Do Vampires Have Moral Obligations?

Do Vampires Have Moral Obligations? Featured by popular lifestyle blogger, Design Mom

Do Vampires Have Moral Obligations? Featured by popular lifestyle blogger, Design Mom

This is a lightweight topic vampires’ moral obligations, but I’d love your thoughts. Do you enjoy something that is widely considered embarrassing, but you love it anyway without shame? I was thinking about that as Ben Blair and I binge-watched the Twilight Movies a couple of weeks ago. They’re on Amazon Prime at the moment, and we watched the first one, and then decided to keep going and watch all five. 

It’s not the first time we’ve watched them. I bought and read the books when they first came out, and we watched all five of the movies in the theater. We’ve rented the movies a few times since, and always love when they show up on Netflix or Amazon.

I’m aware the books and movies were panned by the critics, and understand some people are troubled by the power dynamic between the vampire boyfriend and human girlfriend. (I suppose it doesn’t stress me out, because it’s a universe with vampires, so I feel like we’re working with a different set of rules.) But I admit, I’m a total fan of the series! I think Stephenie Meyer is an excellent story-teller, and I feel like the movies were cast remarkably well. (You can totally disagree with any of this. I don’t mind. Really. I’m old enough to know what I like and not worry about if it pleases other people.)

When we watched the movies the other night, I had a thought about super heroes, and I’d love your take on it. In case you haven’t read the books, or seen the movies, here’s a little explanation first: The Twilight Saga features a family of vampires who have intentionally chosen to not drink human blood. Instead, they drink the blood of bears or mountain lions or other large mammals. It’s sort of like a vegetarian version of vampires. Human blood is tempting to them, but they’ve learned to overcome the temptation, because they want to live among humans as active members of the community.

The vampires have superhuman strength and speed. They can only be destroyed by fire (they can’t be shot or stabbed). They live forever without aging. Some, but not all vampires, have additional skills — one can read minds, and one has visions of possible futures.

The father of the vampire family, Dr. Carlisle Cullen, has lived with the no-human-blood diet the longest, and has completely mastered his cravings. In fact, he works in a hospital and is around human blood all the time, but he is never at risk of hurting his patients.

Moral Obligations for Good?

As I considered this, it made me wonder: what is the difference between Carlisle and a superhero? Instead of limiting his service to the small town hospital of Forks, Washington, does he have moral obligations to use his strength, speed, and ability-to-never-get-injured, to help the world in a bigger way? To fight crime? To bring justice? Is it morally wrong of him to keep his skills hidden?

And do you have any movies, music, books, or even food, that you love, but that you know others might be embarrassed of? Am I the only Twilight fan?

45 thoughts on “Do Vampires Have Moral Obligations?”

  1. I’ve been accused of being a “book snob” before and my reply is always the same. You can’t be a book snob if you loved “Twilight,” and I did! I recently re-read the first book in the series and it was as absorbing as ever. Carlisle is a hero like all good moms are heroes. We could all be trying to save the world in a big, flashy way but instead we choose to do it one life, one child at a time.

  2. I’m a huge Outlander fan (both the books and the TV show). It’s one of the few pop culture type things that I’m unabashedly a fan of. I’ve never read the Twilight series but maybe I will some day! I keep thinking maybe one of my kids will read them at some point and that will give me a reason to read them too.

    1. I love Outlander! I’ve only read the first book so far, but I’m looking forward to reading the others and I’ve watched the TV show.

    2. I couldn’t get past the first book. So much sexual violence. I found it really distressing. I’m kind of sad about that, b/c I have so many friends who devoured all of the books and I feel like I’m missing out.

    3. I generally don’t enjoy anything supernatural/superhero but I LOVED Outlander! Time travel is my one exception to supernatural/fantasy/sci-fi genre.

      I’ve never read Twilight. Too many people warned me not to and said I would not love it. Maybe my kids will inspire me to do so when they are old enough! The only vampire book I liked was Dracula.

  3. I adore Twilight, and have to fend off my husband’s snooty criticisms every time I watch! I never get tired of the story, it’s so creative. I love that you love it too! Sometimes it’s nice to delve into a fluffy topic. As to whether vegetarian vampires have a moral obligation to use their strength and immortality for the protection of human kind… no comment :-) I can’t pull it far enough out of the fluffy zone to consider an ethical debate.

