Entertainment Weekly ran a cover on the Twilight book series a few weeks ago. I can honestly admit that I had never heard of the books before I saw the cover and was a little shocked that poor, dead Cedric Diggory had been cast as the lead in the movie coming out in December.
While I thought the cover photo was one of the worst EW has come up with in awhile (second to the horrific Watchmen cover), I was mildly interested when the writer compared the novels to the Harry Potter series (for which I am a true geek). Since I’ve been looking for something fun to read, I figured I’d give it a go and see if it was worth the Potter comparisons.
While I still have a hundred pages to go in finishing this fast-reading but badly written book, I realized that Joss Whedon has totally ruined vampires for me. I know that there is a legion of crazy Twilight fans out there but after being immersed in the Whedonverse, every vampire-themed project seems lame in comparison. It’s not just Twilight (which I will get back to in a moment). I tried watching the CBS show Moonlight and only lasted two minutes realizing that I liked this show better when it was called Angel.
Buffy the Vampire Slayer represents the ground zero of my geekiness and I can say for certain that I have geeked out over it more than anything else- more than Twin Peaks, more than Doctor Who, more than Harry Potter, more than Batman. Anyone who knows me can attest that I am ridiculously geeky about all of those things.
Honestly, I have to admit that I didn’t follow either Buffy or Angel until well into their runs. I had a brief, embarrassing Anne Rice phase in high school so by the time BtVS came on, I was sort of over the whole genre. Friends tried to convince me to watch and I heard TV critics rave about how clever and well-written the show was but it took me until the fifth season to start paying attention. I randomly tuned into the fifth season finale (The Gift) and was blown away. While still being vaguely confused about who the Billy Idol impersonator was and how the Taster’s Choice guy was involved in it all, I became immediately obsessed with the show.
I tried to catch repeats over the summer and lucked out when FX decided to run the whole series in the fall start to finish. Since FX ran two episodes a night, it was a crash course in all things Buffy and turned into a mad obsession. I would refuse to answer the phone when new episodes came on and would frantically rush onto the internet after the episodes were over to dissect them. Total geek behavior, I know.
While the later seasons had some serious flaws (the Potential Slayers being a very big one), a great episode of Buffy could left me thinking for days. Not only did the show have well-crafted, believable characters, but the writing combined elements of comedy, horror and drama in a way that was hilarious, scary and heartbreaking. Besides crafting a really entertaining show, Whedon also took the piss out of the vampire legend. Sure his vampires were mysterious and powerful but they could also be as downright ridiculous and petty as his human characters. Angel could never figure out how to work his voicemail and Spike had a passion, for well, Passions as evidenced in this quote:
Spike: “Passions is on! Timmy’s down the bloody well, and if you make me miss it I’ll —”
Giles: “Do what? Lick me to death?”
While Whedon’s vampires could be very dangerous characters, he never took them so seriously that he failed to have fun with them. And I’ve found that it’s the self-seriousness that plagues most other vampire- themed projects that has completely ruined more traditional takes on the genre for me.
And here is where I come back to Twilight. Besides the fact that the book is just badly written, it’s so deadly serious. The fact that a vampire and a human are in love with each other is treated as the Most.Dramatic.Relationship.Ever. And the female character seems completely willing to throw her life away without even questioning what she would be giving up. Even relationship drama queens Buffy and Angel would tell these two to get a grip.
Plus the characters in Twilight don’t seem to have any fun or a functioning sense of humor. The two main characters (Edward and Bella) are constantly glowering and glaring at each other although they are supposedly in love. I can’t recall a funny moment in the entire book. Even Broody McBroodster (that would be Angel for those unaware) was funny on occasion.
I’m not sure if I’m going to bother finishing the book because honestly, it makes me want to smash my head against the wall. I guess I’ll just go watch some Buffy instead.
Update: Laura Miller at Salon just published an article yesterday that covers a lot of the same material. I thought this paragraph was spot-on:
Comparisons to another famous human girl with a vampire boyfriend are inevitable, but Bella Swan is no Buffy Summers. “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” was at heart one of those mythic hero’s journeys so beloved by Joseph Campbell-quoting screenwriters, albeit transfigured into something sharp and funny by making the hero a contemporary teenage girl. Buffy wrestled with a series of romantic dilemmas — in particular a penchant for hunky vampires — but her story always belonged to her. Fulfilling her responsibilities as a slayer, loyalty to her friends and family, doing the right thing and cobbling together some semblance of a healthy life were all ultimately as important, if not more important, to her than getting the guy. If Harry Potter has a vampire-loving, adolescent female counterpart, it’s Buffy Summers.