WARNING: There be spoilers for a book written in 1992
I want to discuss something which I feel like I've had a fever dream about, but in some Twilight Zone-esque twist, was an actual thing that everyone else forgot about: The Silver Kiss. Does anyone remember that story?I read it as an impressionable teenager, and the whole hullabaloo about Twilight made me feel like I've been taking crazy pills."Wasn't there already a Vampire Teen Romance?" I asked. Indeed there was, and here is my argument that it is what the Twilight series could have been.First, I would like to give a brief synopsis, pulled straight from Wikipedia to give it some authority*:
"16-year-old Zoë's life is falling apart; her beautiful mother is dying of bone cancer and her best friend, Lorraine, is moving away. So when the mysterious and handsome Simon comes along with a more profound loneliness a tentative friendship is formed. But does Simon have serious problems, Zoë wonders when she finds him with blood on his face, or is he just plain crazy, when he claims to be a 300 year old vampire? And is he right about the identity of a serial killer who has been leaving his mark on her formerly quiet hometown? Soon, Simon is the only thing Zoë can hold on to when everything else is falling apart. But what will become of him, the half mad vampire, once he has avenged his mother's death...Or if he fails?"
As you can see, we've got your standard Vampire Angst, and also involving a really old vampire and a 16 year old girl.Why does nobody touch on the totally inappropriate relationships between these teenage girls and technical senior citizens?That's for another rant, so I digress. I would like to add that the main character Zoë's main flaw as I remembered is that she's insecure and has big boobs.As a card-carrying member of the Breast Brigade,I understand how a large chest can be a problem, but you never see her bustyness ever being that much of a problem in the story, and it's even talked about admiringly by her friend.
I'll get back to that later.
Zoë and Bella both have angsty vampiric boyfriends who are pretty in that safe way that teenage girls like. The only difference is this: Sparkles. The Silver Kiss(now to be referred as TSK from now on because I'm tired of writing the full name) has it's vampires drink blood, burn in the sun, and generally follow vampire protocol.Compared to Edward, Simon seems a little more badass (though Lestat could still kick both of their asses). Because these vampires follow protocol, it adds an actual plot point to be addressed, and it is addressed in a practical manor. There are no loopholes in being a vampire. You can't go out during the day and the only way to survive is to drink from the people you once were. It's not fun or glamorous, and you actually can see why Simon would be a Mopey Vampire.
Zoë and Bella are also similar in that they are total cyphers for the readers to insert themselves. Zoë is of the "I don't like how I look, though I'm fairly conventionally attractive, so I'm flawed" type of character.Teenagers, the projected audience for the book, eat that kind of thing up. They know that they are not the ugliest uggo to crawl out of the swamp, but they don't have enough experience (and representations of normally blemished teens on TV) to be sure of their gut feeling.Thus, when they read about a perfectly fine-looking person who is too insecure to realize it, they see their own selves reflected.
The difference between Zoë and Bella as reader stand-ins is that Zoë actually goes through a journey in the story and comes out changed and stronger.She also is going through some things that are actually hard to handle such as a mother's illness and the separation between herself and her best friend.Simon provides a convenient distraction from the real-life troubles with his supernatural issues, but in the end Zoë still has to face her problems and she does so on her own.
I feel that there is nothing wrong for a little escapism in your writing. The real world has it's problems, and the beauty of stories are that they can take you away from those problems. They can also help you face your real-world problems in the guise of a fantastic epic. TSK does that by creating a character to fill-in for the reader and then have them go through a journey that changes them for the better. I read that story as a young teen and felt stronger for reading the story. Granted, it wasn't a life-changing strength, but I knew I felt fortified from the experience on some small level, and that is precious enough.
Does Twilight fortify it's readers? Perhaps. Maybe they are going through something, and seeing Bella go through the problems she goes through makes them feel like they can be stronger. I am not going to judge how it helps someone for the better.I will, however, do a bit of judging how it helps someone for the worse. There are so many people who read Twilight and focus on the love plot and how the intensity of Edward and Bella's love makes things work out.This causes them to pine for an Edward-type figure who comes into their lives and changes it.They don't think that they themselves can make these changes in their lives alone, but that only an intense love will bring a fulfilling change in their lives.There is more to life than having an intense love, and a lot of it can be done before or after it.Zoë might have had that intense love, but Simon leaves her to continue to face her fears. The next adventure is all in her hands, and she is left capable to handle it.
To come to a quick conclusion, I feel that TSK is what Twilight could have been. Perhaps it is my nostalgia-glasses hindering my ability to know schlock, but there was something more compelling to TSK than Twilight.It follows the rules of Vampirism, has a compelling cypher for the young reader, and leaves the reader feeling fortified for handing problems on their own instead of wishing for someone else to guide them.There is nothing wrong with what Twilight is, but there are some negative side effects that could have been avoided.
Now can we move on to Fairy romances? That's the only time the male lead is obliged to sparkle.
*This gives me no actual authority. Never do this to make an official argument.