Academic journal article Thymos

Lost Boys: The Infernal Youth of the Cinematic Teenage Vampire

Academic journal article Thymos

Lost Boys: The Infernal Youth of the Cinematic Teenage Vampire

Article excerpt

This paper takes a comparative look at the configuration of boyhood as shown in two periods of the vampire film: the teen-vamp explosion of the 1980s, which produced Joel Schumacher's The Lost Boys, and recent representations in vampire romance such as Edward Cullen in Stephanie Meyer's The Twilight Saga. In particular, it highlight the tensions between cultural constructions of boyhood and how the young male child himself conforms to, or opposes, ideological impositions. It also pinpoints the opportunities eventuated through the figure of the adolescent vampire as regards the construction of personal agency and self-determination.

Keywords: VAMPIRE, BOYHOOD, PHANTASY, AGENCY, TWILIGHT, THE LOST BOYS

This paper will take a comparative look at the configuration of boyhood in two periods of the vampire film: the teen- vamp explosion of the 1980s, and current day representations in vampire romance such as Edward Cullen in The Twilight Saga. In particular it will aim to highlight the tensions between the cultural constructions of boyhood and how the young male child himself conforms to, or opposes, this ideological imposition. It will then try to pinpoint the opportunities offered within the figure of the adolescent vampire as regards the construction of personal agency and determination.

The inherent liminality of the cinematic vampire provides an ideal site, or focus, of transition as it is simultaneously fantastic, as a creature outside the laws of rationality, but also phantasic, in that it provides the means to negotiate and adapt to differing identity formations. There is a sense of the "word," or the sublimated emotion, made flesh here in the externalization of socially intolerable drives, or modes of behaviour, finding form in culturally acceptable configurations. The "undead" boy stands between the strictures of society and the pleasure of unrestrained self-indulgence. Signs of excess are articulated in the painted slogan that appears at the start of Joel Schumacher's film, The Lost Boys: "Sleep all day. Party all night. Never grow old. Never die. It's fun to be a vampire." However, hedonistic boys rarely survive the entire film and even J. M B arrie' s lost boys, from his 1911 novel Peter Pan, were forced to grow up and subsequently banished from Neverland. Peter himself was often the enforcer of these self-imposed strictures: "The boys on the island vary, of course, in numbers, according as they get killed and so on; and when they seem to be growing up, which is against the rules, Peter thins them out" (Barrie, 1911, p. 39).

Barrie's story of Peter Pan is an illuminating one in terms of the concerns of this paper, as not only does it come at the end of what was termed the Golden Age of Children's Literature, but also the Victorian Era itself when, as various academics have argued, the modern day notion of childhood was itself constructed. The films examined further on in this article were on the one hand being designed and packaged precisely for adolescent boys but on the other seemed to contain a certain level of yearning, on the director's and/or audience's part, for a youth long left behind. That said, there are other modes of nostalgia equally at work here that do not wish to just reconstruct a lost childhood but a version of an idealized past, or conversely, a future that would correct the perceived social ills of the present. Thus, the vampire boy, whilst eternal, is not unchanging; unlike Peter Pan who returns to visit Wendy's daughter and then granddaughter exactly as he had before, the picture of the returning "undead" boy constantly adapts to the demands and expectations of the times in which he assumes livelihood. Oft quoted theorist of the subject Nina Auerbach has argued that each generation gets its own vampire because "when properly understood, they make us see that our lives are implicated in theirs" (Auerbach, 1996, p. 9).

So too then we get, or construct, our own version of the vampiric boyhood that the times in which we live needs. …

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