I was recently featured in a Twilight documentary made by Fandom Uncovered called How Twilight Saved a Town. In it, journalist Roth Cornet visited Forever Twilight in Forks to talk to real Twilight fans and discover the impact the saga has made on us – and on the city of Forks itself.
Throughout the documentary, Roth spent time exploring the Twilight phenomenon and why fans are so drawn to the story and its characters. Her conclusion was an interesting one. She posits that Twilight is the ultimate safe fantasy, allowing women to live vicariously through characters who have it all with little risk or sacrifice: perfect love stories, perfect bodies, and, in the end, perfect lives.
I’m not here to analyze Twilight, but I will say that there’s definitely something comforting about Twilight to me, so I’m willing to subscribe to Roth’s theory. Maybe there is something safe about Bella’s story that draws us in and makes us wish we could live in her world. But what I wish was safer for most people was actually being a Twilight fan.
I’ve written before about how I’ve been mocked and ridiculed – both online and in real life – for being into Twilight. For traveling to Forks. For having friends I’ve made through the fandom. For cosplaying as Alice. I think almost every Twilight fan has a story about how they’ve been shamed by someone they know, or don’t know, because they enjoy the saga. As Roth recalls in her documentary, Comic Con attendees even celebrated when a Twilight fan was killed at the convention – implying that she deserved to die for liking Twilight.
Volturi Alice doesn’t give second chances to people who shame others for the things they like
I’ve never experienced that level of vitriol, but I’ve had my fair share of judgment, with some people even questioning my sanity or my worth as a person because I like Twilight. In fact, when I first started seeing my husband, some of his friends warned him not to date me because I’d “make him cosplay as Jasper.” Being a Twilight fan was that big a red flag in certain circles.
But I digress.
Because I don’t care anymore.
Yeah, I’m a Twilight fan. And I may have allowed myself to be bullied for that in the past, but I own it now. I’ve made incredible friends through Twilight, I’ve gotten to travel, and I get to express myself creatively through Alice. These days, when people start to laugh about the fact that I “still like Twilight,” I’m quick to turn their judgment on them. I remind them that I’m not hurting anyone, that we’re all allowed to like what we like, and that I’m not judging them for their choice of fandom – so they should afford me the same courtesy.
I recently had a friend respond to this spiel with, “yeah, I can understand that. But why do you still do it? Why are you still so into Twilight when there are so many other things out there?”
Obviously there are “so many other things out there,” but I like what I like, okay?
I’ll tell you why I still do it. First and foremost, it’s because I still genuinely love Twilight. Why would I walk away from that?
And secondly, it’s because I want to help create a safe space for Twilight fans. I’ve felt that insecurity, that sense of being judged, and I came out the other side when I decided to own my sense of fandom. So now, I want to help others do the same.
I’m a minuscule presence in the Twilight fandom, but I do have an audience. And through my work as Alice, both online and at Forever Twilight in Forks, I want to remind people that they’ll always have a place within the pages of Twilight, regardless of what anyone else thinks of the saga. I want people to know that friends like Alice are real. And I want to remind people that they aren’t alone, even if it sometimes feels like they are.
But as much as we’d like to pretend otherwise, there are issues within the Twilight fandom as well as outside of it. Sometimes, we don’t even need to be shamed or ridiculed by others; we’re just as happy to do it to fellow fans, because wherever people gather, the need to create hierarchies and power structures seems to follow. And if we can’t be nice to each other, how can we convince others that we deserve a modicum of respect?
At a base level, here’s what we can all do to create a safer space for all Twilight fans:
- Be kind. This is simple, and it should go without saying, but kindness really does go a long way in fandom. Just like in life, you won’t be friends with everyone, but the least we can all do is treat others the way we’d like to be treated.
- Respect each other’s differences. Some people ship Edward and Bella together. Others ship Bella and Jacob. Some prefer the books. Others prefer the movies. We’ll never agree on everything, but we don’t have to. Let’s try to hear and understand the perspectives of others without silencing or shooting them down. You can respectfully disagree, of course, or engage in friendly debate – but let’s try to…
- Avoid fandom gatekeeping. Gatekeeping is when fans try to police others by correcting their opinions or trying to make them prove how big a fan they are (“how can you call yourself a Twilight fan if you don’t know when Edward was turned into a vampire?”). There are lots of newcomers to Twilight due to its recent renaissance, so let’s welcome them into the fandom, rather than shaming them for just getting here.
- Check your ego at the door. You shouldn’t be in competition with anyone to prove who the bigger fan is, or who the better cosplayer is, or who writes the best fan fiction. We’re all Twilight fans, so let’s enjoy the fandom together.
- Remember that Twilight is a happy place. We all enjoy Twilight for the escape it provides. But rather than being a happy place, fandom can quickly become toxic if you let it. If you ever feel overwhelmed by fandom drama, take a step back and remember why you got into Twilight in the first place. It will help you refocus on the things that truly matter.
- Learn when to let go. It’s normal to outgrow people or even things you used to love. If you find a fandom friendship or situation turning toxic – or if a fandom just isn’t for you anymore – it’s okay to walk away. You can’t control other people’s actions, but you can do what’s best for you. Sometimes, that means recognizing when something is no longer good for you or aligned with your interests.
This me dreaming of a safe Twilight space for all fans
If all of this seems easy or obvious, that’s because it is. Whether you’re in Forks, online, or interacting with Twilight fans you know locally, I’ve learned that it doesn’t cost you anything to be kind and welcoming within the fandom. In fact, it actually feels pretty good – so let’s all do our part to continue making Twilight the best fandom it can be. If we feel more comfortable and at home with fellow Twilight fans, maybe it’ll help us feel more confident around Twilight haters.
And if nothing else, if you find yourself struggling or just seeking someone to talk to, Alice is always here for you.