The Vampires of Our Youth

Something interesting is happening in our society, and while it may seem obvious to many, restating the issue in different terms may be beneficial.  For our young people, it appears that all things bad - and by bad, I mean evil -- are being made into good things -- and by good, I mean admirable or desirable.

Take the relatively recent phenomenon of the Twilight series, which concerns vampires.  Many, many teenagers have read the novels.  I admit that I haven't, though with as much as my students talk about it, I sometimes feel that I have.  What I find interesting about the novels is that readers, mostly teenagers (and not all female, despite the novels' appeal to that group), are convinced that the main vampire character is, in fact, good.  There are evil vampires in the book, but the "good" one does things a bit differently.  Apparently, he feeds off of animal blood; some readers have gone so far as to call him a "vegetarian vampire" - a term which I can only guess in somewhere in the novels, a contradiction in terms that mirrors the "good vampire" contradiction.

The young readers are sold on the idea that an inherently evil thing, a vampire, can be twisted into something good.  Perhaps we, the wider public, just have to "understand" a certain point of view in order to see the "good" within the inherently evil thing.  Because really, it is all about perception and point of view, not about objective right and wrong.  After all, there is no objective right and wrong.

How easy it is to follow this line of thought, this mode of believing.  And yet, I propose that it is damaging to our young people.  It makes other evils -- real, demonstrable evils -- easier to accept because they can be lightly coated in "good".  Good intentions, good methods, and promised good outcomes can conceal any evil.  It is, after all, all about perception and what is good for the perceiver.

The light coating of "good" is, indeed, easy to believe until the vampire comes to your neck.  Then it becomes all too real -- and too late.  In traditional fictional vampire stories, being bitten tends to result in being damned.  All the bravado of youth aside, not a desirable outcome at all.

A parallel to this, another example which comes directly from the youth "culture", has to do with crime.  Criminal behavior is seen, I have been told, as entertainment and therefore is a "good" to those around it.  The criminal provides a diversion for the public to wonder at, and in doing so is no different than television personalities, musicians, or sports stars.  Indeed, the convergence of criminal behavior with "star" power is the ultimate entertainment combination -- all of the wonder of celebrity with the celebrated infamy of brash, criminal activity.

Of course, much like the fictional vampire, brash criminal activity is entertaining right up until the point where it hits you in the face (or shoots you in the face, for that matter).  And for the participants, the damnation that comes with brash, criminal activity is more of a claim to fame than a blot on their character.  Perpetrating crime may be seen as an endeavor of personal advancement .  After all, who can criticize one's point of view if personal actions taken are "good" for that person?   And certainly infamy has become, in some circles, a delectable form of "good".

But what is good for the vampire -- either fictional or social -- is bad for the community and the nation.  That seems so obvious to me, yet I think that perhaps through various media and cultural influences, it is far less obvious to many of our youth.  The vampire is alluring; a read of Bram Stoker's Dracula is useful.  It describes an attempt to surreptitiously conquer the community by poisoning innocence.  Twisting innocence to achieve some end is nothing new, nor is it new for those who wish to preserve a culture to fight against the evil influences.  Those of us who would see our American culture survive would do well to help the younger generation recognize and reject evil in all its forms - even those which "seem" good. 

Bob Myer blogs at mindofflapjack.blogspot.com.
Something interesting is happening in our society, and while it may seem obvious to many, restating the issue in different terms may be beneficial.  For our young people, it appears that all things bad - and by bad, I mean evil -- are being made into good things -- and by good, I mean admirable or desirable.

Take the relatively recent phenomenon of the Twilight series, which concerns vampires.  Many, many teenagers have read the novels.  I admit that I haven't, though with as much as my students talk about it, I sometimes feel that I have.  What I find interesting about the novels is that readers, mostly teenagers (and not all female, despite the novels' appeal to that group), are convinced that the main vampire character is, in fact, good.  There are evil vampires in the book, but the "good" one does things a bit differently.  Apparently, he feeds off of animal blood; some readers have gone so far as to call him a "vegetarian vampire" - a term which I can only guess in somewhere in the novels, a contradiction in terms that mirrors the "good vampire" contradiction.

The young readers are sold on the idea that an inherently evil thing, a vampire, can be twisted into something good.  Perhaps we, the wider public, just have to "understand" a certain point of view in order to see the "good" within the inherently evil thing.  Because really, it is all about perception and point of view, not about objective right and wrong.  After all, there is no objective right and wrong.

How easy it is to follow this line of thought, this mode of believing.  And yet, I propose that it is damaging to our young people.  It makes other evils -- real, demonstrable evils -- easier to accept because they can be lightly coated in "good".  Good intentions, good methods, and promised good outcomes can conceal any evil.  It is, after all, all about perception and what is good for the perceiver.

The light coating of "good" is, indeed, easy to believe until the vampire comes to your neck.  Then it becomes all too real -- and too late.  In traditional fictional vampire stories, being bitten tends to result in being damned.  All the bravado of youth aside, not a desirable outcome at all.

A parallel to this, another example which comes directly from the youth "culture", has to do with crime.  Criminal behavior is seen, I have been told, as entertainment and therefore is a "good" to those around it.  The criminal provides a diversion for the public to wonder at, and in doing so is no different than television personalities, musicians, or sports stars.  Indeed, the convergence of criminal behavior with "star" power is the ultimate entertainment combination -- all of the wonder of celebrity with the celebrated infamy of brash, criminal activity.

Of course, much like the fictional vampire, brash criminal activity is entertaining right up until the point where it hits you in the face (or shoots you in the face, for that matter).  And for the participants, the damnation that comes with brash, criminal activity is more of a claim to fame than a blot on their character.  Perpetrating crime may be seen as an endeavor of personal advancement .  After all, who can criticize one's point of view if personal actions taken are "good" for that person?   And certainly infamy has become, in some circles, a delectable form of "good".

But what is good for the vampire -- either fictional or social -- is bad for the community and the nation.  That seems so obvious to me, yet I think that perhaps through various media and cultural influences, it is far less obvious to many of our youth.  The vampire is alluring; a read of Bram Stoker's Dracula is useful.  It describes an attempt to surreptitiously conquer the community by poisoning innocence.  Twisting innocence to achieve some end is nothing new, nor is it new for those who wish to preserve a culture to fight against the evil influences.  Those of us who would see our American culture survive would do well to help the younger generation recognize and reject evil in all its forms - even those which "seem" good. 

Bob Myer blogs at mindofflapjack.blogspot.com.