Look, I hate Twilight as much as the next person. Actually, I probably hate it more than most. Twilight does not do any favors for women—and it also does not do any favors in terms of its portrayal of vampires. And I like women. And I like vampires. Love them, even. Since I was in second or third grade. Vampires, I mean.
I hate self-hating vampire guys who fall in love with local girls who are human but somehow special (Angel, Mick St. John, Stefan Salvatore, Bill Compton), but I can still enjoy the stories in which they are central characters. And I am not a fan of supernatural worlds in which “vampires” are so different from what I imagine that they hardly qualify for the name (Joss Whedon’s Buffyverse vampires and the vampires of Supernatural). And yet these stories can still be incredibly enjoyable.
Twilight takes both of these common flaws in vampire stories to new, upsetting extremes.
Twilight features the Cullen family of “vampires,” who are a small clan of self-hating vampires who live in secret but try to have a semblance of human lives. Not every vampire in the Twilight universe fits this description, but the “good guy” vampires do.
The “vampires” in Twilight better resemble human-shaped, venomous (for some reason) golems made out of sparkly caesarstone than vampires. I mean, really.
Twilight-bashing should never translate to vampire-bashing. Aside from the readers, vampires are the real victims, here. Vampires, from the older stories of magical beings or ravenous dead that feed upon the flesh or blood of the …
… living, to the classical vampires of Stoker, to the contemporary vampires of the last few decades who are less versatile in their powers and, in many ways, more believable as characters. (This is not unique to vampires—compare a cartoon villain from a few decades ago to one now; they are more complex and believable than they used to be, because audiences have matured in how they process stories, and character-driven stories are the best stories).
And now, even I cringe when I hear about a new supernatural series (even though I am currently writing a supernatural series) because of the mere association with Twilight. What if the series is being written to appeal to Twilight fans? Now I am willing to investigate such series, especially with a recommendation from a trusted source (I enjoy True Blood and I love The Vampire Diaries, for instance. Oh, and I can sincerely recommend Teen Wolf and you’ll think that I’m crazy until you’re about five episodes in; I showed this to a friend of mine who was quite doubtful and then, a couple of hours later, she confessed that she was then addicted). A lot of people are not. Twilight is giving vampires a bad name.
I think that there are two extremes to which vampires, in general, should never go. If they do, they really cease to be vampires and become other creatures. One is the chaste, detached vampire, either at war with its predatory nature or completely at peace. The other is a ravenous savage that murders without cause, simply for a love of destruction or out of endless bloodlust. Both of these deviate greatly from Stoker and from the better contemporary portrayals of vampires, and both forget one of the key elements of vampires: they are people. They were human. No matter how much an author’s version of vampirism alters a person, some core of that individual must remain (even on Buffy, where vampires automatically became evil, who they were in life influenced how they were in undeath).
Well-written vampires are people, and good writers can figure out how certain people would respond to becoming vampires and write good, character-driven stories in which romance takes a back seat to actual plot-lines. Hating Twilight does not mean that you have to hate vampires. A vampire does not have to be a pointlessly evil monster like in Fright Night to be a tough, blood-drinking vampire. A vampire does not have to be a pining, abstinence-only loner in order to be a protagonist. Personalities require a balance, you guys.
Obviously, I’ve thought about this a bit. And not just because I am writing my own supernatural series. But also because of that.
PS: Seriously, though, Bella is not a good role-model for young women and that is important, too. Edward/Bella is not a good model for a relationship. Not a healthy one, anyway. That just is not quite the point of this post.