There is no question that the Twilight series has had a profound impact on modern popular culture. The young adult novels, by American novelist Stephenie Meyer, were an immediate best-seller and generated huge media interest when they were published in 2006. The series has subsequently sold more than 150 million copies worldwide and been translated into more than 40 languages.
The novels’ main protagonist, Bella Swan, set the trend of going ‘viral’ as her story spread around the world through social media platforms such as Twitter and Instagram.
The series’ success can be attributed to its emphasis on romantic drama, which is compelling to audiences, and the complex psychological motivations of its characters. The novels also feature an exceptionally wide range of characters, engaging with themes such as family dynamics, peer group influence, identity and loyalty.
While the Twilight series has enjoyed unprecedented commercial and critical success, it is important to note that Stephenie Meyer’s books are very much product of their time. The young adult novel’s popularity can be attributed to a mixture of social and digital media, as well as to the cultural climate surrounding the ‘selfie’ generation.
Now, nearly a decade later, the genre of young adult fiction is thriving with numerous successful and famous series, including The Lunar Chronicles, Throne of Glass and the Divergent series. Perhaps the most famous and successful of these is The Hunger Games, which tells the story of a post-apocalyptic world where young adults are forced to fight to the death in a grand arena.
What is undeniable, however, is that the success of the Twilight series has had a profound effect on the publishing industry, resulting in an expansion of the young adult fiction section in bookstores and a significant uptick in interest from publishers.
Even prior to the Twilight series, young adult fiction was a distinct section in bookstores, but the release of Meyer’s novels prompted parents and children to flock to the section, with bookstores reporting that they had to increase their stock of YA fiction by as much as 10%.
The series has also encouraged younger readers to take an interest in reading, with a report from the American Institute of Stress indicating that the books were a cause of stress for some parents, particularly those who read them to their children at night when put them to bed. The parents expressed concern that their children would be unable to relax and would remain up late, reading away contentedly.
And it wasn’t just limited to fiction. The TV series adaptation of the Twilight series, comprising of four 90-minute episodes directed by Martha De Laurentiis, was nominated for an Emmy and has since gone on to become one of the most popular and acclaimed series of all time, attracting a worldwide audience of over 3 billion viewers.
While the world at large may be fascinated by the story of a young woman who can turn into a wolf and the effects of vampire ‘vampirism’ on human society, the question of how much is too much may be raised by individuals affected by some of the series’ more graphic content. In particular, the books prompt a great deal of discussion about addiction and dependency, particularly considering the physical effects of vampirism on the human body.
The Dark Side Of Vampirism
The novels are set in an alternative universe where vampire ‘speciesism’ is a real phenomenon. According to the lore of the undead, vampires are naturally superior to humans and can only be brought down by the combined forces of daylight and a wooden stake to the heart (though sometimes, garlic is also effective).
Vampires are depicted as being very resourceful and intelligent, possessing an unmatched thirst for blood and an ability to manipulate the minds of others through psychological coercion or seduction. These creatures are also considered to be beautiful, captivating and fascinating, with some fans even going as far as to say that they are “hot” (a fan-favorite epithet of Jacob’s) and “sexy” (which Bella occasionally uses to describe herself).
Meyer’s work also explores the darker aspects of vampirism, depicting an underbelly of vicious cycles that arise from the condition and the ways in which it influences social behavior. Vampires in the books are depicted as being both physically and psychologically dependent on humans, which in turn makes them highly vulnerable.
In the first book of the series, Twilight, the eponymous protagonist, Bella, is introduced to the concept of vampirism by her cousin, Victoria, who is a powerful vampire. Bella, whose life has been turned upside down since her mother died when she was young, is initially horrified to discover that she is a carrier of the gene that will one day make her a vampire. The revelation also comes with the news that she is now a potential mate for the mysterious and alluring Edward Cullen. The wealthy and powerful Edward, it should be noted, drinks the blood of both animals and humans, has fangs and is a shape-shifter, making him a true vampire.
Initially, Bella refuses to accept the existence of vampires and is horrified when she is informed that her new found relatives are ‘more than’ she had bargained for. She also has major reservations about being mated to a creature that can only stay alive through regular feeding on the blood of others. Over time, however, Bella comes to terms with her new status and develops a strong bond with Edward, eventually becoming pregnant with his child. This, of course, incites the ire of Victoria and her fellow vampires, who are determined to kill the pregnant Bella and take her baby as their own.
The Dangers Of Too Much Vampire Love
With the rise of social media platforms like Twitter and Instagram, readers around the world are now able to engage with authors and characters in a way that was previously reserved for friends and family. As a result, there has been an increase in the number of individuals affected by vampirism who are coming to terms with their condition and exploring the world of online communities.
The danger posed by obsessive online engagement was brought into sharp contrast when it was revealed in early 2020 that Taylor Swift had suffered a near-fatal bout of COVID-19, which was caused by her very extensive and frequent use of TikTok, a social media platform known for its user-generated content and highly addictive nature. It was also revealed that she had contracted the illness from one of her favorite creators, Christian Louboutin, whom she had followed on Instagram.
Swift’s brush with death serves as a stark reminder of the perils of idolatry when it comes to avatars and social media influencers, who have become major figures in today’s culture.
Even prior to this dramatic turning point in the history of modern entertainment, there were signs that the world’s fascination with technology was having an adverse effect on individuals’ health. A report from the American Institute of Stress indicated that the rise in popularity of TikTok and similar platforms was coinciding with an increase in cases of anxiety and depression among its users.
In 2020 alone, there were over 125 million cases of depression worldwide. Depression is one of the most common mental health conditions, with an estimated one in four people experience the disorder. While it is frequently associated with other mental health conditions, such as anxiety and stress, depression is considered a ‘primary’ mental illness, meaning that it has no known cause or cure. In other words, it is a state of mind that can exist independent of mood disorders and chemical imbalances in the body.
Depression is a serious disorder and has life-threatening consequences, with some individuals taking their own lives, or those around them. It is therefore imperative that those who are prone to the disorder seek help and begin the process of recovery as soon as possible. Some of the things that they, their families and friends might do to encourage them to get in the mood for recovery are listed below.
Don’t Feed The Monster
One of the primary causes of anxiety and depression among those who are addicted to social media is the compulsion to check the platform’s ever-changing streams of content. This is largely because the content is designed to be both engaging and highly personalized, encouraging users to engage with it and make it their own. This is why some mental health experts are advising people to avoid the temptation to look at social media when they are feeling down, as it may only serve to worsen their mood.
In order to combat the condition, it is recommended that those who are prone to anxiety and depression seek professional help. They might be prescribed anti-anxiety or antidepressant medications, or therapy, either one-on-one with a professional, or in a group setting with others who have shared their struggle.