Team Edward or Team Jacob: A Million Dollar Marketing Tactic
By: Natalie Maurer and Peyton St. George (2021)
The ever present love triangle in romantic young adult fiction became an “overpowering cliche” in the early 2000’s after many popular 90’s franchises shifted publishers attention and culturally paved the way for the plot trend of a heroine entangled between two potential lovers (Gaseor). With exception to tradition, a few of these love triangles involve a supernatural realm, especially that of the globally popular Twilight series written by best-selling American novelist Stephenie Meyer. In addition to her large contribution to the romance genre between 2005-2012, Meyer is also responsible for creating one of the most talked about love triangles of all time. Her four-part Twilight saga has now sold over 100 million copies, been translated into 37 languages, broken box office records as a film series, and created a tourist site in the small town of Forks, Washington (Kheraj and Cochrane). Meyer’s modern take on fictional vampire fantasies sparked an immediate reaction from not just young girls, but women of all ages, creating an obsessive fan base centered around Team Edward and Team Jacob (Journal of Adolescent and Adult Literacy). Not only has the Twilight franchise brought in billions of dollars, but it incorporates both a rivalrous love triangle (the lover competes with a rival for the love of the beloved) and a split-object triangle (a lover has split their attention between two love objects) all in one (Universe in Words). If it weren’t for Twilight’s production staff and a well-operated marketing ploy of the century, the popularity of the books may not have carried over when the films hit the big screen. Movies were produced within a year of each other, shortly after their book counterpart, giving fans a visually appealing love triangle to swoon over. A weak heroine surrounded by two strong, supernatural heroes with obsessive love tendencies made for a worldwide phenomenon and sparked a positive fan reaction in a very short amount of time. This deadly vampire-werewolf rivalry for the protagonist’s heart quickly took to screen, followed by an outpour of fans’ reactions on social media, turning into a tourist boom in the town of Forks, Washington. The crazed fandom created by Stephenie Meyer’s 2,446-page fantasy world of the Twilight series was heightened when a loyal target market fell into the marketing tactics of Summit Entertainment following the film’s adaptations of the novel series. In order to sufficiently argue this, the report will discuss the Twilight franchise as a whole through its supernatural element, fan culture, marketing tactics, online presence, and lastly the tourism.
Source: FanPop / By: Tasha_Twilight
The Love Triangle Trope
The love triangle of a seamlessly beautiful but blood thirsty vampire and a heartwarming but hot-headed werewolf offers the protagonist a decision that is truly a matter of “life or death” in her newly introduced supernatural world. Bella’s mortality is constantly in question when having to choose between two supernatural lovers making her extremely vulnerable, especially in her sexual discovery as a young woman. Upon her move to Forks, Washington, both male protagonists realize they must now join forces as a vampire clan and werewolf pack to protect Bella from the dangers of the supernatural world. The survival instinct to protect Bella along with the sexual desire to create a life-long relationship with her kept Twi-hard fans coming back for more of the forbidden love triangle (Dobuzinskis). The fan base only kept growing when the books hit the big screen after Robert Pattinson and Taylor Lautner were cast to encapsulate Bella’s (Kristen Stewart) physical attraction with their shirtless scenes and acts of impeccable strength (Wloszczyna). Unlike with the release of the novels, the split between Team Edward and Team Jacob became much more apparent after Jacob was handsomely portrayed on screen as a full-time werewolf, part-time body builder (Wloszczyna). When highlighting the tensions in Eclipse, screenwriter Melissa Rosenberg explained, what makes fans so attracted to the love triangle is the lifestyle decision that Bella has to choose when picking a forever partner to experience forbidden love with (Wloszczyna). She could have an “earthbound life” and the possibility of a family with Jacob in a werewolf pack, but with Edward she could have a fantastical, extraordinary, and daring life (Wloszczyna). When speaking to a fan base made up of 80% women, Kristen Stewart made it a point to accentuate her role in the series within the depth of the love triangle (Klein). She emphasizes the feelings one may have for two people at the same time, morphing her real life into the supernatural fiction for fans young and old to relate to the series itself in their own love lifes (Sieczkowski). The bond that fans felt for the love triangle lies in the prolonged difficulty of the decision Bella has to make for a life partner. The early 2000’s Twilight era of fiery young adult love was able to string along the mystery of Bella’s final romantic choice for three novels, gaining the loyalty of fans as the series continued.
