November 11, 2009
‘They’re kosher vampires’ says ‘Twilight’ screenwriter Melissa Rosenberg
Melissa Rosenberg, the screenwriter of “The Twilight Saga,” is 6 feet tall with straight blonde hair, a pale complexion and a long, slim nose. Not exactly the most ethnic mien imaginable.
“I don’t look particularly Jewish,” she says sheepishly, half wondering why she’s on a lunch date with The Jewish Journal. “But I have a very Jewish name.”
Her name — Rosenberg — has been strangely, if not surprisingly, advantageous to her career. Back in the 1990s, when she was first looking for an agent, one interested agency made an incorrect assumption about her that proved fortunate. “They said, ‘We just made a deal for your mother’ and I was thinking, ‘You guys are good. [My mother] has been dead 10 years.’ Then I realized they thought I was Joan Rivers’ daughter, who at the time was Melissa Rosenberg.”
In the 18 years since, Rosenberg has made a name for herself as a television and film writer. But her career really took off in 2007 when she was anointed movie scribe of the “Twilight” franchise, based on the best-selling series of young adult novels by Stephenie Meyer. The story, about a high school girl who falls in love with a vampire, became a tween/teen phenomenon. Rosenberg penned the first script, “Twilight,” which grossed $380 million worldwide, and has since gone on to write the sequels “New Moon,” which hits theaters Nov. 20, and “Eclipse,” which wrapped production in Vancouver in late October and is set for release in June. Rosenberg is also the writer/executive producer of the Showtime series “Dexter,” about a sociopathic serial killer who justifies his life of crime by knocking off the bad guys.
Bloodlust, vampirism and ambiguous morality could be seen as decidedly un-Jewish. After all, vampire mythology, as Rabbi David Wolpe notes (see accompanying article), is philosophically at odds with Jewish values. And if you ask Rosenberg, “The Twilight Saga” in particular is a departure from religion-based vampire lore and instead is an exercise in secular storytelling.
“Vampires aren’t very Jewish,” Rosenberg says. “The most basic thing about them is that they are born out of Christian mythology.” Nevertheless, she is quick to point out that Meyer, a devout Mormon, has created her own vampire mythology, devoid of religious connotation, absent the Christian symbolism of crosses and holy water.
And yet, the protagonist vampires of “Twilight” are different in another way from other vampires.
“They’re kosher vampires,” Rosenberg says, laughing.
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