Fantasy bites

Fantasy bites

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One popular vampire story is proving to be more than just a phase, writes YP intern Anais Ross

Edward Cullen's chiselled face is leading the latest revival of the vampire genre, but what makes this star of the Twilight franchise so appealing? Tall, blonde, glittery in sunlight and played by British actor Robert Pattinson, Cullen is protagonist Bella's protector and soulmate. Readers sink their teeth into his reformable bad-boy premise - a desperate romantic who wants to be saved.

He is a tragic, lonely hero, dependent upon Bella's love to change, and Bella finds him dangerously irresistible. As pop culture critic Laura Miller puts it, Twilight is the 'traditional feminine fantasy of being delivered from obscurity by a dazzling, powerful man'.

Cullen has his fair share of popular predecessors, such as Brad Pitt's Louis and Tom Cruise's Lestat in Interview with a Vampire(1994). But Meyer has 'reconstructed vampirism by taking away the 'dark side', according to Austin State University popular culture professor Anne Smith. As a 'vegetarian' vampire - Cullen's diet consists of animal blood, rather than human - Smith believes viewers can enjoy the forbidden fruit of Cullen's nature without the guilt, which "adds a touch of spice'.

Pattinson has naturally reaped the benefits of his character's popularity. The actor already had a cult following after playing Cedric Diggory in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. But his big break came when he landed the part of Cullen. Voted People's Sexiest Man Alive in 2008 and Glamour's Sexiest Man in 2009, the heart-throb is the second most searched celebrity on movie-website IMDB.

Cullen's role isn't original - a young, vulnerable girl falls for a dangerous beau. Star-crossed lovers have always been popular but Bella and Edward are more than just any old Romeo and Juliet.

Film critic Steven Greydanus suggests they are the 21st century version of Charlotte Bronte's Jane Eyre and Mr Rochester, chasing a sliver of hope rather than on a one-way trip to tragedy. Twilight revisits timeless dilemmas of love and sacrifice.

'Obsessive Twilight Disorder', the self-diagnosed condition of some dedicated fans, eerily echoes the effect of Harry Potter. The franchises preach similar tones of wholesome virtues, sacrifice and maturity, and both promote eye-catching actors who yield devoted followings.

Smith thinks the characters in both series learn to 'negotiate the literal minefield of adolescence as well as the metaphorical minefield of vampirism', while the stories are honest tales of growing up and hope.

Twilight's release was very timely. After the release of the final Harry Potter book in 2007, J.K. Rowling fans were left in a vacuum which Meyer filled. With Twilight stealing the limelight from Harry Potter, it's difficult to ignore the craze. Whether or not you're vampire fan, you can't disregard the massive impact the fanged beings are having on pop culture.

Anais is a Tiger Reporter with the Young Post Junior Reporters' Club

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