The Twilight Saga’s influences on worldwide pop culture

The Twilight Saga, written by Stephenie Meyer, has been identified as one of the contemporary pop-culture phenomena, and a Vampire Renaissance. Although it had faced prior rejection of 14 agents, it immediately achieved a best-seller status upon its first novel’s debut, “Twilight” (Sawer and Mendick 2010). The series includes 4 novels, telling the love and life story of Bella Swan and a vampire, Edward Cullen, from when they fell in love in high school until they stood together defending their daughter against the Volturi, the most powerful and influential coven of the vampire world. “Breaking dawn” is the last novel of the series.

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To summarize, during Bella and Edward’s honeymoon, Bella showed early symptoms of pregnancy. The couple hurriedly returned home due to the risky condition of her pregnancy, where her half-vampire, half-human child was growing very speedily. When Jacob Black (the young werewolf in love with Bella, also her childhood friend) discovered Bella’s bad health condition, he tried to convince her to have abortion, yet Bella insisted on keeping the baby irrespective of the danger it brought. Informed about Bella’s pregnancy, Jacob’s werewolf pack planned to murder her and the baby for their fear of the possible risks induced by a vampire-human child. However, Jacob, along with 2 other werewolves, sided with the Cullens to protect the pregnant Bella, fighting against the pack. At the same time, since the baby grew up so strong that it broke many of its mother’s bones, the Cullens decided to take it out of her. Bella then stopped breathing, where Edward had to inject his venom into her with a hope that it could save her, transforming her into a vampire. Later, her daughter, Renesmee, was mistakenly reported to be an “immortal child”, whose power was uncontrollable. As the creation of an immortal child was against the rules established by the Volturi, they set out an attack to destroy the Cullens. Facing the fatal risk, the family persuaded vampires around the world that Renesmee is not an immortal child and asked them to be their witnesses. On the day the 2 groups confronted, Aro, the Volturi’s leader, got to know the truth about Renesmee through her telepathic power, still whether she remained a threat to the protection of vampire world was still uncertain to the Volturi. Finally, thanks to Alice and Jasper Cullen’s return with a vampire-human man who could solidly prove that hybrids were no harmful to the secret vampiric world, the Volturi were convinced and left the Cullens and their allies in peace.

As of 2010, its 4 books (Twilight, New Moon, Eclipse and Breaking Dawn) had been translated into 39 languages and sold roughly 100 million copies (Pomerantz 2010). In the UK, along with its huge commercial gain, the series contributed to a rise of 20% in sales of sci-fi and fantasy fictions between 2005 and 2010 (Sawer and Mendick 2010). Following the novels’ success, their blockbuster movie adaptations generated even wider public attention and a great number of fans around the world, adding up to the popularity of the original works. The film series also helped young actors, Kristen Stewart (playing Bella), Robert Pattinson (as Edward) and Taylor Lautner (as Jacob Black), shoot to considerable fame (Ross 2015). Critics have referred to The Twilight Saga as Vampire Renaissance, where it resulted in a “massive influx of vampire-related entertainment”, such as HBO’s hit “True Blood”, “The Vampire Diaries” – one of The CW’s most watched TV series, 2012 “Dark Shadows” starring Johnny Depp, 2012 “Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter”, 2013 “Beautiful Creatures” (Ross 2015). Interestingly, another publication and box-office success, “Fifty Shades of Grey”, had been inspired by Bella and Edward’s romance, where the most obvious correlation between the 2 plots is the female protagonists’ willingness and eagerness for dangerous relationship, which put them at risks of suffering violence from their lovers. Besides, a possible “Twilight effect” among teenagers is the exchange of “love bites” (Hartenstein 2010), which means the behavior of biting boyfriends/ girlfriends, or even close friends, to show affection. The series’ teenage fanatics even go further to “exchange blood with each other to prove their passion”.

Questions regarding a sensible reason for Twilight’s worldwide popularity have been raised among both film critics and wide audience. The books have actually been negatively judged for a mediocre writing style, a somewhat poorly developed plot with main characters lacking personalities and depth, and its advocacy of a plain love story of an unhealthy relationship. One assumption about its attraction to young people is that “Edward and Bella spend some 2,000 pages in tortured anticipation of sex” (Valby 2012), where Edward resisted the temptation many times before the marriage, even though Bella was up-front about her desire. In fact, the author created a romanticized vampire world, in which soulful vampires, with supernatural talents, refused to feed on human blood and go for animal blood instead. In this respect, Twilight stands out from a range of literature of vampire themes, which has long been exploited the fearful nature of vampires, including sexuality. Furthermore, Twilight is a romantic fantasy with horror elements: its immense focus on romance makes it more likable in the mainstream, at the same time the dark side of vampiric experiences added a thrilling quality to the series. However, more research effort is still needed to decode this pop culture phenomenon.

References

Hartenstein, M. 2010. Teenagers inspired by Twilight sink fangs into each other in new ‘biting’ trend, parents fear risks. Daily News [online], 7 July 2010. Available from: http://www.nydailynews.com/life-style/teenagers-inspired-twilight-sink-fangs-new-biting-trend-parents-fear-risks-article-1.467584 [Accessed 9 April 2016].

Meslow, S., 2012. After ‘Twilight’: Where Do Vampires in Pop Culture Go From Here? The Atlantic [online], 19 November 2012. Available from: http://www.theatlantic.com/entertainment/archive/2012/11/after-twilight-where-do-vampires-in-pop-culture-go-from-here/265393/ [Accessed 9 April 2016].

Pomerantz, D., 2010. Inside The ‘Twilight’ Empire. Forbes [online], 28 June 2010. Available from: http://www.forbes.com/2010/06/22/twilight-kristen-stewart-robert-pattinson-business-entertainment-celeb-100-10-twilight.html [Accessed 9 April 2016].

Ross, A., 2015. 8 Things That Wouldn’t Exist Without Twilight. Time [online],5 October 2015. Available from: http://time.com/4057415/twilight-anniversary-anna-kendrick/ [Accessed 9 April 2016].

Ross, A., 2015. The Vampire Craze in Popular Culture Isn’t Dead Yet. Time [online], 27 October 2015. Available from: http://time.com/4061384/vampires-twilight-halloween/ [Accessed 9 April 2016].

Sawer, P., Mendick, R., 2010. Success of Twilight films leads to boom in sales of fantasy novels. The telegraph [online], 31 January 2010. Available from: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/culture/books/7112976/Success-of-Twilight-films-leads-to-boom-in-sales-of-fantasy-novels.html [Accessed 9 April 2016].

Valby, K., 2012. The ‘Twilight’ effect. The telegraph [online], 31 January 2010. Available from: http://www.ew.com/article/2012/11/16/twilight-effect [Accessed 9 April 2016].

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