This summer I visited family in Seattle. And yes, we took the Twilight tour. But what I discovered on that tour was something much different than the somewhat magical, absolutely cheesy and kind of action-packed world of vampires and werewolves.
I discovered the actual lives of the people living there and what I observed is far beyond what the books describe.
I get that it’s fiction, but when a story is so vividly based off an actual place, somewhat accurate depiction becomes necessary.
I witnessed the deep sense of desertion and poverty in the town of Forks and the Quileute Reservation. It wasn’t magical, or suspenseful or even cheesy. It was real and raw and depressing.
When our tour bus drove through the town of Forks, I was shocked. It was just so small and lifeless. It was the middle of a sunny afternoon and considering the fact that Forks is the rainiest place in the continental U.S., I expected people to be out. But no one was outside. Not on the driveways of the typical suburban homes, not at the supply store, or even at the “Dazzled by Twilight” tour shop.
When we got inside the little gift store that housed Bella’s truck, I spotted life. Some older women were working the register. And when we swung by the police department, some older men came out in uniform to say hello. I didn’t spot any of the younger crowd at all.
Forks High School was in the process of being rebuilt and everyone was probably on vacation themselves, but I didn’t see any kids anywhere. I wasn’t expecting a summer concert or anything, but maybe some sunbathers or pedestrians on their way to the store.
As my tour guide explained that the only industry prevalent in the area was that of timber and that Twilight basically saved the town from their own economic and social depression, I realized how sad it all was.
I tried imagining the town before the tourist shop, Bella’s truck and the bed-and-breakfast that is actually based off the Cullen house in the series. I imagined how mundane, uneventful and somewhat depressing it would be to live in the town. Any retail shopping or dining was done in Port Angeles, which is about an hour away — and that was a small city in itself. To truly experience people at work and play, one would have to drive about two hours through the Olympic Peninsula and take a ferry to Seattle. It scared me to think about living in such isolation.
What was truly eye opening was my conversation with a Quileute elder at the Quileute Indian Reservation where we stopped. I approached him reluctantly as he sat on a white bucket, fishing the coastline for smelt. My tour guide had told me that they liked to keep to themselves but I wanted to see if he would talk to me. To my surprise, he was very welcoming and even invited us back for the dinner he was catching.
He was 67 years old with a stout body and weathered face. He began to describe his life on the reservation. He explained that he was raised in the Chiefs Family called the Eagle Clan. Only 390 people lived on the reservation with 85 percent unemployment and fishing as their main industry.
As I turned my gaze away from the beauty of the foggy, gray ocean and overwhelming cliffs drifting in the sea, I took a closer look at the wooden shack like houses behind me. It was nothing like the neat and tidy house and tool shed of Jacob Black. It was withered and crowded and old.
The Quileute elder looked over the cliffs in front of us and told a story of when he almost died behind the cliff islands. Eleven years ago, he was fishing to feed his visiting son and he almost drowned. He claimed to have seen a vision of his deceased father who urged him not to get too close to him because the kids needed to be taken care of and his son needed to go back.
He was saved that day but since then has had his sons and daughters teach his grandkids how to swim. He even gave a brief remark on how Twilight depicted the Quilieute people: though the legends were pretty accurate, the people themselves were not.