Dec 4, 2009

Posted in Guest Writer, Reviewers

Modern Vampires

Modern Vampires

By David Nora, Jr.

As Swan and Cullen exchange glances, and then embrace each other, tween girls at a midnight release of the film “Twilight” swoon in the theater, taking pleasure in a forbidden romance. With tween girls swarming malls, and wanting their necks bitten by Robert Pattinson (British heartthrob, who plays the leading vampire in the movie, Twilight), it’s no wonder that the adapted-movie made an impressive weekend debut at the box-office ($70.6 million, which is the fourth best opening in 2008). However, audiences would have screamed if they saw what vampires were originally meant to be.

415XMSX4GJLContrary to public perception, the cultured noblemen, who prey among high society did not exist until Bram Stoker’s Dracula and John Polidori’s The Vampyre. Vampires made their first appearances as only semi-demonic and outwardly human in the popular literature of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. But at the core of these refined gentlemen that demonstrated sophistication and style, they were still seen as blood-sucking monsters.

Though they lived in castles and seemed to have all the riches of their time, they could not walk around in the middle of the day, and talk to their fellow countrymen. Even worse, vampires aren’t able to love, unless their beloved is willing to sacrifice their life and become a vampire themself. But who would do that?

Not many. A few have come close, such as Wilhelmina “Mina” Murray of Stoker’s Dracula but even then it was a reaction to the vampire’s spell. Gothic romance has always been an underlying ingredient of the stories of vampires, but the centerpiece was always being afraid. They were horror stories. These men were truly dangerous, not just bad boy hemophiliacs.

There’s no denying that these last couple of years have seen a new cultural phenomena that seems bent on removing all substance. Always a ravenous kettle for culture, tween-girls sucked the life out of musicals, with the highly-successful trilogy of High School Musical. Teen and twenty-somethings, who are addicted to television shows that have no end in sight (such as Heroes or Lost), have been picking away at whatever bones are left. Hence, it was only a matter of time until the old demonic-version of the vampire received a stake to the heart, and was reincarnated into its present form.
Throughout the past decade, vampires have been immortalized in a string of books, films and television shows. “The Twilight Saga,” a series of four fantasy/romance novels by author Stephenie Meyer, has squeezed the most success and reception in this vampire phenomenon. Twilight, an adaption of the first book in the series with the same name, follows Isabella “Bella” Swan (Kristen Stewart), as the kind-hearted teenager who moves to the rainy small town of Forks, Washington. As she starts her junior year in high school, she becomes fascinated by Edward Cullen (Pattinson), a classmate with a secret—he’s a vampire. Having sold over twenty-five million copies, and marketed tons of merchandise (including “Twilight”-themed chocolate bars at Godiva, and a line of clothes at Hot Topic), “Twilight” has received enough attention to warrant being mocked in the animated comedy series, South Park.

Interview_with_the_vampireNevertheless, some enthusiasts of the vampire culture aren’t too pleased. “I think that they are manipulating vampire lore to make it more attractive to mainstream audiences,” said Lauren Cicitto, President of Purchase’s Literature Society, and avid reader of Anne Rice’s Vampire Chronicles (which includes the cult success, Interview with the Vampire). “They’re trying to appeal to the younger generations that like Gossip Girl and Miley Cyrus and Mean Girls. It’s all about lip gloss and looking pretty, and not about the darkness that vampires are suppose to represent. It’s the teenybopper version of vampires. It’s disgusting.”

Although Twilight has a menacing score filled with moody strumming of guitars and pianos and a collection of high- and slanted-camera angles, which provides a more interesting and dramatic scope than other tween-romances, Cicitto’s thoughts hold a certain truth. Twilight isn’t a comprehensive guide on vampires; just like Titanic (1997) isn’t a step-by-step sinking of the ship. It is a story of romance and desire between two unlikely lovers. However, it goes to great—even comical—lengths to twist the mood and myths of vampires, so that the romance can work between the two. For example, in one scene, Cullen nears the edges of the woods and shows Swan what happens to vampires in the light—apparently, they sparkle like fool’s gold. Don’t they usually burn and die?

Unfortunately, this happy sentiment towards vampires seems to be a trend throughout the phenomenon. True Blood, based on the Sookie Stackhouse series of books by Charlaine Harris, is a television series that airs on HBO. True Blood details the co-existence of vampires and humans in Bon Temps, a fictional town in Louisiana. The series centers on Sookie Stackhouse (Anna Paquin), a telepathic waitress at a bar, who falls in love with the vampire, Bill Compton (Stephen Moyer). Even this series picks up on echoes of other books such as Anita Blake Vampire Hunter that also seeks to give American citizenship to vampires.

true-blood-1Although this testimonial seems sincere, drama and sex shrouded it to gain new viewers (of course, ratings). Like Twilight, True Blood tinkers with the horrific but sexual appeal of vampire myth. “Part of me thinks it is worse,” said Cicitto. “They’re creating new myths of vampires…that are awful. For instance, if you drink vampire blood, it’s like a hallucinogen. They’re stretching it. I think they’re going to ruin the essence of the vampire myth.”

Vampires have been a part of popular culture since the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. In the beginning, vampires were miserable creatures, but still to be feared. But that’s all changed in these times. Today, younger and younger crowds seem sympathetic, transforming the “classic vampire” into one of them. Young viewers are searching for a “happy co-existense” (from the teen-drama, Dawson’s Creek), but unfortunately their naïveté and shallowness stretches the fundamental nature of “vampires”—and whatever else they can sink their teeth into.

It doesn’t seem like it’ll die down any time soon. Summit Entertainment (Twilight’s film distributor) has greenlighted a sequel for the next book in the series. Also, HBO has already drawn plans for a second season of True Blood. Thus, this vampire phenomenon—this cutesy-wootsy, “they’re people too” idea—isn’t ttfn-ing unless teenage trolls or mummies get hot.

VN:F [1.9.22_1171]
Rating: 5.0/5 (1 vote cast)
Modern Vampires, 5.0 out of 5 based on 1 rating

Comments are closed.