The Problem with Vampires
[This article was first published on Hubpages in 2010. It has since been de-indexed.]
By Aya Katz
A friend of mine is a big fan of the Twilight series by Stephanie Meyer. I haven’t read the books, nor do I feel any particular desire to do so. But I have seen the two movies that came out, mostly by accident. My daughter and I were hoping to see something else, but in a small rural location the choices are limited, and once we take the trouble to make it out of the house to see a movie, it seems a shame to cancel the outing just on account of the movie itself.
I mentioned to my friend that I’d seen the movies and hadn’t been impressed. She answered: “Well, of course, you weren’t. It’s just a love story!”
Now what’s that supposed to mean!?!
Does it mean that she thinks that I wouldn’t be interested in a love story? Because I’m not into love? Or because I’m not into “just love”? And what exactly is “just love”? Can any story be just a love story? Doesn’t it also have to be about something else? Can love exist in a vacuum?
This is the same friend who prefaced another movie recommendation like this: “I’m not sure you’re going to like it, because it’s not about justice.”
My friend knows me really well. Yes, I do have a fixation on justice. I would have been a really good lawyer, if justice had had anything to do with it. But… I’m not nearly that limited. I write love stories, too. Only they’re not “just” love stories, because I don’t see how love can become disembodied and detached from every other aspect of life.
How Stephanie Meyer came up with Twilight
The Beginnings of Twilight — And the Limits of Romance
But let’s face it: Twilight is a particular kind of love story. It is story about love and vampires. And it’s selling really well! Supposedly intended as a teen romance, it is being read by people of all ages — mostly women.
My friend knows a lot of the back story, because she is a true fan. According to her, Stephanie Meyer, the author of Twilight, saw the first glimmering of the story in a vivid dream. At the time, she was a wife and mother, a full time housewife, with laundry and diapers and swim lessons and all the usual. And suddenly, in a dream, she saw an ordinary girl and a shimmery, beautiful young man talking to each other in a meadow. During stolen moments from her domestic chores, Meyer began to write down the story, until she had a complete five hundred page manuscript. And then…. she showed it to her sister.
“Wait a minute,” I interrupted my friend. “Her sister? Why her sister?”
“Well, they’re very close. Her sister is her best friend.”
“Okay. Well, what about her husband?”
“Oh, she didn’t show it to her husband. He wouldn’t have understood.”
“Huh. How come?”
“Well, you know how men are.”
I laughed. “No, actually, I don’t. What are men like?”
“You can’t tell them anything.”
“Because they don’t listen.”
But apparently vampires are different. Vampires listen.You could tell a vampire just about anything.
My Own Guilty Pleasure
In case you think I don’t appreciate Twilight because I am just too snobbish to enjoy a good vampire story, I’ll let you in on a secret. When I was ten years old, my favorite TV show was Dark Shadows, and I was very much intrigued by a vampire named Barnabas Collins. We were living in Ann Arbor, Michigan. We had just left Israel for good, and I didn’t have any friends. I would rush home to watch Dark Shadows, and that was about the most important thing in the world to me at the time.
Now, Barnabas Collins had a taste for pretty young women, starting with his sweetheart Josette, and continiuing with every other ingenue who showed up at Collinwood. Maggie Evans, Victoria Winters, they were all the same. Young, pretty and not very smart. They made good victims, and he was constantly at work to transform every one of them into the spitting image of his dear, departed Josette. I was just ten years old, and yet, I didn’t really identify with these girls. My heroine was Dr. Julia Hoffman, a middle aged woman who wanted to cure Barnabas of his condition.
Julia Hoffman was played by Grayson Hall, and because I was such a Julia fan, I cut out the article about her in TV Guide and pasted it to my closet door. I wanted to grow up to be just like Julia!
Julia and Barnabas make a deal
The video I’ve embedded above is fairly representative of both Dark Shadows, as a series, and of the Barnabas-Julia relationship in particular. I can’t watch it now without laughing, but it’s still good clean fun! I love, for instance, that Barnabas starts choking Julia while saying: “I’m going to kill you, …. Miss Hoffman.” (It’s hard to remember a person’s name when you are choking them, but it’s nice that he announces his intentions so clearly, and bothers to acknowledge her formally.) Julia corrects him: “Doctor Hoffman!” Barnabas is so impressed by her new title that he relents in his efforts to snuff her out.
What was Dark Shadows really about? Why did I like watching it as child? To me, it explored the boundaries, not between life and death, as Julia announces in her appeal to Barnabas, but between good and evil. Barnabas was intriguing, because, despite his twisted life style, there was always some glimmer of hope. There were the moments when he was pure evil, and there were times when despite this, he was overcome by remorse or tenderness and did something unexpectedly good, sacrificing his own self-interest for what was right.
