By Emma Nazari
The Twilight saga is a series of fictional books about a mortal girl, Isabella Swan, and her relationship with Edward Cullen, the vampire who becomes the love and central focus of her life. This series has been an enormous success, closely rivaling that of Harry Potter, and it opened the door to the great influx of the modern vampire into popular culture. These books (and the films) portray vampires in a very desirable manner, making them obviously appealing to young people (particularly young teenage girls). This has led many teenagers to aspire to be like the characters in these books or to think that they can actually meet a real vampire and be swept off their feet by him. It seems the whole vampire (and werewolf to a lesser extent) thing has become extremely popular among teenagers (and others) largely as a result of this series. In these books (and other modern “vampire themed” books) the vampire is portrayed as being a sexual figure and of course much more “human-like” than ever before. They are no longer the hideous grotesque monsters of old legends, and it seems like they won‘t ever be going back to that any time soon. The vampire can now walk unnoticed amongst humans, they can even go out into the daylight, they dress in nice clothes, they are seductive, they are flawlessly beautiful and instantly sexy, they are the mysterious and seductive stranger. It seems as if they have been remade into nearly perfect beings. The epitome of beauty and sexiness. This incorporates clear ideological constructions in western culture regarding the enormous value of beauty, youth, sex, romance, and power in popular culture today.
It is no wonder the remodeled modern vampire receives so much admiration and thus allows for young people to delve into fantasies regarding them. It is no wonder they have become such popular subjects in the modern media, and as a result more and more television series, books, and films are being produced about them. The modern vampire seems to very much represent an ideally attractive being in the eyes of American popular culture. The vampire is both captivating and horrifying, beautiful yet irresistibly dangerous, and erotically alluring. Also, the public is attracted to the magical and mysterious which the vampire encompasses.
The vampire is portrayed in Twilight and other more recent vampire books and movies (such as Interview With The Vampire for example) as beautiful, seductive, capable of eternal youth and life (thus having eternal beauty), possessing special “super-human” powers such as speed, strength, ability to read minds, hypnotic ability and the like. Qualities that I am sure many people would like to possess. One effect of these books and films is that young people who are not very confident in who they are and are longing for power and acceptance and for a place in this world feel a longing to be like the vampire. There is a belief that popularity and satisfaction, and of course power can be obtained through this. Or they can relate to the vampire in a different way, in that the vampire is an ultimate outsider, and so are they. In general it is simply the desire to be something “more” than what you are, to be something “special”, to be something more than just human. I think many people probably have this hidden desire, but the negative aspect of it is when people start to confuse fantasy with reality and delusion themselves into believing certain things that just aren’t really real, as much as we may like them to be real.
The influx of the vampire into popular culture has had the effect of many younger teenagers wonder if there really are mythical creatures somewhere out there, if they could meet one somehow, or even somehow become one themselves, and especially for girls, they wonder if they will ever be able to find that mysterious romantic boyfriend like Edward who will sweep them off their feet like a knight in shining armor or prince charming. Is this a bad thing? Kind of I suppose, but people should always have the ability to fantasize if they want as long as they can realize the difference between fact and fiction.
Also in Twilight the main character, Bella, is completely obsessed with her vampire boyfriend to the extent that she would do anything for him and her entire life revolves around him. I believe this kind of gives off a negative message to young girls in that its ok to let a guy be the central focal point of your life, and who needs friends, family, and activities you once enjoyed doing when you have a boyfriend? And if the guy leaves you it is ok to become completely depressed and attempt to kill yourself. This is not a good message to send out to young impressionable girls and if you read the series you can see this clearly.
Nonetheless, the vampire as a figure in popular culture has always been the most human of all the mythical monsters, and I believe this is why the vampire has such a big place in our culture. The vampire is a metaphor for many things, including addiction, and the outsider in everyone. They are so like us because they are extensions of us. The vampire allows us to express our deepest fears and desires as humans, one of the greatest fears being Death. The concept of immortality can be very alluring, as it seems everyone in American culture is obsessed with longevity and looking young. The vampire has been released from the realm of nightmares and has been turned into the object of teenage dreams and I believe it will have incredible staying power in popular culture.