There Will Be Blood

November 20, 2008

In case you hadn’t heard, the film adaptation of Stephanie Meyer’s vampire slash young adult romance series, Twilight, hits theaters soon. If you hadn’t heard, of course, you’re most likely already dead and have become a vampire, thirsting for blood, violence, and an endorsement deal with the Burger King.

Of course, those of you who did not know that Twilight was soon to be released in theaters are probably those of you so sick of election news you have decided to pay no heed to all forms of media, since this vampire movie has been the cover story on every single newsstand publication from Entertainment Weekly to Golf Digest, and will no doubt be incorporated, as is required by the Constitution of the United States, into segments of The Today Show:

Matt Lauer: Next up, the global markets have been ravished by the mortgage crisis and the Wall Street meltdown. Many analysts are asking: How does this affect the vampire segment of the population? To answer this question, we have Kristen Stewart, the star of the upcoming movie Twilight, out in theaters on November 21st.
Kristen Stewart: Thank you, Matt. Glad to be here.
Matt Lauer: So what does the recession mean for young, attractive vampires?
Kristen Stewart: Well, Matt, in Twilight, out in theaters on November 21st, the global commodities exchange has been volatile lately, as financial markets are unsure of how to respond to the European Union’s actions on banking regulations, not unlike the wildly romantic escapades myself and Robert Pattinson get into in Twilight, out in theaters on November 21st.
Matt Lauer: Please shoot me now.

Vampire stories have always been a gold mine of drama and mystique. While folklore has long held vampires to be a real terror, it was Bram Stoker’s Dracula that catapulted the character of the vampire from bloodthirsty but otherwise bureaucratic tyrant to pop culture icon. Stoker’s Dracula, in particular, helped cement many of the things we now normally associate with vampires, and its impact on the literature of the era was sensational. Many literary critics see the novel as a dramatically rendered clash between folklore and modernity, order versus chaos, and virtue over vice; however, it was also a fairly subtle way in the Victorian era to talk about mind-blowing debauchery, loose women, and gonorrhea without actually mentioning the act of humping it wicked.

While garlic, wooden stakes, aversion to sunlight, and popped collars are the mainstay of vampiric culture—it almost sounds like the ugly conflagration of emo kids, metrosexual douchebags, and the Amish—Meyer’s vampires are nothing like that. They are perfectly good-looking, sashaying around like young, statuesque porcelain trying to pass algebra three and oh by the way suck all the blood out of your body.

Being targeted for the dreaded young adult market—those vaguely mature enough to handle eye shadow and babysitting but not quite wine coolers and missed periods—Meyer has sanitized these vampires for public consumption. Much of the gruesomeness of their existing has simply been fictionalized away, with no hearts being pierced with stakes and no skin turning into saran wrap when they forget the SPF 2000 at the track meet. She does feature some pretty wicked blood feuds, however, which I guess is OK. If I can’t have Martin Short and The Count beating punches chin to chin I guess a good old fashioned West Side Story with more fangs and mercifully less singing is OK.

The film adaptation has been pushed pretty heavily by marketers. My own personal observation of this is that it’s not quite the level of, say, the Star Wars franchise, where by the time Episode Three was released, by which I mean episode six, George Lucas was actually negotiating endorsement deals with individual McNuggets to squeeze every last penny of advertising opportunity from the planet Earth. However, it is fairly aggressive; a stop at the local chain bookstore revealed a remarkably well-rounded display of Twilight books and accessories, ranging from T-shirts with oddly non-vampiric but quite commercial themes to pewter jewelry that can be worn as a fashion accessory then used, later, to cut yourself while listening to Dashboard Confessional.

It’s quite possible that Twilight will be a big success; not only because of the embedded base of loyal readers and impressionable young teenagers, but because of the advertising push and media attention. Of course, it’s not necessarily a done deal, either. Most of the actors are hardly big names, and while a lot of the promotion focuses on the young, perfect characters, the movie is quite dark and potentially confusing to those unable to grasp the more intricate parts of the plot of Madagascar 2. Even if it’s a modest hit, though, it can latch onto a fan base and crank out sequels, much like the critically acclaimed and astoundingly lucrative serials such as Star Wars, Harry Potter, and Air Bud. Then again, if there is one thing that sells more tickets than vampires engaging in elaborate blood rituals and gang wars, it’s young, sexy vampires engaging in elaborate blood rituals and gang wars.