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Giovanna_X

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PostedJul 24, 2010 2:53 pm

Twilight and the (Western) Vampire Tradition

A commentary
Those who frequent the Last Chaos ShoutBox or play LC-USA on the Auzura-EUROPE server group are familiar with me occasionally RPing as a Vampiress. Occasionally, the subject of the Twilight movies/books is brought up, with people wanting to know my opinion of them. I've spoken to some extent about these matters in the past, but today I found a comment on my profile from someone wanting to know if I'm "a fan" of the story, so I've decided to respond here, and thereby be able to direct questioners to this thread. With the introduction out of the way, I shall proceed.



I wouldn't call myself "a fan" of Twilight, no, but at the same time, I do not believe that it's the worst vampire story ever written/filmed. In fact, it was quite good, compared to some I've seen. Indeed, I enjoyed the first film (I haven't read the books, nor have I seen any of the other movies -- yet).

A lot of people claim to be annoyed primarily with the "sparkly vampire" aspect (I say "claim" intentionally, because I believe the genuine main objection is something else, and I'll come to that later), but truth be told, in the movie (I've only seen the first one so far), the sparkling was only barely noticeable, even when it was being emphasized. It's an interesting twist on the vampire aversion to sunlight, and it doesn't merit the kind of hysterical criticism I've seen about it. Part of why I say that is directly related to the next objection I will discuss.

The second thing people seem to be annoyed about is the idea that sunlight doesn't harm vampires, but most people don't realize that the concept of vampires being harmed/killed by the sun is a relatively new idea (less than 100 years old), and was first expressed in the 1922 silent movie Nosferatu: eine Symphonie des Grauens (commonly known simply as Nosferatu, which was an unauthorized cinematic version of Bram Stoker's novel Dracula, and, being unauthorized, was only very loosely based on that novel (the novel, in fact, includes a scene of Dracula outside in the street during daylight, a scene that was part of the movie Bram Stoker's Dracula, starring Gary Oldman as the Count). Prior to the 1922 movie, the idea is found in folklore of various "supernatural" creatures being harmed or destroyed by sunlight, but it did not specifically pertain to vampires (you see the old folklore reflected, for example, in Tolkien's The Hobbit, in which Trolls turn to stone when exposed to sunlight, an idea found in Scottish and Norse legends of Trows and Trolls). That's not to say the older stories do not portray vampires as not particularly fond of daylight, because some do, but none of them contain the idea of sunlight causing harm or destruction to a vampire. As such, those who reject the Twilight stories' "new" idea of vampires not being harmed by the sun are actually embracing a new idea about vampires, and rejecting the older idea. I maintain, therefore, that they should all mellow out and get past the baggage of a mere 88 years of the new idea of vampires being vulnerable to the sun. Perhaps then they would be able to enjoy the story for what it is.

