The Evolution of the Vampire: How Twilight is Ruining the Vampire Genre
“Thus we are ministers of God’s own wish: that the world, and men for whom His Son die, will not be given over to monsters, whose very existence would defame Him.” Van Helsing
“Edward in the sunlight was shocking. I couldn’t get used to it, though I’d been staring at him all afternoon. His skin…literally sparkled, like thousands of tiny diamonds were embedded in the surface. He lay perfectly still in the grass, his shirt open over his sculpted, incandescent chest, his scintillating arms bare. His glistening, pale lavender lids were shut, though of course he didn’t sleep. A perfect statue, carved in some unknown stone, smooth like marble, glittering like crystal.” Bella
I will admit up front that I am not a fan of Twilight. I have not read any of the books, and I have only seen two of the movies. I was not always prejudiced against this cultural phenomenon. In fact, I was somewhat excited to see the first film. My wife had read the books and she was telling me how good they were, and I like vampire movies, even bad ones. There was no bias on my part going into the first film, but after seeing it my mind was made up. I did not like it, and knew I would probably not like any of the films to follow.
There were plenty of reasons to hate the first film: Terrible acting, Horrendous script, Hideous directing. I better stop now before I run out of adjectives. Those things made the film bad, but that’s not why I really hated it. I see those things all the time. The real reason I hated the film so much was because of what Stephanie Meyer did to vampires in the story. ”What did she do that was so bad?” you might ask. As one recent writer put it, “She defanged them.”
“Ok, Ok, Stephanie Meyer doesn’t know anything about vampires, but why should this subject make it onto a Christian blog?” That is a great question and one I would like to explore. Susannah Clements in her wonderful book, The Vampire Defanged, has clearly documented how vampire stories have become more and more secularized over the years. The pinnacle of this being the Twilight series, where vampires have lost all of their original characteristics and are glorified as some kind of superhuman/angel. Before I criticize what Meyer has done to the vampire genre, I must explain what vampire stories were once all about.
The myth of vampires has been around for a long time, but modern vampire tales can trace their roots back to one story, Dracula. The novel Dracula written by Bram Stoker first appeared in 1897. It has been made into a film several times. The most famous being Nosferatu (1922), Dracula (1931), and Bram Stoker’s Dracula (1992). The character Dracula has appeared in over 200 films. The only other character to have appeared in more films is Sherlock Holmes. Dracula has had a tremendous influence on the vampire genre over the years, and it is important to understand the character Bram Stoker created him to be.
In no way is Dracula a Christian novel, but it does contain many Christian elements. Some of these elements, such as a vampire’s fear of the crucifix have been a part of vampire stories for years. Many of the Christian elements found within Dracula, which remained staples within vampire stories afterward, have recently disappeared. Perhaps the most shocking element of Dracula that has been done away with is that vampires represent evil and sin. To become a vampire is to become eternally damned, cursed forever. Christian symbols, such as crucifixes and holy water, are used to combat this representation of evil.
All of this is absent in the Twilight series. In fact, in Breaking Dawn Bella goes as far as describing Edward as being “more angel than human.” Clements identifies this drastic change in the vampire genre and writes, “Instead of vampirism being an irrevocable damnation…Meyer portrays the nature of the vampire as the ideal – as something higher than human, rather than lower.” Twilight uses vampires as a device. The story is not a vampire story at all. It is a romance novel where vampires are romanticized.
Whereas Dracula and some of its successors addressed elements of theology and spirituality, Twilight is devoid of all of these elements. Dracula is a complex novel that challenges us to think on many different levels. The most intriguing in our modern time may be how religion and science relate to one another. Van Helsing makes use of science (blood transfusions, etc.), but never abandons religion. Twilight on the other hand is a shallow romantic story, that takes something which has traditionally been viewed as evil and glorifies it.