Growing Up With Vampires: Twilight, The Originals and Other (Vampire) Stories

The Originals (2013). Image Credits: CW Network

I was born in the ’90s so I had the opportunity to witness the mass phenomenon that was Stephenie Meyer’s Twilight novel; I was 14 years old when the book series became incredibly popular in Italy and I still remember when the first book in the series, with its iconic cover featuring two white hands holding a red apple, became a common presence on school desks thanks to word of mouth among my classmates. It was the year 2008 (it had been three years since Twilight was published in the States); at that time Facebook was in its infancy, while Instagram and TikTok were yet to be founded. The concept of “viral” as we know it today did not yet exist (think of what is happening these days with Greta Gerwig’s upcoming Barbie movie, whose teaser trailer has accumulated more than 13 million views on YouTube in just 48 hours), but in 2008 the popularity of the book series was mainly due to the imminent release of the Twilight film adaptation starring Kristen Stewart and Robert Pattinson. I remember spotting the Twilight novels everywhere, passed from hand to hand and read by dozens of my peers, including those who were not particularly fond of reading. Having been an avid reader since I was a child (my parents recall that I learned to read when I was less than four years old), I was urged to buy Twilight and immersed myself in reading the novel that was probably my official introduction to the world of vampires. I say official because I have actually been a fan of horror tales since primary school; I used to love R.L. Stine’s Goosebumps series (to which I would like to devote a separate blog article), published during the 1990s and early 2000s and including more than 60 titles. Although there was no vampire present as a recurring character, the 21st Goosebumps book, titled Vampire Breath, was among my favorites in the series.

The book numbered just over 100 pages and was both chilling and humorous. Although vampires were already present in the history of film and literature, Twilight signified the birth of a genre of its own, which became one of the main subcategories of the fantasy novel.

Twilight book cover. Image Credits: Little, Brown and Company


Reading Twilight was like discovering something completely new and distinguished: the books helped establish the paranormal romance genre, and Twilight was one of the first novels in which the human protagonist falls in love with a supernatural being. The plot revolves around Bella Swan, a teenager who has recently moved to live with her father in the rainy town of Forks( in the Washington state), where she falls madly in love with a schoolmate, the vampire Edward Cullen. The series consists of four novels, and although it is full of supernatural elements and fights between fantastic creatures, the story focuses mainly on the love story between the two main characters, which is also full of twists and turns. Twilight created a real cult following in those years, especially with the release of all four films based on the books; the Bella/Edward/Jacob love triangle helped create Team Edward and Team Jacob “groups” (I remember changing my opinion on this matter several times back in the day) and fifteen years later the series remains a staple of late 2000s/early 2010s pop culture. The love story between Bella and Edward was a perfect representation of thwarted love and the meeting of different worlds; moreover, Bella’s character is portrayed as shy and clumsy, so it was easy for most teenagers of the time (including yours truly) to identify with her. Twilight has recently been rediscovered by today’s teenagers, who review the book series, make parodies of scenes from the movies and mimic Bella’s style on TikTok; personally, however, I would be very interested in visiting some of the places where the series was filmed, especially Cannon Beach in Oregon and Montepulciano in Central Italy (Volterra in the books).


How To Get Away With Murder – ABC Series

Image Credits: ABC

“Good morning. I don’t know what terrible things you’ve done in your life up to this point, but clearly your karma’s out of balance to get assigned to my class. […] This is Criminal Law 100. Or, as I prefer to call it, How To Get Away With Murder.”

I just finished watching How To Get Away with Murder, a TV series created by Peter Norfolk and produced by Shonda Rhimes (known for Scandal, Bridgerton and Grey’s Anatomy) which aired from 2014 to 2020, and I can’t stop thinking about it. I believe the series is and will always be among my all-time favorite TV shows and I also know my review will have to focus on the main plot and a brief character introduction because I really want to avoid spoilers (it has been two years since the show ended but many people still haven’t seen it and would like to).