This brings me to the third objection which some have to the stories, and that is the popular opinion that they are intended for an audience of teenage girls. It is this reputation which I believe to be the genuine main objection of most who protest their disdain for the saga, but these people are ignoring the Vampire Tradition itself, in favor of more recent depictions of vampires in film as "monstrous," savage, and wholly incorrigible (indeed, usually they're depicted as totally depraved homicidal maniacs, often extremely sadistic, and frequently nihilistic -- in short, completely ignoble and without any redeeming value). These films typically contain a lot of gratuitous violence and gore. The Twilight movies (since more people are familiar with them than they are with the books) are, according to the popular reputation, allegedly "chick flicks," but the same "noble vampire" motif and/or "vampire love story" (whether romantic or erotic, or both) idea is found in earlier stories, television series, and movies, and few if any of them are dismissed out of hand as "chick flicks" or "chick lit." A few examples include the television series Moonlight, the television series Forever Knight, the 1960s soap opera Dark Shadows (and Marilyn Ross' novels based on the show), and even, to some extent, other movies based on Stoker's work (the Bela Lugosi films and the Christopher Lee films, obviously, but also the more recent version starring Gary Oldman), to say nothing of older novels, novelettes, and short stories of vampires like Carmilla, by Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu, and "The Vampyre," by John William Polidori. Earlier than those are various poems expressing the same notions. Thus, the Twilight series is soundly within an established "canon" of Vampire Tradition involving romance, eroticism, "noble" vampires (both literally, as in the case of Count Dracula, and figuratively, in the sense of "possessed of noble virtues"), the idea of "vampirism as curse" (literal, as with Barnabas Collins, or figurative, as with Nick Knight) from which the vampire wishes to escape, etc. If these concepts are "adolescent" and/or "girly," then a lot of adult men who protest their disdain for the Twilight saga and are infected with the disease known as "machismo" have to explain why they enjoy these other stories I have mentioned. Although I am female, I have not been a teenager in a looooong time, and while I haven't read the Twilight books, and don't consider myself "a fan" (per se) of the movies, I have read and viewed quite a lot of vampire literature/films/TV shows, I did enjoy the one movie I saw, and wouldn't exclude the series from my DVD collection or my book library.

I would like to hope that this puts an end to some of the pretense of the Twilight saga being somehow a radical departure from the Vampire Tradition in Literature and Film, and results in people examining their reaction to the saga honestly. More importantly, I would like to hope that this encourages some actual investigation of the authentic Vampire Tradition, rather than swallowing the more recent "insane, ugly monster" idea of vampires as if that is the genuine tradition. The references which I have provided here demonstrate clearly that the authentic Tradition is far more diverse and dynamic than that. If we go beyond the "Western" Vampire Tradition (primarily inspired/influenced by Slavic Folklore and Legend), the diversity increases significantly, but that's a topic for another time (and another author).

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Giovanna_X

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PostedJul 24, 2010 4:27 pm
'Scuse the double post, but I wanted to add something without editing my original post (I have my reasons for not wanting to edit the OP; mainly I don't want to go edit what I've saved to my computer and can't edit what I emailed to myself), and that is my response to the claim that the Twilight saga is intended for an audience of teen girls: in addition to what I've already said about that claim, I would contend that teen boys (and adult boys) who believe that blood and guts splattered all over the screen is what makes a vampire movie "good" and/or "authentic" actually have no concept of the Vampire Tradition. They would be just as happy with a slasher pic, which is hardly the same thing as a vampire movie, and also a recent phenomenon.

Aszune

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PostedJul 26, 2010 12:25 pm
If you want to know a very well worked out Vampire Story i'd just suggest reading Vampire Knight >.>

Details!! Many many details!!

Deathowl

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PostedJul 26, 2010 12:26 pm
Giovanna_X wrote:
'Scuse the double post, but I wanted to add something without editing my original post (I have my reasons for not wanting to edit the OP; mainly I don't want to go edit what I've saved to my computer and can't edit what I emailed to myself), and that is my response to the claim that the Twilight saga is intended for an audience of teen girls: in addition to what I've already said about that claim, I would contend that teen boys (and adult boys) who believe that blood and guts splattered all over the screen is what makes a vampire movie "good" and/or "authentic" actually have no concept of the Vampire Tradition. They would be just as happy with a slasher pic, which is hardly the same thing as a vampire movie, and also a recent phenomenon.  


well i know that is directed at my comments in sb.
however
i still think vampires should be dark bloodsucking monsters in human forms and not 200 year old high schoolers with adolescent problems.

bram stoker is rolling in his grave.

