Merlin, on TV, once again made me aware of something insidious in the arts. This insidious something I call rewriting culture.
Now obviously the Arthurian Cycle, "the Matter of Britain", evolved over centuries, and came to be part of the common literary inheritance of the western European Cultural Group. But to evolve isn't the same thing as to be reinvented. And when reinvention eliminates a key feature or two of the myth cycle, its meaning for our culture is stolen from us, and the cultural property devolves into mere story telling.
The two most important elements of the Arthurian cycle are the flaws in the nature of it's major players--which lead to the failure of Arthur's Kingdom--and the religious element--the search for the Holy Grail, the cup with which Christ celebrated the Last supper.
With the fatal flaws of it's protagonists, the Grail, it's repeated episodes of prayer and repentance, the matter of Britain as we have received it are a profoundly Christian cautionary tale, and the modern rewritings and revisions eliminate the christian elements.
This trend is evident in other parts of our Pop Culture. In one area especially: Vampire Stories.
In both Twilight and Buffy the Vampire Slayer something is missing , the lack of which redefines the vampire from an object of horror to something almost or blatantly attractive. that something is the anthropological dimension. (Here I'm using "anthropology in it's theological sense--the study and nature of man vis a vis spiritual and religious truth.)
Man is unique in creation because of his nature as a being created in the image and likeness of God. God is a spirit, he is pure spirit. And, he breathed spirit into us when we were created. yet, being "formed of clay" we are of matter as well. animals and plants are alive too, but they do not have the same spiritual likeness of god at the core of their being. Our nature unites--or perhaps bridges is a better term--the spheres of matter and spirit. Uniquely in all the creation, we are of both.
Vampires have something missing: that breath of spirit. they are traditionally abhorrent because they mimic humanity but are in their nature they are utterly inhuman. Despite the erotic overtones of the modern vampire (overtones that originated in troubled mind of Bram Stoker, and which were first popularized by his book Dracula, influence as it is by the occult teachings of both the Golden Dawn and Thelema) the core of the vampire narrative is the horror of a human form rendered inhuman by being both animate, yet devoid of the Breath of Spirit infused into our being by god.
The same applies to the growing body of Lycanthropy stories and films, which gloss over, once again, the core of our cultural expression of the myth; a human being, separated from his spiritual nature becomes bestial--no better than the animals.
the presentation of these things has gone from objects of fear and pure horror, to objects with a destructive and hypnotic attraction, to states that people can see as desirable and longed for. (See the movie Wolf, with Jack Nicholson.)
The rewritings of these myths are like an acid rain that dissolves the stone foundations of our common, christian Heritage, east and west. That bedrock is the understanding of man, the anthropology of faith. That understanding is what renders a variant--a singularity if I may borrow a term from physics--frightening.
By eliminating from the Arthurian matter the flaws and consequences of those flaws, and from the Vampire and werewolf stories the horror of the loss of human nature, and the action of grace, however symbolized and expressed (think of vampires being driven away by crucifixes or the Eucharist) in correcting these singularities we make the loss of human nature--complete, and unique, into something desirable.
And by eroding our cultural value that humans are, in fact, unique and special on the Earth, we slowly make room for a devaluing of humans themselves.
It is, in it's own way, an example of the culture of death.