December 8 2008

Teenage Vampires

What is with the surge in teenagers loving vampires?

I talked about this sudden love of vampires in Scattercast episode 20, but then when I spent my day in Hastings, I found even more evidence of it.  As I sat in one of the reading chairs to flip through a magazine, I found myself sitting across from the teen novels.  As one girl in a letterman’s jacket with “10” on the sleeve (oof… I feel old since mine had “89” on it), I noticed she was picking up one of the Twilight novels.  I just shook my head and went back to my magazine.

After the girl departed, I started scanning the racks and noticed another series of vampire novels for teens, Vampire Kisses by Ellen Schrieber.  I knew nothing of this series, so I looked it up and Amazon pointed me to this summary from Booklist:

Gr. 7-10. Sixteen-year-old Raven is a Goth surrounded by “lesser” folks: her parents have transformed themselves from hippie to corporate, and her only friend at school is an outsider everyone picks on. In Raven’s rich imaginary life, she is bold and special and in love with the idea of meeting a vampire. Schreiber uses a careful balance of humor, irony, pathos, and romance as she develops a plot that introduces the possibility of a real vampire–in the form of an extra-handsome boy, of course– while exploring how a girl like Raven finds ways to cope with a bully who is both class- and gender-conscious of his supposed superiority. Raven’s voice is immediately charming, in spite of her alleged bravado and coldheartedness. Her hometown could be any Small Town, USA, and its possibly haunted mansion just lightens the scene rather than making the story silly. This tale slides down easily and will be welcomed by Goths willing to look on the lighter side of their own culture as well as by readers who have an openminded appreciation for the vagaries of their peers and, perhaps, of themselves.

When I went to Ms. Schrieber’s site, I discovered a sixth book is scheduled for Summer ’09 and the seventh is on track for Summer ’10.

What in the world is going on?  What is this sudden teen obsession with vampires?  True, I understand they are romanticizing the concept to a ridiculous degree, but at the end of the day you are romanticizing creatures that are mass-murdering blood suckers!  Oh, yes, they are misunderstood and are outsiders like you… not really, no.  They drink the blood of people.

South Park sent up this whole craze in their 12th season finale, “The Ungroundable“, and as they do with many subjects, they seemed to boil it down to its essentials: It’s a fad for some, a way to empower others, such as Butters used it.  In the end most of it can be blamed on the clothing store chain Hot Topic… a concept I don’t wholly disagree with.  As I said in Scattercast, I can remember my gothy moments from my own teen years, but I certainly never went around putting in fake vampire teeth and drinking clamato juice.

As with all fads, I am sure this too will pass, and I am certainly not saying there is anything that horribly wrong with teens trying to find themselves, but why vampires?  Is it the immortality?  I would hope it isn’t the drinking blood angle, but maybe it is.  And what would these kids do if they ever met a real vampire?  It reminds me of a second season episode of Buffy, The Vampire Slayer entitled “Lie To Me” when Buffy’s fifth grade crush comes to town and takes her to a bar filled with kids obsessed with vampires who dress like them, or how they think they would dress.  When the real vampire’s show up, namely Spike’s gang, all of them freak out and want to go home realizing just how truly evil the real things are.  This episode should be required watching for this new generation of Vamp kids.

So, what say you?  Why is this the new fad amongst teens?  What do you make of it?

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  • Meaghan

    For me it's always been about their supposed beauty and the fact that they have little ability to control their emotions, if any. The beauty is attractive simply because it's that… beauty! Everyone wants to be beautiful or at least what other people consider beautiful… that's axiomatic. The emotions thing, however, goes far deeper. Growing up as I did, I was often encouraged to "deal with it", whatever "it" was. That meant to internalize it, keep it to yourself, no airing of dirty laundry, blah, blah, blah. As I grew I took it to a whole new level and actually started suppressing my emotions to an extent of near stoicism (strange for a girl, right?). I found when I picked up Interview with the Vampire several years ago that the vampires didn't seem to have any ability to suppress their emotions, nor did they have any inclination to do so. That combination blew my mind! When they fall in love it's undeniable and all-encompassing. When they are angered it's to the point of destroying those who anger them. To not only freely express any old thought that pops in your mind with absolutely no abandon is crazy enough, but to allow those emotions to completely rule you to the point of total saturation? No way! And to be so unpredictable is, ironically, expected of a vampire… according to Anne Rice's writings anyway. I believe that's why I find that particular series of books irresistible. The sheer "fly by the seat of your pants" lifestyle is too appealing to me, much due to my upbringing and now my lifestyle. It's easy to live vicariously through vampires and that's, I believe, why teens are so drawn to vampires. Feeling repressed, overlooked, weak, unattractive, deniable, forgettable… all of those feelings just come with puberty. Yet, a vampire is none of those things. In fact, I imagine vampirism actually reflects the direct opposite of those feelings, therefore romanticizing it for teens. So that's my long winded take on the fad. Personally I totally understand the interest in vampires. I just don't know if it's because I like that kind of supernatural stuff or if it's because of the reasons I stated above.

  • Contrary Jack

    Nina Auerbach makes the point that vampires are *always* about sex–the sexual anxieties, frustrations, and hopes of the time that created them. Want to understand Victorian sexual repression? Read _Dracula_. In the 1970s we had macho-sexy Frank Langella (a LONG time ago) doing Dracula for the Disco era. A little while later, Louis in _Interview with the Vampire_ resists and resists his vampiric nature, finally accepting it–the same kind of awakening more and more people experience as society opens up and gets beyond the heteronormative (Louis Luvs Lestat), the same kind of awakening women experienced in the wake of the pill (see Susan Sarandon in The Hunger). Lost Boys was about the terrified certainty that unsupervised teenagers were getting up to hanky panky and other kinds of no good. Etc.

    Auerbach pointed out in a recent NPR interview that the Twilight vampires are all about NOT turning people–a vampire for the age of abstinence-only education. Every generation has its vampires.

    That's a very lit-critter kind of take on it, but it makes sense to me.

  • Jack – As always, excellent points. I had not heard of this report, but it makes perfect sense, especially the take on the Twilight "vampires". It also goes with what I have said about horror films in general seeing a general boost during tough economic times. Our creative outlets, be them films, books, television, etc, always reflect the times we live in. The question still remains why the meteoric rise amongst teenagers as you would assume they would rebel against the abstinence-only take. Intriguing for sure.

  • Meaghan – Your reasons sound perfectly reasonable to me… which is an odd thing for me to say considering the source ;)

  • There's probably a lot of ways to psychoanalyze it, but I think it just boils down to "I can do whatever I want if I'm a vampire" – youthful rebellion.

    Anyway…you should read Roger Ebert's review of Twilight. He basically takes the whole vampire element out of the story and it jut becomes a story about a guy fighting the urge to get in a girl's pants, while fending off other guys from her.

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