Myth and literature provide us with rich depictions of the vampire,
presenting to the critical eye the persistent archetypal qualities of
this monster and the unique embellishments that captivate
contemporary audiences. According to Newsweek, (2008, p. 74), the
vampire is a bit “long in the tooth” but in no danger of being
forgotten. The abundance of novels, films, and television rather
suggest that the glare of media attention will continue to grow
hotter for this icy creature. Two examples will suffice: The second film
in the Twilight Series, New Moon, which is based on the
Stephenie Meyer novels aimed at the young adult audience, enjoyed
one of the biggest box office openings of 2009. Its fan base, both rabid and rapidly growing, has been dubbed “Twi-hards.” Whereas the Twilight Series has been called “abstinence porn,” the second most talked-about vampire saga in the last year celebrated indulgence: True Blood, the highest-rated HBO series since The Sopranos (Entertainment Weekly, 2009, p. 48).
Though we may be personally indifferent to vampires, or deaf to popular phenomena, Jungian analysts of contemporary culture should take note. As an archetype, the vampire is alive and well in the collective psyche. A closer look can reflect back to us what we deem monstrous out there as well as inform us about the monstrous within. This is fundamental to Jung’s notion of the Shadow and fundamentally an issue of ethics.
The questions this paper proposes to address are: What do contemporary representations of the vampire in novels and film teach us about the Other without and the Other within? What specific attributes of the vampire reflect our ethical agon at the beginning of the 21st century? To answer these questions, the paper will focus on the two vampire sagas mentioned above, the Twilight series and True Blood, as examples of the tensions between abstinence and indulgence among a predatory species. I will argue that the Twilight saga is a female bildungsroman that reflects an intriguing mix of traditional (heteronormative) family values and postmodern multiculturalism, which becomes clear in the final book of the series Breaking Dawn (2008). The bildungsroman genre offers psychologists a particularly fruitful view into ethics and character development since it focuses on “early adolescence to young adulthood, the period when the person works out questions of identity, career, and marriage” (Labovitz, 1986, p. 2). True Blood may also be considered a female bildungsroman as it is centered upon a 25-year old Louisiana waitress. Though True Blood is scarcely heteronormative and, on the surface, quite the opposite of abstinence porn, it too portrays the ethical tension between restraint and indulgence for natural predators.
In both sagas, the central love relationship between a human female and a vampire male dramatizes some of the trickier aspects of relating to the Other in the most intimate manner. Thus they are ideally suited to an archetypal analysis of the crisis of ethics that is the focus of this conference.