Twilight, Part whatever

Recently I’ve been spending some time with the world’s most boring vampires. That’s right, I’ve been watching the Twilight series on DVD.

I love vampire stories. I’ve read or watched hundreds and there are thousands more out there. The idea of a blood-sucking undead monster turns out to be surprisingly versatile. Horror, comedy, political satire – you can do almost anything with a pair of sharp teeth and a sacrificial virgin. So I was happy to give Twilight a go,  on DVD at least – my life is too short to read the interminably verbose books. But it seems that Stephenie Meyer knows nothing about the history of vampire stories, or decided to wilfully ignore the genre.

You see, there are two non-negotiable elements in all vampire stories:

  1. This whole vampire thing is a metaphor for sex.
  2. The vampire appears to be glamorous and attractive but it is really an evil animated corpse.

These two elements give the story its moral dimension.

So it’s fine with me if the vampire is cute and drives an SUV. But the plot cannot simply revolve around, “OMG, he’s so cute, is he gonna kiss me?”

Where is the evil behind the mask??? Where is the moral element? Why doesn’t something bad happen to the vampire at the end?

These vampires aren’t evil. They are morally upstanding citizens. One’s a doctor. The rest are “vegetarian.” They don’t lie buried in coffins, spitting out the remains of their ancestors every time they creep from their cold dusty graves. They don’t have clawlike hands or turn into night creatures.

Edward tells Bella that if she becomes a vampire she will “lose her soul” but she never even bothers to ask what the implications of that might be.

These vampires do have one characteristic that gives them away. Their bodies sparkle in the sunlight. What? They’re supposed to wither into dust in the sunlight. What’s going on?

I can accept the fact that this is a watered-down tale for pre-teens. That doesn’t explain why so many grown women love it . Oh yeah – that would be the “impossibly beautiful” Edward with his slender but muscular body. But there still needs to be a suggestion of evil and a downfall at the end. Otherwise what is the moral message of the story?

The story tells us that impressionable young women fall for powerful and glamorous older men and that’s OK. It tells us that it’s cool for girls to be submissive and not ask questions. It tells us that you can be a total airhead and nothing bad will happen because a big strong man will look after you.

I don’t know about you but I think this makes Twilight far scarier than any traditional vampire tale.

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6 responses to “Twilight, Part whatever

  1. If you are looking for the thrill of figuring out who the real bad guy is I suggest you watch ‘Vampire Diaries’
    I couldn’t go through past the 8th episode, but people assure me that it’s addictive.

    I suffered through Twilight crap for only two reasons:
    1. My best friend obsesses over it. (You will get a critical counter-view for all your arguments you made over the franchise from her.)
    2. Robert Pattinson (I keep telling myself all this irrationality is justified)

  2. Well, I’d certainly be interested to hear what the counter arguments are. I thought Robert Pattinson *was* the counter argument! LOL

  3. For venturing into the Twilight series, you’re a braver man than I am!

    I’m not sure I agree your second rule is non-negotiable. It removes several interesting works done from the vampire’s point of view. Totally agree with the first one, though.

    Chelsea Quinn Yarbro, in the late 1970s and 1980s (and later, but I’ve not read those), wrote about the Count of Saint-Germain, a vampire. These are some of the best sexy vampire stories ever, and the Count lives by his own code. He is the protagonist and a fully sympathetic character. One thing that really enriches the stories is that Yarbro sets each in a different era, so they’re historical fiction that span from ancient Egypt to fairly modern times. They’re a little bit like the Anne Rice stuff, but way better and without the “community of vampires” bits. If you love vampires and haven’t read these, I highly recommend them.

    Fred Saberhagen wrote a series of stories about Count Dracula. The first, The Dracula Tape, retells the Bram Stoker story from the Count’s perspective. As he tells it, Jonathan Harker completely misunderstood the situation and, again, the Count is a sympathetic character with a moral code. Also highly recommended. (Saberhagen also did a version of Shelly’s Frankenstein from the monster’s point of view.)

    There are some really interesting vampire movies where the vampires are the protagonists. Only Lovers Left Alive by Jim Jarmusch is excellent (albeit moody and languid). (I posted about that one.) There is also Byzantium (mentioned in this post), which features a mother and daughter vampire. I’d say both of these are must-see for any vampire fan.

    And I finally saw Let the Right One In (the Swedish version based on the Swedish novel by the same name). Also quite good and a must-see for any fan of fangs. What’s really interesting is how all three play with the established mythology.

    Compared to any of the ones I mentioned, Twilight is simply just empty-headed trash. Yarbro did classy vampire soft-porn a zillion times better back in the 1980s.

    • Yes, I’m willing to waive the second criterion as long as something very interesting replaces it – such as a morally ambiguous vampire living by some kind of code. I have a lot of sympathies with vampires generally and would probably choose to be one if I had to choose some kind of undead creature to spend my eternity as (yes, I’ve given some considerable thought to that 🙂 ) You’ve mentioned a couple of interesting stories that I haven’t read, and I’ll definitely be checking those out!

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