Summit Entertainment / McClatchy Newspapers
Franchise and Fan Culture
The estimated worth of the Twilight franchise at around $3.3 billion is a testament to Stephenie Meyer and Summit Entertainment’s ability to feed the obsession of the fandom with four novels and five film adaptations all in a short period of 8 years between 2005-2012 (Kheraj). With a whopping $300 million in domestic box office revenue, The Twilight Saga: Eclipse, which was released in 2010, brought in the highest profit and number of positive fan reactions (Box Office History for Twilight Movies). The third film of the five-part series is the heart of the love triangle, giving Bella the most choice and experimentation with her supernatural relationships, but forcing fans to decide whether they were Team Edward or Team Jacob following Bella’s decision (Dobuzinskis). Different from the previous two films, Eclipse brought on a director known for his work in the horror genre to capitalize on the emotions and physical touch throughout the film as the protagonists’ heroes ban together to protect Bella from being hunted (Dobuzinskis). Viewers are also seeing the most scenes of intimacy in this film between Bella and her supernatural lovers considering they are secluded together as a means of protecting her (Dobuzinskis). When surveyed across the globe, fans mentioned their favorite Eclipse scene took place with a near frozen to death Bella and shirtless Jacob snuggled up in a tent together (Warner). In this fan favorite scene, Jacob converses with Edward, and spills one of the most well-known lines in the entire franchise, “Well, let’s face it. I am hotter than you” (Warner). Eclipse undeniably spent the most time splitting Bella’s attention between both Edward and Jacob equally, emphasizing the split-object aspect of a love triangle and making fans question who she may pick. The rivalry between Team Edward and Team Jacob grew stronger as it became unclear where Bella’s heart lied. Would she join the immortal Cullen family as a glistening, yet beautiful bloodsucker, or would Mrs. Swan choose to run with the pack of heartwarming, and not to mention smoking hot wolves who spend most of their time showing off their perfectly sculpted bodies when not shapeshifting? Regardless of the bloodthirsty vampires out to kill Bella for a long-awaited vengeance, Jacob and Edward put aside their rivalry formed by a common love interest and join forces at the sake of her life, making their vulnerable sides even more appealing to fans’ love for the fictional characters.
(Fans at the 2008 LA Twilight movie premier)
Source: Flow Journal/ By: Matt Sayles
As screen time for both physically appealing actors increased, so did the public debate of the spicy Team Edward/Team Jacob love triangle. Shortly after the release of the final film in the Twilight Saga in 2012, actors Robert Pattinson (Edward) and Taylor Lautner (Jacob) revealed that business strategists used the buildup of the love triangle at its strongest point to market the Team Edward/Team Jacob phenomenon in order to urge more fan war and interaction with the series (Meriah). The marketing tactic used to heighten the infatuation fans have for the love triangle resulted in one of the strongest cult followings a film series has ever seen (Ostergren). Despite the already existing popularity of the novel series, the Twilight marketing team took advantage of the fan’s reaction to the physical attractiveness of co-stars Pattinson and Lautner and created an even bigger rivalrous debate among fans as to who would be crowned Bella’s ideal partner. Summit Entertainment pinpointed every fan’s weakness, “a preference for abs (Taylor Lautner) or eyes (Robert Pattinson)”, despite the obvious and unfortunate fate of Jacob Black to be left out to dry in the final series (Watkins). What made fans so attracted to the male co-stars, considering they are complete opposites? An alarming number of fans didn’t hesitate to share opinions on their annoyance of the main character herself, soon focusing their attention solely on her love interests instead. Prior to the adaptation of the films, fans were so invested in the global phenomenon of Twilight that the casting of the characters was “as monumental as casting a Harry Potter movie, or, now, a Marvel movie.” (Leitch). The announcement of who would play key roles in the infamous love triangle had such a big fan impact before the movie was ever released, “pre-selling the fifth most ever tickets at a time,” despite critics disliking the chosen actors (Leitch). Talk about the loyal fanbase of Twilight’s readers, the first film adaptation was successful before its own opening night. Summit decided to capitalize on the ongoing debate between Team Edward and Team Jacob fueled by moms in book clubs and teenagers at high school lunch tables. It never ended. Team Jacob ironically created the idea that there was a chance Bella may end up with the lonely werewolf in the end, even though the books never hinted at anything other than Edward in Bella’s future (Leitch).
