Thursday, November 8, 2012
The first thing to know about Twilight vampires is that they don’t have any bite. Well, there is some biting, but they lack fangs, one of the mainstays of most vampires. They also sparkle in the sun rather than risk obliteration from it. Some of them refuse to feed off on humans out of a sense of morality.
One could argue that there’s no sexual bite in Twilight either. Bella and Edward, the Romeo and Juliet lovers, moon at each other and exchange passionate kisses, but they are abstinent until marriage at age eighteen. There is the constant fear that Edward, tempted by the beguiling and unusual scent of her blood, will devour Bella if he allows himself to unleash his lust.
As if to make up for the lack of explicit sex, the vast universe of Twilight fan fiction is teeming with smut stories, a genre that envisions the relationships in Twilight as sexually explicit. In the lively world of smut or fade to black fan fiction, the authors, primarily women, pen erotic scenes between Bella and Edward. Instead of meadows and innocent kisses, there is promiscuity, sexual abuse, incest, bondage, sex addiction, and, of course, some romance. However, in many of the smut scenarios, the authors eliminate the paranormal elements and supernatural characters altogether because to try to adhere to the Twilight canon of chivalrous vampires and burly wolves by inserting explicit sex is an oxymoron.
Twilight emerged in the middle of a boom in paranormal romance and the proliferation of young-adult vampire literature: the number of these books published in the United States doubled between 2002 and 2004. Young-adult paranormals now dominate entire sections at Barnes and Nobles. A large proportion of Twilight fans read other paranormal romance books such as The Vampire Diaries, Charlaine Harris’s Southern Vampire Mysteries, the Anita Blake series by Laurel Hamilton, and The Dark Hunter series by Sherrilyn Kenyon. However, many find some of this work, particularly JR Ward’s Black Dagger Brotherhood and others, too risqué for their tastes.
In many ways, Twilight seems far removed from the tough female protagonists, vampires, kick-ass demon hunters, witches, werewolves, and shape-shifters of adult paranormal romance. So, aside from sexy vampires and testosterone-fueled werewolves, what does Twilight share with other paranormal romance?
1. Emo Vampires: Despite Twilight author, Stephenie Meyer’s contention never to have read paranormal romance, Edward bears a strong resemblance to the genre’s archetypical heroes. He is supernaturally strong and emotionally vulnerable. Unlike the pure evil of Dracula or Nosferatu, in Edward and the vampire heroes of True Blood or The Vampire Diaries, we have the twenty-first-century, therapeutic vampire boyfriend. Desperate to retain their humanity and angst-ridden about their bloodthirsty natures, these tantalizing vamps personify both danger and safety. He may be a vampire, but he’s really in essence a bad boy with a soul who is crippled by his past. The more tortured, tormented, and damaged the hero, the more appealing he is, and the more fans sympathize with his occasional bouts of violence and possessiveness. As Bella tells Edward in Twilight, “You’re dangerous? … But not bad. … No, I don’t believe that you’re bad.”
2. Romeo and Juliet with a Happy Ending: Whether vampire, troll, or demon hunter, most paranormal romances end with a perfect pairing for eternity. In Twilight, Bella and Edward are soul mates, destined to be together forever despite the fact that he is tempted by the beguiling and unusual scent of her blood, and wrestles with his moral values and desire to attack and suck her dry. Their interspecies romance is plagued by other obstacles as well, like Bella’s insecurities (she can never believe someone like Edward could love her) and her predilection for nearly dying on a regular basis, whether at the hands of rival vampires, a motorcycle accident, or a gang of would-be rapists. As Edward tells Bella in New Moon, “The odds are always stacked against us. Mistake after mistake. I’ll never criticize Romeo again.” Despite seemingly insurmountable barriers sexual attraction builds; and undying love triumphs.
3. Hidden Powers: Like Sookie Stackhouse in the Southern Vampire Mysteries or Beth in J.R Ward’s Dark Lover, Bella is a heroine who is unaware of the full extent of her powers and identity, until they are awakened by her meeting with a vampire lover. In Twilight, Edward can’t read Bella’s impenetrable mind like he can everyone else’s. Bella is utterly ordinary, almost a blank slate, until the love of Edward arouses some power within her. Yet, unlike Sookie Stackhouse or Anita Blake, Bella is more of a damsel in distress than someone hunting and zapping evil vampires. She is less concerned about ridding the world of evil than with Edward’s dazzling beauty. Instead of going to college, Bella becomes a wife and mother, albeit a supernatural one, at age eighteen.
4. Supernatural sex and virginal heroines: Bella becomes a fully realized sexual being only after encountering Edward. Like many of the women in paranormals and romance novels, she is either virginal or possesses almost no sexual experience. Bella desires sex, but she’s never promiscuous or slutty. Sex with her true love is blissful, otherworldly, and an emotional and sensual delirium. This is still true even when Bella’s first sexual experience leaves her bruised, battered, and pregnant with a vampire/human hybrid on their honeymoon. Sex gets even better once she becomes a vampire with preternatural sexual powers. Supernatural creatures have supernatural sex, forever.
After Twilight’s global success, mainstream media suddenly awoke to the fact that millions of women were reading paranormal romance and the insatiable demand for these books continues. Paranormal romance stories are no longer a dirty secret to be hidden on an e-reader, and are in fact, one of the only thriving sectors of the publishing industry. Twilight manages to serve up a PG version of paranormal romance, now duplicated by dozens of copycat YA series, with the same hearty doses of lust, romance and soul mates. Twilight’s downside is that the reader gets all the anticipation without any sex as a reward.
An author immerses herself in the frenzied fandom of Twilight, the young-adult vampire romance series that has captivated women of all ages
Why have the Twilight saga’s representations of romance and relationships enchanted millions of fans and generated millions in revenue, selling everything from Barbie-type dolls to blockbuster films? Tanya Erzen—herself no stranger to the allure of the series—explores the phenomenon of Twilight, books and films influenced by conservative Mormon religious ideas, by immersing herself in the vibrant and diverse subculture of “Twi-hards” to understand why so many love the series (sometimes in spite of themselves). She attends Edward-addiction groups, Twi-rock concerts, and fan conventions, and looks at the vast world of online fandom that Twilight has generated. Part journalistic investigation and part cultural analysis, Fanpire will appeal to obsessed fans and haters alike.
Check out a couple other stops on the tour:
Bitch Flicks www.btchflcks.com and
Everyday Sociology http://www.everydaysociologyblog.com