Both the Twilight films and books attracted controversy upon their release. Whether due to the age difference between the technically 107 year-old male lead and the 17-18 year old female protagonist; the perceived abusive nature of Bella Swan’s relationships with both Edward Cullen and Jacob Black; and perhaps most controversially, Jacob imprinting upon Bella’s infant daughter; the series drew notoriety for numerous reasons.
Nonetheless, there is good with the bad, and there are lessons, dynamics, and actions within the multi-million dollar franchise that still ring true with audiences. Whether they are clear messages that stand the test of time, or have become more resonant with modern audiences, the Twilight franchise still holds moments that have aged well.
10 Adoptive Families Are Shown To Be As Loving As Biological Families
Some of the most sympathetically-treated characters in the Twilight saga are the Cullens, the family of vampires who live in the small town of Forkes and with whom Bella Swan becomes entangled. As a family, they are shown to be loving, affectionate, and open with one another. They frequently turn to each other for help or advice, and look out for one another.
Due to the biology of female vampires within the setting, none of the Cullens are the biological children of Carlisle and Esme Cullen, the “parents” of the family. Instead, they are all young adults who were turned into vampires by Carlisle. Nonetheless, despite their lack of blood ties, there is never a hint they are anything other than a close, loving, and genuine family, which comes off very adoption-positive.
9The Female Characters Are Given Equal Say
One of the many things the franchise was criticized for was Edward Cullen’s controlling behaviour towards his girlfriend, Bella, to the point of disabling her car to stop her visiting Jacob Black at one point. Nonetheless, in many other situations throughout the franchise, the women among the cast are free to make their own decisions, and do so often.
When the decision is made to turn Bella into a vampire, she, Esme, Rosalie, and Alice are all given their part of the vote. When crises form throughout the events of Eclipse and Breaking Dawn, the female characters are involved in the planning and strategy to deal with those crises, with no indication they should be anywhere else or have to differ to the men.
8 Twilight Predicted The Success Of The Band Muse
A less social point, Twilight nonetheless famously included Muse‘s song “Supermassive Black Hole” in its popular thunderstorm baseball scene, with the song playing in the background as the family play a superpowered version of the sport. At the time in 2008, the band had had some success with albums like Absolution and Black Holes and Revelations— particularly in their native England— but hadn’t yet fully broken through to the worldwide mainstream.
The band’s inclusion in Twilight comes ahead of them becoming one of the most successful bands in the world and shows that the franchise could be ahead of the curve with its music choices, often including well-respected legacy artists rather than just whatever new pop star was hot at the moment.
7 Bella’s Mental Health Is Taken Seriously
The primary plot thread throughout New Moon is that, after a near-miss with his brother Jasper, Edward has the Cullens leave Forkes to protect Bella. When they leave, she enters into a depression that she struggles to get out of, even when she makes friends with local Quileute tribe member (and sometimes werewolf) Jacob Black.
While some characters are dismissive of Bella’s depression, the film’s narrative never takes it anything less than seriously, with Bella’s father Charlie even seriously comparing it to his grief after his own divorce and trying to help her enter therapy for it. As mental health awareness— particularly among teen— grows, it’s an unexpected sign of respect for that topic in a movie franchise that plays fast and loose with reality in so many other respects.
6 Single Fatherhood Is Shown In A Positive Light
Bella’s father, town sheriff Charlie Swan, is one of the characters most popular with viewers of the saga, including those who are not even fans otherwise. The series begins with Bella choosing to move in with him due to a family situation, and him welcoming her with such open arms he even buys her a truck.
While Charlie is realistically flawed as a single father, he is shown to be devoted and caring, and to genuinely love Bella. Even when punishing Bella with strict groundings, it’s a moderate response to her leaving for Italy without telling him, and riding illegal motorcycles. With non-traditional families becoming more common, one of the most popular franchises of all time showing a devoted single father is appreciated by many fans.
5 Sexual Consent From Both Parties Is Emphasized
Throughout Eclipse and the early parts of Breaking Dawn, Bella has reached the stage in her relationship with Edward where she wants to lose her virginity to him. However Edward, being born in the early twentieth century, is uncomfortable with the idea of having sex before marriage. After that, when he accidentally hurts her on their honeymoon during an intimate moment, he’s reluctant to try again in case he injures her further or more seriously.
While Bella is frustrated, the narrative never suggests Edward is at fault for this, or that he’s being unreasonable. When he refuses to sleep with Bella on their honeymoon, it is only with open communication that he agrees to try again. With discussions around consent, including from men, becoming more widespread, both parties in this couple’s consent being prioritized has aged well.
4 It’s The Female Characters Who Save The Day
There are unquestionably issues with Bella Swan’s agency in regards to the plot, but these are not consistent flaws. In Breaking Dawn, when things seem hopeless and like the characters are going to perish in a noble but doomed fight against the villainous Volturi, it is the choices of Bella and Alice Cullen that ultimately avert the fight and stop their deaths.
Even at the time the Twilight saga was released, women being instrumental in saving the day wasn’t necessarily rare in fiction. Nonetheless, it is a sign of the times and one that has continued to age well that the principle female characters in the cast don’t require the men to do anything to save them— and everyone else— in their darkest hour.
3 A Moral About Compromise, But Standing Firm When Needed
One of the recurring plot threads throughout the series is the feuding clans of the Cullen vampires in Forkes, and the Quileute werewolves in neighboring La Push who have an uneasy cease-fire but do not set foot in each other’s territory. Nonetheless, when danger threatens Forkes, and specifically Bella who is friends with both groups, they put aside their differences to work together, becoming more effective in the process.
However, while the series promotes tolerance of one another, it is shown that there is no middle ground with the Volturi, an authoritarian government who seek to wipe out the Cullens and absorb their most powerful members. When the true plan of the Volturi is realized, the characters decide to stand firm. At a time of increasing division and authoritarianism, this twin-pronged moral resonates more strongly.
2 Bella’s Parents Are Representation Of A Healthy Divorced Couple
Divorce has always been a situation well-explored in fiction, and not all fictional divorcees have been of the shouting variety. Nonetheless, many audiences still find it refreshing to see a divorced couple in fiction who grew apart or faced irreconcilable differences, but ultimately can work together and be friendly for the sake of the child they share together.
This is the case with Bella’s parents. The two divorced, but they did so because Renee, her mother, despised the town of Forkes, whilst Charlie didn’t want to move. When shown in the story, they are capable of talking and joking like friends.
1 Bella’s Bodily Autonomy Is Prioritized In Her Pregnancy
The first half of Breaking Dawn covers Bella falling pregnant on her honeymoon with a half-vampire fetus that threatens her health, initially rejecting all food and threatening to starve her to death. Much of the conflict comes from characters having differing opinions on whether the pregnancy should be terminated.
Nonetheless, it is Bella’s opinion that matters most, and even when she is pressured to terminate by Jacob, Edward, Alice, and others, she holds fast. Whether the decision is wise or not, the narrative makes it clear that, as it is Bella’s body, the choice lies with her and her alone.