NOTE: This is a paper I presented at a conference to a largely non-Mormon audience a few years ago (April 2010 to be precise). Since the final Twilight movie hit theaters this morning at midnight, I thought it might be worthwhile to dust off this paper and present it for your review. Overall, I like the basic idea of the paper, although I think certain ideas and distinctions need to be further developed and drawn.
Vampire stories, argues William Patrick Day, are supposed to â€œviscerally [excite] us with primal, forbidden, terrifying images and scenes of flesh and blood, fangs and stakes, violence and deathâ€ (5). Yet, if this is true, why is Stephenie Meyerâ€™s Twilight Saga so devoid of such â€œterrifying images and scenesâ€? Already, much has been written about the â€œerotics of abstinenceâ€ in the Twilight novels, or their lack of explicit sexâ€”premarital or otherwise (Grossman). Less has been said, however, about how these vampire stories flout the conventions of the vampire genre by avoiding bloody, violent spectacles.
Indeed, one of the earliest reviews of Twilightâ€”a brief write-up in Publishers Weeklyâ€”points out that the â€œnovelâ€™s only weaknessâ€ is a â€œrushed denouementâ€ that mostly â€œtakes place offstageâ€ (207). In the climactic scene, Bella is in danger. James, a bad vampire who has become fixated on her blood, lures her to a dance studio where he plans to slake his thirst. The suspense builds as James, true to his nemesis role, monologues about his skills as a tracker, his desire for Bellaâ€™s blood, and his disdain for the Cullens, Bellaâ€™s good, â€œvegetarianâ€ vampire friends. Using his super vampire strength, James throws Bella against a wall of mirrors, breaks her legs, and cuts a gash along her forehead. The situation looks bad for Bella:
His eyes, merely intent before, now burned with an uncontrollable need. The bloodâ€”spreading crimson across my white shirt, pooling rapidly on the floorâ€”was driving him mad with thirst. (450)
James strikes at her, bites her on the hand, and Bellaâ€”our first-person narratorâ€”passes out.
And thatâ€™s all we get.