Thursday, May 28, 2009

Twilight of the (Teen) Idols

When I look for the number 17, I'm usually doing so in a particular context. I'm looking for the number to tie into an overarching narrative, linking to themes of restoration. Osiris died on the 17th, and Horus represented the restoration of his father's rightful throne. Horus himself was the last god to rule Egypt, so in my eyes he represents the restoration of that order of things.

However, the more you study all of the these things, the deeper and more complex the narrative becomes. I've not seen any compelling evidence that this number is being used deliberately- in fact, its resonance seems almost entirely unconscious. But it keeps popping up, particularly in popcult contexts. The first Harry Potter and Narnia novels- themselves both restoration narratives- had 17 chapters. And the latest literary sensation among the tween set- Stephanie Meyer's Twilight novels- opens with a quote from the Bible, namely Gene-Isis 2:17:
But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die.*
Whatever the intent, the quote certainly charges this whole series with a transgressive buzz.

But the 17 meme certainly doesn't end there. The movie starts off on the 33rd parallel in Phoenix, which sits right at the bottom of Interstate 17...

The main character, Isabella ("Isis the Beautiful") moves to rainy Forks, WA because her mother and her baseball player stepfather are going to Jacksonville, FL. What highway runs through that burg?

US 17.

Edward the Friendly Vampire introduces himself to Sophie at 00:17:07, reminding us that 17 is the 7th prime number...

Given that its author is a practicing Mormon who cooked up this whole cashcow from a dream, Twilight seems especially ripe for Synchromystic picking. But it was Victoria Nelson's lecture on modern vampire literature that brought this series to my attention. This is a classic case of the evolution of the concept of the Other, from object of fear to object of desire, both sexual and aspirational. Watch this trailer- this isn't your grandmother's vampire story...

No, these aren't even like Anne Rice's revisionist frou-frou vampires, these are superheroes, flat-out and straight-up. They're superheroes who are every bit as exotic and threatening as The X-Men. There are good vampires (the "vegetarians," who don't drink human blood) and the bad ones, who are almost identical to The Hand in the Elektra movie or The Brotherhood of Evil Mutants in the X-Men films. Bella even thinks Edward is a superhero at first.

As in the similarly-memed Underworld films, these vampires co-exist with werewolves. Here we see the polarity in the New Other- the refined and cultured contrasting with the earthy and earnest (the werewolves are all Native Americans, just to sweeten the pot). Both are feminine fantasy visions of idealized men, and vampire mythology seems to be resonating more powerfully with girls these days, which may explain why the excellent Blade: The Series flopped on Spike, that sweaty jockstrap of a cable network.

A lot of wags have noted the Mormon abstinence subtext in Twilight, but the stories are also 100% wish-fulfillment in other ways. The vampire fantasy addresses the top anxieties of modern women - aging, abandonment and bad relationships. Edward is handsome, powerful and brilliant and his family is cultured and close-knit. He offers Bella eternal life and companionship, and will wait until they are married to consumate this vampire love. It's the ultimate one-sided tradeoff, the kind most women would give their souls for. Which, of course, is what Bella does.

Twilight goes to extreme lengths to rewrite vampire mythology. The vampires can operate in daytime, but avoid the Sun not because it will fry them- they avoid it because it makes their buff, hard bodies glow like diamonds. So here we see a nice Solar signifier, characteristic of superheroes.

Tying into the alien identity and future human memes, the vampires have psychic abilities. Edward can read minds, and one of the girls is a remote viewer. The depiction of her powers is straight out of the Ingo Swann playbook.

Whether through intent or osmosis, Meyer is drawing from sources that run pretty far afield of anything the Mormon high council might approve. I can't speak for the novels, but this film is highly sexually charged, easily earning its PG-13 rating. It was this scene concerning Edward's eyes (always a giveaway of Otherness) that reminded me of David Bowie's feature film debut in Nic Roeg's The Man Who Fell to Earth, a transgressive pedigree if ever there was one.

Bowie's real-world Otherness has not gone unnoticed by his associates and intimates. The man operated at a level of sheer activity in the 1970s that was unimaginable on the face of it, never mind his incredible batting average, quality-wise. But it was a role from the 80s- not his peak years in anyone's estimation- that ties straight into the Twilight universe...

Bowie played a Goth vampire in Tony Scott's feature debut The Hunger, itself influenced by Jess Franco's 70s camp classic Vampyros Lesbos. But, given its outwardly transgressive text, The Hunger is probably less erotically charged than Twilight (yes, even with that scene).

