“By the way, I’ll have a fucking meltdown if we don’t watch Emma. today,” I tap into my primary group chat at 10:30 a.m. on the dot. Under normal circumstances such a text message would receive some concerned responses — maybe even this alarmed Supernatural gif. Instead, before noon, my L.A.-based best friend has “loved” my threatening text and shoots back, “I’m into that.”
It is all but assured that by the time I go to sleep today, I will video chat with some of my very closest pals while giggling along to Autumn de Wilde’s much-frilled, heavily horny adaptation of Jane Austen’s 19th century novel, which was just released on VOD. Otherwise, someone will have to take responsibility for that meltdown we were talking about.
In the era of social distancing to fight coronavirus, we’ve all reverted back to the hyper-specific, hyper-connectedness of our tween years. It’s the very best way to stay sane while stuck inside the four walls of your apartment (or house, if you’re a particularly lucky millennial). At least it is for those of us who are lucky enough to enjoy the privilege of yuppie trappings like jobs that encouraged — or demanded — work from home policies in the face of pandemic, easy access to high-speed wireless, and disposable income.
Before the COVID-19 pandemic drove us into our homes, there was no need to group watch our favourite movies and shows with our friends via a Netflix Party plug-in or Google Hangouts video chat. That was time that could be better spent at brunch, workout classes, live music shows, or actually going into the office. There’s no need to share a Zoom group photo on Twitter when you can drive to a loved one’s home to cook dinner or jump on a train to your favourite happy hour. That ease of socialisation is on pause right now, much like it was when an honest response to a hangout request was, “Sorry, my mom said no.”
At this point, we are all spiritually waiting for our dad to agree to drive us to the mall.
If you need proof that the middle school aesthetic is keeping self-quarantined young people anchored to this earth, look no further than the recent Twitter search results for “Twilight marathon.” The tweets are endless. “C*r*n*v*r*s, meet my quarantine kit. Twilight marathon, tequila, weed, healthy snacks, and unhealthy snacks,” writes one person. “Not sure what it says about this quarantine timeline, but the fact I’m already doing a Twilight marathon 4 days in is probably not a good sign,” and “Start a Twilight marathon if you are bored in quarantine,” say two others.
The Twilight Saga is the ultimate tween franchise. Many fans come to it in middle school, titillated by the barely contained sexual yearnings of Bella Swan and the innate chasteness of Morman author Stephanie Meyer’s writing. If you’re curious about sex and also scared of sex — like many tween girls — Bella Swan (played by Kristen Stewart in the blockbuster franchise) gets you. While I was in the sweet spot demographic of 13 years old when Meyers’ first book published, women born in 1992 aren’t the only ones who hold Twilight near and dear to their adolescent hearts. With the publication of four YA books and five chart-topping movies from 2005 to 2012, Twilight managed to draw new bastions of young fans over those seven years.
In the eight years since Breaking Dawn: Part 2's premiere, it's likely a new class of young folks has imprinted on the series, which hasn't disappeared from YA bookshelves or streaming outlets.
That is why youth-focused network Freeform aired a Twilight marathon last weekend, which many dubbed the first “quarantine weekend” in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. Then the net aired a second marathon to start off the week. I will be marathon viewing Twilight with my best friend of 14 years at some point this weekend (she lives on the other side of the country). We could all be watching far more explicit films as grown adults with bank accounts, but, no, I am hellbent on watching Edward Cullen (Robert Pattinson) utilise every fibre of his self control to not ravish the willing young woman in front of him.
Yet there’s more to this moment than merely downloading Emma. or entering into a sparkly vampire-related pact with friends. Earlier this week I was on my first multi-way party call in over a decade. The subject at hand was singing “Happy Birthday” to a friend. While the situation felt foreign at 27, I quickly remembered it was the pastime du jour when I was in sixth grade and just getting to know my new middle school friends (one of those chums Instagram DM-ed me yearbook photos from that period on Tuesday, out of the blue).
Back then, the conversation would turn to talk about homework and prank calls we would never actually make; this week, the six of us went from birthday platitudes into choosing the next movie we would stream as a collective (2008’s Stepbrothers was the first film brought up in the subsequent group chat). In the other room, my roommate got back into The Sims.
Two days after the party call, Refinery29 itself hosted a company-wide group viewing party of the underrated Charlie’s Angels, which is now on Netflix — and was released when I was 8. After days of not wearing makeup, I put some on just for a lighthearted photo, which was sent to my work friends as proof of solidarity in Angel-ing. It reminded me of playing around with Lip Smackers and random glitter eyeshadow way back when for the fun of it, rather than the need to be prepared for surprise demands of bar selfies and Instagram story poses.
So if you need me, I’ll probably be an hour into Eclipse — but you can catch me on Google Hangouts. I’ll definitely answer.