Everyone remembers that the Twilight saga’s vampires were famous for shining when hit with sunlight, but not every fan of the series knows just how much Stephenie Meyers’ novels and their movie adaptions altered the traditional vampire mythos. The Twilight movies got a lot of flack from critics for having some deeply un-scary vampires, and the ribbing was not entirely undeserved. Where the iconic Stephen King adaptation Salem’s Lot turned its vampires into mute, monstrous killing machines, the teen romance saga featured “vampires” who didn’t survive on human blood and could walk around in daylight.
This allowed Twilight to tell a paranormal teen romance without having to answer awkward questions like “how can he attend school if he can’t leave the house during the day?” However, Twilight’s alterations to traditional vampire mythology did not go unnoticed and caused a sizable controversy among fans of the horror sub-genre. For some years in the early 2010s, no conversation about Twilight was complete without fans and detractors both defending and complaining about the saga’s infamous “sparkly vampires.”
The vampires of Twilight did twinkle in the sun instead of spontaneously combusting, but this change was actually not that unusual for depictions of the mythical monsters. For example, Bram Stoker’s Dracula (seen by many fans of the sub-genre as the formative vampire story) featured scenes of its villain stalking through London during the day without accruing any damage. That said, the vampires of Twilight diverged from traditional lore in numerous other ways that were subject to less criticism at the time of the saga’s success, but which nonetheless fundamentally alter how the fictional bloodsuckers operate. Twilight’s vampires had individual superhero-style powers tailored to their strengths, were both “impossibly fast and strong,” and most importantly, didn’t need to drink human blood to survive. Each of these changes had a canon justification although, when taken together, they resulted in a movie monster that didn’t bear much resemblance to its famous inspiration.
Twilight’s Vampires Don’t (Have To) Drink Blood
Although plenty of Twilight’s vampires, like the Denali Coven, live off human blood, the crucial difference in their mythology is that they don’t have to feed on humans to survive. The undead vampires of Twilight can survive on animal blood as well as human and, other than being ravenous when they are first turned, it’s not really clear how often they have to eat. This means many of the saga’s heroic vampires, including the entire Cullen clan, are “vegetarians” by their standards. They live off the blood of animals and generally leave humans alone, a marked difference from traditional vampires who must subsist on human blood to survive.
This change was most likely made to accommodate Twilight’s teen romance plotline. The Twilight novels were almost entirely bloodless, prompting their movie adaptations to add some gory action into proceedings, and the story’s vampires couldn’t kill human characters for fear of this detail putting younger readers off them. However, this did result in vampires who were in no way inherently villainous, a very tame reinvention of the creature that stripped away most of its monstrosity and left behind little more than an unusually pale teen heartthrob. Understandably, a lot of traditional vampire fans were unimpressed with this change.
Twilight’s Vampires Aren’t Killed By Sunlight
As noted above, Dracula himself was not hurt by daylight and the idea that vampires are killed by the sun was likely popularized by the influential 1922 horror movie Nosferatu. However, to allow the story to take place in the daytime, Twilight’s vampires needed to be able to survive sunlight but to be outright impervious to it. As such, the Twilight saga’s bloodsuckers don’t accrue any physical damage whatsoever when exposed to sunlight, but they do still need the persistent cloud cover of the Pacific Northwest. This is because, in a choice that haters of the Twilight franchise never let fans forget, these vampires sparkle conspicuously when exposed to the sun. Of all Twilight’s changes to the standard vampire mythos, this was easily the most controversial, mostly because it turned the usually vicious monsters into a more delicate and glitzy sort of character.
Twilight’s Vampires Have Superpowers
An early draft of Twilight’s script made Bella a badass who hunted vampires with a shotgun, flying in the face of author Stephenie Meyers’ contention that the heroine should be overwhelmed by the paranormal creatures surrounding her and unable to defend herself as a result. Some critics argued that this made Bella too passive to be an effective main character since some of the changes that Meyers made to vampire lore made her undead characters impossible for a human to face off against. Between their shared super strength, super hearing and sight, and super speed, and their individual abilities like mind reading, telling the future, and controlling the minds of others, it’s fair to say that Meyers’ Twilight vampires have as much in common with superheroes as they do more traditional vampires. Each Twilight vampire has its own superpower as well as the abilities shared by all of their kind, meaning it was all-but-impossible for human characters to stand a chance against even the saga’s weakest bloodsuckers.
Twilight’s Vampires Are Venomous
Most vampire stories have a hard time explaining exactly how a person becomes a vampire. After all, if being bitten by a vampire turns a character into one of their kind, who do they feed on? Vampires need to bite human victims to drink their blood, but a vampire biting a human turns that human into a vampire, creating a recursive mythological feedback loop. Vampire stories from Netflix’s Night Teeth to Salem’s Lot have all offered different answers to this apparent paradox and Twilight is no slouch in this department either, with its vampires using their venom to decide when they want to change a human. The saga’s venomous vampires injected their poison into humans who they wanted to turn instead of simply drinking their blood, making the process of feeding and the process of turning two distinct, separate entities. While the Twilight series made many changes to traditional vampire mythology, this was one of the more understandable alterations as it allowed the saga to distinguish between victims of vampire attacks and those chosen to join the legions of the undead.