Dead Handsome: Buffy Vs. Bella

Last week a friend lent me a copy of Twilight, swearing up and down that I would love it – she never buys hardbacks but made an exception for this, so she really thinks highly of it. I’d heard of the Twilight series before but until I looked the books up on Amazon I hadn’t realized what a phenomenon they were; since the author is a Mormon BYU grad I had thought her popularity was more local. But apparently, girls across the continent are fighting over first rights to Edward Cullen, brooding, conflicted vampire hero who’s in love with a high school girl approximately 1/6th his age. Now, where have I heard a story like that before?

Actually, I didn’t think that the storyline was a particular weakness of the novel; I won’t be buying it in hardback any time soon, but it’s not because of the “brooding vampire falls for cute human” storyline. It’s more that I found the prose to be very flat and Edward a very bland hero – the constant descriptions of how gorgeous and godlike he was, while very teenage-girlish, really got in the way of discerning anything about his character other than that he is (a) in love with the heroine because, mysteriously, he cannot read her mind the way he can with everyone else and (b) conflicted about this because although he tries only to feed off of animals, he’s still mad, bad and dangerous to know. Even (b) might not have been such an issue if he hadn’t been in love with the girl for characteristics which were all utterly beyond her control. Oddly, as sometimes happens in overly souped-up teenage romances, the secondary characters were much more lively and interesting than the leads.

Of course, Edward and Bella aren’t the first such couple to angst their way into mass popularity. It was impossible to read Edward’s agonizing about how very, very bad he is for her without thinking of Buffy the Vampire Slayer and of course Angel. They have the same problems with making long-term plans: what about the fact that she ages and he doesn’t? What about children? What about the possibility that one day he’ll turn evil and use his beloved as a human juice box? One question, though, is treated very differently: in Twilight, Bella keeps asking Edward to “turn” her so they can be together forever. In Buffy, this idea is presented as the sort of thing that only hippy-dippy space cadets who romanticize vampires as “The Lonely Ones” would ever contemplate. Of course, Buffyverse vampires are inherently evil unless their souls are deliberately and (one would assume) painfully restored; Twilight vampires are presented as having more of a choice in the matter, though naturally inclined towards evil. (They also glitter unnaturally in direct sunlight instead of bursting into flames, which I thought was a nifty twist, actually).

Vampire erotica has been around for a long, long time and the subset of sexy vampire meets high school girl has also been going strong for a while (anyone remember L.J. Smith’s Vampire Diaries? They’re still selling). Vampires have come a good way from their early manifestations, which were as distinctly unsexy staggering corpses who were occasionally dug up and spiked through the heart to prevent their doing further mischief to whatever village they had the bad luck to be buried in. Anyone who’s been through the literary analysis grinder will probably think of a number of applicable analogies in the new, improved vampire stories at once – the symbolism of a girl’s first love drawing blood from her isn’t hard to miss, and there are a lot of others which I’ll leave to the people who need thesis material more than I do. But I think part of the appeal is simply the fact that these vampires are living their life after death. It’s when people are leaving childhood that the idea that they can and inevitably will die begins to seem real. To acquire a lover who has, albeit at a high cost, overcome death and has outlasted centuries – it’s like a sign of hope. To become immortal oneself might seem too frightening and too lonely; very few people in fiction choose immortality voluntarily (like the heroine of Tuck Everlasting, they may flirt with the idea but eventually decide that it’s better to live a normal lifespan than to outlive all their family and have to endure on through who knows how many years). But to be in love with someone who is both lets you remain as you are but gives you proof that a life after death (in however twisted a form) is a real possibility – there’s a lot there that’s appealing, though I doubt that’s what the Mormon church is thinking of when it says that “Families can be together forever.”

As for Edward and Bella, I’m a little sorry not to have seen the appeal there that my friend did; I feel a bit like the people who were left cold by Harry Potter: “What, this is IT?” But …I’m still reading the next volume. And probably the one after that, and after that, and however long the series goes, because I am, if you’ll forgive the term, a complete sucker for this kind of plot. Flat characterizations, annoying descriptions – they don’t bother me enough that I’m willing to forgo finding out whether she will or she won’t.

-posted by sonetka

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15 Responses to Dead Handsome: Buffy Vs. Bella

  1. […] Detectives of the Page Like sonetka, I too have been thinking about vampires. In part this is due to the recent resurgence of […]

  2. […] vampire/mortal relationships. As it turns out, TV has been a wonderful place for these to play out. sonetka alluded to some of that going on in Buffy, but I never watched Buffy regularly. Instead, I watched two amazingly similar shows about vampire […]

  3. Alder says:

    I finally read this book (it has been in great demand at the library) and I have to agree- definitely a little flat. The 15th time she said Edward looked like an “angel” or a “Greek god”. . . well it is hard to read when you are rolling your eyes! The same goes for each time Bella’s jaw drops open in amazement or she insists that Edward is good at *everything* and she couldn’t possibly deserve his love.

    This isn’t to say, of course, that I didn’t immediately put the next two on hold at the library, and then go on Amazon to sneak a peek at the online excerpts. Maybe Bella will grow some self-esteem! Maybe Alice will be more prominently featured! Maybe I’m just a fool for young (immortal?) love!

  4. Sonetka says:

    I’m happy to report that the next two books feature approximately 300% more Alice :). (Honestly, I was wondering “Why isn’t this series about HER?”) And Bella does start to develop more of a spine, which is nice, but Edward still seems one-note and creepily possessive to me. Maybe it’s one of those things you have to be fourteen to be *really* swept up in, but naturally I will be reading the fourth one when it comes out. I’m not going to buy it, though. At least not in hardback. I think.

