Sunday, October 11, 2009

Teenage Girls are Ruining All the Good Monsters

I was talking to my husband the other day about the current trends in vampire fiction, ranging from "Twilight" to "The Vampire Diaries," and it occurred to me that teenage girls seem to be driving the direction that genre is going. And it's driving me crazy. As the mother of a "tween" I can see why the trend has developed. Between "Hannah Montana" and "The Wizards of Waverly Place," and the marketing that goes along with them, it's not hard to see the power young girls have when it comes to getting mom and dad to pay lots of money to keep their little girls happy. But I wonder if the push to keep little girls happy has forced us all to compromise our taste and accept sub-standard entertainment. I'm not going to lie, "Twilight" represents all that is wrong with the world of vampire fiction as far as I'm concerned. I know, I know. It's hugely popular. I hear women all the time tell me how much they loooove it. They read it with their teenage daughters, join book clubs with other like-minded women and flock to see the movies. I get it. And I resent the heck out of everyone who has made it a phenomenon because vampires are losing their monster status. Vampires who roam about in the daylight and shimmer are not vampires. And let's face it, "Twilight" isn't about vampires, it's about the plain girl who gets the hot guy. It's vicarious wish fulfillment for every girl (and woman) who was ever the wallflower. Vampires have been hijacked by romantic comedy fans. It's unfair of me to judge. Really, I know that. Not everyone should have to share my taste in entertainment. But it drives me up a wall when Hollywood decides to go after a trend and drive a genre into the ground. We've all seen it happen before. Take Batman for example. No, teenage girls haven't ruined that franchise yet. But Batman went through a long dry period in which it was forgotten that he was supposed the dark, brooding guy we've all come to know and love. I remember growing up watching the 60's television series starring Adam West as the caped avenger in the campy show featuring silly graphics saying things like "Pow!" and "Bam!" every time Batman and Robin would get into a fight and I liked it. But I was a kid and didn't know any better. When the late 80's rolled around and Tim Burton took on the story it seemed like it was going back to its darker roots-- and Jack Nicholson made for a fairly terrific Joker. But it seemed as if Batman couldn't entirely escape the silliness that lingered long after the television series was over and, before we knew it, they put him in a suit with nipples. I'm just sayin'. Christopher Nolan, my hero, finally saved Batman with the wonderful "Batman Begins" in 2005, but it was a long time coming. I can't help but wonder, are we in for a long period of teenage romantic fantasies featuring vampires and werewolves? It isn't the fault of teenage audiences though. It isn't even the fault of the adult fans of paranormal romances. I like to think I'm the last one to judge. I love mass market fiction. I'm not afraid to say it. But I dislike it when Hollywood gets its teeth into a fad and buries anything else of value. Let's face it, Hollywood isn't known for being driven by quality, it's known for being driven by what makes money (despite any current anti-capitalistic rhetoric-- we all know Hollywood is all about the profit). Heck, any entertainment industry is like that. That isn't inherently a bad thing. But quality can be overlooked in that environment and who knows how long it will be before Hollywood remembers that Dracula started it all and he wasn't a broody hunk fighting his urge to drink blood. He was a monster. But I suppose there is hope on the horizon. There is "The Wolfman" starring Benicio Del Toro and Anthony Hopkins which looks like it will remember that a werewolf should be frightening. That is, unless The Vampire's Assistant doesn't ruin the genre forever by bringing in all the teenage boys. Sigh.

14 comments:

jmkirk said...

I disliked Twilight. The only good thing that came of it was that it got my teenage daughter to read and now she loves vampires. I point out to her that Edward Cullen is not a real vampire. A real vampire would leave your bloodless corpse by the side of the road and probably give it a good kick while he was at it! And sparkly vampires? Never had such a good laugh in my life!

Fab said...

I agree with this post. It's very annoying.

BTW, I like the new layout!

I'll try and be more blog-present in future. My work has had a hold on my these past few weeks, which made me avoid the pc when coming home.

SQT said...

jmkirk-- it only gets worse when you're trying to tell a grown woman why "Twilight" isn't a good representation of vampires. I've learned not to try.

Fab-- good to see you. No worries. I've been in my own bubble lately due to family stuff. It happens to all of us.

Sullivan McPig said...

