Vampires: Just a Recent Teenage Fad or More?
They are names we hear incessantly in popular culture today: Twilight, Edward Cullen, Bella Swan, Jacob Black. Popularity in vampires has exploded since Stephenie Meyer’s novel Twilight entered the 2005 “New York Times Best Seller List” (Meyer 4). Readers have drunk up Twilight in the most obsessive fad in present times. The Twilight series has sold over 117 million copies in nearly fifty countries worldwide (Meyer 14).
While some writers have criticized the series- horror novelist Stephen King once said that Meyer “can’t write worth a darn” (“People” 4) – there is no denial that the Twilight series and vampire films and novels have been commercially successful, especially with the teenage demographic. Twilight’s popularity is as obsessive as it is widespread because of three main causes: Meyer has woven a tale about forbidden love with an originally dangerous creature, she wrote a series directed towards teenagers, and the mindset of escapism in this time of recession keeps readers interested in romantic fantasy. The consequences include an expansion of the vampire fad and an increase in obsessive teenage mobs. The only question now is how long Twilight will stay popular. Meyer’s ability to write about forbidden love in a novel about a monster that normally frightens rather than excites is a significant cause of Twilight’s popularity.
In short, Twilight is a novel about Bella Swan, an average seventeen-year-old who falls in love with a vampire named Edward Cullen. Though Bella knows that Edward can kill her at any moment, she continues to stay with him. This creates a mixed feeling of danger and passion for both Bella and the reader, as they know that Edward can kill her if he is unable to control his cravings for Bella’s blood. However, while Twilight caused vampires to rise in popularity, it was not the first to use the notions of forbidden love or vampires. Forbidden love has been ubiquitous since the beginning of literature and vampires have been a popular device in the last few decades. Besides Bram Stocker’s 1897 horror novel Dracula, Anne Rice’s 1976 Gothic novel Interview with the Vampire is the most important novel to inspire the modern vampire trend.
Rice changed the vampire stereotype of demons that sucked on human’s blood to sympathetic creatures (“Vampire Chronicles” 1). Despite Rice’s influence, Meyer catapulted vampires from its only existence in novels such as Dracula and Interview with the Vampire when she wrote a series that created a beautiful, admirable vampire. She wrote Edward’s character in such a light that readers do not feel anything but love for him as Meyer reiterates to us about his good looks, Victorian morals, and courteous personality. Readers believe that this originally terrifying, “blood-sucking” creature is worthy of Bella’s love. Twilight did not become famous just because of its use of forbidden love mixed in with the supernatural; the series became well-known because it was written directly for the crowd it was marketed for: the teenage demographic. The series has a romantic, yet virtuous nature that peaks teenager’s curiosity without mentioning physical love directly.
The series is also the most accessible for teenagers out of all the vampire novels on the market when published in 2005. Though The Vampire Chronicles paved the way for Twilight, Rice’s series was created for an older demographic than the Twilight saga was for because it frequently alluded to violence and adult content. Thus, the likelihood that teens would read such books is small, for teenagers prefer to read a novel written for their age group. Indeed, part of the charm about Twilight comes from its innocent nature and readers feeling Bella’s passionate love in the novels. Twilight allows you to step into the shoes of Bella “for a few hours” as you read the series (Turan 7). In essence, Twilight sparks an interest in the teenage demographic in a way that Rice’s novels could not.
With this in mind, the popularity of Twilight has been influenced by the world we live in. In the current recession, which was caused by the collapse of the housing market in 2007-08, people try escape the reality of their lives and of the recession. Around the world, teenagers have suffered just as their parents have as they live in a world where job opportunities are small and unemployment rates grow daily. This longing to escape reality into a world where you are taken care of is another cause of Twilight’s popularity. Consequently, romance novels, including Twilight, outsell all other types of novels during a recession (Rich 2), as readers want to escape their troubles and dive into an imaginary world. Twilight was the top selling book in 2008, at the worst of the recession (“The Top 100 Books” 1).
Fantasies are commonly used in literature and films during recessions. For example, at the tail end of the Great Depression in 1939, The Wizard of Oz was a highly successful film as it glorified Dorothy’s Land of Oz and made it beautiful in contrast to the lives of the average American; it gave people the happiness they lacked in reality. The Twilight series serves a similar purpose, for Bella marries Edward in Breaking Dawn and is turned into a vampire she wanted to be. The last sentence of the series shows how perfect Bella’s newfound existence as a vampire will be, causing teenage readers to wish for Bella’s life: “And then we continued blissfully into this small but perfect piece of our forever” (Meyer 756). Hence, Twilight marks an escape route to fantasy for teenagers; the novels allow readers to “step into the shoes” of a passive heroine to let us escape into a novel where every whim and need is taken care of as life continues “blissfully” (Meyer 756). One of the most important effects from Twilight is the fact that the series has popularized vampires in popular culture.
Not only did the Twilight series expand into three films, which include Twilight in 2008, New Moon in 2009, and Eclipse in 2010 (Farr 2), but it has also expanded into Twilight memorabilia and gifts. One can buy Twilight themed shirts, CDs, posters, bookmarks, wallets, and necklaces. The series has popularized vampires, for there have been many more vampire films, books, and TV series in existence today than there were before Twilight was published. The TV series True Blood had over five million viewers watching one episode (Hearn 5), and the TV series Being Human and The Vampire Diaries are becoming increasingly popular, as is the book series The Vampire Academy. The obsession over the novels has created one negative and unsavory effect- obsessive teenage mobs.
While fans do support their fan base, it has become more common for fandoms to become overly enthusiastic. Twilight cliques pride themselves as being “Team Edward” or “Team Jacob” as they show their affection by wearing their favorite characters on their shirts. Fans will seek out other “Team Jacob” or “Team Edward” fans while finding the “enemy” fans. Arguments online between respective fandoms are common and in the past, the fans have started violent mobs. In one such case, a San Francisco premiere for a playing of Twilight was canceled as more than three thousand fans started chaos outside of the premiere.
At least one fan was injured (Tyler 2). The small store of Stonestown Galleria was expecting three hundred fans to come, but three thousand came as they fought each other in a desperate attempt see Twilight star Robert Pattinson. When the teenage mob got out of hand, authorities canceled the publicity event, much to the disappointment of the three thousand “Team Edwards”. Although mobs are common when multitudes of people are involved in one event, the vampire craze in Twilight has started more mob attacks than normal. Ultimately, in spite of the enormous following the vampire genre has today, we cannot predict how popular the series will be years from now, for it seems that nothing can topple the vampire craze just yet. Nevertheless, we must remember that the Twilight series is popular for three main reasons: its forbidden love angle, how the romance heats teenager’s blood without showing excessive adult content, and for our need to escape reality.
It is possible that until the economy rises and people take more interest in everyday life rather than the supernatural, Twilight and vampirism will remain popular. However, there is one thing we can be certain about: a fad is more than just a fad, for it will always have a certain meaning and effect in today’s society. Even if the vampire genre is forgotten years from now as realism becomes popular again, the craze will continue to run through the fans’ blood.