Echoes of Ireland in 'Twilight' movies


If vampires feeding on human beings doesn't sound like anything new, that's because it's not. When Dublin writer Bram Stoker wrote Dracula, he was writing in the aftermath of a feeding frenzy--An Gorta Mór--the Irish famine, when the landed gentry feasted on the produce of a starving people.

The Twilight movie might seem remote from Stoker's Victorian era literature, but vampire mythology has become so rich that the social critique motives of Stoker are alive and well in today's reworkings.

The first human being to be eaten by vampires in the first Twilight movieis a whiskey-swigging "Irish guy" wearing a "Kiss Me I'm..." t-shirt with a big four leaf clover on it. Vampires--Victoria and James primarily--swoop down on the defenseless man, taunt him like superior beings toying with prey, and then murder and eat him. Victoria is later seen wearing the shamrock tee as a trophy of the kill.

The first half of this teenage romance horror movie spells out the vampire and werewolf mythology used by the Twilight franchise. The second half devolves into a cliché battle between hero and villain for the safety of the defenseless human female who will so love the vampire as to redeem the bloood-sucker by submitting her humanity to his capricious vegetarianism version of vampirism. It's not so different from Stoker's work, which had a metaphorical dimension understood on some social satire level to the producers of the first Twilight movie I was roped into watching last night.

Bram Stoker conceived vampires as stand-ins for the landlords that collected food from Irish people as rent during famine times. The vampire's immortality, super powers and suave are all metaphor for the omnipotence that a little administrator holed away in his mansion can have when yielding money and status to bolster his mere human frame against the hordes of human livestock he keeps on his fields to toil and provide income. The great man in the big house profiting on rents pulled from famine victims was ripe to be remade into the vampire of Stoker's imagination. That satire has not been lost in the modern retellings.

Vampirism or exploitation was resisted by what the landlord poet Edmund Spenser called the wylde Irish wolves. Native resistance to foreign exploitation was defamed by the greatest poets of the administration as being uncivil and primitive. The vampire is a somewhat solitary reptilian creature, ruling over human sheep. Only the proud among the human animals stand up to the vampire, and so are perceived as being descended from ferocious pack animals. Or so it is told in Twilight.

Twilight's werewolves are not the Irish rebels of Edmund Spenser's nightmares, but members of a reworked indigenous northwest American tribe called the Quileute. In Twilight, these wolf-people have come to a truce with the animal-meat eating vampires, including the Coen family and the high school aged son, who is the hero of this mythological tale on TV.

Our hero promises despite the psychotic impulse otherwise not to drink blood and not to eat people anymore.

The aristocratic quality of these bi-pedal leaches is explained by Robert Pattinson who plays the hero vampire when he stands in the sun to show us something to illustrate how much more special vampires are than human beings. Like a movie star in papparazzi flashes, or like a princess bejewelled, Robert Pattinson as vampire reveals himself to our human damsel. He stands in the sun despite the diktat against it, and shows her that his skin is not mere human skin, but diamond-skin!? In the sun-light the vampire we are told shines bright like a fallen angel each skin cell glistening with the immortal permanence of diamonds.

In Twilight, the vampire's immortality and splendid beauty is materialized in the symbol of wealth, the diamond, resplendent like a fallen angel of enormous intoxicating power and alluring privilege.

The movie sells the redeemed vampire as a kind of animal-only environmentalist that although chomping at the bit to murder people and take their livelihoods, are really hot and can do cool stuff like gods.

The damsel in distress is the human high school outcast--the deep thinker--the one maybe capable of seeing things from a higher perspective than the others in school. It's she who falls in love with the aristocratic vampire, for it is this murder-lusting hero to whom she would offer her very humanity. She is in fact eager to betray her humanity and get bitten by the vampire so that she can become another parasite.

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