The world, it seems, has gone vampire-crazy. And I don't use the word "crazy" lightly.
The episode opens with a young girl in a dark bar--very Bella Swan-like--sitting across from a mysterious Rob Pattinson-esque young man telling her to run away, telling her he's dangerous--in that broody, Twilight-vamp sort of way. And this play on Twilight was done with deliberation. Either director Jan Eliasburg or writer Brett Michaels read my chapter in Twilight & Philosophy, or it's just a big, fat coicindence that the episode was all about real life teens and tweens looking for their Edward...and instead finding nothing more than a blood cult and death. Oops.
I thought "Live Free or Twihard" was a brilliant visual to what my chapter, "The Real Danger," discusses--in the context of Supernatural's fictional world, of course. Speaking of which, in case you're not a fan--Supernatural is a 21st century version of the cowboy adventure: Two brothers on the road, looking for trouble. The Winchester boys are as American as apple pie--what with their trunk full of guns and all. Yeehaw!
Today I was lucky enough to have met an academic colleague on her campus, a small liberal arts school with an excellent reputation. Our conversation turned toward the popularity of vampires in, well, everything. I first theorized about why "superheroes"--even ones with fangs--were gaining momentum in the 21st century in Tom Morris's Superheroes & Philosophy (2005). The appeal of hyper-heroism stems from fear, frankly. We started the 21st century with death, destruction, and the introduction to terrorism on American soil. Never mind the fact that the rest of the world has had to deal with all of that ad infinitum, and so has the States--but in a much different way. The generation who fought in WWII is on the wain. Those brave souls who fought in the Korean and Vietman wars are now retiring or are already retired. The up-and-comers of the new "adult" generations have NEVER had to deal with the kind of terror 2001 brought. People my age fought in the Gulf war but people the age of my students have been in Afghanistan and/or Iraq since 2002. And that's terrifying in and of itself. But then add in a crashing economy, joblessness, and a general uncertainty about the world, and you've got a recipe for vampires...pretty ones, who sparkle in the sun and can get away with murder because, of course, they're vegetarians.
The monsters have become our saviors because the humans around us are letting us down. What does it say about a society who values the dead like that? What does it say for our children, that the fascination for fanged-death has become a literal phenomenon...not just in the States either, but all over the globe?
Tonight's episode of Supernatural addressed just that question. Because in real life, those vampy chat rooms where you pretend to be a bloodsucker to meet others like you is nothing more than a playground for pedophilic-freaks. The dangerous looking boy who's tall, dark and brooding isn't Edward Cullen--he's your future stalker who will hurt you, maybe even kill you according to recent Department of Justice statistics.
"But it's all in good fun," you might say--except when it's not. Like when you have to hide out in a friend's closet because your stalker followed your car and is now banging down the door, screaming he's going to kill you--the very same guy who took you to a nice dinner, sent you a dozen roses, and kissed you tenderly just a few days before--is now a psychotic nightmare who won't leave you alone...until you're dead, or he is. Think I'm kidding? Think I'm some removed writer/professor whose middle-class life has sheltered her from that sort of thing? Think again.
I was Bella--a smart yet under-confident teen who met an older, good-looking guy who practically sparkled. He said all the right things, did all the right things--even his possessive behavior seemed endearing, until he tried to kill me.
Do you know what it's like to have to fight for your life? If you did, you wouldn't be swayed by Edward Cullen or the other fanged-friendlys pop culture is normalizing in an "I'm okay, you're okay" scenario. There are now degrees of evil. It's okay if you're a murderer if the person you murdered was "bad." It's okay to hurt people as long as you have pure intentions.
I have a secret: IT'S NOT OKAY. EVER.
And these are our heroes!?!? Vampire Diaries Damon Salvatore kills Elena's brother--sure, in that fictional world, Jeremy was wearing a special ring that could revive him from supernatural death...like when a vampire breaks your neck. How the ring knew a vampire broke Jeremy's neck is the real mystery...but an even bigger one is how Damon is portrayed as a good guy who just kind of loses his way when he loses his temper. A "WTF" moment, as my students would say, if ever there was one.
But hey, I love vampires, werewolves, the mummy, Frankenstein--always have. Those "classic" monsters were portrayed as more human than the humans around them. Sadly, I think I related to monsters more than people. I've always been a sucker for the under-dog, and classic monsters used to be the under-dog. Today, they're the heroes. And today's heroes suck, literally.
Escapism is great. And there's nothing wrong with losing yourself in one of Stephenie Meyer's or LJane Smith's or Anne Rice's books. Just remember when you close that book, that reality looms large just a few feet away...like the weird guy in the parking lot who seems to be looking for victims, sitting in his car alone, window cracked, smoking a cigarette, just watching...you. There's your Edward Cullen. Go get him, girls! Exciting, isn't he? He'll get you so excited, you'll feel your heart race faster than it ever has before. You'll feel more alive...as you run for your life. You'll die everytime you hear the sound of his voice in your ear...as he screams obscenities at you and your friends in the middle of a crowded restaurant because he followed you after work, and you didn't even know it.
Don't confuse the "real" monsters for actual monsters...there are no monsters that exist who aren't human.