The "Twilight" films are now available on Netflix, so I rewatched the first movie.
Some aspects of the story remain unsettling, like Bella and Edward's age difference.
Others are more glaring years later, like how a non-Native actor was cast as a Native character.
Taylor Lautner, a non-Native actor, was cast as Jacob Black, who lives on a Quileute reservation.
Lautner told MTV in 2008 that he met with Quileute tribe members and discovered some distant Native American ancestry on his mother's side through preparing for the role, but that he is French, Dutch, and German.
Lautner's casting was controversial at the time. In 2008, Indian Country Today's Rob Schmidt named the "Twilight" role as an example of "redface," when non-Native actors play Native characters.
In response to the backlash, filmmakers hired casting director Rene Haynes, who specializes in casting Native actors, to cast other Quileute roles in subsequent "Twilight" movies.
With increased awareness in Hollywood about the importance of accurate representation in recent years, watching a non-Native actor wear a wig and play a Native character seemed particularly ill-advised to me.
In a flashback, Carlisle is shown turning a dying Edward into a vampire in 1918 during the influenza pandemic — a time period that hits differently with today's pandemic.
Carlisle turned Edward into a vampire to save his life when he was dying of influenza during the 1918 pandemic. Before the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, this was just a minor detail in his origin story, but it held new resonance for me now.
Edward gaslights Bella when he stops a car from hitting her.
"I was standing right next to you, Bella," Edward tells Bella after she asks how he reached her from across the parking lot.
When she continues to press him, he says, "Bella, you hit your head. I think you're confused."
While Edward is lying to protect his and his family's vampire identities, the calm way he gaslights her foreshadows his controlling behavior towards Bella later in the series.
The age difference between Edward and Bella was always weird.
Bella is 17 and Edward is 104. Even though he has been in a 17-year-old body for "a while" as an immortal being, he's still 87 years older than her, and Bella is underage.
So was the fact that Edward would sneak into Bella's room to watch her sleep.
When Edward suddenly appears in Bella's room, he explains that he's been sneaking in through the window for "a couple of months" to watch her sleep. This seemed romantic when I first watched it years ago, but as an older, wiser viewer, this comes off as alarming behavior.
Bella's father, Charlie, preps his gun before he meets Edward in a moment that's played for laughs but is based in misogyny.
The moment is funny, sure. But it's also an example of a common "overprotective father" trope that makes men responsible for women's chastity and trivializes gun violence.
In a similar incident, former NFL Player Jay Feely sparked controversy in 2018 when he posted a photo on Twitter with his daughter, her prom date, and a handgun. Though he clarified that the gun wasn't loaded and it was "obviously intended to be a joke," the photo garnered criticism for promoting outdated gender roles and being posted two months after the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School.
The campy special effects leave something to be desired.
The first "Twilight" movie had a significantly lower budget than the rest. This is evidenced by the cheesy special effects when vampires dash around at high speeds or fight in slow motion. Admittedly, they're part of the charm of the film, but they look even more dated now.
The thinly veiled purity culture metaphor that runs throughout the series has become more obvious with time.
Edward tells Bella he can't be with her because his desire for her blood is so strong that he might kill her. It's reminiscent of beliefs in purity culture that men struggle to control their "impure" sexual urges for women, putting women in danger of losing their virginity and thereby their "purity."
Later in the series, Bella and Edward wait until marriage to have sex — a plot point writer Christine Seifert dubbed "abstinence porn" in 2008.
"Twilight" author Stephenie Meyer is a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, a religious denomination in which sex before marriage is considered a sin. She told The Guardian's Kira Cochrane in 2013 that she didn't consciously intend for "Twilight" to promote any message, but that her life experience does inform her work.
"I never decide to put a message in anything. I decide on a story that I think is exciting, and I entertain myself, and then some of it obviously reflects my personal experience," Meyer said. "What I think says true love is different than what a lot of other people do, so it's just what my subconscious puts out there. To me, true love is that you would hurt yourself before you would hurt your partner, you would do anything to make them happy, even at your own expense, there's nothing selfish about true love. It's not about what you want. It's about what makes them happy."
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