Aszune

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PostedJul 26, 2010 12:31 pm
Deathowl wrote:
Giovanna_X wrote:
'Scuse the double post, but I wanted to add something without editing my original post (I have my reasons for not wanting to edit the OP; mainly I don't want to go edit what I've saved to my computer and can't edit what I emailed to myself), and that is my response to the claim that the Twilight saga is intended for an audience of teen girls: in addition to what I've already said about that claim, I would contend that teen boys (and adult boys) who believe that blood and guts splattered all over the screen is what makes a vampire movie "good" and/or "authentic" actually have no concept of the Vampire Tradition. They would be just as happy with a slasher pic, which is hardly the same thing as a vampire movie, and also a recent phenomenon.  


well i know that is directed at my comments in sb.
however
i still think vampires should be dark bloodsucking monsters in human forms and not 200 year old high schoolers with adolescent problems.

bram stoker is rolling in his grave.  


Nothing wrong with higschool problems, its just modernized. But I dont like the whole plot and think its pretty weak and not 'enough'. I personally think the filmer/writer should have worked it out more in detail and made it more 'exciting'. And with exciting I dont mean per se blood splatters. No, just a good plot would be enough.

At this very moment this movie has been chosen for 'best vampire movie' and thats because it was clearly directed to adolescents. And since more than the helft of the ppl that are going to the movie are adolescents, it makes kind of sense.

Summary: plot is way too simple.

GM_darasuum

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PostedJul 26, 2010 12:36 pm
Well, I've been dragged to two of these movies. Beyond what I find to be terrible acting the story is good. In most vampire stories I've seen the main vampire finds a person, typically a girl, that they become obsessed about. Turns out to be the same in this movie.

I don't like the sparkle thing because I think its stupid. Just my opinion. I also believe Edward is a very poor copy of the vampire Lestat, so that puts a damper on my enjoyment.

Other then what I sated the story of Twilight seems good enough, just not my favorite version of vampires.

Giovanna_X

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PostedJul 26, 2010 5:25 pm
Deathowl wrote:
i still think vampires should be dark bloodsucking monsters in human forms and not 200 year old high schoolers with adolescent problems.  



If it's just an aesthetic preference, I have no problem with that; if, on the other hand, it's an assertion that the noble/romantic vampire, who remains attractive (theoretically, at least, and I add this qualification because I do not find the boy who portrayed Edward Cullen to be all that attractive) even when she/he "vamps out" is somehow "inconsistent" with the Vampire Tradition, then even Bram Stoker would rise up and PK you for such an assertion.

From the earliest stories in the Folklorismus Vampire Tradition (by the use of "Folklorismus," I intend the folkloric idea of Vampires removed from its culturally-specific, Slavic, Folklore and Legend context and the beginning of the Literary Vampire Tradition -- although it should be noted that similar beings are recorded in the myths, legends, and authentic culturally-based folklore of other cultures, including, for one major example, the Leannán Sidhe of Irish/Scottish/Manx Tradition) and the Literary Vampire Tradition (which grew out of the Folklorismus Vampire Tradition and includes, more or less, or at least gave birth to, the Cinematographic Vampire Tradition), the Vampire was both appealing and appalling simultaneously. The appealing aspects included being magnetic in a romantic and/or erotic sense, and being attractive in terms of visual appearance, as well as offering the lure of a form of immortality, eternal youth, and superhuman power (indeed, one of these powers is often used as an explanation of the lure of the vampire, the hold she/he has over living beings, and that is a power described as "hypnosis"). The appalling aspects were primarily summed up in one idea: this being is a corpse -- a "living" corpse, perhaps, but nevertheless a corpse, who is cold to the touch, who rests in a coffin, who feeds parasitically upon the living beings of his/her own species, etc.

As far as being "200 year old high schoolers with adolescent problems," that is also hardly a new theme in the Vampire Tradition; indeed, in Anne Rice's celebrated Lestat stories, the reader encounters the child vampire Claudia, with her prepubescent problems. What may be new (or at least perhaps atypical) in this "young vampire" motif is the concept that a person remains stuck at the physical (and emotional) age he/she was turned at; earlier stories often (but not always) include a motif in which the vampire ages unless she/he feeds on blood.

