This Is What A Twilight Fan Looks Like Today

Photo: Alexandra Beier/Getty Images.
It's been nearly four years since thousands camped out before the premiere of The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn, Part 2, in November 2012. Stephenie Meyer's novel Breaking Dawn hit bookshelves in 2008, followed only by a spinoff novella and last year's reimagining, Life and Death. Robert Pattinson and Kristen Stewart broke up for good in May 2013. Logically, you might surmise that the fervent members of Team Edward and Team Jacob would have scattered to the wind like the ashes of so many destroyed sparkly vampires.

There is some evidence that Twihards have moved on. Of the hundreds of fansites listed on Meyer's official site, roughly two-thirds no longer exist, and most of those haven't been updated in years. Did they succumb to the criticism that the books promoted an anti-feminist, damsel-in-distress view of the world? Did they take another look at the wigs from the first movie and discard their obsession for good? Have they read one too many interviews in which Pattinson or Stewart complains of what peak Twilight fever did to them? Not a chance.

We talked to the fans who named their children after the books' characters. They got tattoos to commemorate their devotion. They reread the books every single year. Such an intense love doesn't just go away.
"They are totally still out there, in a big way," Bekah Decker told Refinery29. She and her friend Nikki Pierce ran the site Letters to Twilight, where for five years they wrote hilarious, fangirly, but not entirely uncritical letters to the movies, actors, books, and fans. When they finally felt the well of news was running dry, they spun off their site into Thats-Normal.com, which retains a similar fan voice but encompasses broader pop culture subject matter.

"We already brought a lot of the other things that we liked into Letters to Twilight, but we just wanted to expand and talk about more shows, more movies, more books," Pierce said. "We still love Twilight, obviously, so we left on amicable terms."

It's the same story for other, bigger fansites, such as Twilightish, which is now Fangirlish, and Twilight Source, whose creator Andrew Sims went on to found Hypable. On those sites, you can see how much of the passion fans had for Edward and Bella has now shifted to the likes of Outlander's Claire and Jamie.

Then there are the Twihards who have never changed their focus. They've just moved their conversations to Facebook groups, and, yes, even to real life.
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Photo: Fotonoticias/WireImage.
"I don't know that [the fandom] has grown smaller; it's grown more intense," said Lissy Andros, the executive director of the Forks, WA, Chamber of Commerce. The tiny logging town saw its visitor numbers grow from 5,600 in 2005 (the year before it became the fictional home of the Cullens) to 72,900 in 2010. Last year's count, 37,600, is still quite up there, historically speaking.

"We still get thousands of Twilight fans in here that are either coming for the first time, or they've just fallen in love with the area," said Andros, who actually moved to Forks from Texas because of the franchise.

One of her job responsibilities is to run the annual Forever Twilight in Forks festival in September. At last year's festival, Meyer came to sign books — and first hinted at the 10th anniversary bonus material that would become Life and Death, the novel in which Meyer turned Bella and Edward into Beau and Edith. There were more than 1,500 attendees that weekend, the highest in the event's 10-year history.

"We get everyone from the typical Twilight fan — how people picture them, which is a teenager — but the true Twilight fan is a woman of any age," she said. "We're now getting Twi-guys... These are men that maybe watch it with their families, and they like it."

People are just as passionate about, say, 'Star Wars,' Disney or 'Game of Thrones,' but those types of franchises are seen as more 'acceptable' than Twilight. It drives me crazy.

Vee Elle

Meyer has come to a few of the festivals, as have various actors from the movies, such as Booboo Stewart (who played werewolf Seth). Breaking Dawn director Bill Condon's production partner Jack Morrissey works with the festival, arranging the celebrity appearances and helping with promotion. Additional actors are hired to play characters from the books, interacting with fans and posing for pictures. Vee Elle, a member of the Olympic Coven acting troupe, likens the gig to playing characters at Disney.

