Monday, July 6, 2009

Sink Your Teeth In

The New York Times takes on why vampires are so hot right now. From books to movies to TV to fashion (I know), they're everywhere.

Michael Dylan Foster, Indiana University professor in folklore, says it's based on real-world fears:

“Especially during these post-9/11 times of increased vigilance, representations like the ‘Twilight’ series reflect a kind of conspiracy-theory mentality, a fear that there is something secret and dangerous going on in our own community, right under our noses.”

I'd disagree with this. It's been almost eight years since 9/11; if this vampire crazed were based on post-9/11 vigilance, wouldn't this have started earlier? I'd say zombies are more related to the current political state--that anyone among you could suddenly change and turn deadly, that you have to be on alert at all times, etc.

Fashion designer Rick Owens thinks it's more about sex and inhabitions:

"[It's] all about the titillation of imagining the monsters we could be if we just let ourselves go. We’re all fascinated with corruption, the more glamorous the better...[along with the idea of] devouring, consuming, possessing someone we desire.”

That makes sense. Although, again, why now? Why would we feel the need to 'let go' right now? Perhaps it's because of the recession--you can't live the high life, but a vampire potentially could. They live outside the rules of a normal society.

Also hot right now is the non-threatening vampire. You know, the one who could bite you but probably won't. It's sexy and just dangerous enough. Thomas Garza, chair of the department of Slavic and Eurasian studies at the University of Texas at Austin, wonders if this is because of the recession"

"Periods of war, economic downturns and cultural turmoil all give rise to the production of vampire and fantasy fiction...With a recession and war, the conflict has indeed seemed to turn inward, as we question our fiscal, political and moral status. 'Have we been too excessive? Do we need to be more restrained?' We seem once again to be questioning these very fundamental values."

I think that makes sense for this new, non-threatening breed of vampire. Readers/viewers want something a little dangerous but not very scary. Something inhumanly powerful, but something that won't hurt them. It's a little thrill without a lot of the danger.

This is yet another reason why I think Buffy > Twilight. In the Buffyverse, vampires are generally bad. You have exceptions like Angel and Spike, but even then the lines get blurry. In Twilight, you get threatening vampires, but you also get a bunch that will throw a human a birthday party. I like my vampires with a little more bite.