Blood sucker. Leach. Succubus. Cold one. They have been called many names. They have remained a mystery for many years. Songs have been written about them. Many movies have been made about them. Vampires are one of the many mysterious entities that have been of great interest for as long as I can remember. Every time a new movie comes out about them, a new curiosity is sparked and a fad is reborn. However, one of the movies recently made from a popular novel about vampires has become one of the most popular of all time, and has three more parts in its saga. A plethora of memorabilia was created about Twilight. It quickly became a hit. It is definitely a popular culture of the current times. If you were alive in November 2008 when the movie came out, you witnessed the craze. If you did not witness it and you were alive, then you must have been hiding under a rock somewhere.
My fascination with Twilight grew from a fascination with vampires I have had for many years. I have seen Interview With a Vampire, the myriad of remakes of Dracula, and even watch television series’ about vampires, such as True Blood. I can remember listening to a song by Sarah McLachlan over and over that she wrote about vampires called “Building a Mystery”. The lyrics that most interested me were, “You come out at night. That’s when the energy comes. And the dark side’s light, and the vampires roam…..You’re so careful when I’m in your arms” (McLachlan, 1997, track 1). Twilight put a whole new twist on everything I had already been intrigued by for so many years.
Twilight, written by Stephenie Meyer in 2005, came to the theater in November 2008. I had already read the book, actually all four of them. This was a must see for me. I have been deeply intrigued by vampires for quite some time. So many aspects about them beckon to me to research and learn all I can about them. I have seen countless movies about vampires. Twilight swept them all away. The way vampires were presented as being so graceful, depicts them to be more than vicious, blood thirsty beasts as they have been portrayed. They are graceful and careful creatures, almost “feline-like” in their demeanor, as Meyer referred to them numerous times throughout the series’ (Meyer, 2005).
Twilight was an addiction of mine, as well as the other three novels in the saga, to the point of reading at a stop light just to be able to get in a few more pages. It was so exciting and I wanted to be Bella Swan, the main female character. The characters being made to seem so real captivated me also. By the time you see the movie, you feel as if you know them. Meyer describes them in such detail that you get a mental picture which is justified upon viewing the movie. They are all described as so astonishingly beautiful, “I stared because their faces, so different, so similar, were all devastatingly, inhumanly beautiful. They were faces you never expected to see except perhaps on the airbrushed pages of a fashion magazine.” (Meyer, 2005, p. 19.)
Twilight starring so many beautiful male characters did not hinder my addiction either. As many other females, and probably males alike, I fell for Edward Cullen, the main male character, and his romanticism. I wanted to meet someone like him. I wanted to be swept off my feet by him like he did Bella. I wanted to feel like he made her feel. Bella’s character is one that every young female can relate to. Meyer does an excellent job epitomizing how it feels to be falling in love. Everything about this book and movie enthralled me.
Twilight displays many theories that we have discussed in class. The most outstanding are controlling images, life chances, and the Theory of Socialization, or Looking Glass Self. Bella and Edward were from two different worlds; Bella is human and Edward is not. This alone implicated many sociological theories.
Vampires are rarely portrayed as kind or gentle. They are stereotyped as blood thirsty monsters that kill at will. This is an example of a controlling image. Since vampires are looked upon as bad creatures, the good creatures of the world, humans, have maimed their image. We are taught to fear vampires. Meyer works with that theory and tries to make Edward out to be a good, caring, warm, and loving partner for Bella. As Meyer does describe his hunts in the book, he is very tender when Bella is around. When he has to attack, he gets very embarrassed and ashamed and does not want Bella to fear him.
The Looking Glass Self theory is definitely one that is used in Twilight. Cooley theorized that the impression of our self roots from two reasons: “by one’s actual experiences and by what one imagines others’ ideas of oneself to be” (Encyclopedia Britannica, 2009). Because of the image society has on vampires, Edward is insecure and embarrassed and feels like he is a monster. Because the idea behind vampires is so negative, no matter how much good Edward does in the world, he will always be damaged due to this theory. The image that has been given to vampires is directly reflected back on how Edward sees himself; he does not see himself as a beautiful, gentle, loving man. Edward asks Bella “You don’t care if I’m a monster? If I’m not human?” (Meyer, 2005, p. 184). The way Meyer has presented him to us is just the opposite of how he views himself.