I so agree with you! What's with all the animalblood drinking, daywalking vampires!? Vampires need to be dark, dangerous and shunning the day.
As for batman: I am so glad the new movies turned to the dark, brooding atmosphere again: I almost walked out of the cinema when there was a close up of the batbutt in Batman and Robin. What was up with that?

Charles Gramlich said...

I agree absolutely. Lets leave some monsters as monsters please!

Daelith said...

I'm on board here too. Didn't care for Twilight either. Good to know I'm not alone.

Fidelius said...

Trying to look on the bright side a little..the teenage girl vampire fascination is at least keeping the genre alive and kicking? and in a few years time..when all the 13 yr old Twilight fans are in need of something a little meatier..there'll be a huge market there to fill, maybe? :)

SQT said...

Fidelius-- I'm worried that the exact opposite will happen. I think audiences will go into vampire/werewolf burnout and by the time someone comes up with something worth watching, the audience won't be interested.

writtenwyrdd said...

I agree with your assessment, that our monsters are being suborned and 'enlightened' (in both teh literal and metaphysical sense) by YA and romance books and movies. That said, I think we can make room for both.

I like monstrous monsters...but I also confess to liking vampires or werewolves as bad boys. Women (and apparently teen girls) love that trope, too.

I just hope they don't do that with zombies. That's a bit much, but I wouldn't bet money against it!

paperfruit said...

While I agree with you that Twilight represents "all that is wrong with the world of vampire fiction" I have a problem with your reasoning.

I think it is incredibly unfair to blame teenage girls for the Twilight phenomenon. Twilight wasn't written by a teenage girl. It was written by an adult woman and mother, and it was snapped up by adults at Little Brown, and it was marketed and promoted and turned into a movie, again, by adults.

American culture puts pressure on girls of every age to be in love, to be sexual adults at an early age instead of taking the time to be children, to have their identity defined by a boyfriend (supernatural or not) and what Twilight does is exploit that.

To say that teenage girls are driving the direction of the genre, or that they have the "power" to get "mom and dad to pay lots of money" into various media industries is to place the blame on the victim. In the end, vampires aren't real, but teenage girls are, and Twilight, given the volume of girls, is producing young women who think stalkerish behavior or overbearing older patriarchal boyfriends are perfectly acceptable and the definition of an ideal romantic partner. I've talked to so many younger women about Twilight and they see nothing wrong with a boy who loves your smell so much he comes into your bedroom at night to watch you sleep. Hello? No.

You say later that the trend "isn't the fault of teenage audiences" so I think your title is somewhat tongue-in-cheek. I admit that I have expressed frustration as well that girls are so very into this phenomenon, but I think it is good to keep the perspective that while the desires of teenage girls may be creating a market for watered-down vampire fiction that takes away from the genre's original bite (ha), those desires were in turn produced by an industry that creates and rewards certain kinds of goals for women, mainly those of romance and desire and self-definition through sexuality.

When you think about it, that's the real horror story in Twilight.

SQT said...

Paperfruit-- excellent post. I was being facetious when I wrote the post. Of course it isn't the fault of teenage girls. It's the fault of a cynical entertainment industry that will exploit any audience to make a buck. I totally agree with your assessment of "Twilight." Honestly, I dislike it on so many levels and when I try to explain why to grown women, they think I'm just out of touch. Or out of fashion-- as if I want to be in fashion with teenage girls.

I've read a few posts across the net about the stalker-ish feel of "Twilight" I've refrained from commenting on it too much because I haven't read the whole series and I'm afraid of speaking without all the information.

ShadowFalcon said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
ShadowFalcon said...

Thank goodness, I felt I was Alone in my dislike of "Twilight". Too many people I know feel offended that I don't like it and I really tried but 3 books in I'm not feeling the love. I didn't like Buffy thing either - which was massively popular with my generation.
Prehaps its a sort of odd subversion, loving everything you should be afraid of, whole bad boy good girl dynmanic that is used so often turn up a notch.
At Least its a big Market place and hopfully room enough to for things to please us all

weenie said...

I haven't read the Twilight books but they are on my Christmas list. Perhaps at the moment they are a little 'fluffy' but may become darker. Much like the Harry Potter books, the series got a little darker towards the end.