For all its verve and style, The Hunger still subscribes to the view of Other drawn from monotheism, where transgressing traditional moral boundaries or human potential must be punished with a painful death. It's arguable whether Mormonism is in fact monotheistic, but if nothing else its history lends a more sympathetic view of Other as an existential concept (see Battlestar Galatica for further elucidation).

But of course, The Hunger brings us right back to the ultimate concept of Other- the extraterrestrial. The original novel was written by Whitley Strieber, multiple abductee/contactee. In a sequel, Strieber explains that his vampires are in fact alien astronauts stranded on earth, who parasitically feed on humans while helping also steer their evolution.

Since 17 ultimately links us to Egypt, it's no surprise that Bella's initiation to the vampire universe begins there. It shouldn't be asurprise for another reason- Mormonism itself is riddled with a kind of Egyptophilia.

We see the Egyptian link in The Hunger film, in a flashback scene showing Miriam sucking on some poor slave's jugular. And not really having much fun of it, either, I might add. So aside from all the hot g/g play, The Hunger offers up the double whammy of the Bible's libel against Egypt, as well as the metaphorical condemnation of transgressive sexual practices (of which the vampirism is simply a metaphor).

Tony Scott later developed an anthology series based on The Hunger, which was first hosted by Terence Stamp (speaking of Elektra) and then by Bowie himself. Scott repeatedly refers to Bowie as alien and other-worldly in his commentary track for the The Hunger film, an image Bowie cultivated throughout the 70s (and even well into the 80s). Bowie was also no stranger to Egyptian-derived occultism or transgressive sexual practices himself, so his association with The Hunger franchise- and vampirism- was something of a fait accompli.

Strangely enough the first season of the series had an episode titled "Room 17." The 17th episode of the second seaon of The Hunger was called "Sacred Fire," and touched upon the alien vampire memes that Strieber later elaborated on. From the DVD episode description:

Luann is a kind and generous woman who volunteers to help the homeless find food and shelter but when she meets Nick, who lives on the street, he warns her that there are street people who are aliens in disguise, intent on killing humans.
So as conservative as Stephanie Meyer's faith may be, her novels are anything but. In text, subtext and pedigree, Twilight is very much part of the new continuum, in which Evolution is the New Revolution, in which Otherness is something to be deeply desired, not shunned. No surprise that the 17 memes lurk beneath the surface. Because that Otherness is the restoration. It's this present mess that is actually the deviation.

There's a sub-program in our neural software that seems to have been activated, and is leading the next generations to a very different reality-consensus than the audiences of Bela Lugosi's- or even Gary Oldman's- Dracula would be familiar with. That- in the end- may be what Synchromysticism is really all about.


  1. First of all, I love the Nietzsche/Wagner reference...

    I've actually been mulling a vampire novel of my own for the past several years. The inspiration hit in December 2001, but it's been difficult to write for a number of reasons. Time hasn't allowed me to write any more than 40-50 pages, and I fear falling into cliche. My perfectionism doesn't help much either.

    At any rate, here goes... The main character, a 16-year-old girl, was originally named Isolde, which evolved to Isobella (with a nod to Mr. Lugosi). It changed right quick to Isadora when I learned of the "Twilight" series. The story is in the form of a diary written between 1991-93, with an introduction by a professor who happens upon the diary in the mid-21st Century (that sets up the sequel already). Isadora's loves include a semi-platonic relationship with a teenager who wants to become a priest, another relationship with a teenager who abuses her, and ultimately a "teenager" who turns out to be a vampire. (He's a real vegetarian, except when it comes to certain humans; of course, he gives his moralistic rationalization to Isadora.) Some Muslim vampire hunters come in later, along with the mysterious figure who "turned" Isadora's vampire lover. And, yes, some of my pet "Secret Sun" interests figure prominently as well.

    Too bad Kubrick isn't around any more. He would have been just right for the cinematic adaptation, and I'm sure he would have understood my vision for Isadora's "turning" scene in particular. The "big ideas," which would be the main emphasis of the sequel, are very similar to those of 2001.

    For these reasons, I'm concerned about the story seeming cliched. Furthermore, the market is just saturated with teen vampire stuff now, and (at least by the time I might get around to finishing the story) my idea would likely be dismissed as "outdated."


  2. Thinking about vampires, I found it very interesting that Winona Rider (Mina Harker to Gary Oldman’s Dracula) was chosen to play Spock’s mother in Star Trek. Spock’s father was played by Ben Cross, who played vampire Barnabas Collins in the brief 1990s redux of the series Dark Shadows.