Personally, I have been put off by the relatively recent depiction of vampires as changing in physical appearance when they "vamp out" to such an extent that they do not merely have fangs and glowing and/or red eyes, but also have some bizarre ridge in their foreheads like they have Klingon ancestry or something, or have a reptilian appearance, or otherwise appear distinctly non-human. The idea that vampires can transform into fog or wolves or a swarm of rats or other things (or at least the idea that their "hypnotic" power is so great as to induce a mortal to perceive that they have so transformed) is old enough (although the vampire-into-bat transformation is also relatively new, but hardly inconsistent with the Tradition), but aside from the hairless, long-nailed, ghoulish-looking Count Orlok of Nosferatu (and the "noferatu-type" vampires inspired by that depiction), which (as I have already pointed out) is less than 100 years old, such an idea is far less consistent with the Vampire Tradition than the idea of attractive, noble (even heroic at times), romantic vampire.

Oh, and one other thing I should have perhaps mentioned in the first post, which your insistence on "bloodsucking" has reminded me of: another thing I've seen criticized about the Twilight saga is that the vampires in the story are "vegetarians." That term is often bandied about as if it means that the Cullens munch on lettuce and fruit, but those who use the term to dismiss the stories are either ignorant of its significance in the stories, or intentionally twisting the use of the term in the stories. In the first movie (which I admit I finally watched only because people kept asking me what I think of the series, it came on one of the Encore channels recently, and I didn't want to continue to have to reply "I have no real opinion, because I've never read any of the books and never watched any of the movies"), the boy Edward explains that the Cullens refer to themselves as "vegetarians" because they refuse to feed on humans, but instead feed on animals (this is also not a new idea in the Vampire Tradition, although the use of "vegetarian" to describe such a diet may be new -- it's also ironic, and I appreciated the irony).

Aszune wrote:
But I dont like the whole plot and think its pretty weak and not 'enough'. I personally think the filmer/writer should have worked it out more in detail and made it more 'exciting'. And with exciting I dont mean per se blood splatters. No, just a good plot would be enough.

At this very moment this movie has been chosen for 'best vampire movie' and thats because it was clearly directed to adolescents. And since more than the helft of the ppl that are going to the movie are adolescents, it makes kind of sense.

Summary: plot is way too simple.  



I've been told that the books are poorly written. I haven't read any of them, so I can't speak to that assessment.

The first film was enjoyable, but I certainly wouldn't call it the "best vampire movie," nor would I even put it in the top ten. However, when compared with movies in which "Dracula" beats his chest like an ape (I don't even remember which movie that was, and it may have otherwise been good, but that one scene was enough to cause my ex-housemate to leave the room in disgust, and I was also rather repulsed by the scene), yeah, it's superior. Even some of the Christopher Lee movies have less-than-brilliant scenes, in which Dracula crouches in the corner and hisses (although I still rank the Christopher Lee movies above Twilight).

I've also seen the character of Bella criticized as one-dimensional or insufficiently developed. There were a few aspects of the movie that, in my opinion, portrayed that character in a way that I did not find pleasing, such as her almost neurotic reaction to Edward's intention to leave for her safety. We get that the girl is "crazy" about him; she doesn't have to be depicted as if she is literally crazy, with an unhealthy obsession over the boy. She also should not be conceived as if she is merely a shadow to his supposed light.

