I grew up watching a paranormal tv show titled Sabrina the Teenage Witch. It was always on in my house because my dad puppeteered a popular sassy talking cat featured on that show. Growing up with the idea that witches were good, normal looking and acting people shaped my idea of paranormal creatures. Halloween was happy, cutesy fun in my house. Dressing up as a witch was a fantasy because I could daydream about possessing infinite magical powers.
At the same time, I read the Harry Potter series. When Halloween time came, naturally I wanted to dress up as my all-time favorite genius heroine, Hermione Granger. My mom went through her closet to pick out the most Gryffindor looking tie and sweater, while my dad carefully shaped a wooden wand in the garage. We even picked out my parents copy of War and Peace which we relabeled Hogwarts: A History.
When my dad handed me my wand, my parents sat me down on my bed and explained to me that I had to be very careful at school with my wand so that I didn’t offend anyone. They explained to me that there was a controversy surrounding those books, and that was when I learned that historically witches were not portrayed how they were on my favorite tv show or in my favorite books. Witches were evil because they made deals with the devil to obtain their powers.
I thought about other popular paranormal characters. Dracula and his desire to suck my blood came to mind. Did I want a vampire sucking my blood? No, no I did not. And that’s why kids dressed up as werewolves, ghosts, mummies, etc. for Halloween. Because it was supposed to be scary.
Shapeshifters = bad
Demons = bad
Witches = bad
Every single supernatural thing that makes a story paranormal was frowned upon. It didn’t stop me from loving my favorite tv show and my favorite books, though. In fact, I loved them even more because it was a new way to show these magical creatures. It made more people love magic, fantasy, and all the things I loved.
After Harry Potter’s emergence in the world, the fantasy genre exploded. It created a whole new section in libraries and book stores called Young Adult (and later Middle Grade). It led to books like Fablehaven, Percy Jackson and the Olympians, Septimus Heap, the Bartimaeus Trilogy. But it led to the creation of an entirely new genre with the publication of Twilight.
Twilight focused on magic a bit differently. It’s a slightly more mature storyline, but it also focuses on more heavily paranormal creatures than kids with magic or happy magical creatures. It focused on vampires who refuse to drink human blood. And while there are many (including me) who begrudge its writing, I have to credit it for the sudden emergence of an entirely new genre of fantasy–one that focused on darker aspects of magic.
While I prefer the lighter side of fantasy, I do have to appreciate how many more people opened their minds to read books because of these appealing new genres. My sister was one of those people who never enjoyed reading until she discovered Harry Potter and Twilight in high school. And now she reads more books than I do.
The sudden popularity of romantic, heroic vampires and werewolves led to an overwhelming trend of books about the paranormal. How many more tv and book series have emerged based on the lives of vampires alone? Vampire Diaries, Vampire Academy, Court Of Vampires, House Of Night, True Blood. How do I know all these titles when I’ve never read or watched a single one? Because this trend was monumental, and while it has certainly slowed down, it has not died.
And those are just about Vampires. There are so many more paranormal creatures being explored. I mean, the tv show Supernatural is in its 14th season! Would that have happened without Twilight? Maybe. But it took the popularity of Twilight to push publishers and tv producers to take a risk on these previously unacceptable ideas. And the risks seemed to have paid off. Even Netflix is jumping on this trend by producing a new, darker version of Sabrina.
There is so much more potential for the scary unknown. Where do you think this genre will head next?