Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Vampires in America

In celebration of Twilight Break Dawn Part Two coming out I wanted to talk a little bit about vampires and the Twilight Saga. First off I want to point out from an amusement and entertainment point of view I do enjoy the Twilight movies...I enjoy making fun of them more, however. I have read the books, more than once and I normally get a kick out of them. This being said I have some HUGE issues with how vampires are now perceived in America. With things like The Vampire Diaries, True Blood and the billions on YA vampire paranormal romances and adult paranormal romances women and men are vampire crazy.

Thankfully vampires have toned down a bit in the last few years, but it left an opening for people to swarm around shape shifters, mermaids, faries, zombies and barf angels.

So here I go.... With the starting words of "I have loved vampires since I was ten, so bite me if you have problems with my opinion. I am now 29, if you say you love vampires and have never read Dracula you are a poser."

On August 6, 2007, I was standing outside a Barnes and Noble bookstore at 11:55 pm, awaiting the release of the new Stephanie Meyer book Eclipse. Having enjoyed the two previous novels (Twilight and New Moon), I was excited. That is until midnight struck and a horde of screaming girls, with fangs, glitter on their faces and lust in their eyes, almost trampled me. This was my introduction into the world of crazed Twilight fans. When Breaking Dawn, the last book in the series hit the stores, I was in the book store several weeks later buying a different novel and nearly collided with a group of “TEAM EDWARD” shirt wearing, teeny bopper girls discussing how romantic it would be to have a vampire baby; AT EIGHTEEN!! When teenagers emulate the events in the Twilight series their health is affected.
I have read articles about students drawing each other’s blood and wearing it, which leaves most parents concerned about the spread of blood born diseases. It is not just physical health adults are concerned with. In many schools across the United States, teenagers believe biting someone is the only way to show affection, what is worse, teens also bite to show that one belongs to someone else. A sophomore by the name of Pao Hernandez was quoted as saying, “It's a way to belong to somebody, and mark their territory.” Teenagers should not believe that the type of possessiveness found in Twilight and other teen vampire novels is normal or acceptable behavior.

Many of the actions found in Twilight are just the workings of the author, Stephanie Meyer, and not meant to be a model for actual behavior. Some teenagers are not able to distinguish fact from the fantasy world Ms. Meyer has created. Parents of many teenagers worry that their children, especially teenage daughters, have been given unrealistic expectations from the books about love, sex, marriage, and having a baby. Parents do not want their children believing that marriage at 18 and starting a family right away is always a good idea. While yes, the abstinence message has a positive ring to it, teens must remember that in real life boys that get 18 year-old-girls pregnant do not usually marry them or stick around.

Teenagers forget that while Edward is living in the body of a 17- year- old male, he is 104 years old, much older than Bella and his values are from a time period rather out dated. Teens need to be able to rescue themselves and not expect to be “saved” by an overly romanticized hero, or heroine. Bella spends her whole time in Twilight co-dependent on Edward; all her hopes and dreams revolve around him. On a number of levels, this is an unhealthy attitude.

Bella’s deep emotional attachments and co-dependency on Edward are just some of the ways that clearly reflect the anti-feminism sway within the novel. In Twilight, when Bella finds out Edward is a vampire she says, “About three things I was absolutely positive. First, Edward was a vampire. Second, there was part of him — and I didn’t know how potent that part might be — that thirsted for my blood. And third, I was unconditionally and irrevocably in love with him.” Right there Bella clearly states that it does not matter if Edward wants to kill her, she will love him anyway. What sort of message does this send to other teenagers?

Not to mention Bella has no hobbies or interests outside of cooking for her father and being with her “one true love.” Her favorite books are Romeo and Juliet and Wuthering Heights. Neither are novels I would call romantic. In both cases the “romance” is sick, twisted and disturbing. She cannot take care of herself in any challenging moment and must constantly be “rescued.” Even before she met Edward she had no thoughts of college or any other future plans.

She is quiet to a point of being boring and her character is a stereotypical female with low self-esteem with 1950s views of the roles of men and women. In New Moon, Meyer writes about Bella taking a motorcycle to her friend Jacob Black to fix; Bella says, “I figured I’d have to have a Y chromosome to understand the excitement.” As if a GIRL could not possibly like or be capable of repairing a motorcycle. Bella, like many other times, does not even CONSIDER the possibility of doing it on her own.

But even with all her problems it seems EVERY guy wants to bang her. She is clumsy, not that pretty and dull, but hey… All the hot guys want her and fight over her? That’s TOTALLY what girls should understand when it comes to relationships. Insert my hate of love triangles here.