Max Weber introduces the theory of life chances in which an individual is given opportunities to improve their life (Marshall, 1998). Bella sees becoming a vampire as an opportunity to not only permanently be with the man she loves, but also not to ever grow old. Bella’s biggest fear is that she will age and Edward will not love her anymore. Meyer presents Bella with an opportunity to obtain that forever young status. However, Edward sees that chance as a negative one as Bella will have to give up so much of her life. He sees staying mortal as a life chance and tries to dissuade Bella from desiring to become a monster, like him. Edward tells Bella, “So ready for this to be the end. For this to be the twilight of your life, though your life has barely started. You’re ready to give up everything” (Meyer, 2005, p. 497). Edward wishes he could have that chance at life again. He tells Bella “I don’t want to be a monster.” (Meyer, p 187). This theory applies to both main characters, but in opposite ways.
The values of a culture often mirror its suggestion about what is right, good, fair, and just. American values mimic this. These values vary among groups within a culture. Bella was caught in the realm of her own values and trying to fit into life with Edward. It was a constant battle for her to accomplish this. Some of the values that were exposed in Twilight were responsibility, accountability, competition, moralism, individualism, external conformity, and youth orientation. The main characters were in constant battle within themselves to adhere to these values.
Both Edward and Bella show that they value responsibility throughout Twilight. Bella’s responsibility is shown when she becomes concerned for the safety of her mortal family after getting caught in the middle of an ongoing vampire feud. She fears that the “bad” vampires will go after her family to get to her. Edward in turn feels a responsibility to keep her safe, since he feels like he got her caught up in the first place. Edward also shows responsibility in their relationship. He knows how physically strong he is and that his powers are superhuman; he knows he could really hurt Bella if he is not extremely careful. He tries to warn her that their relationship could be catastrophic. At one point in the book, he tells her, “It’s better if we’re not friends. Trust me.” (Meyer, 2005, p. 74). He practices caution at all times when he is handling her. Then again later on he warns her that, “Sometimes I have a problem with my temper, Bella” (Meyer, 2005, p. 164) and also tells her that her “number was up the first time I met you” (Meyer, 2005, p. 175). Showing responsibility for someone you love is a value that we learn early on in life.
The two main characters also take accountability for their actions, which is another American value represented in Twilight. Bella and Edward know what they are possibly getting themselves into when they begin a relationship between a mortal and an immortal. They also come to understand the consequences of Bella knowing that Edward is a vampire and the repercussions that could arise, and do later on in the series, from knowing this. Not once in the movie or book did either of them try to place the blame on someone else for their relationship. This shows that accountability was a value to the writer. It teaches us that we are responsible for our own decisions and it shows us that we have to be accountable for what may come of those decisions at any cost.
The one value that Bella and Edward always were faced with was competition. Bella felt like she may have to compete for Edward’s attention with any female vampire who should come along. She also felt like she had competition in her face with Edward’s sister Rosalie, who is absolutely beautiful and was originally supposed to be Edward’s mate. Even though Edward truly only had eyes for Bella, she still felt like she had to compete to win his affection. Edward also felt like he had to compete with boys who were more like Bella. Edward could not participate in everything that “normal” teenagers do since his strength was overpowering, his skin was ice cold, he does not eat or drink or need sleep, and can not go in the sun; he could not risk being found out so he opted out of many activities. He also felt like he could never reveal his true self to Bella, so she might find herself feeling closer to someone else that opened up to her. This made him feel insecure and like he had to compete. Most of us have felt like we had to compete for the attention of someone or to get something we want in life, so this value being depicted in the movie made it extremely easy to relate to.
