Posted tagged ‘Vampires’

Escapism – One Could Do Worse Than Eric Northman

December 17, 2009

A  couple of weeks ago, I wrote a post about the lure of mind candy when escapism hits. At around the same time, I wrote a post about reading nine Sookie Stackhouse/True Blood vampire novels in one week.  (This, I should note, was not a week in which I was on vacation sitting reading on a beach.)    Comparing the Sookie Stackhouse vampire novels to the few other vampire novels I’ve read (the Twilight Saga), I said that the Stackhouse books weren’t really such great re-reads because they were mysteries rather than romances.

A couple of weeks, and several re-reads, later, have led me to revise that opinion.  The Sookie Stackhouse books actually are fairly romantic, at least fairly raunchy, and they score quite well on the escapist/obsessive-compulsive/manicD re-reading charts.  (The audible books read with a delightful Southern accent by Johanna Parker, are also pretty helpful for the highly-pressured who eschew medication.)

I also want to revise my previously posted opinion of the character of Eric Northman (noting again that I’ve never seen the True Blood TV series.)  I said in my post that  I thought Eric was too devious to be a romantic hero.  While I think it very unlikely that Sookie ultimately ends up with Eric (because of the whole non-aging, non-childbearing, vampire thing), she could definitely do worse.

Re-reading these books has also led me to wonder what exactly people, escapist people, like about vampire novels.

Of course, there’s the utter (fun) silliness.

Then too, there’s the attraction (for female escapists) of unpopular girls suddenly being swooped up into a world of super-handsome, super-devoted, rich, handsome, strong, protective, males.

But I think what escapists are particularly attracted to is the dominance of compulsion in these books.  The vampires are portrayed as beings who, despite being control freaks, are implacably driven by the rules of their deeper natures–their desire for certain scents of blood; their apathy towards other beings; their inescapable hierarchies.  Anyone in escapist mode finds both these battles with compulsion, and the many guiltless surrenders to it, pretty intriguing.

Secondly, there’s the inner logic.   Once you make the huge leap into the world of all these crazy magical beings, everything else is very rational, ordered, in the books.  Certainly, there is a lot of violence, but it’s never random.  (Books with seemingly random, yet very real violence, like, for example,  Cormac McCarthy’s All the Pretty Horses¸ only make an escapist feel terrified; as if his or her lack of attention to the details of daily life could lead to some truly disastrous consequence.)

Finally, the dialogue-filled prose forms a comfortable groove in the stressed brain a whole lot faster than something like, let’s say, Heidigger.  This accessibility makes them particularly good for reading on a treadmill, of virtually any kind.

The Twilight Amorality of Edward Cullen – What Does It Mean?

October 15, 2009

Maybe it’s the stress of the bad news (that horrible moment when the balloon landed and the first responders realized that the six-year old boy was not in it), or relief at the good news (the wonderful moment when it was discovered that the little boy wasn’t ever in the balloon, that he had been hiding in a box in the garage)—

Or maybe it’s the fact that the Dow’s close above 10,000 and Goldman Sachs’ good earnings report have been called by some at Fox, the “Bush” recovery, and  by others as  no recovery at all (apparently Goldman would have done better if it had simply invested in an index fund and the economy is certainly not out of the woods yet)—

Whatever—it’s all made me decide to write about Twilight again, the phenomenally successful series of books by Stephanie Meyer – 70 million sold and counting.

Specifically, I want to write about the amorality of Twilight, and to wonder what this amorality, or really, the audience’s acceptance of this amorality, may mean.

First, for those who don’t know the series, the Twilight saga, written by Mormon Meyer (a graduate of Brigham Young University), has typically been considered to be an anachronistically moralistic series of books.  This characterization has resulted primarily from the fact (spoiler alert) that the sexual consummation of the passionate love affair between vampire Edward Cullen and human Bella Swan (even full frontal nudity) is pointedly delayed until marriage.   Then (double spoiler alert), once they do get married, Bella nearly instantly becomes extremely pregnant.   (It was a good thing they waited!)

Edward is repeatedly characterized in the last three books, New Moon, Eclipse and Breaking Dawn¸ as a “perversely moral vampire” with very old-fashioned ideas.  His “family” is also characterized as amazingly moral because, by and large, they feed only on the blood of wild animals.  And, although they do seem to take particular pleasure in certain endangered carnivores, they try to avoid having an unduly negative impact on the environment.  (At least it’s not Aunt Susie.)

A closer look at the books (which I must confess I’ve taken, repeatedly) shows the vampires’ morality to be very one-sided, i.e. it’s all about sex and very little about money.   (Yes, the vampires, who are rich due to prophesy of stock market trends, do give their old clothes to the werewolves, but even they admit that they only wear things once.)

Not only are the vampires amoral, they are also incredibly solipsistic:  they (Edward in particular) only care about their own (Bella.)

In scene after scene, mayhem occurs just offstage.  In New Moon (the movie about to come out),  a large tourist group is fodder for the “Voluturi”, the vampire leaders.  Edward hurries Bella away so she won’t be upset by the sounds of the mass slaughter, but makes no effort to save even one tourist.  (Okay, they’re tourists….)

Similarly, when vampire mayhem stalks Seattle (of all places) in Eclipse, Edward’s main concern seems to be the negative attention the slaughter may bring.  In a hypothetical plane crash in that book, he talks, hypothetically, of reaching out to save only Bella from certain death.  (Doesn’t he have two hands?)

In the fourth book, Edward and Bella even stand passively (if uncomfortably) by as their vampire guests roam the countryside feeding on humans (granted, the guests go out of State.)

I know, I know.  There’s only so much a person…errr. ..vampire… can do.  Maybe Edward is right to focus his energies.  But what’s amazing to me is is the shift this represents from the classic romantic hero.

When did Superman even abandon a kitten up a tree to save only Lois Lane?  In nearly  every opera you can think of (Aida, Il Travatore, the Magic Flute), the hero must part from his love for the sake of Truth, Duty to  family, society, or gypsy clan, and some really heart-wrenching singing.   Romeo (yes, a hothead) forsakes Juliet to avenge Mercutio.    Even Harry Potter (who is a classic, if modern hero) leaves Ginny to save Hogwarts.

Edward’s solipsism is especially misplaced since he is supposed to be a World War I kind of guy.  It’s hard to imagine another generation so bound by duty.

So what does Edward’s amorality, and more importantly, fan inattention to it, say about modern culture?  (And please don’t get me wrong, I still love both him and his portrayer, Robert Pattinson.)

Certainly, we live in a country with a lot of fellow feeling.  I think about all the wonderful first responders who chased down the balloon today in which the little six-year old was, thankfully, not lodged;  I think of all the millions of Americans who undoubtedly hoped and prayed for that little boy’s safety.

But then I also think of the health care debate, the intense furor over the “public option”.

And, forgive me, but I also think of the outrage over Obama’s comments to “Joe the Plumber”; the casual ‘spreading wealth around’ remark that drew so much ire and concern, and that were raised with such anger (and comparisons to Stalinism) by my taxi driver in Florida.  (See earlier post re incredulity in Florida.)

Goldman Sachs’ outsized bonuses also somehow come to mind.

Hmmm…..