    On casting… I thought some of the actors were hard to watch, but I LOVE the actor who played Charlie Swan… he is the dad to end all dads.

    1. My teens have had an inconsistent interest. Maude is the only one so far who read the books — and she loved them. In fact we own both the kindle and hardcover versions because of her. Ralph was interested in the movies as part of the pop culture of the time. Olive has no interest in the books — not sure if she’s seen the movies.

  4. This is so timely, I have also just watched all 5 of the films! I love them, especially the 5th one.

    I am not sure whether I have an opinion on your discussion point, I need to give it more of a thought. I will say though that I wondered whether they were planning to continue being apart of the community once Bella was a vampire?? They visited Charlie’s house in the movie but beyond that do you think she was mixing with her friends or her mother? Were people wondering why she had a child her constantly grew with her? I found this part really weird.

    Another part I find so bizarre is the no sleep thing. WHY?? I’m sure I would want to live forever, and never rest.

    I took a film paper at uni and the lecture was passionate about vampires and had written many papers and books about the topic, for her Twilight was absolute rubbish, but I had no problem admitting I love them. My heart still skips a little beat when Edward first walks into the cafeteria.

  5. One of my best friends is seriously brilliant and cultured. She and her British hubby and kids all went/go to Harvard and read really dense stuff for fun. She’s always up for any intellectually stimulating activity, except for when she’s watching the Bachelorette, a sacred experience for her.

  6. My husband is surprisingly a Twilight fan, and on a recent trip to Washington we stopped in Forks for a little fandom moment. I felt strange but we were certainly not the only ones…

  7. You should listen to the Teen Creeps Podcast! The hosts recap y/a pulp fiction (I love it when they do Christopher Pike!) and they just did an episode on Twilight.

  8. I also love the Twilight series. I wouldn’t put that high of a moral bar on Carlisle, he’s got enough on his plate dealing with all that human blood😉

  9. I got into Twilight a little late, but man, reading this post sure makes me want to read the books again! I’m not a big reader, but I really enjoyed it too!

  10. I devoured the books when they first came out. I was at the dentist once after reading them. As I sat there with my mouth open and just day dreaming, I tasted a little of my blood. I remember seeing the dentist and thinking, man, this must be really hard for Carlisle to deal with on a daily basis. 😂🙈 theeeeeeen I remembered he is fictional and not a real doctor 😂😂😂 I think it’s a good book when you continue to think about grit world long after you finish reading.

  11. I’m so glad to hear you are a fan of these books/movies. They came along when my family was dealing with the passing of my Mother. They were a great escape at a very sad time in my life. I actually got to speak very briefly to Robert Pattinson at a movie premiere and he was both gracious and humble. Slightly embarrassed to admit my son’s middle name is Edward named after the character also!

  12. I can’t judge getting into low-brow entertainment. My therapist actually prescribed at least 30 minutes a day of the stupidest TV I could watch back when I was in the first year with my twins. She was like, you need at least 30 minutes a day where you do fuck-all, just let your brain be fallow and expect nothing of yourself.

    Re: Twilight — I’m one of those people who was immediately horrified by the weird power dynamic between the girl and the vampire boy – seemed too close to romanticizing an emotionally abusive relationship to me, which is fine for an adult woman to read in a discerning way, but seems dangerous for young girls to glorify frailty as feminine and power/wisdom as male. And also, it seems to me to reinforce the cultural expectation that women must be the gatekeepers to their innocence which men CANNOT HELP THEMSELVES but want to take, like it PAINS them they can’t take it. The whole predator/prey dynamic… Here we are pounding our fists with #MeToo and simultaneously swooning at yet another story where the male character is in hungry, persistent pursuit and the female is the thing he wants to, quite literally, consume? and like we are supposed to be so impressed with him that even though he wants to attack her he’s controlling himself?? Not. Sexy.
    We need more YA lit where both the boy and the girl are seeking pleasure, both are in control of themselves, both are respecting their own bodies.
    But ANYWAY, to your point, I think we all have our guilty pleasures when it comes to entertainment. My husband and I have seen alllll of the Fast and the Furious movies and they are a guaranteed source of belly laughs every time. OMG… The first ten minutes of Fast Five (I forget the names) may be the funniest thing I’ve ever seen. Every time a new one comes out we are so excited, and all of our friends are raising their eyebrows, like, huh, wouldn’t have thought you two nerds would be into car racing movies….

