I fancy myself pretty much in-the-know on geek stuff, but I totally missed the boat on this 'Twilight' business. Now, as much as I'd like to take up blog space talking about the merits of pale teenagers ogling each other and debating the merits of fluid exchange, I can't because I haven't read it nor have I seen the movie. But what I can do is ask: Where'd this recent vampire zeitgeist come from?
There's always been a steady stream of vampire-related material in pop culture. From 'Buffy' to 'Underworld' to '30 Days of Night', vampires have always tended towards ubiquity. But it seems to be in high gear at the moment. And I have a theory about why.
Vampires, in my estimation, are the recession-era undead. In times of economic uncertainty, vampires make good characters. They represent biological and economic elitism (ever notice how vampires are always loaded? I gotta get on that gravy train). And they choose who they bring into their fold. Everyone else is just food. Vampires are the ultimate 'other'... which makes sense considering that much of their mythology is probably rooted in peoples' attempts to assign logic to people or phenomena they couldn't understand. The vampire, in many popular formats, is often portrayed as an aristocrat who literally feasts on the working class. Since a lot of us have mortgages, 401(k) plans, and debts of all kinds, I don't have to explain the modern relevance of that metaphor.
A few years ago, it wasn't vampires everywhere... it was zombies. 'Dawn of the Dead', 'Land of the Dead', 'Shaun of the Dead' and '28 Days Later'* all came out around within a few years of eachother. We were all about zombies back then. And I have a theory about that too... I think zombies were appropriated as the post-9/11 undead.
Zombies represent the existential horror of terrorism. They are a nihilistic, undeterrable threat whose logical end is the destruction of society, and that is the perception (and in some cases the reality) of the modern terrorist. Zombies, like suicide bombers, are a foe beyond reason, which is why so many zombies films, either consciously or sub-consciously, seize upon our fear of the unreasonable.
I realize that these theories can't be applied uniformly, nor have I subjected them to any sort of academic rigor beyond movies that I've seen. But I'm a blogger, so I'll do as I damn well please. I do, however, believe that as consumers of pop-culture (in some cases, rabid consumers) we should do our best to put what consume in context to figure out what it says about us as a society.
Now it's your turn, fellow geeks. What other monsters or foes have a socially or politically charged significance?
* I've had a lot of arguments about whether '28 Days Later' is a zombie movie. While they are not strictly 'undead', they do have zombie-like characteristics, particularly the ones relevant to this blog post. Any application of the 'walks like a duck, talks like a duck, must be a duck' standard puts '28 Days Later' in the zombie genre. So, suck it Ben Hatton.