Gothic Vampire Fantasy Part Three
Addictive Love and the Byronic Hero
Alright, we’ve already gone into how some women are culturally primed for this fantasy of Gothic love, but what about how this Gothic love fantasy fits into their needs? Our culture tends to suffer from a lack of family ties, especially in comparison to other cultures, which stress close kinship networks and family ties. This hits young women especially hard at adolescence, when many of them suffer from a whole host of modern problems, such as bullying, finding friends, etc. It hits especially hard because most young females are attempting to find and discover their own identities, in a world where gender and identity remain constantly in flux.
Gothic Vampire Fantasy Part Three
Gothic Vampire Fantasy Part Two
Disney and the Forces of Darkness
Alright, so in the last blog entry we went a bit into this idea of cultural priming: that we have been enculturated by mass media to understand and fall in love with certain interpretations of masculine dynamics. In this entry, I’ll focus on another force that is present in the lives of most young girls, and primes them to form a love of Twilight and the Vampire Diaries: Disney movies
The book the Encyclopedia of Girl Culture focuses a bit on this phenomena: the love young girls have for Disney. More particularly, it specifies several types of Disney fantasy which have become popular among young people: the Sleeping Beauty Fantasy, the Cinderella Fantasy, the Beauty and the Beast Fantasy.
These three different “girly” fantasies prime young girls for learning three different representations of love. We are taught the savior fantasy, where the handsome prince saves us from everything that is wrong with our lives: the Beauty and the Beast fantasy, where we get the dubious pleasure of taming the “bad boy, the beast, making him love us, and the Sleeping Beauty fantasy, where love literally wakes us with a kiss.
Cultural Priming and Sexual Objectification
Twilight and the Vampire Diaries are two forms of vampire media which have reached the heights of incredible popularity over the last decade. But one of the fundamental questions we must ask ourselves in developing an understand in an understanding of the teen gothic genre is: why? Why have such pervasive fantasies of dark, vampiric love reached such heights of popularity in modern culture?
The Vampire Diaries, as well as Twilight, also embraces this ontology of Madonna/whore, slut and good/girl. Elena, of the Vampire Diaries, embodies the classic good girl, while Caroline embodies the typical slut. Blonde and pretty, Caroline flirts with everything that moves, desperate for love and attention. When she first meets Stefan Salvatore, she instantly approaches him, boldly asking him personal questions, taking the upper hand in the relationship. This sexual forwardness is met with considerable derision from virtually all the characters in the show, including the main female characters, Bonnie and Elena, who attempt to avoid her. In contrast to Caroline, Elena is dark haired and sweet, not the kind of girl who calls attention to herself sexually. She relies on Stefan to make the first moves in their relationship, from their first date to all of their subsequent interactions. Elena’s unwillingness to take the sexual initiative mark her as a good girl, who allows herself to be the pursued rather than pursuer. Unlike Caroline, she does not seek attention through shallow, flirtatious means; but exhibits an emotional freshness and honesty, a refusal to rely on artificial means to attract men.
This polarization of sexually aggressive and shallow, and emotionally profound and demure, marks the distinction between both girls. Cinematically, the show reinforces this dynamic through its staging of the Caroline/ Elena flirtation scenes. Whenever Caroline flirts with Stefan, she blathers on about idiotic topics, while he looks on, uninterested. Clearly, the viewers are supposed to infer that Caroline’s conversation is lacking, and that they have no emotional connection. However, whenever Stefan and Elena bump into one another, they end up talking about “profound topics” such as the death of her parents, and Edward clearly seems taken by Elena’s unwitting grace, the way that, unlike Caroline, she does not present a shallow facade to the world.
All of the so-called bad girl characters besides Caroline either wind up dead or vampires. The main female character of the vampire universe, who both Damon and Elena once loved, is a two dimensional, completely unmitigated bitch. She enjoys taking life from others, leads along both Stefan and Damon, and drugs and tricks Stefan into loving her. Though she has not yet been punished within the confines of the series, she lacks any of the good or softening qualities her romantic male counterparts possess. Both Katherine and Damon (her male doppelganger) do horrible things to people over the course of the story: but while Damon’s evil is allowed and excused under the auspices of “I was doing it all for love,” Katherine is crafted as a one note, unsympathetic villain for exhibiting the same behavior. At one point in the narrative, Damon literally rips the heart out of a woman: but is excused for it by virtue of being tortured, while Katherine revels in her murders and is ultimately condemned for it.
The treatment of another minor character in the series of the Vampire Diaries remain equally egregious. Vicki, the so-called slutty bad girl of the series, receives harsh treatment at the hands of the writers of the Vampire Diaries. Vicki, in a haze of drunken glee one day, is murdered by Damon Salvatore, one of the main male protagonists of the vampire series. Her eventual transformation into vampire is marked by her total descent into debauchery and cruelty: she is eventually staked by Elena, the protagonist’s boyfriend, for attempting to murder Elena, the good girl heroine of the story. That the slutty bad girl should be killed in an attack on the good girl has deeply disturbing implications for the story.