Why all the Vampires?

Posted on August 29, 2008 at 8:00 am

Vampires are really big this year. Breaking Dawn, the fourth volume in Stephanie Meyers’ Twilight series was the most eagerly anticipated book since Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. And one of the most popular events at Comic-Con was the panel for the upcoming movie with Kristen Stewart as Bella, the human girl who is in love with a vampire.

Also popular at Comic-Con was the appearance by Anna Paquin of the new HBO series True Blood, created by Alan Ball of “Six Feet Under” and “American Beauty.” In this series, the invention of a synthetic blood product has made it possible for vampires to “come out of the coffin” and join human society.

There are many reasons for the enduring appeal of the vampire myths, which date back thousands of years and recur in different forms in the folklore of many different cultures. The most popular modern conception is based in the Eastern European stories that inspired Bram Stoker’s Dracula. That has inspired classic movies from spooky classics (Dracula) to silly comedies (Dracula – Dead and Loving It, Once Bitten, and the unforgettably titled The Fearless Vampire Killers, or Pardon Me but Your Teeth Are in My Neck). Vampires have been played by everyone from Tom Cruise and Brad Pitt to Jim Carrey, Wesley Snipes, Catherine Deneuve, the Coreys (Haim and Feldman), Humphrey Bogart, and in an hilarious SNL skit, James Woods. And they have been fought by everyone from Hugh Jackman to Buffy. in Shadow of the Vampire, Willem Dafoe plays a vampire playing a vampire, based on the mystery behind the filming of “Nosferatu,” which basically stole its entire story from Dracula but changed the name so they would not have to pay royalties.

One aspect of the vampire myth that is especially alluring is the idea of being un-killable. The life they lead may be perverse and tortured, but it is eternal. Ann Rice, author of Interview with a Vampire and its sequels, has said that it was the death of her child that inspired her to write a series of books about creatures who do not die. Her books have sold over 100 million copies. Certainly, the mixture of death and life that a vampire represents is a part of what draws us to the stories, helping us to explore our fears and desires. In the case of the Twilight series, the vampire adds another dimension. These days, writers of romances complain, it is harder and harder to find reasons for the couple in the story not to get together so quickly there is no time for — a story. The traditional obstacles keeping couples apart, especially cultural norms against having sex with someone you don’t know very well, seem quaint and out of date. But if the guy you like is a vampire and you are not, that’s a darn good reason not to get close any way other than emotionally and psychically. These books explore the deep romanticism of that kind of relationship.

The Canadian series Blood Ties is now showing on Lifetime. It is the story of an investigator specializing in the supernatural and it features “the sexy 450-year-old vampire, Henry” as her adviser and possible love interest. And “Moonlight,” the story of a private investigator turned into a vampire on his wedding night and now interested in a human woman, has been canceled by CBS but may return on another station.

More classic vampires:

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Books Commentary Teenagers Television Understanding Media and Pop Culture

Boxboarders!

Posted on August 13, 2008 at 2:00 pm

The writer of the delightful Clockstoppers has written and directed an unpretentious little comedy about a crazy “sport” — racing boxes on wheels. It makes the most of its low budget with an easy-going good humor in this goofy but sweet story about two teens who accidentally invent the “boxboarding” and end up in a big race against their nemesis. And of course it also involves getting a little bit closer to the girls they like.
The young cast performs with gusto, ably assisted by top adult character actors like Stephen Tobolowsky as the ever-patient psychologist dad and “The Office’s” Melora Hardin as a litigator always eager to go to court. Clearly, everyone had a blast making the film. One of the DVD’s highlights is an entertaining making-of featurette that I hope will inspire those who watch it not to try taping a refrigerator box to a skateboard but to pick up a camera and make a movie.
Parents should know that in addition to the completely idiotic and very dangerous “sport” in the film, it also has some bad language, teen partying, and sexual references.

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Book for Concerned Parents: So Sexy So Soon

Posted on August 8, 2008 at 9:16 am

The authors of the book “So Sexy So Soon,” Diane Levin and Jean Kilbourne, say that children are constantly bombarded by the media and advertisers with images and portrayals of hyper-sexuality.

Thong panties, padded bras, and risqué Halloween costumes for young girls. T-shirts that boast “Chick Magnet” for toddler boys. Sexy content on almost every television channel, as well as in books, movies, video games, and even cartoons. Hot young female pop stars wearing provocative clothing and dancing suggestively while singing songs with sexual and sometimes violent lyrics. These products are marketed aggressively to our children; these stars are held up for our young daughters to emulate-and for our sons to see as objects of desire.

In the book, the authors provide practical suggestions about the ways that parents can provide context and expand their children’s understanding and imagination to help them make sense of the avalanche of messages equating sexuality (and only sexuality) with happiness and power — that that buying products is the way to achieve that. This interview describes the way children respond to the media’s messages and some of the content of the book.

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Desson Thomson on Archetypes in ‘Dark Knight’ and ‘American Teen’

Posted on August 2, 2008 at 10:10 pm

One of the most thoughtful and knowledgeable movie critics I know, Desson Thomson, appeared on NPR’s “Weekend Edition” this week to talk to Scott Simon about what ties “Dark Knight” and the new documentary “American Teen” together — the way they explore archetypes. He has some fascinating insights about the way the documentary was shaped in the editing room and the way that what draws us into superhero movies is seeing both hero and bad guy — like the “American Teen” geek, beauty queen, athlete, and rebel — turn out to be more complicated than we expect.

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Teen Ink: Online Magazine for Teens

Posted on July 19, 2008 at 8:00 am

Teen Ink is a great resource for teens and a great opportunity, too. Published for teens by teens, it is

a national teen magazine, book series, and website devoted entirely to teenage writing and art. Distributed through classrooms by English teachers, Creative Writing teachers, Journalism teachers and art teachers around the country, Teen Ink magazine offers some of the most thoughtful and creative work generated by teens and has the largest distribution of any publication of its kind. We have no staff writers or artists; we depend completely on submissions from teenagers nationwide for our content.


We offer teenagers the opportunity to publish their creative work and opinions on the issues that affect their lives – everything from love and family to teen smoking and community service. Hundreds of thousands of students have submitted their work to us and we have published more than 25,000 teens since 1989.

Bylines are first name and initial to preserve privacy. Current pieces include fiction and poetry and real-life experiences as a would-be model, an experience with bigotry at school, and celebrity interviews with Alicia Keys, Tony Hawk, George Lucas, and Laura Bush. The site offers an online writing class. There is information about colleges and college applications and there is a section for teen art, photography, and videos. One of the most fascinating aspects of the sight is the option to read the submissions in “raw” or edited form.
Teens who have something to say can submit their work according to Teen Ink’s very flexible guidelines.

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