Posted tagged ‘Dead Until Dark’

Bella and Sookie, Edward Cullen, Bill Compton- The Lines Are Drawn

February 9, 2010

Read yesterday about the upcoming first run publication of 350,000 copies of the new Twilight graphic novel.  “The characters and settings are very close to what I was imagining while writing the series,” Stephanie Meyers, the author of the original Twilight series has said of the graphic novel.  (Does this mean that Ms. Meyers always pictured the characters and settings as cartoonish?)

Okay. Stop.  Guilty confession time.  As followers of this blog know, I wallowed in the Twlight series.  I have also, more recently, wallowed in another vampire series—The Southern Vampire Series by Charlaine Harris, also known as the Sookie Stackhouse Mysteries.

(What can I say?  I get tired, manic, depressed.)

Which brings up another question.  Why is the Twilight Saga (whose collective sales have now reached 45 million) so much more popular than the Southern Vampire Sookie Stackhouse Series?

(Don’t get me wrong.   Charlene Harris is unlikely to live in a garret.  Still, 45 million!)

What makes the difference especially remarkable is that the two series have enough in common to make a vampiric copyright lawyer lick his blood-stained chops.  Both focus on a human-vampire love story; both share telepathy, characters whose minds cannot be permeated by telepathy, super-handsome, super-sexy vampires (well, Edward Cullen is sexy in principal at least), shape-shifters/werewolves, love triangles,  heroinic (as in both addictive and held by the heroine) special blood, attempted suicide through sun-stepping, a ruthless vampire hierarchy, controlling and hyper-jealous male lovers, and fast, fancy cars.   Most importantly, both series have spawned commercially-successful screen versions.

So what makes for the phenomenon? (Other than the casting of Robsten.)

First, there’s the teen factor.  Perhaps (believe or not) tweens and teens simply read more.  After all, they have parents who tell them to turn off the TV and the internet, and they usually don’t have full time jobs.

Then there’s the identification factor.  Bella Swan, the Twilight heroine, is herself a teenager. (Sookie’s in her early twenties.)

More importantly, Bella is presented as Every Girl—Every Girl who is cute enough but clumsy, and who also happens to have some nearly magical qualities (not even known to herself) which, in turn, attract a consummately handsome, devoted, rich, strong, elegant, vampire; a vampire, who, although insistently male (at least he insists he’s male), loves her for her essence, not her body; a body which he adores,  but which he heroically resists (sigh), both to protect her soul and safety.

Sookie is harder to identify with.  She is very much not Every Girl, but a cocktail waitress specifically based in Northern Louisiana.    She introduces herself in the first book Dead Until Dark as someone suffering from a deformity.   She’s also super-attractive.     (The way her mental abilities cause human suitors to lose interest in her well-built body is a bit like the pre-feminist tales of women who were told to hide their smarts if they wanted to hold onto a man.)

Sookie’s vampires, unlike Edward Cullen, have little high-minded hesitancy about sex (or about manipulation and violence.)   Moreover, Sookie’s vampires (i) don’t just lust after her blood but frequently bite her, and (ii) spend about half of every day actually dead.  (These qualities may well be confusing to a young adult reader.)

So maybe here’s the distinction:  Twilight characters are good.  Good.  GOOD.   Except when they are bad.  Bad.  BAD.

Hmm…  Is it possible that the qualities which  seem to make Twilight so popular are the same qualities that make it adaptable to graphic novel form?  (A world that can be drawn in black and white lines.)

Teenage girls, it seems, are idealists after all.  Idealists and Every Girl and lovers of the fantastical.