    Also, every single episode of the How Did This Get Made podcast about the Fast & Furious movies is solid gold.

    1. I officially straight up love your therapist! May all new moms have someone who gives them such good advice.

      And amen to this “We need more YA lit where both the boy and the girl are seeking pleasure, both are in control of themselves, both are respecting their own bodies.”

  13. I didn’t know there were 5 movies! I’ve only watched the first 3. So happy to go over to Prime tonight.
    I love these movies. I think if you can suspend disbelief for Star Wars, you can also do so for vampires. Both my husband and I really enjoy this series. We sometimes mention that someone could use a little more glitter, and we mean it in the context of Twilight, not Insta highlighter.

  14. I’m sure Fandom has done discussions and meta on this very topic; you’d likely find it enjoyable to take a peek at! Totally get what you are saying though- we live in a world where being an unabashed fan of something can at the same time be really accepted but also not. But we need the fun stuff as well as the challenging literature and Oscar award winners.

    It is an interesting moral question though- if you have (insert whatever) skills that help people, are you morally obligated to use those skills for humanity/society, even if there is something else you may enjoy using your time and efforts to pursue more? I’ve been in a job that I felt was important to pursue to give back to society (teaching). It was one I enjoyed too, but if I had wanted to be a writer or stage manager or archeologist…. would those have been less worthy pursuits? Not sure, but thinking on it…

    1. I’ve never checked out a fandom before, but I’m sure you’re right. I have this suspicion that if I spent time reading fandom forums it would actually lessen how I like the books and movies.

  15. Oh man, Twilight makes me feel like gouging my eyes out (the writing, argh!), but did that stop me from reading all the books? Nope! Still read them all. I read pretty much every John Grisham book out there, even the not-so-good ones. And I’ve read more than my fair share of YA fiction and love it. What surprised me was how much I absolutely loved watching Buffy the Vampire Slayer. I felt stronger after watching this little blonde slay demons! As to moral responsibilities… Buffy certainly had one in that world, so… yes?

  16. I was so happy to see the Twilight saga pop up on Amazon too :) Binge watched them within the 1st week and just started over on Twilight again last night – it’s my favorite. If you didn’t know, the author wrote Twilight over again from Edward’s perspective and though you wouldn’t think it – it’s very different. It was never released but she has the first half on her website as a free pdf download.
    As to the question about Carlisle – I’d venture to say he’s already a bit of a hero for all that he does as a doctor given his current existence as a vampire. I think it’s pretty darn brave, and noble that he doesn’t think of humans as food.

  17. I’ve read and own all the Twilight books…seen all the movies numerous times…got involved in the Edward vs. Jacob debate…and appreciate the casting perfection…but with that being said, my husband and daughters are appalled at my all-encompassing love of the series and vampires in general. Hello Dracula…care to stay for a cup of something? Sure it’s all silly…but sometimes silly is what’s needed and anyway, no judging allowed. Right? :)

  18. I love Supernatural and I am not ashamed! I happened to mention on FB once how much I liked it and was really surprised at the flack I caught about it. I find it a little weird that people make so many assumptions about what kind of person you are based on one thing you happen to like. As if there’s some kind of rule against liking both highbrow and lowbrow books/movies/TV for different, equally valid, reasons.

  19. This is so weird! I was just thinking the other day I wish I could dish about Twilight with someone and not be embarrassed about being a 47 year fan :) I discovered the films and books about 10 years after everyone else – I’d always thought vampires and zombies were ridiculous but Netflix streamed them and I fell hard for Edward, Bella, the whole lot. I hardly ever re-read a book and I’ve read all 5 multiple times and watched the films at least a dozen times each. I think I probably like them so much because she really caught that (religious) teenage angst of being a girl in love with someone but trying to rein it in. And because she admits they were based on old favourites like Pride & Prejudice (another book and film/series I’ve watched and read over and over again.)

    And because the books had their clunky moments, I was inspired to try my hand at writing fiction and imagined what an immortal would be like in my neck of the woods. I haven’t written fiction since high school and I’ve had more fun learning about storytelling and writing than anything I’ve done in ages.

