Saturday, July 23, 2011

All Men Are Vampires

Vampire romance is, to me, an oxymoron. I don't have issues with human-other love in fiction - I've even written a story in which a slightly mutant human consorts with alien beings. I do, however, draw the line at human-vampire hanky-panky.
  • Vampires are not hot guys who just happen to be a little, well, different. However handsome, sophisticated or dangerously alluring they might seem, they are blood-sucking demons. Demons have their place in horror, not romance. Sexy romantic heroes kill all the time, but for noble reasons. They don't kill because they are dark, undead creatures who must prey upon people to maintain their own un-life. Adding teen angst and glitter doesn't change that.
  • The combination of death, sex and lust is bizarre. Sex with dead (or 'undead') people reeks of necrophilia. Blood-drinking rituals are creepy and disturbing, not erotic.
  • Centuries old creatures seeking the love of teenage girls? Isn't that taking pedophilia to new extremes?
So why are vampire incubi the new rock stars, evidenced by the hordes of squealing teen girls (and their mothers!) buying the books and packing the theatres to drool over pale fanged guys with an insatiable thirst for human blood? I've seen many rationales for the popularity of the genre, including:
  • The stories are entertaining and provide pure escapism in grim economic times when readers find reality depressing. Fantasies about vampires, werewolves and such are simply fairy tales for adults, and cool guys with issues is a standard of the romance genre.
  • People have an enduring fascination with death. Vampire romances explore this realm and provide an intriguing look into the 'other side' of the life-death equation. According to some, these stories aren't really about vampires; they're about death, immortality, and transformation.
  • In our youth-obsessed culture, the fantasy of unending pleasures, unending life and unending youth is irresistible. The hero of the Stephanie Meyer novels is 400 years old yet he has the appearance of an attractive young man - and there's no botox or plastic surgery involved.
  • Forbidden love has always been a huge romantic trope. Think Romeo and Juliet, Wuthering Heights, Lady Chatterley's Lover, Lolita, The Thornbirds, The Scarlet Letter, Helen of Troy and Paris, Tristan and Isolde... Vampires are as forbidden as you can get.
  • "All men are vampires." (Michael De Groote, writing in The Mormon Times) They are all capable of hurting women very, very badly, far more so than women are capable of hurting men, both in romantic and physical contexts. They inflict scars, literal and psychological, that take a long time to heal, or never heal at all. The greatest threat to women comes not from strangers in dark alleys, but from the men they are intimate with; examine the crime statistics if you doubt this. Women are fascinated - and aroused - by the element of danger in men, a fascination they learn to curb in real life (if they're wise). A vampire is the ultimate dangerous male, and by consorting with him between the covers of a book women get all the excitement and none of the dire consequences - such as ending up in the emergency room or, yanno, dead.
I'm not swayed by any of the above, though. I prefer vampires, those terrifying creatures of the night, in their rightful place in the horror genre. Pretty them up all you like but let them mince along the corridors of nightmare where they belong. They have no place in my romantic fantasies.


Charles Gramlich said...

Inflicting pain on others is a very human trait, unfortunately. None of that is very romantic to me.

G said...

I think that it's safe to say that I will not be using a vampire, male or female, in any of my stories.

Personally, I think that the vampire thing is a way overused character in writing.

I perfer the more hybrid mixtures: like using a wild member of the cat or canine family in my stories.

Makes it fresh without being overused.

KeVin K. said...

I may be reading too much into my paternal grandmother's decorating sense. After all, most Catholic symbols are not just derivations or "pirate copies" of pagan symbols -- the earliest Catholics knew they were engaged in spiritual warfare and didn't hesitate to use their enemies' weapons against them.
Those gargoyles aren't on first millennium churches because the builders were secret pagans -- the Catholic artisans were taking chances on defense and fought fire with fire. (And, yes, I know Santeria brings the practice full circle; as a thoroughly lapsed Catholic I kinda like the symmetry.)
I wish I'd paid more attention as a child. Because one thing I do know is that she, immigrant from the Slovakian slopes of the Carpathian Mountains, took things like evil eyes and omens and wards very seriously. I know my father, engineer and rationalist that he was, was embarrassed by her superstitions. At any rate, though the subject never came up I'll bet Gram never doubted the existence of vampires. It's likely the foundation of my attitude toward them was laid before I could walk.
And don't get me started on werewolves.
(Although somewhere around around here I have an unsold story about Barbara Woodhouse facing off against a pack of werewolves. May want to dust that one off considering the current market.)

Liane Spicer said...

Charles, so right. Fiction pales in comparison to the horrible things we do to each other in real life. All the more reason why I like my romantic fantasies pain-free, gore free, and death free.

Liane Spicer said...

G, I can't see vampire romances continuing to be popular for much longer. The market seems saturated but then, if I could predict the life cycle of trends I'd be rich.

The next big craze can't come fast enough for me, but then again... Zombie romance? I'll pass on that too.

Liane Spicer said...

KeVin, interesting perspective as always. I've been wondering (since this theme came up on the blog) whether my own Catholic upbringing might not have something to with my total recoil from vampire-human 'romance' and anything of that ilk. I haven't practised the religion in decades but the influence is strong. Consorting with demons? Uh-uh.

Anonymous said...

It's a SUBhuman trait. The full human is the female. Females may learn to emulate male behavior. But it is never the same as what men are and what they do.
- radfem roadrunner