"When I'm in character, I aim to treat everyone I meet the way Alice treats Bella: like we’re instantly best friends," Vee Elle, a 28-year-old from Toronto, told us via email. "Readers love Alice’s character because they want to be her friend, so I aim to be bubbly, warm, and open, offering compliments and fashion advice and invitations to the Cullen house for parties. And then, when the conversation deepens, I ask them about their lives: their families, their jobs, their homes."
Photo: David Youngberg/Land's End Images.
Vee Elle and Lissy Andros.
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This hits on one of the most common statements I heard from Twilight fans while researching this story. They come together to talk about the books and movies, even after all these years, but they stay because they feel an instant connection to each other.

"I think people are craving community, and communities that form naturally and organically often tend to be stronger than ones that are deliberately facilitated," CJ wrote to Refinery29 on the private Forever Twilight in Forks Facebook group. "A story about a small tightly bonded group — such as Twilight, Star Trek, Lord of the Rings — provides a good kernel for extended community to form around."
Meyer's books are chronicles of strong feelings — Edward and Bella's romance and heartbreak, the wolves' volatile tempers, vampires' fierce hunger and protective parental love — and it seems that when you get a group of people together who are drawn to this emotional roller coaster, they begin to feel strongly about each other, too.

"In the [Facebook] group, if someone puts a post out there that 'I'm coming alone; this is my first time,' they will envelope that person with a welcoming hug," Andros said. "It's so heartwarming to feel so accepted."

Andros said she's seen people meet for the first time at the festival and form such a tight bond that they take other vacations together throughout the year.

I don't know that [the fandom] has grown smaller; it's grown more intense.

Lissy Andros
"Even though there are no more books or movies coming out, we use our love of Twilight and have come together on Facebook," Kim Mahone, a 34-year-old from Beaufort, SC, told Refinery29 via email. "We discuss what's going on with our families, some talk about the past events, and just what they look forward to seeing and doing the most at the FTF event in Forks, as well as the New Moon Over Gatlinburg [Tennessee] event in April."

Vee Elle, who's a fan as much as she's a "professional" in the Twilight world, doesn't think the appeal of gathering with other fans will disappear any time soon.

"My fiancé asks me why I'm still involved in the Twilight fandom all the time," Vee Elle said. "But I look forward to my Twilight events, and immersing myself in that world, because of the friendships I've made with other Twilight fans. When you're at a Twilight event, you're with like-minded people who wouldn't be there if they weren't as big a fan as you are."
Pam Rice, a 66-year-old from San José, CA, said even the non-fans in her life see the value in her passion.

"My non-fan friends are supportive," she wrote in an email. "Maybe [they] wonder about me, but [they're] happy I have found something enjoyable."

Though Vee Elle says her non-fan friends know about her Olympic Coven gig, she's aware of the stigma of being a Twihard.

"The judgment that comes with being a Twilight fan is a little disappointing," Elle said. "It feels like anything that has a strong, vocal, female fanbase — whether it's Twilight or 50 Shades or One Direction — is usually subject to more ridicule. People are just as passionate about, say, Star Wars, Disney or Game of Thrones, but those types of franchises are seen as more 'acceptable' than Twilight. It drives me crazy."
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Photo: David Youngberg/Land's End Images.
But now that Twilight is no longer in the public eye every day, the haters have kept quiet, too. Another huge shift in the fandom was the breakup of Pattinson and Stewart.

"I think that was pretty divisive for the fandom," Decker said. "Honestly, it got crazy, because people chose sides, and [friendships] broke up. There were Rob fans, and there were Kristen fans."

Those fans of the actors are still quite vocal online — just ask Pattinson's fiancée, FKA Twigs.

Professionally, Pierce and Decker have grown even closer to Twilight. Though they live on opposite coasts, Pierce in Los Angeles and Decker in Philadelphia, they run their own digital marketing agency, Method Agency. Their first client? Stephenie Meyer.

"She and her business partner came to us, and they had a film production company and wanted us to run their social media," Pierce explained. The most surreal moment of their fandom-turned-day-job life was when they helped promote Life and Death.

Though that book's plot was a twist on the one they already knew so well, when Decker read it, she said it brought her right back to her Twilight roots. "It was so reminiscent of that first time."

While promoting that book, Pierce and Decker had the chance to introduce the franchise to younger bloggers. They've also seen children of the original fans now becoming old enough to read the books. If they keep this up, the Twilight fandom may have the longevity of, well, a certain sparkly, blood-drinking species.
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