So, what kept fans going even after Bella had made her choice? The merchandise. It was everywhere, t-shirts, blankets, wallets, hats. you name it. Not only could fans ferociously type in a Facebook group named “Why Bella Should Have Chosen Jacob”, but they could do it while wearing a backwards Team Jacob hat. A character that Stephenie Meyer originally wrote to be a surface level part of Twilight made a good run for Bella’s heart against the infamous Edward Cullen and Summit took advantage of the fan’s obsession for him, turning Jacob into the motivation for hundreds of fan clubs, t-shirts, blogs, and shirtless posters on the walls of young girls. Not only did the marketing campaign capitalize on a love triangle through their merchandise, but they created a “super-fandom space for a female protagonist that spectators can relate to” (Klein). As if you needed any more proof of the devotion of the fans, it’s shocking to take a look at the numbers. Summit’s marketing campaign proved that there are millions of loyal fans. But how loyal are they when it comes to the big screen? To give you a hint, the film Eclipse only cost $68 million to make, bringing the overall cost to below average when compared to around $100 million for a big production. Even with its somewhat low budget, it brought in $798 million worldwide. Read that again, $798 million. The massive profit is a testament to Summit Entertainment’s use of a big marketing campaign that’s perfectly on par with the fan base and target market (Klein). Their choice to invest in the fans over the film itself paid off and is still paying off.
With the emergence of new social media platforms like Twitter in 2006 and Instagram in 2010, the Twilight movies could not have been released at a better time for the fandom to grow. Not only could the crazy “Twihards” go to the movie premiers and “bombard the film-makers with emails, and sneak on to the set,” but they had a universal way to put their fandom on public display (Cochrane). These fan accounts were used to make Twilight friend groups, post pictures of whether they were #TeamEdward or #TeamJacob, make memes about the movies, and even make edits to the movies with song overlays. In fact, not only did die-hard fans create social media fan accounts but in 2012, “the film’s Twitter account was the first to reach 1 million followers” (Kheraj). This was a huge accomplishment for the franchise because it highlighted that even though many people claimed only young, teenage girls loved Twilight, they clearly were doing something right. This new technology allowed for “real-time discussions about the most important of things: #TeamJacob or #TeamEdward,” thus expanding the love triangle debate to become virtual (Kheraj).
It is amazing that while most fandoms who are made of primarily young females end up being mocked with misogynistic comments and fizzle out, the virtual Twilight fandom continued to grow as the books and movies were released, and by 2012, the Twilight Instagram had over 1.5 million followers. This allowed their marketing teams to capitalize on love triangle merchandise and other marketing ideas because of their already huge following. Instead of having to find new ways to reach fans, social media allowed them to easily influence their followers for free. The Twilight social media pages were so successful in reaching their fanbase because they specifically targeted “females as the consuming audience, releasing the films at the right time in the thick of post-feminist era, and depicting the right story of the transformation from girl to woman” (Klein). By focusing on an empowering, female main character who had to make her own choice of who to love, young girls could picture themselves as Bella and dream about which supernatural male they would choose in their own love triangle. Thus, Twilight’s social media not only advertised the love triangle, but focused on influencing women, since 80% of the audience on New Moon’s opening night was female, and they wanted to entice these women to want to see themselves as Bella to continue the debate on #TeamEdward versus #TeamJacob (Mendelson). Having access online to an endless debate on who Bella should end up with is clearly one of the reasons this love triangle was able to affect fans’ love for the story up to seven years past the release of the first book. While social media was just beginning when the Twilight films were coming out, they were monumental in the influence the films were able to have on their audience and the growth of the fandom as the rest of the books and movies were released.