  5. […] with a whole series of posts on vampire fiction, but here I am, adding to it again. (Previous posts here, here, and here.) I picked up The Historian to take with me on my long business trip in large part […]

  6. buffy fan says:

    for me buffy always number one.i think twilight fake buffy.and harry potter is better than twilight fo me.buffy and harry potter very special because im grown up two series.

  7. Artemis says:

    Well, I being a rather young nerd, I heard of Twilight before Buffy. And for a while, the bad prose and Edward obsessiveness was able to hold me in the realm of Twilight-fangirlism. I think for a while, the new (to little, innocent, early years me) idea of a vampire romance was intriguing enough to hold me. But then, rather recently, I discovered first Dr. Horrible, then Firefly, then Buffy…and, well, I just finished season 3, and I’m hooked.

    If Twilight was an obsession, then Buffy is a drug. I find myself yelling at Twilight fans “Vampires don’t sparkle, they burst into flames, damnit!” Erm, that only happened once. But in my mind, Buffy wins. Completely.

  8. Molly says:

    I heard of Buffy long before Twilight but never really looked into it (most likely because it was off air). My friend also introduced Twilight to me in the 8th grade. It captivated me but eventually the effect wore out and it fell flat of expectations. Edward was the possessive stalker type and Bella had absolutly no personality! Alice however I enjoy very much even through the fourth book which I despise with a burning passion. Then about a month ago I helped myself to a good dose of Buffy (I enjoy SMG a lot which is why I took an interest in it).

    I fell in love with Buffy instantly! I’m going to agree with Artemis here Buffy has to be a drug if Twilight was an obsession. I can’t get enough of it. I started with the series first and then when I was about in the middle of third season I had to watch the movie (Which wasn’t bad the movie however is better). Angel and Spike (I like Spike but I enjoyed Buffy and Angel as a couple more) beat Edward by a landslide they don’t even compare!Hands down though Buffy beats out Twilight always! Plus the fourth book sucked no offence to all those fans but it was just ugh bad bad bad!
    P.S. I’m a sucker for that plot line too!

  9. WillowsPuppy says:

    Molly and Artemis: As a BtVS fan from the get-go (as in, i LOVED the 1992 movie, and my obsession (or my habit, LOL) grew from there) i’m sooooooo glad you discovered Buffy in addition to Twilight, and came to conclude that BtVS is the superior of the two!

    I’m NOT a Twilight fan. Bella is wet and insipid, and Edward has about as much depth as a puddle.

    And i’m with you about the vampires sparkling. I yell that too. Probably more than once. 😉

  10. Lisa says:

    I won’t go into complaining about Twilight, because if I did I’d most likely be going on about it all night, and be using all the characters (does this comment box have a character limit?) Anyways…

    Buffy the Vampire Slayer is very, very special to me, I watched it growing up and you know why I love it so much, and still love it to this day? Because it’s so much better than Twilight. Twilight has awkward moments, half the actors can’t act,

  11. Lisa says:

    Crap, submitted comment without finishing my opinion

    so, as I was typing… half the actors can’t act and Edward isn’t half as “god-like” with his frikin’ topaz eyes, the desciption that was endlessly mentioned throughout the book, as Angel and Spike were.

    Where did we FIRST hear the vampire falling in love with a human storyline? And even if Buffy didn’t make it up, no other show can live up to Buffy, which had way more UNIQUE ideas than Twilight, pfft! Joss Whedon is a genious, he put a lot more work into BTVS than Stephanie Meyer put into “having her dream.” *note: inverted commas*

    For any of you that disagree I am more than happy to respond to emails (lisaflunkle@aol.com) but before you start writing your opinion, make damn sure you’ve actually watched Buffy before you judge it. I’ve watched Twilight, read the books, and let me tell ya, I am not impressed at how much idiots like that compared to Buffy.

  12. Lisa says:

    “If Twilight was an obsession, then Buffy is a drug” Your opinion is def. FIVE BY FIVE 😉

  13. Queen Anthai says:

    Lisa:

    I’m pretty sure the vampire-loves-a-human thing was in Dracula. The Count did seem rather interested in Mina, and certainly his three brides were human before he turned them.

  14. […] Dead Handsome: Buffy Vs. Bella Possibly related posts: (automatically generated)A TBTS Good Idea™: Television about Television about TelevisionDollhouse: Season 1Dollhouse: Vows (season premiere)Dead Tree Alert: One More Doll in the House […]

  15. holly says:

    There are a million reasons why Buffy (as well as Harry Potter, Charmed, LotR, Star Trek, Firefly, Glee, the Office and many other works of fiction for that matter) is better than Twlight.
    There’s the supporting cast. Several Twilight Characters have the potential to be interesting, but there is too much telling and too little showing with characters like Carlisle, Jacob, Jasper, Rosalie, Alice, ect. Buffy has Giles, Willow, Xander, Spike, Joyce, Oz, Cordelia, Faith, Dawn, Tara, Anya ect. They have distinctive personalities an contribute to the story instead of just fawning or obessing over Buffy like Certain Twilight characters do over Bella. Bella and Edward also have a tendency to look down their noses at normal humans. Buffy and Angel get annoyed with people, but don’t look down their noses at them. Buffy and Angel also work to protect others and put others before themselves, While Bella and Edward are completely self involved. How many people’s lives were destroyed while Edward farted around delaying tranforming Bella just so she could keep her virginity until they got married? What about Bree Tanner, Riley and all the other people who lost their lives and families who lost their children so Bella and Edward could be together? I can’t imagine Buffy, Angel and the Scoobies standing idly by while someone like Victoria built and Army for revenge.

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