In this year’s Center for Ethics and Culture fall conference “Younger than Sin: Virtues of Humility, Wonder, and Joy,” Professor Daniel McInerny from Baylor University presented his lecture entitled, “Sucking the Life from Our Children: Hollywood and the Romance of the Living Dead.”
Professor McInerny addressed a packed audience of academics, laymen, and students as he discussed the way in which the vampire genre in popular culture caused, and is currently causing, a frenzy.
He explained that middle grade and young adult literature is once again being invaded by a “profoundly negative and chilling” phenomenon. Young adults are enticed by this “kind of immortality of a gruesome sort…the living dead,” which he argued is a devourer of innocence. The vampire, McInerny stated, was a monster known throughout history as one who preyed on the pure of heart.
McInerny retraced the popularization of vampire stories and discussed three prominent archetypes in John William Polidori’s book “Vampyre,” the book and film series “Twilight,” and the film “Let Me In.”
Starting with the early nineteenth century English writer John William Polidori’s “Vampyre,” McInerny described the way in which Polidori depicted his “living dead” character after Lord Byron. As Byron’s physician in the Gothic era, Polidori made clear affinities to Lord Byron, from his character traits to his travels, which led to the Byronic hero, an aggressive spoiler of innocent virtue. At this point, the vampire, McInerny said, became considered the immortal predator of the vulnerable and upright.
The vampire tale was later rehashed in Stephanie Meyer’s popular “Twilight” series. McInerny began to describe the second archetype, which he called the romantic hero. In “Twilight,” the Byronic hero is superseded with this attractive vampire. Instead of fearing this creature, the victims now plead to become the vampires. “Clearly something different is going on here,” claimed McInerny.
McInerny explained that Meyer creates a vampire type that is a perfect “knight in shining armor.” Thus, the prey is willing to risk her soul for a life of immortality. McInerny drew a scriptural analogy, stating that, like Eve’s submission to the serpent in the book of Genesis, Meyer’s protagonist too was willing to trespass and lose her salvation, in order to live out her romance with a vampire.
In “Twilight,” McInerny stated, humans and vampires are able to have peace and harmony with one another. This is only achieved, however, when humans decide to forgo their innocence, to “be like gods.”
Likewise, in the film “Let Me In,” the horror of the serpent’s words is plainly displayed on screen. We receive a “reduction to the absurd in this film,” stated McInerny. In contrast to “Twilight,” there is no romantic rescue, no era of peace and harmony – just savage killings and doomed 12 year-old lovers.
McInerny connected the third archetype to the hostile animal instinct. In one film scene, the young boy asks the female vampire why she kills. She explains how she is just like him, merely acting out the desire of every human being. McInerny said that without innocence, all humans would be just like the vampire, living out a life of wrath and evil.
Finally, McInerny emphasized how this insurgence of vampire lore must be addressed. From his exposition of the three archetypes, he argued that the young should spend more time reading books that could cultivate their virtues rather than envelop them in the world of the living dead. He suggested an appropriate place to start: Read the novels of Jane Austen.
Adriana Garcia is a third year theology/sociology major and still stands by her love for the Twilight Saga. Go Team Edward! If you agree, feel free to contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.