Juvenile philosopher, rapper, and gender-bender Jaden Smith recently made a bold announcement: He is no longer a vampire.
During the “Gothic” period of his life, Smith explained, matter-of-factly, to the French magazine Numéro, he “was a vampire, for real.” Now that he is “out of this phase,” one cannot help but wonder how he entered it in the first place. Excluding, for now, the very real possibility that he is in fact supernatural, we turn to the work of psychologist Shira Gabriel, Ph.D., of SUNY University at Buffalo, who has published a paper entitled “Becoming a Vampire Without Being Bitten” in the journal Psychological Science.
Her work, published in 2011, puts forth a theory explaining how impressionable young folk like Smith might be led to believe they are vampires. Her “narrative collective-assimilation hypothesis” suggests that the basic human need for connection and belonging can be fulfilled when readers feel like they are assimilated into the narrative of a book. She concluded that participants that read Harry Potter excerpts “psychologically became wizards” and those that read parts of Twilight “psychologically became vampires.”
She studied this by having her 140 undergraduate participants sort flashing words on a screen into two categories: “me” words, or terms they associated with themselves, and “not-me” words, which they didn’t feel an affiliation with. Her hypothesis predicted that Twilight readers were more likely to sort vampiric words into the “me” category, and ditto for those who read Harry Potter. Gabriel proclaimed her findings a positive discovery, because narrative collective-assimilation is associated with increasing life satisfaction and positive moods. The effects, she added, were stronger on people who were more group-oriented in life
A year after Gabriel published her paper, young Jaden posted this proclamation, which provided inimitable support for her work.
While we haven’t been able to peg a year to Smith’s Gothic period, during which he “wore black and hid from the sun,” it would not be surprising if it aligned with the summer of 2012. Perhaps then he was especially keen to satisfy his need to belong; after all, he was a young and unusual 14-year-old, so it only makes sense he’d be consuming Twilight at such an alarming rate and volume if it meant he felt like he part of a community. In other words, he psychologically became a vampire. In particular, he was taken with Team Edward, which would explain the all-black wardrobe (an Team Jacob affiliation, of course, would likely have manifested as shirtlessness).
His obsession with the series continued until at least 2015, when he reaffirmed his love of the film:
But now, Smith is no longer a vampire, suggesting that the spell the series had once cast on him has worn off and/or that he has found a new, less pallid group to belong to. “I open myself to the fact, wear more colorful things, to go out in daylight, I share much more mixed energy,” he told Numéro, presenting a convincing case that he is, indeed, no longer a vampire.
And yet:Photos via Getty Images / Jamie McCarthy