The case for Vampire Academy: I’m making it

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vampire academyAs I haven’t read any of the six Vampire Academy novels, I have no preexisting  investment or disinvestment in the upcoming film. Sorry book fans, I’m here for the cast and crew, and for my precious, delicate, don’t-dash-it hope that what’s in these trailers is what we get on the big screen. (Bated breath, bated breath).

I’ve gathered the two full length trailers, the teaser, and the intro to the movie as hosted by its charming stars, Zoey Deutch and Lucy Fry, so we can talk about just what’s got my breath bated.

But first, the elevator pitch: teenage besties Rose and Lissa attend the exclusive St. Vladmir’s, a school for teenage vampires. They battle mean girls, teenage drama, and deal with the violent internecine conflict between two very different factions of vampires. Rose, our heroine, is a dhampir (half-vampire, duh) and training to be Lissa’s lifelong guardian. Lissa, naturally, is a vampire princess.

It’s a deceptively simple premise, and a neat fusion of two typical adolescent girl fantasies. Forget the internal mythology, which admittedly, seems to have been pretty slickly handled and without navel-gazing, and instead focus on how the film has been constructed, and is being sold to us in these trailers. This is, like Frozen, a story about sisters who have little in common, but a lot of love for each other. And unfortunately, like Frozen, this is a film of overwhelming whiteness–a whiteness that’s particularly bizarre in the context of an international school. Will the movie be as white as these trailers are? It’s a teen film, so there’s more emphasis on bullies, cliques, budding sexuality, and authority issues, but it’s being sold as Mean Girls without the mean.

In Lissa we get a lissome, dutiful princess who’s got the weight of the world on her shoulders. It’s a tough job, ruling vampire society, but surely Lissa is up to it! And in Rose, we get the smart-mouthed, small-statured junior ass-kicker, who, above all else, is devoted to her best friend Lissa.

Sounds good so far, but on to the trailers.

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ch_p6Yg-vcs&w=560&h=315]

The teaser intercuts ominous exposition from–is that Gabriel Byrne–some obligatory father figure, with convincingly done action sequences, and school scenes straight out of the central teen movie factory. The high point here is Zoey Deutch, whose Rose has the snappy confidence of Veronica Mars, and the magical physicality of Selene.

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LH5UmVStHXE&w=560&h=315]

This trailer opens strong with You (Ha Ha Ha) by Charli XCX, and leans heavily on the teen movie angle. Rose, Lissa and their friend (a third girl bestie!?) stalk into the school dance, geek girls made good. It makes a sudden pivot into more serious territory, with Lissa making a speech: “Blood is family, blood is pain, and blood is death.” Lissa may fail to mention that blood is apparently also sex–it’s a formal occasion, I feel you, Lissa–and the trailer more than makes up for it. Along with two heterosexual romances, there’s the lesbian sub and surtext that any self-respecting girl’s vampire story should be replete with.

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=E1ERrnYunBg&w=560&h=315]

With this longer trailer we learn more about Rose–she’s a sassy jerk but a good friend–and Lissa–she’s a bit sensitive and doesn’t have her high school game on lock–and the dynamics of St. Vladmir’s. The students are definitely teenagers: young, insecure, short-tempered, and sometimes mean. While the dialogue is fun and quick, it’s not out of step with real teenage speech patterns or maturity levels. I like it. St. Vlad’s seems fun, when it’s not convincingly miserable. (God, high school.)

The best line: “Everyone saw that I tried to take the high road. Sort of.”

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sN0DsZ-Sn3E&w=560&h=315]

This trailer introduces us to the stars. They’re charming enough, but what I like here is how they pitch the movie itself: “It’s a date!” “Or, bring the girls!” Drag your significant other, or go with all your friends–either way they’re promising a good time.

It’s too soon to tell if Vampire Academy is a good film. That it was directed by Mark Waters (Mean Girls), and written by Daniel Waters (Heathers), is heartening. But what’s infinitely more interesting to me at this point, is the marketing. According to Wikipedia, Vampire Academy is a fairly generic paranormal romance. (Snore.) But rather than emphasize its Underworld-meets-Twilight qualities, the marketers are focusing on the relationship between the two teen girl protagonists, and their issues with the greatest boogie man of them all–high school.