The plot is simple, granted, but that's the general plot for many "classic" vampire stories (as GM Darasuum points out in his reply): immortal, brooding, lonely, vampire guy meets beautiful, young, mortal girl, romance blossoms, some crisis occurs, vampire guy saves mortal girl (or vice-versa), and they all live (or "un-die") happily ever after (presumably, that is, but I know there's more to the story in question than is told in the first movie, having read a summary somewhere). The alternative plot in the "classic" tale is: immortal, somewhat creepy, lonely vampire guy meets beautiful, young, mortal girl, attempts to seduce her, she is taken with him but already has a beau, nevertheless she gradually falls under his spell, her previously-existing beau (often with help from a "wise old man" archetypal character) rescues her by "slaying" the vampire, and they all live happily ever after. There are of course other variations on these tales -- Le Fanu's Carmilla, for example, which is older than Stoker's Dracula, and which depicts the Countess Mircalla Karnstein seducing a beautiful, young mortal girl, only to be thwarted by the girl's father (not beau), who has teamed up with a wise old warrior and the heroic descendant of a previous vampire-slayer hero. The alternative plot (charming-vampire-as-somewhat-sinister-but-nevertheless-unfortunate-victim, although probably more frequently encountered than the charming-vampire-as-hero motif) I have given above is that which both Le Fanu and Stoker followed, and it was out of this plot that the hideous and repulsive, dark and monstrous, nosferatu-type vampire was developed by Henrik Galeen and F.W. Murnau in 1922.

GM_darasuum wrote:
I don't like the sparkle thing because I think its stupid. Just my opinion. I also believe Edward is a very poor copy of the vampire Lestat, so that puts a damper on my enjoyment.

Other then what I sated the story of Twilight seems good enough, just not my favorite version of vampires.  



I have to admit, although I think the sparkly vampire thing is an interesting twist on explaining why vampires might be averse to sunlight (which as I have pointed out above is an idea that is only 88 years old), I'm not terribly fond of the idea.

Lestat and Edward share some qualities, I agree. I'm not sure I would view Edward as a copy of Lestat, however. In some ways, Edward is more like Mick St. John of the Moonlight television series (although I like Mick, and Moonlight, much, much better than Edward and Twilight), or Nick Knight of the series Forever Knight, both of whom probably owe more to Barnabas Collins of Dark Shadows than any other inspiration.

Now there was a vampire! Barnabas Collins, tragic, unfortunate victim, often violent to excess, mysterious, brooding, lonely, charming, romantic, not afraid to get his fangs bloody (although not desensitized to it nor blasé about it, either), dark, tormented, etc.

ZomgVampyr

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PostedSep 08, 2010 6:53 am
Oh, well, I really liked your thorough commentary, I would say that what made the movies not worth it for me is the expressionless cast and bad graphics, other than that I still need to read the books and imagine the characters my own way.
The matter of the sparkling is not really my cup of tea, but it seems like a new approach, so kudos for that (although the movie made it look awkward).
What I find really weird is that Edward still goes to school, I don't mind the teenage problems, since he got stuck to that age forever (seems unlucky though), but if I were to live for hndreds of years, I'd seek knowledge in other places.

Still, I like my vampires more like "Lestat" from "Queen of the ****", or "Alucard" from "Hellsing".
With super charm and deadly confidence, but that's just me

ArcticBlade

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PostedSep 10, 2010 9:07 pm
Stephen king commenting on Stephanie Meyer (the author of the Twighlight series)----"The real difference is that Jo Rowling is a terrific writer and Stephenie Meyer can't write worth a darn," he said. "She's not very good."




X100

get 25'd

Giovanna_X

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PostedSep 12, 2010 3:55 am
ArcticBlade wrote:
Stephen king commenting on Stephanie Meyer (the author of the Twighlight series)----"The real difference is that Jo Rowling is a terrific writer and Stephenie Meyer can't write worth a darn," he said. "She's not very good."  



*nod* I remember reading that somewhere. However, as good as some of Stephen King's stuff is (Salem's Lot and the original Children of the Corn come to mind immediately), after finally watching more than a few minutes of the miniseries, The Stand, I'm not sure he's in a position to criticize other writers (then again, the miniseries may have been a very poor adaptation of the actual story, but if it wasn't at least vaguely close to what he wrote, he should sue; it was truly awful -- even "pathetic" seems an appropriate description, which isn't something I would have expected to say about his work before seeing that miniseries).

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