Twilight’s Suckiest Messages: This romance is worse than you remember | TOXIC TAKEAWAYS

Twilight fans have long bought into Bella and Edward’s all-consuming love as aspirational. But was this really the fairytale many took it for? Bella and Edward’s love story communicates that obsession is flattering, older people dating underage people is fine, and the thing that proves a girl’s specialness is the special boy who “picks” her. All along, some critics and audience members panned the films for their unfeminist angle and tasteless representation, but the saga also meant a lot to young viewers, grossed over $3.3 billion worldwide, and is still mass-binged more than a decade later. So what views on love and relationship did Twilight actually teach its fans? Here are the toxic takeaways of the Twilight saga.

Toxic Takeaway #1 – The Most Interesting Thing About A Girl Is The Boy That Picks Her.

Quiet, unassuming Bella is our protagonist – so what really makes her “special”? Male attention seems to be the answer. As we discussed in our “Special Girl” trope video, it’s the interest Bella receives from the “special” guy that illuminates her specialness. As Bella and Edward begin dating, their classmates are jealous, skeptical, and astonished. Even in New Moon, when Edward isn’t the center of Bella’s story, the narrative still revolves around the boys who want Bella.

Toxic Takeaway #2 – Obsession And Stalking Are Flattering.

Once Edward and Bella are together, we learn that Bella’s earlier dreams of Edward watching her were times when he actually was. Just before their first date, Edward had been stalking her while she was out of town, which she seems to like. Bella is also obsessive about Edward in an unhealthy way. She withdraws from other relationships with friends and family, spirals into a depression whenever he leaves her side, and fixates on winning his attention and protection.

In New Moon, when Bella turns to Jacob for companionship while Edward is away, he is pushy. In Eclipse, he’s manipulative, and, at times, hostile. None of this is ever portrayed as inappropriate, it’s simply an expression of love. That’s because another toxic message is:

Toxic Takeaway #3 – Nothing Matters As Much As Love.

And what exactly is love, according to this story? In our world, healthy, stable love has boundaries, balanced power dynamics, and honest communication. But that’s not the kind of love we see in Twilight.

Here, love is something you might have to die for, and romantic passion can be used to basically justify people doing whatever they feel like and have any indecency forgiven. Bella’s life is regularly in danger anytime she’s with Edward’s family, but Edward’s solution is that he’ll always be there to save and “protect” her – something that turns her into a “damsel in distress” and which he also fails to do time and again. Bella’s erratic departure from Charlie is another case of love trumping everything. When Bella’s family sees her again, she is in a hospital bed, suspiciously found by her boyfriend whom she had been trying to leave. The story the Cullens tell is that Bella had an accident. But her injuries, which include a bite, don’t really square with that story. But who cares? These kids are in love. The only thing that love doesn’t trump is chastity.

Toxic Takeaway #4 – Purity Culture Is “Sexy.”

Stephanie Meyers, the author of the Twilight books, is a conservative, religious writer. And while vampires have long had a connection to sex, Twilight played on this history by largely subverting the vampiric urge to devour into a slow, mostly sex-free burn. Edward is viscerally attracted to Bella but constantly afraid he might “act” on it. Having young characters wait before jumping into sex isn’t a bad choice in itself, but the way the series frames the prospect of sex sends problematic messages to young girls – like that girls should control their sexual urges so as not to tempt boys, that pre-marital sex is a literal threat to one’s safety, that girls are vulnerable prey, and chastity is the only guarantee of a girl’s spiritual value.

By the third movie, Eclipse, the emphasis on purity gets more overt. While the movie seems to understand how teen chastity is widely perceived, it approves of it. And when Bella and Edward finally consummate their relationship, the movie then unrealistically shows how sex between people who have internalized that “pre-marital sex is bad and impure” would actually play out. Purity culture creates fear and shame around sex, so for many raised in that mindset, having sex even after marriage can be difficult.

Toxic Takeaway #5 – Age Is Just A Number.

Edward is a 104-year-old man in a 17-year-old’s body. While the movie entertains the idea of challenging this, it doesn’t actually take the psychological age difference between the two seriously. This message is repeated with Jacob and Bella and Jacob and Renesmee. Bella and Edward may both look young and hot, but there’s a power imbalance between them due to Edward’s much greater real age, life experience, power, and wealth – none of that is treated as a problem to address.

Toxic Takeaway #6 – Everyone Who Matters Is White And Straight.

In the Twilight Saga, there are no queer people, in any of the five movies. Some of the vampires in the movies have lived for 3,000 years – long enough to experience a range of cultures without heteronormativity or strict gender binaries – and all of them are … straight and cis.

Communities of color were represented in the series, but poorly, with these few characters lacking depth and full stories. Tyler Crowley, one of the only speaking black characters, sexually harrasses Bella then accidentally almost kills her with his truck. He’s threatened by her police officer father, playing on racial stereotypes. Laurent is a villain who hangs out with James, Victoria, and Irinia. Jasper, a member of the Cullen coven, actually fought in the Confederate army. The only reason his career seems to have ended was due to a Mexican seductress manipulating him into joining her army. And that leads us to the most cringe-worthy representation in this series – the wolf pack.

Stephanie Meyers researched a real indigenous tribe, the Quileutes, as inspiration, yet the resulting story still relied on stereotypes about indigenous people being animalistic or uncivilized. The boys of the Quileute tribe literally transform into wolves. The tribe members are hypermasculine and prone to violent outbursts which can lead to domestic violence.

The Quileute boys are also markedly sexualized. This is especially visible when they are juxtaposed with the generally softer, more civilized white vampires. Jacob and his family are portrayed as less valuable than the Cullens, just as Jacob is treated as a consolation prize when Edward is away. Plus, Jacob is portrayed by a predominantly white actor, Taylor Lautner, who only has very distant Native American ancestry.

Despite all the film’s toxic takeaways, an important meaningful message for Twilight is that it’s an important coming-of-age story for a lot of teen girls, and that aspect of it should be respected. While many of the takeaways are toxic, so were the bad faith, hyper-critical takedowns of the books and movies. Society isn’t kind to teenage girls, with the media often gleefully ridiculing the things they care about. This romance story about werewolves and vampires wasn’t supposed to be a model example for love as much as a fantasy. There are plenty of “boy” franchises with equally questionable writing and terrible messages that have escaped the level of contempt Twilight received for years.

So it’s important to maintain space and respect for the fantasy elements of Twilight that offer an important outlet for young people, then and now. We can always enjoy what’s fun about it, but that doesn’t mean we can’t keep a critical mind of what messages we could be absorbing if we’re not paying attention.


Crain, Abbey. “Purity culture can impact long-term sexual health.” Reckon, 9 Dec. 2020,

Mendelson, Scott. “‘Twilight’ Occupies All 5 Top Spots Among Netflix’s Most-Watched Movies.” Forbes, 21 July 2021,