    Oh, yeah… and then there’s been recent scuttlebutt about Johnny Depp doing a film adaptation of DS with Tim Burton. The connections get more interesting.

    Side note… found the two-disc collector’s edition of Coppola’s Dracula at Target for $5.00 yesterday. I had been wanting it for a while, so I snapped it up right away.


  3. Nice find Chris. I like the maps.

    I just started posting here.

    here's a snip-it

    "The first known calculation of the (inverse) golden ratio as a decimal of "about 0.6180340" was written in 1597 by Michael Maestlin (MM) in a letter to Johannes Kepler." 1597 is the 17th number in the Fibonnaci sequence.

    There's some more interesting stuff about Maestlin's connections with the Moon and 17. I hope you check it out.

    word veri - mingsocu (gnomic us)

  4. Chris-
    Here's one for you. After reading your post it occurs to me that the new Star Trek film could be considered "restorative". The revival of the Trek myths, new young heroes, and many other sub themes that point to restoration in that movie. So where's 17? Well, that just happens to be the age of the Enterprise's young genius of a navigator, Checkov. It's even mentioned in an exchange that happens as the crew is desperately trying to brainstorm a solution that will help them rescue their abducted captain and stop the arch villain from destroying Earth: As a difficult task is uttered, the enthusiastic young ensign exclaims

    " I can do zat! "
    Leonard 'Bones' McCoy: How old are you?
    Pavel Chekov: I'm 17.
    Leonard 'Bones' McCoy: Oh good, he's 17.

    I have a feeling the movie is just chock-full of other interesting tidbits. It bears watching more than once, for lots of reasons.

  5. Nice Chris,
    Actually makes me want to see the movie now (and or read the books). I have been writing them off as another teenie-bopper cash trap (but I guess that's what the HP series did too)...
    On a side Vampiric note, has anyone seen this site for a new Vampire Trilogy of books called "The Strain" by our friend Guillermo del Toro and Chuck Hogan? This looks really cool, and they seem to give the mythos a cool new twist....
    The site is pretty cool too.

    Check it out here:

    And to add a note to the Star Trek thread, don't forget good old "Admiral PIKE"as well...

    Ahhhh, To boldly go where no Freemason has gone before....

  6. Wired Magazine interviews film creator Guillermo del Toro. The director of Pan's Labyrinth and Hellboy is now working on a novel in volumes about vampires named The Stain. I copy:

    "Wired: You're pretty busy these days. What made you want to write vampire-themed horror novels?

    Guillermo del Toro: I originally wrote a very long outline for a TV series I wanted to do called The Strain. And then the network president at Fox said to me, "We do want something with vampires—but could you make it a comedy?" Obviously, I responded, "No thank you" and "Can I have my outline back?"..."

    The novel´s first volume is due out on June 2.

  7. ah yeah! I watched Twilight and my attennas raised when the Phoenix stuff popped up, having read a number of conspirablogs, to be hit in the face with the Egypt/vampire/werewolve stuff. Awesome post, as jewsual!

  8. Now Sunlight Doesn't even kill our "monsters." The Dark parasite embraces Ra in this new cosmic age. It just makes them SPARKLE.

  9. Jason- Heh, I thought you'd like the title. I love your synop, but get it off! There are too many mutts out there stealing ideas!

    As to the ST connections, very interesting as well. I'd recommend anyone who asn't seen it to track down Paperhouse, which has Ben Cross.

    James- Your site looks great! I'll add it to the roll. Thanks as always for the tasty 17-synchery.

    Thracie- Yes, I did notice Chekov's age! Check out my previous ST posts for the 17 synchs (1701, f'rinstance). And as I said in the Dawson's Trek post, you absolutely had that Osiris/Horus thing in the plot.

    Transcend/Citius- I'll tell you, it's interesting seeing all of these vampire franchises, but it's not the most wholesome archetype, is it? Dracula is very much an allegory on several levels, but part of it points to the parasitical aristocracy of the Fin de Sicle period.

    Justuss- Yeah, get used to it. All of this symbolism is going to become more and more prominent. It reminds me of what I was writing about in Spandex- social pressure dredging up all of these evolutionary memes as an adaptive function.

    Soundless- Yeah, the symbolism there is unmistakeable, isn't it?

