Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Twilight vampires: accidentally clever

I'm sidetracking a bit today to discuss some information I picked up recently about Twilight. I'm deep into the world of Dracula at this time, and meanwhile vampire stuff is everywhere with the release of the New Moon film, so it's not completely off-topic.

I'm not a fan of the Twilight series. In fact, my friend J'Mel's article about the first movie pretty much expresses how I feel about the entire thing. I, like J'Mel, don't think you need to read the series to know that it's awful. Besides, someone is already reading it on behalf of all of us who refuse to. I've also met a few writers who have very strong (negative) opinions about the series, including one who specifically told me she thought it was dangerous for tweens. I don't agree that the books are dangerous, I just don't think they are very good.

I was surprised to learn, however, that there is some precedence for the seemingly non-vampiric nature of Stephanie Meyer's vampires. A big complaint is that they lack fangs, which are the most universally accepted trait of vampires. As it turns out, the title character in the vampire story Carmilla has no fangs, and this is a story that preceded and inspired Dracula.

Additionally, on Here and Now yesterday they discussed how there is precedence for the vampire as a stereotype of Mormons. It turns out that vampire imagery was used to demonize the Mormons in the early 1900s. Stephanie Meyer is a Mormon in case you've missed out on this detail, and the scholars interviewed on Here and Now note that it's a clever flip of the old archetype that Meyer's vampires are creatures with morals and self-control instead of demonic monsters gathering multiple wives.

Of course, all of this would be much more impressive if Stephanie Meyer knew it before writing these novels. As they note on Here and Now, she's never watched any vampire movies or read Dracula, or watched any vampire-inspired movies - so she's never seen these films that vilify Mormons either. I doubt she's read the lesbian vampire story Carmilla for that matter. So the fact that her stories are a part of the history of vampire fiction in interesting ways doesn't make the stories themselves interesting. It also doesn't change the fact that she arrived here by accident, having no sense of the history of the genre to begin with.

And it certainly doesn't make up for the more sparkly, baseball-playing offenses she has committed.

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