Vampires and Teens – Reinventing the Tale

“The vampire is that glittering, dazzling rule-breaker and outsider who has gained ascendancy over time and place. The vampire is always presented as someone who is living a heightened existence and that is very seductive. He is also someone who is able to satisfy all of his cravings. Vampires are superhuman magnifications of us, of the way we feel in these powerful times.” Ann Rice – author of “An interview with a vampire”, 1994

The most-known Romanian personality, besides Nadia Comăneci (a famous gymnast, in case you were born this side of the millennium) is undoubtedly the fictional count Dracula, the blood-sucking vampire that hunted (and most probably still does) the remote parts of Transylvania (one of the three main historical provinces of Romania, if you wondered).

As a Romanian born coming to America, inevitably many of my first conversations generally unfolded like this: ‘Oh, you have an accent, where are you from?’ ‘Romania.’ ‘Wow, scary, are you from Transylvania? Are you a vampire? I might need some garlic.’ This became so annoying at one point that now, anytime someone asks me where my accent is from, I simply say: ‘From North Dakota.’ After all, how many people know what a North Dakotan accent sounds like, right? (By the way, I think North Dakota is a wonderful place.) This strategy has worked very well for some time, until a few weeks ago when guess who was asked to write an article about vampires around Halloween? Well, you guessed right…

Anyway, humor aside, vampires are serious business nowadays (pun intended). Literally millions of dollars are made exploiting the bizarre attraction today’s audience has with the undead. From folk tales to Polidori’s Lord Ruthven to Briam Stoker’s Dracula to Ann Rice’s Lestat and all the way to Stephenie Meyer’s Edward Cullen, the vampire genre has not only survived the test of time, but, in fact, has prospered enormously, banking on the uncontrollable attraction their audience has developed to this plethora of sinister, yet irresistibly alluring, superhuman characters.

This appeal for the undead is somewhat unexpected. If we look at some of the original vampire novels or the early black and white movies of the genre, it seemed quite difficult to like them. They were creepy, foreign-accented characters, dressed in black, with pale faces and bloody fangs that would not hesitate to suck on your blood at any moment. What was there to like? Yet, the mystery surrounding them, their super powers, their style, their conditional immortality and inexhaustible wealth, has slowly seduced a steadily growing audience.

If we go back in time, an interesting phenomenon can be observed regarding the vampire character. From its despicable original appearance, the vampire has progressively morphed over the years into a most improved, dangerously seductive type, only to end up nowadays as a (practically) harmless glitter-in-the-light teenager attracting the sighs of easily impressionable females of the same age group.

What prompted this change? My theory is marketing. The push towards a more likable vampire was meant to reach a much larger audience that did not have access otherwise to adult-rated books or movies. The vampire had to lose all but its fangs to make it into the teenager’s TV screens. The reinvention of the vampire folklore is, as such, the new craze. A quick search on the Internet reveals hundreds of vampire book titles targeting teenagers. All of them try to bring something new and appealing to the new and expanding audience. iDrakula, for example, recounts the original tale in text messages, tweets and web page clips. The Twilight novels and subsequent film trilogy introduce the vampire as your high school buddy. The TV series “True Blood” resolves to present vampires as real, living nonchalantly amongst humans, sipping shots of A-type blood at the local tavern.

The border between reality and fiction is purposely and progressively blurred in this revitalized universe. Hungry for role models, the teenagers summon the new likable vampires to fill the gap. The modern vampire is the response to many of the adolescent problems and desires. Teenagers hate school and homework; vampires never do homework, and yet they are very wise. Teenagers don’t like chores and other mundane tasks around the house; vampires never cook or clean. Teenagers need money to buy all kinds of stuff; vampires have treasure chests full of loot. Teenagers like to stay strong and fit; vampires have superpowers and always look the coolest. In this abundance of positive attributes, however, all the negative aspects that come with the package are silently overlooked.

I know this is fiction, and I love fiction as well. But is this vampire obsession doing us any good? The Holy Apostle Paul says, “All things are lawful for me, but not all things edify” (1Co 10:23). Are the vampires the role models we should encourage our children/young adults to follow? If not, can we offer them other viable and just as exciting alternatives? Music stars? Sport heroes? Famous actors? Each and every one of these possible replacements has failed time and again to open a righteous path for the future of our children. So where do we go?

As people of Christ, I would like to propose that we go back to the basics, to the foundation of our Faith: the lives of the saints. You may say: ‘Oh, that’s boring.’ But is it? Let’s look at the martyrs first. All of them display astonishing qualities: they are faithful, smart, valiant, generous; they fight dragons, lions, isolation, prison, the cold of icy lakes; they endure indescribable tortures and recover from them unharmed while blessing their enemies. How about the Apostles? They received from God the Holy Spirit to go and preach the Gospel to all the nations. They are brave explorers unafraid to go the “extra mile” (Matthew 5:41) and endure tribulations and even death to bring the Good News of the Kingdom to the most remote places on the earth. How about the New Saints who fought the Turkish or Communist yoke, standing tall for their Christian beliefs and in return suffering prison, concentration camps, and tortures? There is so much to explore, so much to share, so much to follow in the Synaxaria and the Menaia.

So a suggestion would be this: if our teens crave the riches of an undead count, tell them again how God will provide for them treasures that they will be able to keep for eternity in the Kingdom; if they want extraordinary powers, remind them that in Christ we have power to “step over serpents and scorpions and all the powers of the enemy” (Luke 10:19); if they long for vampire immortality, we should try to direct them to the amazing lives of these extraordinary men and women who, although they physically suffered death, gained eternal life in Christ Who has conquered death for us. By identifying themselves with them, they will not only find the way, but they will also gain powerful intercessors to God.

We should not wait for our children to draw guidance and life from undead fictional characters, but we ought to actively encourage them from an early age to explore and engage in the true life that is found in the Community of the Saints, The Church, who leads the way into the Kingdom of God. Only there will all their aspirations for a higher life be fulfilled beyond their dreams.

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Posted by the Orthodox Christian Network.  You can find the Orthodox Christian Network on Google+.

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Fr. Vasile Tudora is the Parish Priest at the Greek…
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