It was inevitable that the much-reviled Twilight franchise of the late aughts would come in for cultural reevaluation.
The Kristen Stewart-Robert Pattinson vampire saga began its exoneration tour last spring, with Vulture’s Wolfgang Ruth writing an ode to its camp-cringe watchability, followed by a steady growth in its social media presence. The movies also found a whole new swath of fans, and delighted the OGs, when the entire franchise came out on Netflix last July. Then the Obamas-produced podcast The Big Hit Show debuted in January, with host Alex Pappademas devoting the first five episodes to Twilight and unpacking the virulent misogyny inherent in the hate directed at the series—and especially at its teen-girl fan base.
Last month, The Batman’s Pattinson, who once trolled the YA films even as he promoted them, declared it “so 2010” to be a Twi-hater. And a Washington Post writer just pronounced Twilight the best movie of 2008: “One of the rare teen flicks where the teenagers actually look like teenagers and their inarticulate pauses linger poignantly in the multiplex. But also a subtly camp sense of humor woven throughout, anchored by Robert Pattinson.”
Now, Ashley Greene is having her say. The 35-year-old actress played Alice Cullen, the clairvoyant, pixie-haired sister of Pattinson’s Edward, and she’s hosting a rewatch podcast with her friend Melanie “Mel” Howe, who happens to be a Twilight superfan. The Twilight Effect, whose fourth episode is out on Tuesday, will interview other actors from the franchise, as well as behind-the-scenes talent and musicians from the soundtracks. We’re doubting either lead shows up, but Spencer Oscar-nominee Stewart had some recent kind words for the movies that made her a household name. So maybe?
Los Angeles talked to Greene—who just announced she’s pregnant with her first child—about going back to a turbulent time in her life, the creepy “red flags” that might have prevented such movies being made today, and a perfect segue into a new business.
You and Mel have been friends for a while, yet you haven’t talked about her Twihard side?
There’s this line in my friendships with people who say they’re interested in me and not what I do. So it’s really interesting to see all these things she’s been kind of—well, harboring isn’t the right word. All of these things she’d have liked to know that she never asked.
It’s great to see people like you being able to discuss the positive things about Twilight, while openly questioning the creepier aspects of it—like Edward gaslighting Bella, and watching her sleep—that would never fly in a movie if it was made today.
People are a lot more aware now of what those things are, and a lot more vocal. We bring that up in a couple of places, where I’m like, “This is another red flag!” If we weren’t in this movie setting, it wouldn’t be acceptable, and it happens quite often. Everyone swoons over Edward, but there’s a darker undertone there.
And it gets darker in the next movie.
Yeah, when we were going over New Moon, breaking it down scene by scene, you see Bella fall into this depression. And there’s a moment where Edward says, “I didn’t know if I wanted to live anymore if you weren’t OK”—and it’s like, whoa. There are definitely more serious notes there.
In the first episode, you allude to having gone through a hard time back in the day. Can you elaborate?
When you’re 20, you’re still forming who you are. And to be doing that when everybody is watching, it turns into a bit of a pressure cooker. There are things you do as a teenager and in your early 20s that you don’t necessarily want broadcasted across the world. It’s a very severe learning curve. And “Twilight” was one of my first real jobs, this one-in-a-lifetime experience, so it took a little while for me to be able to separate my self-worth from this career path.
Are you able to enjoy the movies more from this vantage point?
For the first time ever, I can watch them from a fan’s perspective. When you’re working, watching yourself is really not that enjoyable. So now I can sit back and be like, “Alice is so adorable!”
How have your guests felt about revisiting that part of their lives?
I think everyone is a lot more open. When we were in the middle of this hurricane that was Twilight, we wanted to keep our lives as private as possible. At this point, it’s more just reminiscing with people who have become like family members.
It’s really funny Mel didn’t know you were wearing a wig in this series.
I guess I should take that as a huge compliment. Of course we were all very aware of the wigs, and they change quite a bit from film to film. We had new directors, and new hair and makeup crews, each time.
It’s interesting how much the feel of the franchise changes after Catherine Hardwicke directed the first film. Did you feel a tonal shift when the studio brought on male directors [Chris Weitz, David Slade, and finally Bill Condon]?
I definitely did. Catherine is the most energetic person, and she created this sort of organized chaos in a way I didn’t quite understand when I was on set. But when you watch it, there’s this energy in the [first] film, a lot of movement, and I think it gets a little more static through the rest of the saga.
Did you read Stephenie Meyer’s Midnight Sun, the telling of Twilight from Edward’s perspective?
I started it… I didn’t finish. I think we’ll cover it after we get through Breaking Dawn. But everyone, don’t kill me if it doesn’t end up happening!
You and Mel, as well as The Big Hit Show, talk about the driving force of these teen-girl feelings in the movies. Do you still relate to that?
I think teenage girls are so driven by emotion, and things hit them to their core. I wouldn’t have expected it at this age, but when I was watching it, I totally remembered feeling like that. You get better at controlling your responses, but those feelings still affect us.
Speaking of women and their feelings, you just revealed you’ve got a start-up [Hummingway] that’s centered on periods!
This is something that came out of a place of need. I got off hormonal birth control and kind of lost control of my body, and had cramps and mood swings and adult acne, and couldn’t get any answers. I was trying to be my own health care advocate, and it ended up turning into this mission, because there are so many people who experience the same things I did. And we’re up against this huge [gender] data gap that we’re very dedicated to helping close. It was important to get people a non-toxic solution, but also to give them an educational platform that they can use to go talk to their health care providers about reproductive health.
It’s kind of a genius move for a former vampire.
Spoiler alert: We talk about that in one of our episodes! Mel asked me: “When a human is on their period, how does that affect vampires?” I was like, “That’s a very valid point, and I’m glad you brought it up.”
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