Vampires, Zombies and becoming Fairy Queen: the trend toward supernatural romance
Wishes and dreams
Traditional Fairy Tales such as Cinderella and Snow White can be seen to provide wish fulfillment and address some basic human desires.
In these tales a neglected girl-child overcomes the jealous machinations of her jealous step-relatives or other individuals providing barriers to her destiny and lives “happily ever after”.
The human desires fulfilled in these tales may include as:
- love, which may be fulfilled in marriage;
- security which was once provided by gaining a windfall or joining the upper class,
- excitement which may be fulfilled by adventure, fulfilling a quest or overcoming and evil witch
- and recognition as the heroine becomes a prominent figure in the country.
The tales also fulfill nostalgia for a by-gone time, with the trappings of a feudal system, black and white moral resolutions where the good and beautiful coincide and are rewarded.
Modern teen reading
Today’s teen however, is reading darker tales of supernatural love. The character of the perfect prince has been replaced by the fey fairy king, brooding vampire or hot blooded were-wolf as the main love interest.
Love is fraught with danger, gang wars, enemies and the possibility of the ultimate sacrifice – death. The unique nature of that love is underlined by the couple being fated or predicted to be together and a strong impression is created that no other candidate would have been acceptable. The eternal longevity of the love is guaranteed by the immortal spirit of at least one of the lovers.
How are these stories different from traditional fairly tales?
These stories are different from traditional fairy tales in that they are longer and more elaborate. They make less folk tale-like assumptions that good is diametrically opposed to bad and there are more ambiguous areas. Indeed these tales seem to focus on the in-between: the “twilight” of emotion, the space between love and commitment, the decision making time, and most importantly, the turbulent period between adolescence and staid adulthood.
One could add descriptions of violence and danger to the list, but it is important to acknowledge that traditional tales such as Little Red Riding Hood, Hansel and Gretel and Bluebeard also contain violence. In modern tales, however, threatening imagery is used to create suspense and fights are described in detail, whereas in traditional tales the danger can be dismissed as a “near-miss” after all is resolved.
What does the change signify?
This change may signify that today’s teen is increasingly sophisticated in their taste. They still enjoy tales of the supernatural, with the trappings of magic and monarchies. However, they also like to dwell on questions of choice, mistakes and solutions. Emotions are discussed more openly in modern society and explored in literature.
The Twilight Series by Stephanie Meyer
I was inspired to locate the Twilight series by a comment on a weblog (amongst the Xanga Community) that said “Stephenie Meyer can’t write”. I opened the books out of scientific interest expecting to see incompletely formed sentences and bad grammar. Nothing shoddy in the way of workmanship was evident! Stephenie Meyer definitely could write in the technical sense.
- The books do however, make an art form of teenage anxiety. Young people describe the fashions and attitudes portrayed as “Emo” which indicates an emphasis on the dark emotions, often combined with pale foundation on the face and strong black eye-pencil. These darker emotions are embodied and personified in Edward Cullen - a hundred year old vampire and the hero of Bella Swan’s heart.
- I personally found the Quileute clan most appealing. Jake offered Bella a viable alternative to the cold vampire lifestyle with his human/lycanthrope high temperature body, muscled physique and ability to breed with humans. Bella followed the first inclination of her heart which was to choose Edward according to the novels.
- The plot twist in Breaking Dawn that resolved the love triangle between Bella Edward and Jacob was acceptable and satisfying. (I won’t spell it out just in case you have not read the book or seen the films and the information would be a spoiler.)
- The second book New Moon seemed quite maudlin in my opinion as Bella becomes an adrenaline junkie to combat her depression while Edward was away. Other than the emotional emphasis, the books are very readable, and have filmed up even better in my opinion.
For those of you who have only seen the films, the first Twilight captures the mood of the books most clearly, while the other films emphasis the action fantasy elements.
Wicked Lovely and Fragile Eternity by Melissa Marr
Aislin (affectionately known as “Ash”), has always been able to see faeries. These faeries are not small and dainty enough to perch on mushrooms but as large as humans and much more dangerous. Her grandmother has always told her not to allow the faeries to know that she can see them.
However, one afternoon she is followed by a faerie who is using a glamour to make himself appear as a human male. This faerie is actually Keenan, the heir to the throne of the summer court, who has been cursed to search amongst human females until he finds the one who is destined to become his queen. He has courted many girls, all of whom have fallen in love with him and accepted the test which determined whether they are the special one. If they fail the test, they are doomed to carry a winter chill in their heart and warn other girls against Keenan until another commits to the test, fails and takes her place.
As the tale progresses, however, it appears likely that Ainslin may indeed be the Summer Queen. If she passes the test she will set Keenan’s court to rights and trigger a number of other political changes amongst the faerie. The bitter Beira, who is the Winter Queen and once loved Keenan’s Summer King Father, is determined to place many obstacles in Ainslin’s path.
Another complication is the fact that Ainslin has a true friend and possible lover in the person of Seth. Seth is a street wise human male just a couple of years older than Ainslin. Her relationship with Seth progresses as he assists her with the faerie threat and conundrum, to the point where Ainslin may accept the role of Summer Queen if necessary, but will not accept Keenan as consort. This violation of the traditional fairy-tale scenario where the destined couple always marry and live happily ever after provides material for further plot twists. It also opens the question of what will happen when Seth reaches the limit of his mortality... an issue Ainslin attempts to overlook, but Seth may well be prepared to challenge.
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