This riveting legal drama focuses on the character of talented lawyer Annalise Keating, who teaches criminal law at Philadelphia’s Middleton University. She always chooses a few students as collaborators for her class, so that they will have the chance to go deeper into the subject than the other regular students. It is anticipated that the best student gets awarded a trophy that will enable them to pass a bonus exam.

At the beginning of the first season, Annalise chooses the five students who will assist her and compete for the trophy, with the help of her two partners, Bonnie and Frank; Wes is a very smart student with a complicated past, Connor is very determined and ready to do anything to achieve his goals. Michaela is a Black student who’s very ambitious, loves to study and wants to be the best (in a way she is like a rebellious version of Hermione Granger). Asher is the son of a notorious judge and he’s in fact a wealthy guy who is somewhat insecure and scared not to be enough, especially when it comes to relationships. Laurel is a brilliant Mexican student who initially gets involved in a romantic relationship with Frank’s character. She comes from a very rich Mexican family that will also have a key role in the plot as the series progresses.

Frank is sort of an assistant to Annalise. He is not a lawyer but he is in charge of handling difficult situations that for the most part need to be kept secret. Bonnie is Annalise’s faithful collaborator and also the person she can trust the most. She comes from a difficult background, as she’s had a very tough childhood; it is clear from so many episodes that Annalise is her “savior”.

These main characters interact with plenty of people throughout the show’s six seasons, so there are a lot of different secondary characters that contribute to the complexity of the plot.


Scandal – ABC Series

Image Credits: ABC Television Network/Shondaland

“You are a gladiator. Gladiators don’t run, they fight, they slay dragons, they wipe off the blood, they stitch up their wounds, and they live to fight another day.”

Scandal is a political/drama TV series created by Shonda Rhimes in 2012 and first aired on ABC. I started watching it the following year completely by chance, and it captured me since the very first episode.

The show is centered around Olivia Pope (played by Kerry Washington), a political “fixer” who knows the ins-and-outs of political life in Washington DC. Olivia is an intelligent, very ambitious woman, a communication strategist who runs a law studio in the city and together with her team she handles “scandals” which involve politics and public figures. She is brilliant at what she does and she started out working on the elections campaign of Fitzgerald Thomas Grant III (played by Tony Goldwin), the current President of the United States, with whom she has a passionate, forbidden love affair (the President is married to First Lady Mellie Grant, played by Bellamy Young). A love affair that, with its ups and downs (and some Shakespearean twists!) goes on for the entirety of the show, which lasted seven seasons.


The Queen’s Gambit – Netflix Series

The Queen's Gambit.
Watching Netflix’s The Queen’s Gambit on my laptop

“Chess isn’t always competitive. Chess can also be beautiful.”

The Queen’s Gambit is a Netflix mini-series created by Scott Frank and Allan Scott and based on the 1983 eponymous novel by Walter Tevis, focusing on the life of a young chess prodigy, from her childhood in an orphanage to her first twenty years.

Beth Armon, the main character, is played by actress Anya Taylor-Joy; Beth finds out about chess thanks to Mr. Shaibel, a janitor in the orphanage where she lives, and they both soon realize her immense talent.

Her life is set in 1960s America (spanning the entire decade) and we get to see all the different sides of her personality. Beth as a child is lonely, introverted and very different from her peers. It is easy to play chess for her, but it is harder to understand how to find her own place in the world.

She seems somehow confused in her relationships with other men, has a loving relationship with her new stepmother (although a bit complicated at first), at some point she develops alcohol and tranquilizer addiction so her path is made of trial and error, rise and decline, while searching for balance and victory.

The story could not exist outside the context where it is set; the events take place against the backdrop of the Cold War and the USA – USSR conflict, enriching the tale with a few political connotations. Beth’s story and that of her dangerous opponent, chess champion Vasily Borgov, brings to mind the 1972 chess game between American player Bobby Fischer and world champion Boris Spasskij.

Image Credits: Netflix

The series title recalls a chess move designed to secure control of the center of the board( “the queen’s gambit”). It is one of the most common chess openings and involves white sacrificing a queen-side pawn.