Men and Women

Vampires Without Teeth

by R.J. Jacob

Vampirism in 19th century English literature has always been a woman’s worst nightmare, beginning with Dr. Polidori’s 1819 The Vampyre, followed by Bram Stoker’s 1897 Dracula. Women were typically restricted to the role of victim, suffering tremendously to the intense masculine horror of the classical Vampire. Joan Gordon and Veronica Hollinger argued that Stoker’s vampire was intended to represent the anti-Christ, while Milly Williamson insisted that the western vampire was created to “frighten women into acquiescence.” Indeed, the early days of vampirism were patriarchal, terrifying, and sadistic—using Stoker’s female neck ripper and Victorian Gothic aesthetic to produce an excellent collection of graphic horror films.

Over the last forty years, the vampire has undergone a radical transformation, including an inversion in vampire morality and a rapid change in gender dominance. Secular-liberal humanism combined with the emasculation of male characters has eradicated the folkloric expression of dealing with the horrors of human nature—turning over the traditional vampire to pop-movie making and goofy romance. Vampirism today is depicted as humanistic and fashionably fabulous, having come with a never-ending list of rules and regulations for vampires, and a moralizing curse of denial. The vampire is no longer strong, proud, and supreme. He is found to be soft, emotional, and unable to resist the humanism which arose during the mid-19th century.

The earliest trace of this tendency can be found in Anne Rice’s novels, The Vampire Chronicles. Lestat, who once killed several women a night, argues in Interview With A Vampire that earlier authors have inaccurately depicted him as a horrific monster—a depiction that seemingly offends Lestat. Yep, New Lestat is the real victim; a dead but darling vampire who limits his nature to killing only “bad people.” And though Lestat admits to killing and drinking in a murderous frenzy for centuries, he eventually falls into disrepair in present-day New Orleans where he cries himself to sleep and struggles with an eating disorder of feeding on animals instead of humans. In the follow-up novels, The Vampire Lestat and Queen of the Damned, Lestat is feminized beyond belief. He becomes infatuated with notions of “humanity” and, at one point, interrupts his own narrative to describe what he is wearing. Ultimately, Anne Rice, who now writes only for the Lord, marked the beginning of the male vampire’s glorification of weakness and the subsequent rise of pop-vampirism among young women in the United States.

Following The Vampire Chronicles comes Buffy The Vampire Slayer, a popular franchise that aired for five years on The WB and UPN networks. Buffy is centered on female victimhood and revenge-therapy, replacing the classical vampire hunter Van Helsing with a warrior feminist who spends a half decade trying to kill the male vampires that have terrorized women for centuries. Enter Angel (David Boreanaz) Buffy’s love interest—a once-strong, now-weakened male vampire who supposedly has a “soul” and hilariously falls in love with Buffy. A devout “vegan,” Angel eats rats. When he does feed on humans, he takes small amounts of blood from women who give consent. Angel was a media success and went on to get his own spin-off series on The WB Network. Both Angel and Buffy The Vampire Slayer played a major role in developing the male “vegan vampire” and helped shift the vampire audience away from the male sphere and into the female sphere.

With all the bad guys gone, Stephanie Meyer’s Twilight Saga exploded in the United States, bringing the vampire genre to a level of popularity never seen before. Of course, this obsession of “vampirism” in American pop culture bears almost no resemblance to the haunting lore of Eastern Europe. Twilight introduces Edward Cullen — the lifeless white knight who strategically avoids humans and abstains from drinking human blood. Edward is Lestat brought to his logical conclusion; the inferior archetype vampire who drinks Bambi juice and sparkles in sunshine. Although Edward claims to be “old school” and romanticizes abstinence, Edward is in fact new school, normalizing the weak morality of Lestat whereby suffering, not strength, makes the vampire superior. For Meyers, the suffering of the vampire becomes a Great Suffering which in turn makes the vampire more human and more capable of co-existence, or, in Edward’s case, more capable of romancing a seventeen year old girl. Although feminists are still recovering from the anti-feminist protagonist Bella, Twilight succeeds in establishing the weakened, vegetarian male vampire as the new norm.

Next up, HBO’s True Blood — the latest contribution to the vampire reconstruction set. Created by yet another female vampire author, Charlaine Harris, True Blood‘s vampires possess all the abilities of Bram Stoker’s original Dracula (hypnosis, super strength, enhanced speed, immortality, and some vampires can even fly) but amusingly, True Blood‘s vampires only want one thing: “equality” or “equal rights” to those of humans.

