My steep descent into the media I consumed in middle and early high school began humbly enough with my little brother at the start of quarantine.
I was home from college indefinitely for the first time in three years, and the world was so suddenly disappearing from beneath our feet. We were all so desperately worried about getting sick, about how our dad would work as a contractor during the shelter-in-place order and how we would cope having been so abruptly pulled from the separate circles we had spent so long cultivating.
My brother reminisced about our shared “Supernatural” phase, a secret we’d kept guarded these long years since, even as new seasons had piled up on our Netflix lists. Each time a red banner reminded us of the hot burning shame of loving fandom media too much, and each time we found ourselves unable to remove it from the queue.
The quarantine wore on, along with the slow and heavy realization that normal was gone for good. Everyone’s tempers seemed to wear thin, with nobody in our house quite on the same page about what constituted “safe,” and it all became so much to handle, so my brother and I finally gave in.
We convinced ourselves at first that there was nothing shameful in doing a highlights reel of the most laughably absurd episodes, but with each episode our biting comments at the show’s (and at our younger selves’) expense faded a little bit until we were left earnestly enjoying ourselves.
By the end of April, we’d started at the beginning and were working through the seasons (fully prepared to skip the hot mess that is seasons six through 12, where we’d left off originally). It became a habit that we looked forward to. We’d initially come back to that place to mock our younger selves, but we found we’d missed them, and when we finally let go of the shame of loving, we welcomed them back into our lives with open arms.
Now, rounding the end of August and a new school year, I’ve moved back to Berkeley, leaving my brother behind and missing him fiercely everyday. On the days when the news cycle is particularly vicious, when the beginning of what’s sure to be a demanding school year looms, when there’s too much to do and never enough hours in the day, I feel that ache. I want to settle into my childhood couch with my little brother and I on either side of an enormous bowl of popcorn and disappear into a fantasy world, in which the apocalypse is somebody else’s problem, and into the simpler, younger minds who appreciated it.
We’d initially come back to that place to mock our younger selves, but we found we’d missed them, and when we finally let go of the shame of loving, we welcomed them back into our lives with open arms.
But here in Berkeley, I’ve had to settle for other routes. I’ve found myself bingeing “Phineas and Ferb” (which I stand by wholeheartedly and without any embarrassment), “Schitt’s Creek” (see first parenthetical), “New Girl” and other older, safe shows. These were fine, some of them more so than others, but they still didn’t quite fill the hole of those “Supernatural” evenings.
That is, until I was chatting with an old friend who mentioned she’d been wanting to rewatch “Twilight.”
Stephanie Meyer had announced she would finally be releasing the long-awaited “Midnight Sun,” and the timing seemed perfect.
I settled into my bed, laptop open and my friend on Facetime, and prepared to make fun of the absurdity that is “Twilight.”
And it was absurd. My friend and I paused it frequently to laugh at the dramatic blue coloring, at Edward’s endless extreme mood swings and Bella’s hasty shift from hating the mean boy in biology to trusting him with her life. But just like with “Supernatural,” soon the laughter became less mean spirited, the story soothing and the young girl who’d enjoyed it easier to understand.
When the movie ended, I sheepishly asked my friend if she’d be willing to watch “Eclipse” next week, and she said she felt the same way.
We worked through them together, taking a long time at the beginning and end of the call to catch up, and we worked through the whole series over the course of the summer. It became something I looked forward to at the end of the week, a way to stay connected to my friend and to disappear into a fictional world and an easier time, just as “Supernatural” had been.
Slowly, as summer came to a close, we reached “Breaking Dawn Part 2,” and a sadness began to creep in. We talked for twice as long as we normally would before starting the movie, both of us pretending not to stall, pretending that this strange ritual hadn’t become important to us.
After the credits rolled, we sat quietly for a long time.
In the last few weeks, more and more people seem to have come out of the woodwork, either reading “Midnight Sun,” watching the movies, or both. After all those years of the fierce vitriol around “Twilight” and anyone who liked it, of flaccid jabs like “still a better romance than ‘Twilight,’” and the ultimate disavowal of the series by many of us who felt we’d grown out of it or were tired of being the butt of the joke, it seems that with older eyes we are finally able to return to the series and take it for what it is.
And it is far from perfect — these two videos explain the nuance around its flaws better than I ever could — but it is profoundly itself, and to love it was to open myself up to that kind of open self-acceptance in a way that terrified me.
“Twilight” is silly, soft, cheesy and, frankly, a little dumb, and this summer, I fell shamelessly, unconditionally and irrevocably in love with it (again).