Teenage girls swoon reading about the why the hottest guy in school is so cold to the touch and why his noble character prevents him from acting on his desires.  It's hard to think of a more romantic image of abstinence and many Christians find themselves giving the books two cheers for old-fashioned morality.  But, like the cross missing at the top of a Mormon church, Christian symbols are absent.  Humans have little or no defense against an "evil" vampire seeking blood and to protect Bella from this predator, Edward and the rest of the Cullen family must tear him into pieces and burn up the parts.  There's no use of Eucharistic elements here.  The vampires live in the cloudiest parts of the Pacific Northwest to prevent their skin from its unnatural sparkle when sunlight hits them, but it doesn't make them go up in puff of smoke like Dracula, just conspicuous.  But it's hard not to admire a group of vampires who aren't controlled by the darkest impulses—they live with their curse without acting on it.

Now spurred on by Twilight's theatrical success, we have a new CW television series that's done well in the ratings among its female target audience, The Vampire Diaries. Based on a series of books by L.J. Smith, this new show also gives us high school romantic politics as horror story, which of course, high school is for so many.  The heroine in this story is Elena, orphaned with her brother and living in a small Virginia town meets a really handsome guy, Stephan, who soon acting odd and evasive, which of course only makes him more interesting.  And his brother Damon is even more intriguing and is more charming with a deeper undercurrent of danger.  Of course these are the vampires who have been the same age since the 19th century and are now pretending to be their own descendants after returning to town.  Stephan is the good brother who eats only animals, which makes him weaker than Damon who still loves to feast on human blood.  Damon literally uses people up and throws them away.  But of course he's more charismatic and attractive than his more virtuous brother.  Again, daylight doesn't hurt these vamp brothers because of special rings they wear to protect them from the sun.  Apparently the only thing threatening their wellbeing is an unusual, exotic flower, which doesn't appear to have any larger symbolic relevance.  The Vampire Diaries is a series that uses the vampire genre to dramatically symbolize the drama of hormonally raging teenage love but with deadly consequences for falling for the wrong guy.  As such, it's just another CW teen soap but with more bite.

Both the Twilight series and The Vampire Diaries' natural audience is girls and women attracted by the darkly handsome 20-something actors playing eternal teens. As such, there pop culture vampire tales fulfills the fantasy that bad boys can be good.  That both offer the prospect of a mortal female hooking up with an undying male is part of the problem both series will confront.  In an age that finds fewer forbidden loves, we find that our culture has to make them up to rediscover the thrill of dark romance.

Alex Wainer, Ph.D. teaches media and film at Palm Beach Atlantic University.  He is a regular contributor to theFish.com.

Posted: December 11, 2009