kid in school who was always trying to be cool? The one who had all the latest fad toys and was always trying to look different? Remember how we always used to make fun of him for being so devoted to pop culture?
Well, that was me until I was thrust into the entertainment industry. Now I have to wear the mask of popularity while secretly hoping nobody knows my true identity.
One of my favorite pop culture phenomena of the past few years has to be the Twilight series. I loved the books and got really into the series, watching each movie a minimum of five times. Even now, a week doesn’t go by without me thinking about some new detail I’ve learned about Edward Cullen or Bella Swan.
The other day, I got to wondering: Just what is it that makes Twilight so appealing to such a wide audience? What are millennials getting out of this series that makes it so relatable?
To figure this out, I had to look into the mind of a millennial. What I learned might surprise you.
1. The Main Characters
What’s so magical about the Twilight saga is that it doesn’t focus on vampires or werewolves; it focuses on regular people—mainly young adults—learning to navigate everyday life. The series is told through the eyes of protagonist Bella Swan and a large group of supporting characters, including her family and friends. The four Twilight books and their respective movies center on Bella’s struggle to understand and navigate love and friendship, as well as the trials and tribulations that come with being a young adult.
But it’s not just about the story; it’s also about the way the characters interact with each other. Edward Cullen is undoubtedly the series’ most compelling character; even readers who are indifferent to the overall plot will find something they enjoy about his character. He’s smart, sophisticated, and often, surprisingly, funny. What’s more, he constantly surprises Bella with his thoughtful and caring nature. In short, he’s a perfect gentleman.
Though she’s only in the first two films, Alice Branton is quickly becoming one of my favorite characters as well. She’s an unexpected mix of sass, shyness, and practicality. After being abandoned by her wealthy family, she relies on her wits and is not afraid to show it. In the books, she’s portrayed as the strong and independent woman she is, which I find incredibly appealing. I would love to see her become a regular feature in the series.
2. The Books’ Nostalgic Feeling
The thing that makes Twilight so great is that it manages to feel both modern and classic all at the same time. The first book in the series, Twilight, was published nearly ten years ago, yet it still feels extremely fresh and relevant, like it was written just yesterday. That’s because, in a way, it was. While the world of the book has changed, the feelings and confusion surrounding being a young adult have not. Consider the following quotes:
- “I’m sixteen years old and I’ve never been in love before,” Bella tells Jacob. “Not that I haven’t been attracted to boys, I just never found one I could trust. What’s worse is that I never felt like I could talk to my parents about these things. I mean, they’re okay with me being a Christian and all, but they don’t understand what this attraction is all about. It’s like there’s this silent wall between us. It isolates me.”
- “I’m sick of being sixteen,” Bella says in Twilight. “I want to be a kid again. This is the part where I want to run around and play baseball and eat ice cream; not sit in a corner feeling sorry for myself.”
- “You think you’re so unique, so special, and certainly not like everybody else,” Bella tells Edward in Twilight. “But you’re not. You’re just like everybody else, but you hide it well.”
- “Every time I turn on my phone, there’s a fresh message from a friend reminding me that I’m still a virgin. I’m not that girl any more. I don’t want to be that girl.”
These are just a few examples of how deeply the Twilight series speaks to young adults. It captures the awkwardness, excitement, and frustration of being a teenager—and does so with humor, which is no easy feat. Overall, the books help readers feel like they’re not alone in their struggles; they can identify with the characters and, in some cases, even feel a little bit sorry for them. While researching this article, I came across a lot of really great quotes by Bill Clinton on the topic of young adults and the challenges they face. One quote in particular stood out:
- “‘You’re 24?’ Dad asks. ‘You’re an adult. You’ve got to start behaving like one.’ The implication was clear: I’m growing up. I don’t need to listen to or obey you anymore. It wasn’t a complaint; more of a statement of fact. I’m no longer his child; I’m his equal. This change scares him, which is why he needs to keep reminding me that I’m still his son. And it scares me too.
- “You’re not a little kid anymore, Bella,” Alice tells her in Twilight. “You’re not little any more, but you’re also not a grown-up—at least not yet. I mean, you’re still doing your diapers and wearing your baby clothes, aren’t you?”
- “‘I’ve always felt like I belonged with the older kids,’ I admitted. ‘You know, the ones who’ve been through puberty. The cool kids.’
- “‘Well, you do,’ she replied. ‘And don’t worry, you’re going to learn to like it here. You’re going to like being a teenager. You’re going to love it,’ she said, putting a playful bend on the word “love.” ‘You’re going to have lots of girlfriends and sleepovers, and you’ll learn to love the pain in your heart when you have to choose between them.’ She reached over and gave my cheek a playful punch. ‘You should listen to your mom,’ she said. ‘She’s right. You are growing up, and you’re going to have to start acting like an adult.’
3. The Books’ Vision Of Maturity
There’s also something slightly rebellious about the Twilight series. The books are filled with references to illegal drugs and alcohol, and though they don’t provide any real insight into the subject matter, it’s important to point out that the content isn’t meant to be taken seriously. For instance, consider the following quotes:
- “When my friends and I get together to talk about boys, we always laugh about how weirded out some of them get when they hear about sex and listen to music together,” Bella tells Jacob in Twilight. “We call it ‘doing the robot.’ They act like they’re human robots, following the music and going through the motions. We had a group text where we’d read passages from the books and laugh about the perverted scientists who engineered these robots.”
- “Just because I don’t drink alcohol or do drugs doesn’t mean I’m not involved with boys,” Bella jokes in Twilight. “It just means I haven’t found the right ones yet.””
- “I can see why you boys love chaos,” Mr. Burke tells Bella in Twilight. “It makes you feel alive.” He laughs, but it isn’t a friendly sound. I don’t like it when adults laugh at boys’ expense.”
- “Is it wrong of me to want to spend the rest of my life listening to music and reading books?” Bella asks in Twilight. “Is that so wrong?”
Again, these are just a few examples of how the Twilight series questions the accepted notions of adulthood. The books are filled with references to literature, music, and the arts, as well as the issues surrounding them. The series is concerned with presenting a positive attitude towards life, even when it comes to struggling with mental illness and addiction. That’s why I think it speaks to millennials so much; we were raised in a world where being cool, happy, and popular is valued above all else. Now that we’re adults, we have to confront our fears and anxieties and strive for better mental health, regardless of whether we’re suffering from depression or anxiety disorders. The Twilight novels offer an escape from the reality of growing up and the pressures that come with it.