A fearless young woman is attracted to an impossibly handsome vampire — sound like the story line from "Twilight"? It could also be "Buffy the Vampire Slayer," HBO's "True Blood" or FEARnet's upcoming "The Dark Path Chronicles."
Even Anita Blake, the vampire hunter who famously quipped, "I don't date vampires, I kill them," ends up falling for a guy with fangs.
Which is all to say, nothing is new under the midnight sun — vampiric lore included. Twilighters who can't wait for the movie's release in three weeks can get their fix in lots of other places this Halloween. But how do the other stories stack up?
"Buffy the Vampire Slayer" may not be on television anymore, but the Dark Horse comic actually has a "Twilight" character. "I never knew 'Twilight' existed when I named the character Twilight," Joss Whedon, creator of "Buffy," laughed. "There's room for many Twilights."
"Buffy" the comic doesn't have as much star-crossed romance as "Buffy" the TV show, in which Buffy falls for Angel, the Edward Cullen of his day. The central metaphors of the two series are very different — you should wait until you get "bitten" for "Twilight," high school is hell for Buffy — as are the two heroines, Bella and Buffy. Buffy doesn't waste time anguishing about whether her vampy boy will marry her, impregnate her, bite her — she's got bigger issues, like having to save the world (again). But the overall arc about the anguish of loving someone who is immortal is still there.
"If people want stories about girls who love vampires, they should have them," Whedon said. "It's not like I came up with it. It's always deeply romantic or deeply interesting or deeply scary, or all of the above, and that's going to be mined long after I'm gone."
"True Blood," based on the Sookie Stackhouse novels by Charlaine Harris, also has a very different metaphor to offer — vampire as outsider deserving equal rights — but the heroine is someone Twilighters can relate to. Like Bella, Sookie is an outcast in her small town, and she's plunged headfirst into a supernatural world when a hot vamp walks into her life. Edward is intrigued by Bella because he can't read her mind — Sookie is intrigued by Bill because she can't read his.
Sookie's the psychic in this series, and it's what makes it hard for her to connect with people — what they say and what they think are very different, and all the voices swirl in her head like buzzing bees. But Bill, who as a human was a Confederate soldier, makes her feel calm. Both Bella and Sookie feel more at home with Edward and Bill — who are beautiful, noble, gentlemanly and self-despising. Bella and Sookie are inexperienced when the story begins, but as they get to know their vamps, they both want their guy to take a bite. Edward and Bill are weaned from drinking human blood — Edward drinks the blood of animals, and Bill drinks a synthetic substitute made in Japan, sold in bottles at room temperature as True Blood.
"If it's just a story device to have fangs, then I'm just not that interested," "True Blood" creator Alan Ball laughed. "We're really trying to focus on who Bill is, what's his history, what is the curse of being immortal, how is that a bad thing, what's it like to be immortal and still yearn to be human, to have lost everything that meant something to you? To meet somebody and feel like you have a second beginning? You know? And so those are the things that I think are important to me."
Mary Lambert's "Dark Path Chronicles" features a young girl named Samantha, who, like Sookie, hears voices — but the question remains if she's psychic or just schizophrenic. She falls for "really cute" Jurgen, who looks 23 but is 75 years old and, as a human, had been forced to fight for the Germans in World War II.
"Vampires are the quintessential rock stars," Lambert said. "They're forever young, they come out at night, they have superpowers — but in exchange, they've been robbed of their humanity. So if they do fall in love, they're doomed to lose people, because humans die and vampires don't."
Like Sookie and Bella, Samantha is a bit inexperienced and not sure what she's getting into at first. But despite her naïveté, she's fearless, perhaps when she shouldn't be.
"It's like Juliette Lewis and Robert De Niro in 'Cape Fear,' " Lambert explained, "except this guy is young and handsome. But we all know that he could suck her blood and kill her. The audience should be afraid for her. She wants him to be her boyfriend, and this is the question — like in 'Twilight,' when the good girl meets the bad boy — should she lose her virginity to him? Should she go off on a motorcycle with him? It's a metaphor."
But not every vampire story sticks to that whole romantic notion of the vampire as a gentleman caller — sometimes, when the vampire comes calling, you should slam the door shut and run. The vampires in "30 Days of Night" and the upcoming sequel "Dark Days" are not interested in seducing the women of Barrow, Alaska, or any other town, nor do they have a peace treaty with any other neighboring supernatural creatures. They just want to feed. And there's nothing in their frenzy that would make teen girls swoon over, say, Vicente or Marlow.
"That's driving me nuts," Steve Niles, creator of "30 Days of Night," complained. "We've got 'Twilight,' which 16-year-old girls are going batsh—over. One of my big motivators for '30 Days of Night' was that vampires had gotten annoying and silly [by being romantic]. So I strip it back to where they look at you like cattle. They don't like humans. They don't spend time worrying about us."
So the whole bad-boy metaphor, or the losing-your-virginity metaphor — being bitten as a substitute for sex — goes out the window in exchange for a metaphor more worthy of Halloween.
"It's a direct confrontation with death," Niles said. "And they're metaphors for fear of invasion and disease and more. Vampires have the potential to be really scary. How can they be scary if cheerleaders are dating them?"
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