Last weekend a Texas man attacked a woman and attempted to suck her blood. Lyle Monroe Bensley, 19, told Galveston authorities he was a centuries-old vampire and needed to feed. Now, in the rush to assign blame, Reuters reported Deborah Quinn Hensel pushed a fact-free story on the newswire today implying that vampire books and movies, such as the Twilight franchise, were responsible.
According to Hensel’s article, the vampire attacked “has sparked” a passive-voice “discussion” on the role of popular culture in glamorizing the vampire lifestyle. No individuals involved in expressing concerns about pop culture’s role were named. Instead, author Anne Rice and several professors were asked to speculate on the attraction of vampires for young people.
“I would say that it is the Twilight saga in particular that has brought out the younger teen fans,” Dr. Thomas Garza of the University of Texas told Reuters, stating the obvious.
Despite claims that teen obsession with vampires “peaked” recently with the Twilight films and HBO’s True Blood series, the only other examples of a vampire attack spawned by popular culture used in the article were from 1996 and 1998, long before either franchise—the first of these before, in fact, even the 1997-2003 TV version of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, the last popular culture product blamed for an unhealthy obsession with vampire romance.
Anne Rice told the wire service that her readers are “into the poetry and the romance of vampires; they don't think they themselves are vampires.”
According to Hensel’s own article, there is no evidence for a connection between Bensley and Twilight, or that popular culture was to blame for his vampire attack, or even that there is a genuine wave of consumers of popular culture becoming convinced they are vampires. Who then "sparked" "discussion" other than Hensel herself?
This is journalistic fear-mongering at its worst, and another entry in the long ledger of attempts to blame the horror genre (even in its decidedly watered-down Twilight form) for the actions of disturbed individuals.
I am an author and researcher focusing on pop culture, science, and history. Bylines: New Republic, Esquire, Slate, etc. There's more about me in the About Jason tab.
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