The Vampire's Influence on Teen Self Identification

As children grow into teenagers they begin a search for self identity. They seek acceptance from their peers while simultaneously seeking individualism from their family. For many teenagers this means learning lessons the same way that they have since birth, through pop culture and the media. Teens suffer from unwilling physical changes, new desires that they do not understand and problems they have never faced all with a sense of immortality. They are filled with confusion, ambiguity, and fear of the future.

Many times teenagers identify with the characters in the books and play out that character to see if it fits them. They can then begin to develop a sense of identity and even resolve everyday problems of acceptance, abuse, purpose in life, need for stability, and peer pressure. Vampires are good role models because they are still confident, immortal, strong, intelligent, and most often achieve every desire. When teenagers can relate to the characters that are set in everyday situations it begins to blur the line between reality and fiction and they may associate with the social problems that the characters are going through.

With the recent release of movies such as Twilight and New Moon and television shows such as True Blood, Moonlight, and Blood Ties many question if teens are not only using the plot to work out their social issues but are instead losing their identity. Today, sales in literature and the relationship that the vampire gives to the teenage reader are still on the rise.

The top book series of this genre are: Vampire Kisses by Ellen Schreiber, Blue Bloods by Melissa de La Cruz, and Twilight by Stephenie Meyers. Each in their unique way relate to a different type of teenager. Vampire Kisses is more geared to the outsider that is still insecure in who she is. Blue Bloods is geared to the teen that loves fashion, modeling, and shopping while trying to decide who they can trust. Finally, Twilight, relates to not only the girl next door or the awkward teenage girls but to boys and adults alike.

The first series, Vampire Kisses, relates more to its gothic readers. The main character is 16 year old Raven, a non conformist that is attracted to a boy at school that turns out to be a vampire. She is a younger character who still relies upon her family and friends for her boundaries and identity. She searches for acceptance while fighting the bad vampires who want to harm her family and friends. The story is fun, adventurous, and each book ends in a cliff hanger. It is a mixture of a teen’s learning to trust others while finding someone who accepts you for you. Vampire Kisses is a simple read that can be used as an introduction to the vampire genre as well as the introduction to young adult literature.

The second series is Blue Bloods. This story is written for the teenager reader that enjoys shopping and the country club scene. The vampires in this book are the world’s wealthy and most powerful. They are attractive models that attend a private school. Schuyler Van Allen is the newest student to this elite group. But all is not perfect in their world, once they turn a certain age they are transformed to vampires with fashion and attitude. They were once fallen angels who are now vampires on this earth. They must continue to reincarnate into a human body until each has been redeemed. The story tells of each characters search for who they were in their past life as well as whom they are to become in this life. The readers identify with her struggle to fit in, the acceptance and rejection by the peers as well as the mystery and adventure of who the silver bloods are that are killing these new vampires. Blue Bloods introduces the mystery and self exploration that is true to this new genre.

The final series to be discussed is Twilight. This series has gained enormous popularity because it is easy for not only teen girls but teen boys to identify with the vast array of characters in this narrative. The story is told as first person narrative through the main character Bella Swan. Bella is a plain girl next door who meets and falls in love with the most beautiful vampire in the world, Edward Cullen. Teen girls identify with her average life. It is a Romeo and Juliet story where the two are drawn together by fate while trying to manage their relationship as human and vampire. Twilight is a different vampire story than those in the past. The author, Stephenie Meyers is a devout Mormon. Her religious views can be seen in the fact that Meyer’s vampires don’t show fangs and are self proclaimed vegetarians (they live off the blood of animals not humans). But the biggest difference in this story is that the vampires hide from the sunlight not because they will turn to dust but because they will sparkle like beautiful diamonds. They are perfect creatures. However, the story is not a simple happy one. It is wrought with Edward’s desire to kill Bella the first time they meet and Bella’s struggle between her love for Edward and her friendship with Jacob, a werewolf and a member of the enemy clan of the Cullen family. There is questioning of Edward stalking Bella, her loss of identity when she is with him, the discussion of abortion and of course the controversial underlying abstinence lesson that result in a heavy sex scene in the last book only after they are married. These are all choices that are prevalent in the world of teenagers today. Many readers use this as a “how to book” with relationships. Also, the series has characters that everyone can relate to. Alice is a pixie like vampire who can see the future and is described by the teens in the school as being weird. Emmett is the fun loving best buddy of Edward. Jasper is athletic and a former Civil War soldier prior to being turned. Rosalie is described as the most beautiful girl in the world but is troubled with who she has become and longs to be human. And of course the most identified character, Edward is the type of guy that every dad would want their daughter to go out with: respectful, intelligent, and protective. Girls have even given the books to their boyfriends as a “How to” manual and as a result the series has been one of the few that has captured both girl and boy readers. It has become an example for teens on how to survive the road to adulthood.

Teens learn through social institutions such as family and culture and when one is absent the other steps in take fill the void. As a result the media and literature of popular culture becomes the teachers of today’s youth. The vampire was introduced to these youth at an early age and has maintained strong staying power. It is only natural that it may become the role model for teen’s socialization whether its learning to make friends, find acceptance or make life choices.

How do you see vampires like Edward Cullen, Alice, Skylar, and Raven influencing today's youth?

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From the Library

As the 20th century evolved, rational man turned to science to explain mythology that had pervaded for thousands of years. How could a man be mistaken for a vampire? How could someone appear to have been the victim of a vampire attack? Science, in time, came back with answers that may surprise you.Anemia
A million fancies strike you when you hear the name: Nosferatu!N O S F E R A T Udoes not die!What do you expect of the first showing of this great work?Aren't you afraid? - Men must die. But legend has it that a vampire, Nosferatu, 'der Untote' (the Undead), lives on men's blood! You want to see a symphony of horror? You may expect more. Be careful. Nosferatu is not just fun, not something to be taken lightly. Once more: beware.- Publicity for Nosferatu in the German magazine Buhne und Film, 1922  

Drawn to Vamps?