Moralism is another American value Meyer displays in Twilight. Many Americans tend to be moralists who view the world through the lens of “right” or “wrong” and are therefore quick to judge. Obviously being with a vampire who kills as a way of life and to exist is going to disagree with the value of moralism in many ways. Bella fought with this once she figured out that Edward was a vampire. None of her friends or family could ever know of this because she feared that she would be judged. She loved him from the very beginning and wanted to do the right thing. Edward did too. He would have never wanted anything bad to happen to Bella, so moralism played a part in every decision they made in regard to being together. We take on the issue of moralism in every day life every time we are trying to make a decision, big or small, since our actions ultimately affect more than just ourselves. We ponder on if the choice we are about to make is morally right or wrong and what society will think about us.
The next American value I think was symbolized in Twilight was individualism, which is defined as “belief in the primary importance of the individual and in the virtues of self-reliance and personal independence” (Merriam-Webster online). Bella needed to hold onto her individualism and still be able to be a part of Edward’s world. She wanted to still be able to fit in with her friends which meant she needed to keep a part of her individualism alive. However, Edward valued this more so than did Bella for herself. Edward was very afraid that Bella would lose herself and be disappointed later in life if she became one of him. Edward had been mortal at one time in his life, though very long ago, and did not want Bella to regret losing her individuality. As humans, as much as we try to convert and mesh with someone else’s lifestyle, it is very important for us to remain an individual.
Along the same lines as moralism, external conformity was one of the most prominent values portrayed in Twilight. As we struggle to fit in throughout our lives, Americans believe in conformity to group patterns. Bella wanted to fit in with her friends who were dating amongst each other and doing all the teenage activities. She wanted to conform and fit in so she could feel normal. She also wanted to conform to the way of life that her beloved Edward lived. However, these two worlds clashed and she could never safely do both. Therefore, Bella struggled with the value of external conformity and never really mastered it.
The one value that was shown time and time again in Twilight was youth orientation. Bella was not like Edward and his family. They were hundreds of years old and still described as “the most beautiful people she had ever seen” (Meyer, 2005, pp. 18-19). It was made apparent to Bella early on that she was aging and she would never be able to keep up with Edward’s youthful beauty. She tells him, “I may not die now… but I am going to die sometime. Every minute of the day I get closer. And I am going to get old.” (Meyer, 2005, p. 476). Americans are constantly reminded by popular culture messages that it is more appealing to stay young at all costs, and that “old” is ugly. Bella’s biggest fear was that Edward would no longer find her attractive when she started to age, although he constantly reminded her that this would never happen. Bella had nightmares about growing old and Edward no longer being interested in her. She is consumed with not aging and keeping her youth alive. Youth orientation is a major value for Bella, as she is the only mortal among the accepting Cullen family.
This pop culture phenomenon has caused controversy. Many people refused to read the books or see the movie because vampires are considered demonic and evil. Another issue I have heard or read is that society worries if being in love with a vampire is healthy, that it is giving young tweens false hope and a distorted sense of reality. I do believe that the book sold many more copies than many other books by long time famous authors and continues to, so this could cause some envy of other authors. I have not heard anything in the news or tabloid other than that people were disappointed that the movie did not give as much to us as the book did; I agree. This is probably not a controversy, but may cause people to be reluctant on seeing the next movies in the saga. It did, however get major media attention due to its overwhelming popularity.
The truth about Twilight is that is very popular. When one reads it, one gets captivated and wants to read more and continue on reading the next book and the next book and the next book. It is known world wide. When the movie came out, it was all about “team Edward” or “team Jacob”. There were countless posters and t-shirts and bags and blankets that boasted the characters, usually Bella and Edward…..you name it, they made it. It was more than a movie and a book. It was something that most young people, especially females, could easily relate to. As a young female, most of us fall for the wrong person, a bad boy, the one from the wrong side of the tracks. It is addicting. Although it was geared towards young readers, it did not stop there; people of all ages read it. It swept across our country as well as others and soon became the talk of the town. Everywhere I went, I heard blurbs about the book and how excited people were to see the movie. Twilight and its books to follow, entranced many generations and is definitely a popular culture phenomenon that will be remembered as one of the most popular series of novels.
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