In last week’s article, I attributed the sudden interest in vampire fiction to two major thought processes. The first was the pursuit of a “fairy-tale romance.” The second was the thrill of rebellion and taboo, at least as it would be felt in the mind of a teenager.
To further explore the teenage appeal of this sort of fiction, we’ll have to delve into a topic that fills parents with dread and is usually avoided in most journalistic media save for the few “specialized” news sites.
The topic in question is sex, at least how it is discussed and portrayed in the media and how that portrayal can affect the mind of a teenager.
In the media, adult entertainment notwithstanding, sex usually appears to be either glamorized or demonized depending on which program you are watching.
If it’s a soap opera, a romance film or even a primetime drama, then it’s usually depicted as a blissful experience, the ultimate expression of love.
On the other hand, if you’re watching something like Criminal Minds or Law and Order: Special Victims Unit, then the depiction is not-so-pretty, as shows such as these depict the criminal aspects of sex, such as rape, molestation and other forms of abuse.
In some shows that are geared towards older audiences, sex is also depicted as the end goal for the protagonists, with negative consequences such as unplanned pregnancy or sexually transmitted diseases being played up for comedy, depending on the nature of the show.
All these conflicting messages and ideas about sex, combined with an upbringing in areas where “abstinence-only” education is the standard, can create a very weird and somewhat idealized depiction of sex in a teenager’s mind.
In the mind of a teenage boy, sex may be something that happens on impulse – an action that begins to fuel an obsession. In that boy’s mind, it could be argued that it’s seen as an action that’s natural, but hidden away by “the man” in an attempt to keep him in line.
Teenage girls on the other hand have a different set of factors to contend with.
Some of these factors stem from thought processes that teenage boys have about sex, but they are also confronted with societal pressures of body image, maintaining virginity and the overall implication that their body doesn’t necessarily belong to them.
From childhood, they are bombarded with various stimuli that fuel the idea of women being almost like a trophy or prize, a princess to be rescued from a castle with a fire-breathing dragon by a white knight in shining armor (or a pair of plumbers in blue overalls, just saying).
Combine this with the constant reminder that reality is not like fairy-tales and is, in fact, far more terrifying that you realize, you get the mindset of someone looking for a “perfect romance” that is free from all of the work that is actually needed to maintain a healthy relationship.
While the scenarios listed above don’t apply to all teenagers, or all people in general, it is something that many people go through at some point in their life. They become dissatisfied with their current circumstances and long for something more ideal, like what they’ve observed in movies, television and books.
Once again, it boils down to the idea of escapism.
Life is hard, confusing and ultimately terrifying, so it’s easy to retreat to worlds of fantasy, where aspects of the world and human nature are broken down to a simple battle of good and evil, right and wrong.
While not all escapism is that simplified, many of the multi-faceted works of fiction, such as the works of J.R.R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis, were created to quantify and cope with various negative events in their lives and the world. In the case of Tolkien, that was World War I.
There is the remaining piece of my theoretical study – analyzing the societal and psychological factors of lust and how it applies to the success of really any escapist fiction.
While it may not apply to everyone, it’s at least a nice starting point for anybody who wishes to understand the appeal of franchises such as Twilight.