  10. The otherness is our exotic dna? The subjectivity and our ego is an artificial construct to enable the matrix. Is our species a symbiot invention for alien species to live in our skin and souls? Why all the brains of which we use so little of? So much Dna that is unused. Ok, enough of the puppet master cliches. Bowies Scary Monster albulm is/was an eccellent window to view his otherness. Robert Fripp has an out of this world lead guitar on many of it's tracks. Mr Hansen at the religion of No-thing is comming up with many facets of our otherness and how it is created with an insane philosophy and religion. Just some bits in the ethernet. Dennis from Oregon.

  11. The Mormon connection to the TWILIGHT stories is central to the heavy handed morality play - and our sacred heroines virginity.

    Jacques Vallee wrote eloquently about the birth of the Mormon religion. Joseph Smith's angelic visitation reads like something out of the UFO abduction literature. The parallels are unmistakable.

    And - the reference to CULTS in the article above is important. The Mormons fit the definition of cult in a way that is sort of creepy. As I watched the TWILIGHT movie, I couldn't help but see the (mostly blond) tightly knit family of vampires as a reflection of the LDS families in rural idaho (my home).

  12. Good points all, Mike. Gods of Eden touches on the Joseph Smith parallels, probably taking off from Jacques.

    And those Aryan Vamps- that was interesting as well, wasn't it? (I wondered where they got that Jason Mewes clone for the James role)

  13. Chris - I'm not sure how to remove comments (especially as an "anonymous" commenter), but I suppose these ideas are all part of the zeitgeist, anyway. All the same, thanks for your concern about the story idea being scavenged.

    For anyone interested in reading what I've done so far (and uploaded), visit here. I know that there have been some problems with WEBook potentially taking ownership of authors' ideas, but it seems like the best public medium to broadcast this story. At least, what I have done with it.


  14. Chris
    Given that our true form is eternal (spirits incarnate) then it makes sense that we would be wistful toward our original nature.
    It's as though we (the inner vampire - spirit) feed on our own flesh (the human body) which sustains us for the period of our being here. However, the hunger is ongoing and the Spirit quite clearly outlives the host.
    I've considered for some time that an obsession with youth and beauty is not a product of a shallow society but rather harps back to something much deeper. It is but an expression of our true nature.

    Thanks for the detailed post.

  15. Glad to see the mention of DARK SHADOWS... the cities of Phoenix AZ and Alexandria Egypt are important to the Demon Mother who keeps reincarnating and remarrying into the Collins bloodline. The actress wore extremely thick makeup, perhaps covering that part-reptiloid complexion... Freaking me out as always with the personal references, Chris. As I've mentioned I was bussed down Rt17 aka Roosevelt Blvd. daily for 6 years past the Naval Air Station mentioned in FRINGE down into Clay County FL to Project Paperclip Prep! And hey fans my birthday's coming on 7/17/51... had not realized that 17 is the 7th prime number... 51, then, is the second prime multiplied by the seventh prime number... hmmmmmmmmm

  16. Speaking of David Bowie, I recently made a post on ATS about the connection between Ziggy Stardust and Zarathustra. Considering the iconic use of "Also sprach Zarathustra" in 2001, I'm sure that there is much, much more to say on this very interesting subject.

  17. Fascinating as always Christopher! I really enjoy how you can take any subject and make it interesting -best to you as always!!

  18. thanks for putting me on the blog roll, that's awesome

  19. Dennis- I think our otherness is encoded in our DNA- it's dormant but people have been able to access it. I just had an interesting conversation with a former Bowie associate last night- the man is definitely not quite human to be sure.

    Jason- Isadora Kecksburg- I love it! High culture meets UFO....

    David - I don't know if our beauty obsession is quite that exalted, but we definitely sense something is missing in our life experiences, to be sure.

    Ned- We've established beyond a shadow of a doubt that you are a strange attractor!

    Eleleth- Ziggy Stardust comes from Ziggy's, which was a menswear salon in London at the time and the Legendary Stardust Cowboy. But I always suspected Iggy Pop is in there as well. Interesting syncs on the ATS post, for sure!

    Devin- Right on, my brother. I do my best =)

    James- My pleasure- cool stuff you're digging into there.

  20. Gr8 work as always! Thank U

    Would love to see your visit over at

  21. I think your underlining the changes in the vampire myth is important - she has pretty much shed the last vestiges of the original vampire mythology. Bang goes all the major downsides and it has the distinct smell of wish-fulfilment (or even Mary Sues?). They might as well be superheroes, aliens, mutants, the next human species or... whatever was going on in the second series of Dark Angel. You can see why it is so attractive to people, so I suppose it was no surprise to see that it has already spawned its own religion (like Heinlein's Stranger in a Strange Land).