The fanbase didn’t happen overnight, with the connectedness that readers felt to Stephenie Meyer’s easy to read writing style in Bella’s point of view, fans were able to stay captivated through each of the four books (Klein). Originally written for young adult readers, Twilight attracted not only high school girls, but their moms, or “Twi-Moms” as they call themselves. Older women found themselves attracted to the series not for the physicality of the characters, but the nostalgia of two seventeen-year olds in love and the memories that connected them to their high school crushes (Stanton). Many often use the one hundred-and ten-year old lifespan of Edward as a justification for their attraction to his character and not Robert Pattinson himself, since he is an “older man” in the series (Stanton). Edward and Bella’s relationship offers so much relatability for older women and their past relationships through “the initial infatuation and hesitancy to get involved, the passion, the romance, the forced separations and the reunions, the anxiety and excitement about whether and how to have a future together” (Stanton). Not only can they share their obsession with other “Twi-Moms,” but they can have the same conversations with their teenage daughters. In fact, they start to act like teenage girls when they “view fan-made Twilight trailers on YouTube, join Twilight chat rooms, and listen to the movie soundtracks” (Stanton). There is a reason one of the most common questions between fans is, “Are you Team Edward or Team Jacob?” People are obsessed with the love triangle. Ultimately, the fan base has become an “intergenerational community of Twilight obsessives” (Stanton).
After reading every page many times through, fans young and old turned to Stephenie Meyer’s spinoffs of the novel, reaction blog posts, fan-made Twilight trailers and short films, Facebook groups, chat rooms, and endless amounts of juicy fanfiction yearning for more of the forbidden love triangle. Their loyalty for the fictional relationships continued through many other outlets, keeping the fandom alive and well. In fact, one Twi-mom who was very much #TeamEdward created such a thrilling fan fiction novel, now known as the megahit “Fifty Shades of Grey,” starting as Edward in the modern world of fanfiction. These mothers were so obsessed with Edward or Jacob because the men of Twilight were “so ideal” (Kheraj). In an interview, fans asked Stephenie Meyer how she created such entrancing, attractive characters and she stated that she’s “really kind of obsessive about [her] characters; they are the essence of the book, and everything that happens springs from who they are” (“Interview with Stephenie Meyer”). However, not all girls only liked the love triangle because of the attractive men of Twilight. Many young girls pictured themselves as Bella, being chased by two beautiful men because “Bella is an everygirl. She’s not a hero…she’s normal” (Kirschling). In this sense Twilight attracts young girls for its female empowerment of Bella who gets to choose who she ends up with, along with the fact that the author, director, and screenwriter were also all female. Many times, protagonists are the “special” people with powers or have something unique about them but Meyer claims that she made Bella normal because that’s how her teenage years were, and many books don’t write “normal” characters. Though her inspiration for Twilight came in the form of a dream of Bella and Edward in a meadow, Jacob came into existence and was able to force his way into Bella’s path because as Meyer claims, her characters “are kind of out of control, which is why they work so well for the story” (“Interview with Stephenie Meyer”). By allowing her characters to have such depth is what has helped in making their love triangle so memorable.
