Choices, Choices

So, Ethan Hawke’s new vampire-action movie, Daybreakers, looks a little mordant and silly, and I’m not sure it has any of the stylishness that made the Blade movies so much fun:

That said, I’m quite fond of movies, TV shows, etc., that grapple meaningfully with vampirism as a choice. Not all supernatural manifestations lend themselves particularly well to discussions of the nature of evil.  If you’re a werewolf, in most narratives, you don’t have a lot of choice about whether your brain shuts off and you get all hairy and bloodthirsty once a month.  If you’re a zombie, you don’t really have a brain at all to make choices with.  Vampirism used to be the same way: if you needed human blood to survive, you were going to kill people to get it.  But it’s one of the few supernatural manifestations of evil that’s changed with technological advancements.  The existence of blood donation technology means that needing human blood doesn’t require murder–the killing part of vampire identity becomes a choice.  And synthetic blood can–as it does on True Blood–take humans out of the equation entirely.  It’s true that medical advancement has more generally introduced the idea of cures to magical transformation stories.  But vampirism is the supernatural evil that’s been most directly affected by medical developments, I think.

One of the reasons I found Twilight so vexing is that it entirely walks away from these kinds of opportunities.  Carlisle Cullen (the “father” of the Cullen clan of vampires, for those of you lucky enough never have to read the damn things) is a doctor for goodness sake–they’re perfectly set up to include those medical developments in the novels, though except for a Breaking Dawn episode in which Bella drinks donated human blood, the books avoid both the medical developments that affect vampirism, and really the questions of evil and control and choice more generally.  Daybreakers may look kind of trashy and violent, and have some really doofy looking special effects.  But at least it has more moral questions going for it than Twilight does.