How TikTok has ushered in a Twilight renaissance
Alexa, play "Bella's Lullaby" on repeat.
2020 might seem endless and unrelenting, but don’t worry. One scroll through your FYP on TikTok is enough to make you think we’ve headed straight back into 2008, the year when the biggest question on everyone’s lips was this – Team Edward or Team Jacob?
For a series that initially dropped all the way back in 2005, the resurgence in the popularity of Twilight might seem strange at first. But things have been rumbling in the fandom recently. Back in May, Stephenie Meyer posted a conspicuous countdown on her website, which ultimately ended with the announcement of the long-awaited fifth book (told from Edward’s perspective instead of Bella’s), Midnight Sun. A few days after the announcement, TikTok user @kkolesaire posted a video in which she can be seen pointing out Meyer’s overuse of the word ‘chuckled’. The video, which now has over one million views, quickly went viral. It was the beginning of Twilight’s ironic renaissance on the platform.
Since the beginning of lockdown, the vampire series has been a cultural reset of sorts on TikTok, something nostalgic that people have returned to — for comfort and humour — in droves. The franchise’s hashtag alone now has over 1.8 billion videos posted on the app.
Brody Wellmaker began posting Twilight content on TikTok in July, mainly comedic scene re-enactment videos that rack up an impressive amount of views. “I just posted a new Twilight video a couple of hours ago, actually. It already has over 100,000 views,” he says. “One of my most popular Twilight videos is from the scene when she [Bella] has been bitten by James – that was the first one that went properly viral. I get comments from people telling me I’m flapping around like a fish.” The video, posted a month ago, has 16M views.
Brody, despite his huge popularity on TikTok, only joined the platform earlier this year. But just five months on, he already has one million followers. “My friends at work – I’m a bartender – joke that I’m TikTok famous but I don’t think I am,” he says. “Anyone can get a huge following. If you find a niche that works for you then you’ve cracked it.” And for Brody — and many other creators — that niche is moody teenage vampires.
“With the announcement of Stephenie’s new book and the Twilight films being released on Amazon Prime [in the US], literally everyone’s watching them so they’re creating TikTok content off that.”
And while some content creators are ironic in their fanservice of the series, others are really rediscovering their teenage fandom. Some TikTok creators are even making the pilgrimage to Forks, Washington, where Twilight was set. Keyla Carter, for instance, quickly found her niche on the app — her first video posted at the start of August, which features her dancing to “Bella’s Lullaby” outside of the real Cullen house in Portland, Oregon, immediately racked up nine million views. The rest of her TikToks followed with success as she recreates the same dance outside notable locations in and around Forks. Another user, @chaycelau posted a video of him re-enacting the scene when Bella receives her truck, filmed outside the Forks Chamber of Commerce which features a replica of the iconic red Chevrolet. “Went to Forks, Washington to sight see,” the caption reads. “But ended up leaving with a Grammy.”
Lissy Andros, Executive Director at the Forks Chamber of Commerce said that the release of Midnight Sun, the lack of international travel thanks to the coronavirus, and the renewed popularity of the Twilight series on TikTok have led to a tourism frenzy. “We have seen an increased presence of videos featuring Forks, and they’re all really recent” she says. “We’re always excited to welcome Twilight fans to the town.”
Taking place across the weekend closest to Bella’s birthday in September, Forks host their annual Forever Twilight in Forks Festival, which sees hundreds of fans flock to the Pacific Northwest to relive the nostalgia of the billion-dollar franchise that put this small town on the map. In addition to themed events and celebrity appearances, the festival features Twilight acting troupe the Olympic Coven, allowing fans to indulge in an immersive experience while meeting their favourite vampires.
Vee Elle, from Toronto, Ontario, joined the Olympic Coven in 2013 as Alice Cullen, and says that the continued — and renewed — interest in the series is amazing. “Last year, I was invited to Volterra, Italy, where a chunk of the second book, New Moon, takes place,” she explains. “I attended as a featured cosplayer for their annual cosplay celebration, Volterra Mistery and Fantasy, which has a big Twilight focus.”
And since the release of Midnight Sun, the troupe’s popularity has spiked yet again. They now even (inevitably) have their own TikTok account, which has recently gained over 20,000 new followers. “I joined TikTok in June 2019 but didn’t post my first real piece of content until October, when I dressed as Alice for Halloween,” she says. “One of my first videos got over 500,000 views. I was lip syncing to Alice’s lines in Twilight when the Cullens meet Bella for the first time, and I’d never had a post on Instagram or Facebook blow up like that, so that got me really interested in TikTok’s ability to connect with large audiences.”
Vee’s cosplay TikTok — @maryalicebrandon — has grown by 10,000 over the last month, and with just under 150,000 followers, it makes her the largest TikTok creator who posts solely Twilight-focused content. She believes that the series’ new popularity is partially to do with the build up of excitement around Midnight Sun, but also that TikTok has exposed the franchise to a younger audience who may have missed its release and popularity the first time round. “TikTok has allowed Twilight to reach Gen Z who have connected with it in their own way,” she says. “Their interpretation of the Saga is different to what millennials got out of it. New generations can still connect with the story despite how much the world has changed since its release and without that infusion of fresh blood - no pun intended - the fandom would die.”
For the core of the fandom, Twilight never went away. For new audiences or older fans, Midnight Sun pushed the franchise to the forefront of our minds, helped along the way by social media and trend-led platforms, such as TikTok, that didn’t exist during the initial Twilight craze over a decade previous. Perhaps during a stressful year where we’re all seeking comfort in nostalgia, a second wave of the Twilight hysteria was inevitable, no matter the platform — TikTok just got there first.