As the flame of the Twilight fandom only grew as the books and movies were released, the small town of Forks, Washington also became a tourist city since the introduction of the wettest place in the continental United States in the first Twilight book. Before the conception of Twilight, Forks was a quiet, small town who was struggling to make ends meet because their “local timber industry had collapsed, and no one could predict when it might revive (Farnham). While Stephenie Meyer didn’t save their timber economy, she indirectly jump started their tourist economy as her books were the cause of more tourist revenue than Forks had ever seen before. According to Forks’ Chamber of Commerce there were only about 5,000 tourists in 2004 before Twilight was written, but at its tourist peak in 2010 there were nearly 73,000 visitors (Farnham). This increase of more than 14.6 times as many visitors in 2010 than in 2004 is directly related to Twilight because the first novel was released in 2005 and movies and other books shortly followed suit. This peak specifically correlates with the theatrical release of Eclipse, emphasizing the want to see Forks corresponding with the mania surrounding the love triangle because Eclipse is the film where the love triangle between Bella, Edward, and Jacob is at its climax. It was a great surprise that the “Twilight phenomenon spawned an economy of the imaginary that continued to fuel Twilight’s faux heartland” throughout the release of the books and movies (Farnham). Companies jumped at the opportunity to be a part of this new economy and make money off of tourists. For example, to try and cater to the vampire and werewolf obsessed fans, local businesses like the Pacific Pizza restaurant would sell ‘Bella-sagna,’ and The Pacific Inn Hotel would offer Twilight-themed rooms (Farnham). Amazingly, just by labeling firewood a “Bella Bundle of Wood,” people would pay fifty more cents than buying regular wood. In the end, it was the hotels who saw the most increase in revenue as “the town’s annual hotel-motel tax receipts have leapt by 75 percent” (Farnham).
Separate from Forks, many obsessed fans would also travel nationally to Comic-con events where they could dress up as their favorite Twilight character, meet other fans and actors, and debate #TeamEdward versus #TeamJacob. Many people even believed the fans were so crazy that they ruined Comic-Con. While this could be because of their debate over the hottest monster, one instance proved this to be true and illuminated the mania within the fans when because in 2012, “a woman was killed when she was hit by a car while trying to keep a spot in line for a Twilight panel at San Diego Comic-Con.” (Leitch).
After the release of Twilight in 2005, Forks changed their own tourist website to include a whole category titled “Twilight” where you could discover the annual “Forever Twilight in Forks Festival,” that began in 2006 where fans would celebrate and even meet some of the actors from the movies. Thus, displaying fans obsessive, cultish behavior before the films were even released. The festival’s goal was to stay “committed to keeping that spirit alive for all those who still feel as passionate about the Twilight Saga today as they did when they first fell in love with it” (Forever Twilight in Forks Festival). Additionally, during the release of the movies, Twilight themed stores began popping up in Forks where you could buy #TeamEdward or #TeamJacob shirts as well as go to restaurants like Bella Italia in Port Angeles where you could order their mushroom ravioli and recreate Bella and Edward’s romantic first date. These marketing strategies are so unique because they motivate fans to not only discuss their favorite story but be able to relive their favorite Twilight scenes. Additionally, Bella’s house, which is really located in St. Helens, Oregon, became an Airbnb that could be rented by fans who wanted to spend the night in their Twilight dream. Residents of the house even placed cardboard cutouts of Bella, Edward, and Jacob as an acknowledgement to the love triangle in the saga. These marketing ploys have not only helped recreate and sustain Forks economy but are driven by the fandom’s love for Bella’s choice between “fantasy love (Edward) and reality love (Jacob)” (The Twilight Saga). In fact, the author of this has already planned her trip to Forks this summer to relive and experience her favorite modern love triangle in person.
Through successful marketing schemes and Stephenie Meyer’s ability to make characters and their emotions come to life, one of the most beloved love triangles was created. Not only has Twilight created lifelong fans as the books and films were released but they have influenced other stories like Fifty Shades of Grey and “set the tone for other young adult ‘YA’ fantasy novels,” like The Hunger Games, The Mortal Instruments, and Divergent (Ross, 2021). Although these novels don’t fall into the romance genre, their love triangles like #TeamGale or #TeamPeeta in The Hunger Games was certainly influenced by Twilight. In the end, Bella’s empowerment to choose who she ends up with is what really entices young girls in the love triangle because although Bella is a shy, clumsy character, she knows what she wants and inspires young girls to fight for what they want in love. Fans’ ability to personally relate to and obsess over Twilight made for an entire world beyond the franchise in fan fiction, merchandise, blog posts, Facebook groups, and book clubs still continuing far beyond the initial release of the final film. While the Twilight novels are what started this obsessed fandom, it is the film’s adaptation of on-screen chemistry within the love triangle and the off-screen marketing tactics that kept crazed fans enthralled to keep coming back for more.
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