Monday, April 27, 2015

Does Twilight Complete Dracula's Aim?

I don't know how this thought never occurred to me before; it's so simple and obvious. Maybe it has been talked of before; maybe it hasn't. Sometimes I think distance from a subject can let you see broad concepts that you might have glanced over before when you were thinking more (or more often) about the subject.

As I was watering the garden this morning, I was thinking about how some people have accused (or simply stated this fact) Twilight and other fiction like it of defanging vampires and other supernatural beings (like werewolves)--let's just call them monsters for the sake of simplicity. I guess these people preferred stories involving monsters to be scary and therefore for those monsters to remain monsters in the traditional sense rather than be redefined as something else. Then my thoughts started drifting toward Dracula and what the vampires are like in that book.

And then it all came on me in a rush. What? Dracula was written coming out of the Victorian era, and while you can look at it as simply the good humans fighting the evil vampires, that isn't really what it's about. It's responding to the concepts of prejudice, hypocrisy, etc. that the Victorian era was becoming known for: it's trying to show that the people are just attacking the vampires, calling them evil, and essentially doing the same things that they're saying make the vampires evil--they're saying vampires must be eradicated because these things and yet they are the ones doing these things. So you could kind of say it's a book about how people need to stop judging others, look at their own lives, and basically all get along.

That sounds familiar. It's exactly what one of the themes in Twilight is (also in Harry Potter, except instead of vampires and humans there are magical and non-magical people--werewolves and house-elves--and in lots of other fiction right now). Basically there are just different types of people, who all make choices about what they do. Some are good, some are not, some make bad choices even when they're trying not to. But it has nothing to do with the outer idea of what is first perceived by others about them: as Bella puts it in New Moon, "It isn't what you are, it's what you do." And, Bram Stoker himself aside, isn't that exactly the type of thing Dracula would have wanted to see in fiction in the future? For it to be about the facts of who people are and what they decide to do, not about certain groupings of people who can't get over their pre-conceived ideas of one another.

Granted, I know that Dracula is a relatively young book and there were plenty of other supernatural stories before it came around, but it is considered one of the major vampire books. So I find this connection very interesting.

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