Not only can Bella not function without a man “saving” her, she chooses to give up her whole world just for the sake of being with a vampire she has known less than a year. In this day and age, how many females have a goal that only consists of serving one man? Sure would I like to marry someone who can afford for me to be a stay at home mom? Hell Yes! But I would also have my writing, my kids, and all my other millions of hobbies and passions. Fuck no would I give up my family or friends.

While most parents do not want their daughters to mimic Bella’s attitude or habits, they also do not want their daughters, or sons, acting like Edward. Edward is plain and simple, a stalker, and the worst kind of boyfriend; one that has to restrain himself from killing his own love interest. He sneaks into her bedroom and watches her sleep without her knowledge, forbids her from seeing her friends, is controlling, and follows her wherever she goes to make sure she stays out of “trouble.” “Edward’s attention to Bella mirrors disturbingly a relationship that would be called abusive in the real world.”

Meyer writes: “I wrestled all night, while watching you sleep, with the chasm between what I knew was right, moral, ethical, and what I wanted. I knew that if I continued to ignore you as I should, or if I left for a few years, till you were gone, that someday you would say yes to Mike, or someone like him. It made me angry.” (p. 303.) These words alone are red flags screaming about Edward’s stalker-like and controlling behavior.

With more than 1,000 women murdered in the United States every year by an intimate partner. Plus more than three million stalked by someone they know, it is not a surprise that parents are becoming anti-Twilight and anti-vampire. Even those who have always enjoyed vampires are becoming disenchanted with them.

Twilight is giving vampires a bad reputation. Vampires are not a new concept to America, but because of the Twilight hype people are either in love with the sparkly Stephanie Meyer version or just sick of them all together, deeming them a bad influence. The American literary field has had many novels about vampires that have been quite famous. Many authors have written about vampires and become renowned for their works. This list includes well-known names such as Anne Rice, Laurell K Hamilton and P.N Elrod. All of whom began writing vampire novels before 2000.

Vampire movies are not new to our culture either. Most people who have enjoyed movies about vampires have seen films like: Dracula, Interview with a Vampire and Lost Boys. All these classic vampire movies were released more than 10 years ago.

People forget that the book that truly made vampires famous is Dracula by Bram Stoker. His book and other classics like Carmilla by Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu, and I Vampire by John Polidori is where Americans get the stereotypes about vampires. Vampires are first and foremost, dark creatures of the night and in most cultures and mythology, demons from the underworld. They are not just beautiful teenagers that are just trying to find love.

Now if you read Rose Blossom, my self published novel you will see some of the tropes that follow most paranormal vampire romance of the YA variety. It is a shame I carry within me. But at least I read Dracula and loved it, plus I started it before Twilight was published but whatever. Stephanie Meyer has not even READ Dracula and is now considered a queen of the vampire genre. She was even quoted as saying she was embarrassed to tell people she was writing about vampires to begin with. How many vampire authors are embarrassed to speak about what made them famous?

Many other vampire writers are upset with this new version of the myth Meyer has created. Quite a few old school vampire fans do not care much for her or the Twilight books at all, seeing them as an affront to all good vampire literature. Laurell K Hamilton, who writes the Anita Blake Vampire Hunter series, is put off by the Twilight phenomenon. She finds the idea that a woman must wait to find the right guy instead of controlling their own life exceedingly scary. Five famous female vampire writers, including Anne Rice and Charlaine Harris, were asked who their favorite vampire was and who was the first vampire to inspire their writing. Not one chose anything from Twilight or a vampire similar to any found in the Twilight books.

But why? Why are vampires so popular? Why did America latch onto them and refuse to let them slink back into the coffins when the sun rose?

Well because vampires are the literary equivalent to sex and drugs. The love of vampires being like a drug one gets addicted to and is a metaphor for Americans wanting a little more weirdness in their own mundane lives, or perhaps sexual revolution. Vampires also make a superb love interest. They have great stamina and great strength; they are almost always portrayed as rich, beautiful, passionate, protective and dangerous. They fit into the fantasy of most men and women, teen or not, and take it to the next level. Lastly, vampires are supernatural beings. They have magical powers and defy logic, reason and sometimes faith. They live forever and are eternally young. Who wouldn’t want all of that, right?

So yes, vampires CAN BE sexy, aloof, dangerous and mysterious. However Twilight fans must remember that the book IS still a piece of fiction. The characters are not real. There is NO Edward to come to one’s rescue at the end of one’s own personal story. Twilight fans must also realize the possessiveness seen in most young adult vampire novels. Enjoy vampires, but expand from that series into the many great vampire novels and movies that have been produced throughout the years. Take it from this writer, who has read not only classic vampire literature, but more than a dozen teen vampire novels that include the WHOLE Twilight saga.

This is only the beginning.

If you would like to know where some of the information for the blog came from here you go!:

Twilight and Philosophy: Vampires, Vegetarians, and the Pursuit of Immortality. By R Housel and  J. Wisnewski

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