Animated Corpses as Romantic Heroes?

Here is the final post in our series from Susannah Clements, author of The Vampire Defanged.

Animated corpses might not be likely romantic heroes, but recently they have become so. Writers like Bram Stoker used to use vampires to tell stories about sin and how to defeat it. Sometimes they still do. But the most popular vampires today are telling us a very different story.

Stephenie Meyer’s the Twilight Saga wasn’t the first story to turn vampires into objects of romantic desire. Romance novels with vampire heroes and television shows featuring vampire love interests like Buffy the Vampire Slayer have been around for several decades. But the huge popularity of Twilight has focused the popular romantic imagination around the figure of the vampire in a way it never was before.

Instead of an ugly, animalistic vampire like Count Dracula, Edward Cullen in the Twilight Saga is pale, beautiful, and sparkly like a diamond. He is invested with all of the power, charisma, and brooding angst of a hero in any romance novel—amplified by his superhuman characteristics. It’s no wonder he has become the embodiment of so many romantic dreams.

The Twilight books and movies have certainly had their critics in recent years, but their popularity should be no surprise to us. In addition to giving us two deeply attractive romantic heroes (a vampire and a werewolf, to suit readers of diverse tastes), they’re also telling us other stories we want to hear. They tell us a story of how an average person can get pulled into drama, romance and excitement beyond her wildest dreams. They tell us a story of how our free will is so strong it can determine the fate of our lives, often without any lasting negative consequences. They tell us a story of how family can offer us eternal security. They tell us a story of how the life of an unexceptional girl can be transformed by the love of a powerful man.

Not all of these stories are true – but we desperately want to hear them. So the Twilight Saga speaks to us powerfully. It also develops into a gripping plot in the last half of Breaking Dawn, where Meyer demonstrates her best quality as a writer.

Vampire books and films used to tell a true story—not that vampires exist, but that sin exists and can be defeated only through Christ. The Twilight Saga tells us stories we want to hear, but it doesn’t tell that story anymore.

 

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