Representations of Women in Teen Vampire Culture

Hello, fellow William and Mary students, and welcome to my Charles Center Summer Research Blog. I’d like to start this blog post out by introducing myself. My name is Rebeca, and I’m a senior psychology major and women’s study minor at the College of William and Mary. I’ve been granted this scholarship to study an issue which has always been near and dear to my heart-the portrayals of women in teenage vampire culture over the last decade, with a particular focus on the Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Twilight phenomena.

As part of a pop culture literate generation, many of us have found ourselves both influenced and fascinated by the lure of popular culture phenomena, particularly pop culture phenomena focusing on the complexities and whimsies of the supernatural. We are, after all, the generation which grew up on a steady diet of Harry Potter and Twilight,  escapist fantasies which blended  the exotic thrill of the supernatural with the sensitive treatment of the mundane. This mixture of real world issues and escapist fantasy crafted a completely new genre of supernatural pop culture, which appealed to teenage yearnings for release and understanding.

Chief among this subculture is the teenage vampire subculture, which appeals mostly to young women. Over the past decade, many of us have seen this subculture flourish, from the early days of Buffy the Vampire Slayer to the more recent Twilight phenomena. This subculture appeals almost overwhelmingly to women, as it twists and uses the supernatural to address issues which are pertinent to young girls reaching adulthood. Over the past decade, this subculture has  twisted to change with the times, to tap into the ever-evolving needs of young women in the modern era.

This project, then will focus on answering two major questions relating to this movement. The first is, how has vampire culture, particularly in its treatment of women, altered over the last decade. Buffy and Twilight, despite invoking the supernatural to deal with issues regarding young women, both deal with women’s issues, desires, and agencies in vastly different ways. What are these changes, and how do they reflect cultural shifts and paradigms, particularly in regards to the growing purity movement and conservative emphasis on virginity in the modern climes? How did the cultural focus shift from its emphasis on empowering women’s agency in the early nineties, to providing escapist romantic fantasies in the early thousands?

The second part of my project will focus on the meditation of desires and agency within vampire teen culture. This section will draw back to some of the traditions of the traditional gothic and buldingsroman, and see how the tropes are twisted to craft and suit teenage female desires in the modern era. Buffy will be traced in part in how it drew on literary texts such as Reviving Ophelia to create a new visual text of female empowerment, while Twilight draws on Gothic tradition to give women a respite from the harshness of the modern world, and reflects and crafts conflicting, culturally mediated desires expressed by teenage females. This section will draw heavily from writings on sexuality, autonomy, and desire by feminist and cultural writers, as well as including studies of the characters from Buffy, Twilight and the Vampire Diaries.

In short, I’m really looking forward to doing this research project, and I hope you all are willing to come along for the ride. In addition, I’d love to hear comments or questions from you about the project!