I’m very happy with what the marketing says about Hollywood opening to the importance of girls and female friendship in securing audience. But I’m disappointed to see they haven’t learned the lesson that Fast and Furious, Sleepy Hollow and other properties have. Which is, approximately, that black girl vampires need best friends too.

I find it telling too, that the trailers have featured music by women, and fairly confrontational women at that. Charli XCX, MIA, and Gin Wigmore are girl power absent anything soft. Their songs and videos are rich with images of sexuality, violence, humour, and unconventionally empowered women.

And this is what the marketing team has convinced me Vampire Academy is about. (Bated breath, bated breath.)

 

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About Author

Editor-In-Chief. Megan was born in Toronto. She's still there. Philosopher, space vampire, heart of a killer.

5 Comments

  1. It would have been even more impressive had they not whitewashed the main character who is supposed to be BIRACIAL and then inserted a token poc in a minor role in a pathetic attempt to make up for the whitewashing.

    • So it’s Hunger Games all over again? Ugh. I’m just going on what I’ve seen in the trailers, which are pretty darn white, but I’ll have to look into the books a little more.

  2. The books are excellent, I highly recommend them. You learn about her being biracial from the very start—then in book 4 when you meet her ‘dusky skinned’ father, (and they say she gets her coloring from him) they really drive home that she should look ethnic. She describes herself as a semi exotic desert princess. 🙂

    • Wikipedia did not give me a good impression of them, but I’ll definitely check them out. Are you planning to see the film, or avoiding it because of the–wow blatant–whitewashing?

  3. I’m avoiding it like the plague because of the whitewashing. Taking the whitewashing out of the equation, the series has been my favorite for years. If they had handled it properly, it would have been phenomenal, but they’ve made so many unneeded changes ( for example in the books, which have a rather dark tone, Lissa cuts herself. In the movie… they made her do it by telekinesis … what is this, a Carrie rip off? In the books, when Rose is in Lissas head, no one can tell, but in the movie they’ve given her golden glowing Twilight/Cullen eyes, etc) that quite a few people who had the opportunity to see the screener apparently walked out of it. Don’t even get me started on the ageism and body issues… the headmistress is supposed to be an elderly woman who looks like a vulture, and they cast a damn Bond girl. Rose is supposed to be extremely curvy (the Moroi are super slim described as having figures like fashion models while the dhampirs have fuller breasts and hips and are shaped like ‘average’ human females.) and she is supposed to look much older than her actual age which are things referenced over and over through the series. So instead of casting a curvy biracial woman who looked older than eighteen, they cast a skinny white girl who looks maybe sixteen. Part of the reason I love these books is as a biracial curvy female I could identify with Rose, and they completely erased that. Alberta, (the role they made a token poc to make up for the whitewashed lead) is supposed to be in her fifties, and they cast a woman in her early twenties. Even the punch and the ‘high road’ thing was screwed up Mia was threatening to expose Lissa for cutting to everyone and Rose ATTACKS her in the book, riding her body to the floor and repeatedly punching her. She actually has to be drug off by the Guardians because she won’t stop hitting her.

    Wow I didn’t mean to launch into a rant. Sorry about that. All I can say is read the books and you’ll see what I mean, or check out some of the posts tagged ‘anti va movie’ on tumblr. So many people are upset by this and how they’ve made it into what seems like a campy parody. The books did not focus on the high school aspect at all, they focused on the friendship and how Rose was willing to give up her freedom and her life to enter into what is basically servitude to her best friend who is the ‘ruling’ class’, putting aside all her own wants and desires to keep her safe.
    I’ll try to put a link here but I don’t know if it will remove it or not:
    http://www.tumblr.com/tagged/anti-va-movie

    I appreciate every one has their own opinion on the movie and if you do see it, I hope you enjoy it for what it is, a very loosly based adaptation. Just be sure to read the books so you can picture how amazing it could have been had Waters not gotten his hands on it and had it been cast properly according to the characters in the books and not Hollywoods mainsteamed tunnel vision version of them.