Like all statists, True Blood‘s vampires have their organization, the American Vampire League, dedicated to protecting vampires from hate crimes, discrimination, and oppression via the State. The AVL adopts the language of the LGBT and Civil Rights movements to spread an ideology of social control under the guise of co-existence and commitment to tolerance. Behind the AVL is the so called “Vampire Authority,” a secret police-state run by a small group of anti-biological vampires working to achieve “fearless, hate-free coexistence.” The formulation of the AVL and ideology of “mainstreaming” is the vampire elites’ response to the human discovery of the existence of vampires and the rise of Christian paramilitary forces. The AVL introduces vampires to the general public via political ads using model vampires whose physical appearance is identical to that of ordinary humans. The ads claim vampires are not blood drinking monsters but workers, small business owners, tax payers, and most importantly, an oppressed minority.

The Vampire Rights Amendment, if passed, would enable the public-coming-out of vampires which denies the very nature of the vampire species. Such an arrangement would force all vampires to operate within the human social contract, living openly and behaving human in the liberal human setting. Vampires are forced to drink synthetic blood—called Tru Blood—a warmed, gassy little clone created by Japanese scientists to remove the vampire’s desires to feed on humans. Naturally, a bottle of fake blood only makes most vampires long for the real thing.

True Blood‘s most moral vampire, Godric, a good little Tru Blood drinker, is said to be one of the oldest and smartest vampires in existence. It is believed that Godric had evolved beyond the capacity to tolerate violence and inter-species conflict, thus, he committed suicide. Not to worry, Hologram Godric reappears throughout the fourth and fifth seasons to deliver chief wisdom to vampire Eric regarding universal truth and knowledge. Godric’s pseudo-prophetic messages are perfect doctrines of inter-species harmony providing new wisdom which does not exist. Godric arrives at an abstract notion of “progress” which disassociates the vampire with power—creating a real problem. After nearly two thousand years, Godric became so bloodless, so weak, so hopeless; he met the sun not because he had “evolved” towards some higher state of enlightenment, but because he had regressed against the will to exist.

Vampires who do not drink blood have succumbed to a state of denial to the point of reducing their existence to the symbolic embodiment of their own destruction. Our lady vampire authors seem to view vampires as exotic human beings, and nothing more. Rice, Meyers, and Harris conflate vampire desires with a pre-established human system, allowing vampires to “progress” only within the constraints of human laws, human values, and human beauty. Vampires are not “evolving” or becoming wiser or whatever the unofficial women’s vampire movement would have us believe. Quite the contrary, the refusal to kill and drink is a revolt against the will to exist.

Categories: Men and Women

6 replies »

  1. It’s Louis who is the sensitive bitch in Ann Rice’s series. Lestat is a bad-ass.

    Also, could you please expand on “drinking blood”. Christians drink blood every Sunday. Though, of course, their rituals have different myths and motives behind ritual than vampires. I’m wondering if you could explain what your take on drinking blood could mean as a metaphorical trope for vampire mythology and, say, Nietzsche-speak.

    Thank you for the interesting and seasonal article!

    • Thanks for the response.

      Louis was no doubt the original humanist but it was Lestat who became popular. One can argue that Marius was the original humanist, the ancient who taught Lestat never to take the last drop of blood from a human victim–a concept specific to Anne Rice. But ultimately, it was the humanist Lestat who became the popular one.

  2. Interesting article RJ. You make a good case for the advance of progressivism in popular culture from this one genre. One thing I would question is whether or not vampire stories weren’t already “chick lit” by the time Stoker was writing. In fact hasn’t European folklore always been the province of a female audience, well post Beowulf anyway. Perhaps the development of the vampire myth tell us more about female attitudes than society’s as a whole?

    How would Mary Shelly’s Frankenstein fit into the narrative?

    I think that a similar case might be made for the conception of aliens in Sci-Fi. The Martians in HG Wells’ War of the World were clearly assholes, but from at least The Day The Earth Stood Still they have been, on the whole, getting more PC. Today humans are as likely to be the bad guys as the invading saucer people. Perhaps that is even more significant, it’s one thing have sympathy for people who off the occasional virgin and another for an invading imperialist power bent on regime change and then some.

    • “How would Mary Shelly’s Frankenstein fit into the narrative?”

      Shelley and many others fit into the wider picture of female subversion but despite Frankenstein and everything else the bulk of European writers of the 18th and early 19th centuries still believed patriarchy was the natural order of things.

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