    As for their moral obligations – I wonder if an immortal, heightened in every way physically and mentally, wouldn’t be on another plane morally. Seeing things we can’t see, taking a long view of things and probably living out of their strengths in a powerful way. That would be pretty impactful to the people around them, I would imagine…

    1. “As for their moral obligations – I wonder if an immortal, heightened in every way physically and mentally, wouldn’t be on another plane morally. Seeing things we can’t see, taking a long view of things and probably living out of their strengths in a powerful way. That would be pretty impactful to the people around them, I would imagine…”

      This made me think of Lord of the Rings and the elves, they live for a really long time compared to humans, and always appeared to be more thoughtful.

      I was in the anti-Twlight and anti-Hunger Games boat. They both seemed to emphasize negative depictions of women, dominant men and odd cultural dynamics. My husband and I do watch many super hero movies and often have conversations like this. Wanna come for dinner? Try Luke Cage, many questions will come up, especially in this social media age.
      BTW: Totally in camp Harry Potter – go figure!

  20. I don’t necessarily think they have the ‘moral obligation’ to act as superheroes, especially since I think the idea of superheroes isn’t great anyway because it’s just vigilante-ism. Every person can choose how they want to serve the community and the world, even though others may think they ‘should’ be doing other things or ‘could’ be doing more.

    But I do wonder, in this fictional world, why these people with tons of money and long lives wouldn’t be more interested in environmentalism, politics, activism, etc. Wouldn’t they have the moral prerogative and self-serving desire to make the world better? And wouldn’t they want to maintain their ‘vegetarian’ resources? There’s the group in Italy (I forget the name) that kind of influences politics, but even they seem short-sighted.

    1. “But I do wonder, in this fictional world, why these people with tons of money and long lives wouldn’t be more interested in environmentalism, politics, activism, etc.”

      Ohh- go check out Altered Carbon. Focuses on this very topic.

  21. The volturi makes exposure (even for the greater good) life threatening. Not until after the final movie would the Cullen’s be able risk exposure without risking immortality. 😂😂😂

  22. I read through the series for the first time after the last one was released, and my best friend still teases me; I straight-up abandoned my family for a couple days. Kept the kiddo alive while her dad wasn’t home, but otherwise I checked OUT, just read them all straight through. Quite absorbing, as mentioned up-thread. I was full-on Team Jacob and Team Charlie, though, so I spent a lot of time annoyed. Going to watch the movies again now, thanks for the heads up!

  23. Our whole family loves watching ‘friends’ over and over again. The older they get, the more I become aware of all the sexism in the show, mostly with the guys being so eager to not behave unmanly or ‘gay’ or affectionate towards each other (I feel, if ‘Friends’ were shot these days, none of these jokes would make it into an episode because it seems so outdated), but I still love to watch it. I have a lot of friends who don’t watch TV at all and if so, only documentaries or Art House movies, but I got over my trash tv embarassment a long time ago.

    1. My kids have a joke that every time we stay in a hotel (which is the only time they have clickable TV channels) Friends is showing on at least one station. No matter what time of day it is.

      But with all that, I don’t think any of them have every gotten into the show. So funny!

  24. Gabby! It is so funny that you posted this. I was just catching up on all my favorite blogs since I’ve been on vacation with my family this past week which included some time at Olympic National Park and an overnight stay at the Forks Hotel in Forks, WA. I posted a picture on FB of the “Welcome to Forks” sign as we drove into town and I only had a few responses to my post–I think many of my family and friends were embarrassed to own up to being Twilight fans, haha. I loved the books and watched all the movies several times. Love that you’re a fan, too!

  25. Hi Gabrielle — interesting topic, as always. After reading this post I had a sudden urge to re-watch Twilight, although I’ve never been a huge fan. I didn’t read the novels, just watched the movies when they came out, but I always felt that although some parts make me very, very uncomfortable (the sometimes awkward prose, the power dynamics and the sexual abstinence message), it’s a dazzling love story. After watching the movies and reading some stuff on the story on the Internet I realized that the author wrote some 200+ pages on Edward’s perspective as well. I downloaded it on my phone for a road trip a few days ago and read it. (And now I bought the novels, and I’m finally going to have a go at them.) But what I came here to tell is that vampires DO seem to feel a moral obligation: when Bella is attacked and Edward saves her, Carlisle actually goes back with Edward, catches the serial rapist/killer and presents him to the authorities. I have no idea whether this episode is there in the original novels or not, but I immediately thought of you when I read it. :)
    Have you read the manuscript from Edward’s perspective? What do you think of it? I see the story in a different light, the power seems to shift. A lot. Thanks for the post, it’s been a very nice surprise to go back to this story.

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