In Twilight, the romantic lead is Edward Cullen, who's about 120 years old and falls in love with a 17-year-old girl.
In Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Angel was born in the 1700s, and he's in love with Buffy, who's 16 or so when the relationship starts.
In The Vampire Diaries, Stefan Salvatore is about 160 years old. His girlfriend seems to be about 17.
In True Blood, Bill Compton is roughly a century-and-a-half old, and he seduces a woman in her early twenties.
Anyone see a trend here?
Put True Blood aside, since it's intended for adults. Imagine if the 17-year-old girls in Twilight, Buffy, or Vampire Diaries were being seduced by 65-year-old guys. That would be gross. But when the teenage girl is seduced by a guy two, three, four times as old, it's like-totally-OMG-super-romantic. Why?
The explanation, according to the girls, seems to boil down to: Because he's good looking. Because he's mature. Because he's mysterious ("I've never met anyone like him!"). And because he's at war with his urges.
The problem is that if you take away the good-looking part, you're describing a run-of-the-mill dirty old man. If you keep the good-looking part, you're describing a slightly younger but really, really sleazy dude who cruises high schools looking for jailbait.
Either way, I'm not sure it says anything good about the men and women who get too carried away with the "romance" of the vampire genre. Just try to imagine an old white guy in these roles: Phil Gramm going to the prom. Harry Byrd necking in the woods with a 17-year-old. Walter Cronkite sweeping a young damsel off her feet. All of these guys are a lot younger than the buff old men cruising the girls in these movies and TV shows. And if you think it's different just because the super-old men look good, what does that say about you, or the culture? ("Don't ask us, you're the creepy nerd watching all these shows!" -- The Couch.)
And that's putting aside the question of whether vampires can even be good people. Even if you allow for personal growth, they're all still murderers. Imagine your teenage daughter dating a forty-year-old with a serious criminal past. Now imagine she tries to defend him:
"He's so sweet!"
"He's so gentle!"
"He's grown so much, he's, like, super mature now. He's not like he was when he killed all those nuns!"
And what does it say about a dude if he thinks, "Man if only I could get my brain inside the body of a buff teenager, I'd totally hit the high schools"?
I think that Goldberg is reading a more into this trend than is warranted. The popularity of ancient vampire/teenager girl romances probably has more to do with contemporary American society's contempt for aging, which I've written about previously. That said, the obvious apparent age difference between Buffy and Angel in the first season should have provoked the concern of Buffy's mother. Or the fact that she hung out a lot with an older man from school, namely Giles.
But I digress. To respond to Goldberg: these fictional romances between teenage girls and ancient men in the bodies of teenage boys say more about what teenage girls want than some lolita complex among older men. A vampire in a teenager's body has the hotness of a youthful body, but is past all of the awkwardness and immaturity of male adolescence.
Remember that the primary audience for vampire romance isn't sixty-something men, but teenage girls. The genre is marketed at their desires.