Conversely, the “good characters” were seldom entirely good. They had moral lapses. They were selfish. Like Julia in this scene, they were not always aware of their true motives.
But what about the stilted dialogue and the wooden delivery? Well, guess what: I really like those, too. You probably think that nobody actually talks like that, but I do! I really do. I talk like a book. I learned English from books, not people. And for years, I looked around waiting to find a man who also would talk like a book. Wooden delivery, stilted grammar, outdated vocabulary and all.
I’m not sure if Dark Shadows was intended to be this funny, but I still enjoy the melodrama. What I’m trying to say is this: it’s precisely because of the seriousness with which these lines are delivered that I still find them effective. There is no point in poking fun at something, unless on some level we find it deeply moving. It wouldn’t be this funny if it weren’t so true to life.
Take this exchange:
Barnabas: What is it you want?
Barnabas: I don’t know what you mean by that, but it doesn’t matter…
That, in a nutshell, is the story of my life! And it is because this is exactly the opposite of what my friend has experienced at the hands of men that we have very divergent views of what men — or vampires — are like. For her, they are people you can’t have a conversation with, because they are all action and no talk. For me, they are all talk and no action.
What They Are Like Depends on What We Are Like
The problem with vampires is that they are what we make of them. Much like men and women and dogs and apes. As somebody in My Fair Lady once remarked, the difference between a flower girl and a lady is not how she behaves, but how she is treated.
What are vampires like? What was Barnabas Collins like? The answer depended on who he was with. With his trusty, but dimwitted assistant Willy Loomis, he was tyrannical, despotic and a pain in the neck. With Josette, and all the Josette look-alikes, he was tender, gallant and a pain in the neck. He wanted to drink everybody’s blood — except Julia’s. He found her unappetizing, so he was just going to choke her. But his dialogue with Julia was generally better than the lines he had with his sweet young victims. Julia was somebody he could talk to. Eventually he came to trust and rely on her.
We make our own histories. Our own behavior writes the script for whoever is with us. If my friend finds it impossible to talk to men, it may be that she makes it impossible for them to talk to her. If Stephanie Meyers couldn’t share her deepest, most intimate longings with her husband, then maybe her view of romance is due for a revision. And if I want to stop being treated like Dr. Julia Hoffman, maybe I should stop behaving like her. But old habits die hard!
My friend says that the Twilight books describe experiences that all women have shared and that they give vent to the longings of all womankind for intimacy and love. But not all women long for the same things, precisely because not all women have been deprived of the same things. We long for what is missing in our lives. And the Twilight series, from what I’ve seen of the movies, appears to have been written to satisfy the fantasies of Maggie Evans and Victoria Winters and Josette DuPres. Neither Julia Hoffman nor Barnabas Collins would get much out of it.
(c) 2010 Aya Katz
nhkatz 5 years ago from Bloomington, Indiana
I haven’t seen either Twilight movie, but enjoyed this National Review review entitled “Just bite her, already.”
If you’re interested in a “just a love story” movie, I highly recommend “Yes Man” with Jim Carrey and Zooey Deschanel. It’s not really about justice but has interesting things to say about chastity and the lack
Aya Katz 5 years ago from The OzarksHub Author
Thanks, Nets. That was a pretty good review. However, he’s mistaken about the target audience and the fan base. It’s not just twelve-year-olds, surprisingly enough.
Jerilee Wei 5 years ago from United States
Read all her books, just because my adult daughter and granddaughter and all their friends and co-workers were soooo intrigued and into them. Just had to know what it was all about. Found the books well-written, and must say if I had not read them, I would not have remotely enjoyed the movies, although they were age appropriate for teens. I found it most interesting that mothers and daughters who during teen years often don’t like the same things both were clearly enjoying a shared moment.
For me, the better book was the one not about vampires.
I don’t think it’s possible for most men and most women to ever view “love” in the same context.
Aya Katz 5 years ago from The OzarksHub Author
Aya Katz 2 years ago from The OzarksHub Author
SweetiePie, you’ve made a lot of good points. Women who are themselves not interested in poetry and art have some twisted idea that if a man were interested in those things it would necessarily be a romantic expression of his love for them. But men who are really interested in poetry do not confine themselves to love poetry. Real artists have other things to say besides “I love you.”
SweetiePie 2 years ago from Southern California, USALevel 2 Commenter
I do not even think it is real or genuine when a so-called love poet says that frequently. The most artistic poetry I have read is about nature anyway.