We’ve seen this before.
First, there were the Tolkien-ites. Those Lord of the Rings-obsessed fanatics who took a course in Elvish and traded engagement rings for bands crafted from the fires of Mount Doom. Then came the Pott-heads—an entire generation of people defined by a boy and his wand, a writer with ambiguous initials, and a boarding school that made an education at Eton look like the darkest corners of Knockturn Alley. But these hugely popular series, like many before them, have an expiration date.
Take the Twilight saga, the vampire-themed fantasy romance novels written by Stephenie Meyer and devoured as soft-core porn by teenage girls everywhere. The saga met its swan song Friday, with the U.S. release of the series’s final film adaptation, Breaking Dawn: Part 2. This week, hundreds of fans from around the globe traveled to Los Angeles to camp out in anticipation of the film’s red-carpet premiere. It’s clear that trilogies, series, and sagas bring out the most obsessed of fans.
But unlike Harry Potter or LOTR, Twilight’s audience sways heavily female. Not surprising, as the story revolves around an ordinary teenager who is pursued by two attractive and seemingly out-of-her-league men—er, creatures. Women of all ages have fallen in love with the idea of a love so strong, that nothing—not even an 86-year age gap (Bella is 17 when she first meets 104-year-old Edward)—could keep them apart.
Liz Maslen saw the first Twilight film 14 times in theaters, after a group of co-workers had to drag her to the cinema for her first viewing. The miniature-pony breeder from Australia attributes her love of the series to one particular heroine. “I identified with Bella,” she told The Daily Beast. “Most girls don’t have great self-esteem, don’t think we’re worthy or anything out of the ordinary. I could relate to that, I guess. The thought that this seemingly ‘perfect’ guy was infatuated so much with such an ordinary-seeming girl … I don’t know, it’s appealing.”
And while the series has come to an end, Maslen’s devotion to the franchise is unwavering—as documented by the large Cullen family crest and a quote from the novel she had inked on her lower back. “Tattoos are a personal thing. Some people like to show them off … but mine are hidden. I know they’re there... to me, it was a romantic line, symbolizing a strong love,” Maslen said. “I still love it as much as when I got it.”
Twilight devotees come in all shapes and sizes—from teenage Team Jacobs to “Twimoms.” And although Maslen prefers to keep her tribute tattoo under wraps, other fans are openly zealous.
Jessica Moran, a 22-year-old from Dublin, Ireland, has big plans for her viewing of Breaking Dawn: Part 2. Her local theater is hosting a Twilight marathon, screening all of the previous films leading up to an extravagant showing of the final flick. “I’ll be in the theater for about 12 hours,” she said.
Putting in red contacts, applying dark purple and black makeup, and adorning herself to look like “Vampire Bella” is all part of the movie-going experience. The first four Twilight movies earned $2.5 billion worldwide, due in part to fans like Moran, who attend premieres religiously and collect everything from Twilight-inspired socks and jewelry to Bella Band-Aids. And just like the vampires themselves, Twihards come out at night, bringing in $30 million in sales from midnight screenings alone.
But when the last pages have been flipped and the final films scrutinized, what remains of a series’ devoted fans? Some Twihards might move on to other popular series, like the teen-oriented Hunger Games, or similarly sexual 50 Shades of Grey, while others will not mourn the loss of the series end at all.
Allie Sanfilippo was once so enamored with Meyer’s fantastical series that she persuaded her best friend to get a matching tattoo inspired by the novels. But at the time, her connection to the series was more than a fixation with half-deads and sleepy Washington state suburbs—it was an escape from her everyday life. “As the years have gone by, my focus on Twilight has drifted … I began reading the books while I was in the midst of a divorce, and it was something nice to divert my attention,” she said. “My son was only 10 months old at the time and I was nursing a lot, so I read quite a bit.”
Content to move on to other reading material, Sanfilippo and her best friend still share their matching tattoos, but it’s fans like Jessica Moran who have a harder time moving forward. “There’ll be no more premieres or speculating with friends about which scenes will make it into the films or how an actor is going to portray a certain scene from the book,” she said. “I honestly don’t know what I’m going to do with my spare time now!”
An avid fan of Twilight spinoffs, Moran devoured the popular “porn for moms” novel 50 Shades of Grey through the alias of Twilight fan fiction, where the plot remains the same with “just the names changed.”
But for fans like Moran, the difficult transition out of Twilight hype has a online support group. “Being on Twitter means I’m part of a Twilight family who will always be tweeting Twilight pictures and reminiscing about the films and books.”
Even Meyer, the Mormon mother of three who created the fantastical world of lusty vampires, is baffled by the franchise’s appeal. “I don’t know what makes people love it, I don’t know what makes people hate it,” she told the Los Angeles Times. Indisputably, the ones who love it will find ways to keep it alive.
“It’s completely changed my life,” Moran said. Even when “the sun is setting … it [reminds me] of Twilight.”