Let There Be Blood

Twilight's new-breed vampires sink their teeth into the mainstream

Forget "Team Jacob" and "Team Edward." The hottest bloodsucking rivalry these days is between Twilight and True Blood fans. Ironically, these two vamp-centric phenomena debuted within months of each other in the fall of 2008. Until then, both had chug-chugged merrily along as strictly literary sensations in a series of novels penned by, respectively, Stephenie Meyer and Charlaine Harris. But with another season of True Blood in full swing and the latest Twilight installment, Twilight: Eclipse, now showing in theaters, vampires are back in fashion.

Why vampires, and why now? Bloodsuckers haven't been this cool since the fleeting vamp vogue of 1979, when Frank Langella recreated his smash Broadway role as a swoony version of the Count in John Badham's Dracula and George Hamilton slayed 'em with the campy, corny vampire spoof-romance Love at First Bite. Since then, Anne Rice's Lestat novels (the best of which, Interview With the Vampire, was stylishly filmed by Neil Jordan in 1994) and Francis Ford Coppola's deliriously over-the-top Bram Stoker's Dracula (1992) did their part to briefly reignite vampire fever. But neither created the type of fan mania that separates Twilight and True Blood from previous vamp-fads.

While a psychology grad student could probably write a fascinating paper linking the resurgence of plasma-imbibing romantic heroes (and the women who love them) with the efficacy of new AIDS medication (maybe blood isn't quite as scary anymore to horny young lovers), the reasons behind the rabid devotion of Twilight and True Blood enthusiasts are pretty simple. Like young girls of every era and epoch, the teens who constitute the most vocal Twilight fan base are hooked on its evocation of fairy-tale romance: the chaste triangular love story of Bella Swan, Edward Cullen, and Jacob Black. Except for the addition of fangs, it's just like Gone With the Wind, where Scarlett was forced to choose between dashing, dangerous Rhett (Edward) and dull, dependable Ashley (Jacob).

And because trencherman servings of sex, nudity, ultra-violence, and campy humor never go out of fashion, True Blood has scratched the itch of genre enthusiasts of all ages, sexes, and sexual persuasions. (The fact that series creator Alan Ball is openly gay might explain why True Blood is the most unabashedly homoerotic series in TV history.) The show has its own version of Bella Swan in Sookie Stackhouse, another mortal forced to choose between everlasting life and love with a hunky vampire (Bill Compton) or, well, waitressing in a dive bar until she withers and dies from old age. Tough choice, huh?

We'll know on Friday whether or not Eclipse is appreciably better or worse than Twilight's previous big-screen installments (2008's excellent Twilight and last fall's pedestrian New Moon). Not that it matters to Twihards anyway. As anyone who's suffered through a Miley Cyrus or High School Musical flick will tell you, teenage girls aren't the most discerning moviegoers.

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