Eclipsing the "Real": Twilight & Simulacra

Curator's Note

"Does my being half-naked bother you?" -Jacob Black, Eclipse

We all feel vulnerable once in awhile, especially in light of the rampant joblessness, natural disasters, potential for terrorism, and global economic decline. It’s a scary world, and sometimes, being human isn’t enough. That’s where vampires come in: somewhere between the new moon, dawn and twilight. And as far as escapist entertainment goes, vampires have it all, especially the vampires in Stephenie Meyer’s world!

Vampires have a long history with humans, whether early tales of the goddess Kali sucking the blood of unstoppable demons to Vlad the Impaler to Countess Elizabeth Báthory, the allure of the vampire has stood the test of time. Anne Rice brought vampires back into the pop culture spotlight with her 1976 novel Interview with a Vampire, later made into film in 1994 starring Tom Cruise and Brad Pitt. Following Anne Rice’s vampire acclaim came a slew of vampire-related pop culture, including LJane Smith’s Vampire Diaries in the early 1990’s, Joss Whedon’s Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel, Charlaine Harris’s Southern Vampire Mysteries (the basis for the HBO series, True Blood), and of course, Stephenie Meyer’s Twilight saga. The caveat, as with all popular culture, is to remember what’s real and what isn’t.

Jean Baudrillard’s seminal work, Simulacra & Simulation (University of Michigan Press 1994), first published in French in 1981, warns us about the problem of substituting artificial representations of reality, like we see on movie screens or television or read in popular books or graphic novels, for what is, in fact, true reality: "Never again will the real have a chance to produce itself—such is the vital function of the model in a system of death, or rather anticipated resurrection, that no longer gives the event of death a chance" (2).

In other words, Baudrillard warned, without even directly referencing the later advent of the popularized vampire, that by replacing our reality with artificial representations, influencing our real attitudes and ideas, we have lost touch with the most real thing we have…our humanity.

Being human is all about being vulnerable. You can’t appreciate life in the same way if your existence doesn’t include mortality. By looking to the undead for real-life empowerment, we don’t give ourselves much of a chance. When we look to undead resurrection, we devalue our own lives. And the value of human life is greater than that of even the oldest vampire in our popular culture.

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