    Of course, Mormons came up before in relation to BSG - although they were a little early to be a UFO religion, some of their teachings have AAT aspects to them. I did wonder if BSG might make an interesting basis for a religion (with ready made congregations in sci-fi and Mormonism) - seems I was looking in the wrong direction. Unless the "vampires" turn out to be Cylons, I suppose. Hook the readers in with a few volumes of angsty teen, bloodsuckers then hit them with the fact they are really from Kolob. "Women are from Venus, sexy vampires are from Kolob"? ;)

    CK: "Good points all, Mike. Gods of Eden touches on the Joseph Smith parallels, probably taking off from Jacques."

    The interesting thing is that Gods of Eden contains an awful lot of Scientology teachings, as pointed out by Jim Keith (as we've discussed before, Scientology has AAT aspects to it). It appears Bramley was a Scientologist declared SP for "squirreling" their secrets and the book is also banned.

  22. Luckily, "Isadora" is sufficiently close to my original names for the main character. An accidentally wonderful third resort, given the profession of her most famous namesake and its connection to the Salome legend... which ties in with the character's surname, her birthdate, and Eleleth's comment above.

    Speaking of which, anyone catch the surname of the guy who led the papal conclave in Angels and Demons? Better yet, who played him?


  23. I'm guessing you got that tidbit about the "Ziggy" tailor shop from the Wikipedia page. What might be significant is the (contradictory?) very next sentence: "He later told Rolling Stone it was 'one of the few Christian names I could find beginning with the letter Z.'" Bowie's obsession with Nietzsche, the occult, and 2001 around this time is well known, so I suspect that at least some of this must have been intentional—even if only on the level of the subconscious. Was Kubrick telling us what—or who—the Monolith really signified when he used this piece of music? And what of Zorro, the masked avenger and forerunner of all those myriad Gods-in-Spandex?

  24. WOW. I watched this movie...unfortunately. Full of subliminals..gee no big suprise.

    Guess we could say that this is like the "Illuminati/Elite". We only drink the blood of animals, not humans...riiiight! Yes we drink blood Sheep, Cattle, etc, hmmm. It could have been a "Nemesis Film". lol

    Again, another Luciferian tactic to make people thinks it's ok to be in the "light", our so called 3D illusionary world. And to say vampires can be good guys or super heros? So now we see another metaphor for the Elite, as they always have been, in plain site (in daylight) and that's suppose to be ok? No...I think not. They should all crawl right back in to the stinking hole in which they ooozzzed from.

    Peronally, I like the "Underworld" or "Blade" trilogy better. At least in those movies you know where you stand...they all Badass Remorseless Killers (even the good guys) sort-to-speak. They even kill their own bloodlines...nice! Sound familar. hehe


  25. Eleleth- Bowie's interviews are not fonts of revelation- I think he got the Ziggy from the comic strip, to tell you the truth, which reminded him of his friend Iggy and that obsessive Z.

    I've been reading a lot on Bowie- if anyone has had their alien DNA switched on, it's him. He basically lived for years with little or no sleep and a diet of milk and orange juice- no solid food. He was almost skeletal yet strong enough to deck a pickpocket with a single punch in Berlin. Very odd.

    Darkstar- I think Underworld and Twilight seem to be very closely related, just written for different genders. Interesting that traditional vampires were royalty, coming from Bathory.

  26. Did you notice when the Dad Cullen (I forgot his name for the moment) saved Edward? It was in 1918 and he was dying of the Spanish Flu. The Flu has been in the news a lot lately (and probably more in the near future, too).

  27. FYI. The new Daybreaker trailer is out, starring Ethan Hawke and Willem Defoe. Trailer's can be deceiving of course, but it appears to be coming at the Vampire issue from exactly the right angle.... Vampire as metaphor for the ultra powerful "elite" who look at the less capable peoples as objects / assets / property.

    The vampires in the film would agree with your statement that they represent "The restoration," but the message of the film appears to be that this is a trap, and the vampires (or one could see it metaphorically as "those with that over-the-top survival of the fittest mentality") will ultimately lose themselves and become monsters unless they return to their humanity. So that the real restoration involves humbly becoming human again.

  28. it's straight to the point! In other words, and do not say!

  29. You should read the books. The story is a retelling of the myth of Eros and Psyche. The metaphors to describe Edward refer to a lot of godlike and mythology characters and the Cullens are the Olympic Coven. The books are a rich source of mythology or symbolism sadly since is aimed at women it got dismissed by pretty much everyone for all sorts of reasons. Like most female aimed and fueled fantasy is.