I can’t remember if I had frequent vampire dreams before vampires glamored the YA fiction market within an inch of its life. Sure, my Jungian upbringing taught me the vampire is a variant on the Demon Lover archetype that populates every girl’s psyche from puberty. But the teeth-in-the-neck thing seems more pop-culturally specific.
Although it’s not always my neck. Last night my vampire paramour (who I must say looked a lot more like Johnny Depp than Robert Pattinson), after losing the struggle to control his (blood)lust, bit me in the armpit.
It was totally hot.
Probably my vampire dreams are a result of the six months during which I read Twilight, cover to cover, a total of thirteen times. In a turbulent work year it was a highly effective self-soothing technique. I would go to bed with a pounding stress-headache, my thoughts a flywheel of anxiety. But four or five pages later I’d drift blissfully off with a nothing in my head but a muzzy cloud of cliches and threatened chastity. Ovaltine in print.
I never seriously scrutinized my attraction to this book–we literary types need our junk food, too–until I recently read Gloria Feldt’s searing feminist critique of the Twilight phenomenon.
In her excellent book No Excuses: 9 Ways Women Can Change How We Think About Power, the former president of Planned Parenthood Federation of America argues that Twilight‘s popularity (among adult women as well as teens) exemplifies women’s co-optation by oppressive discourses. Sure, there’s pleasure in the fantasy: like the series’ heroine, Bella Swan, I need develop no meaningful sense of myself, no aspirations or goals, no coherent views on the world or my place within it. Instead I can simply wait until He comes along–the Man who will pursue me, overwhelm me, mark me, transform me, possess me, complete me. Then I will have His baby, even–or maybe especially–if it kills me.
This is the ultimate opt-out solution to the latter-day feminist struggles over workplace equality, career/kids balance and the leadership gap. It’s what Feldt calls the “psychological glass ceiling.” No matter what advances we’ve gained, so long as women allow the Bella Swan fantasy to flourish, we remain barefoot and pregnant in our minds.
Where do you go for your escape, and why? I guess that’s what Feldt is asking us. Of course, Jung would say that my dream-vampire is myself: a predatory, potentially self-defeating part of my own unconscious self that I need to see, to embrace, but also to question and eventually to banish.
My 11-yr old son is reading book two of Stephenie Meyers’ series, New Moon. Here is the kind of questions he asks: “Can Jacob turn into a werewolf on purpose, too, or just by accident?” “What’s he waiting for; why doesn’t he just make Bella a werewolf?”