Recently I had a conversation with a young adult who is reading and analyzing Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales for a university class. She’s a deep thinker, and she’s making some deep applications of the text to modern life. Somehow, our discussion turned to the literary and cinematic fare that she sees being pumped out to her generation. “Why are they giving us vampires, zombies, and werewolves,” she asks.
It hadn’t occurred to me that this was the case, but a speedy scan of what’s currently going on in the realm of movies, TV, and young adult literature reveals that the current cultural world is under invasion by a host of malodorous and malevolent creatures. The purveyors of contemporary entertainment, for example, offer up a mind-bending variety of zombies. There are Nazi zombies, stripper zombies, and apparently even an Osama Bin Laden zombie appropriately known in his afterlife as Ozombie. And we shouldn’t leave out the recent Pride and Prejudice and Zombies. This Seth Graham-Smith product isn’t merely a novel; it’s an entire series. Mr. Graham-Smith has also given us Abraham Lincoln, Vampire Hunter.
In the vampire category, the Twilight series is merely the tip of the fang. Dracula has risen from the grave –again – to star in his own Masterpiece Theater-styled TV series. To lure young adults to his lair, some Steam Punk elements have been threaded in. We have also been favored with a new movie titled Vampire Academy that appears to be Hogwarts with a different student population. These are just a couple of highlights. There is also the Black Dagger Brotherhood novel series by J.R. Ward about a New York turf war between vampires and vampire hunters. As though the Big Apple doesn’t already have enough problems. And we can’t leave out that splendorous cinematic wonder, Vampires Suck. Whether or not the title is intended as a slang criticism of vampires, I can’t help agreeing with the sentiment.
We won’t launch into a survey of the werewolves that are being unleashed on us. Instead we’ll let it go with Alvin and the Chipmunks Meet the Wolfman. Need more be said?
The young adult world, defined by the publishing industry as ranging in age from 12 to 18 and defined elsewhere as 18-24, is practically drowning in a fictional bloodbath. So be skeptical the next time you’re in a library and happen to see celebrities – such as the stars of the Twilight series – posing with books on READ posters. Content matters. Maybe not every young adult is up for Chaucer, but surely there are some thoughtful stops between Canterbury Tales and Night of the Living Trekkies; likewise, the YA mainstream might not have the intellectual sturdiness for Kenneth Branagh’s three hour Hamlet, but there is a contemplative middle ground bridging Shakespeare and Zombieland.