Y'all know vampires are all about sex, right? You can thank Bram Stoker for that - his eponymous novel about the great Count was basically an adventure story with some really, really thinly disguised sex scenes (particularly the one in the Castle with Jonathan Harker and the Count's Brides). F.W. Murnau sort of tried to bring the vampire idea back around to the traditional Eastern European idea of "Vampire=Thing that must be stabbed, beheaded and filled with garlic before being buried" (and Max Schreck created a truly haunting character), but it was all over for the Thing that steals babies from their cradles and snacks on them when Tod Browning's film introduced movie-going audiences to the Vampire as sex symbol, and the sexy that is Bela Lugosi.
(I know his performance seems unbearably cheesy now, but in 1931, he had quite an effect on the ladies.)
The Vampire-as-Monster shuffled off into the night, and the sexy, sexy Vampire love interest was born.
My first experience of the vampire as Teh Sexxx0rs came when I read Dracula at age 8. I was several years pre-puberty, but it didn't stop me from devouring the book and, for the first time in my life, getting a crush on a fictional character. I blush to admit this now, but it does give me some sympathy and understanding for the huge amount of really questionable vampire romance and fanfic out there. Vampires iz sxy - even an 8 year old girl gets that.
Of course, I was completely lost when I saw Frank Langella in the admittedly awful John Badham re-telling of Dracula. I watch the movie now, and I cringe at the cheesiness of it, but oh, Frank Langella and his big, compelling eyes. I still remember being mesmerized by it - and getting my first ever crush on an actor.
(I hate crushes, by the way - they're agonizing, stupid, and pointless. I remember having crushes on boys at school as a teenager, and how miserable it made me feel. Crushes are evil. Bad brain!)
So, I get why the Vampire is so sexy to people, but these days, I just don't feel it. Maybe it's because I don't particularly want to be dominated by a supernatural being, maybe it's because the idea of eternal life doesn't float my boat (burn bright, burn fast; that's my motto), or maybe it's just because I have something much, much better. The simple truth is that vampires leave me kind of cold.
I know, I know. I think vampires are the most popular modern monster - we've really taken this one and turned it from a baby-munching fiend into a romantic ideal. Vampires sell copy, and as the inexplicable success of Stephanie Meyers' Twilight series shows, that at this point, it doesn't matter how badly the book is written, if it has a brooding vampire as the male lead, it sells.
Mind you, the vampire pretty much always has to be male. There seems to be a huge army of women out there who really, really, really want to be orally raped by a supernatural being with pointy teeth, but the same cannot be said for men. Even women don't want female vampires around (they do not want the competition, I guess).
It's about power and control, submission and the idea of giving in to someone else so completely that they change you forever. Because of the current societal dynamic, I think guys want to be the vampire, girls want to be taken by the vampire (romantic fiction-wise). It's essentially what I find so disturbing about a lot of the vampire fiction (before you jump on me, I know there's good stuff out there; I'm talking about the overall trend here); the woman is passive, waiting for the vampire to find her, so he can take her away, and they can live forever with his manly broodiness in a giant castle somewhere, never getting old.
The trouble with manly broodiness, though, is that it gets distinctly old after a month or two (maybe less). The whole "take me away so I have no responsibilites, and take care of me forever" thing is romantic in theory, but it's a poison pill coated with sugar; once the sweetness is gone, the boredom of never being able to make any independent decisions kicks in, and you start to notice that your Byronic Hero has really bad plasma breath in the mornings.
This is why the idea doesn't work for me - I don't want to be swept away from my life with all its responsibilites - I rather like my life. I like being married to someone who really treats me as an equal, and I like that we take turns taking care of each other. I don't want to be a passive observer of my life, and even leaving out the whole semi-consensual rape aspect of most of the vampire "romances", I don't want to be married to someone with violent tendencies that cannot be controlled.
(I don't really want to be married to someone who's totally emo about their "curse", either. Life hands you lemons - dig those pointy fangs in and suck it up, vamp-boy.)
But the "take me away from all life's cares and live with me in fantasyland!" idea is really only part of the attraction these stories hold for many (other) women - dig deeper, and you find something else, that has a lot more to do with personal power (though still passive, dammit). In these stories, the blandly perfect heroine is always so special that the brooding vampire who has never loved anyone over all the centuries is suddenly so smitten that he has to have her, or he will just die. Of course, he's conflicted about it - there's a lot of "I'm a monster, I'm no good for you, but I can't stay away no, I must stay away! Emo, emo, emoemoemoememooooooooooooooooo" nonsense, but we all know she's just so goshdarn special that he cannot stay away.
(I have this theory that the female leads are deliberately perfect and yet completely dough-like so that anyone reading can fit themselves into the character easily; the characters never seem to have any distinctive characteristics, and they are Mary-Sue-like in their perfection.)
Women seem to have this fantasy a lot - it's one of the reasons that they are so attracted to bad boys and boys who treat them with disdain. It's the little voice inside them that says "You said you could never commit, but I know that you'll change for me. I am so special that you will not be able to resist me, and I will change you completely".
Okay, I think I threw up in my mouth a little just writing that.
The kind of sexual and attractant power that these stories endow upon their female lead is the kind of power anyone would dream of - she, and only she, is so beautiful/alluring/innocent/perfect/balh
Well, it is a fantasy.
I don't blame romances and fantasies for the flawed thinking - they are a symptom, not the cause, of our somewhat unrealistic romantic ideas as a society. But I do think that losing oneself too much in the romantic fantasy has a detrimental effect on real-life relationships. In the fantasy, no-one ever farts, or burps, or has morning breath. No-one forgets to unload the dishwasher (honey, I meant to do that last night; sorry), or leaves the cap off the toothpaste, or the milk out on the counter, or forgts to clean up some mysterious sticky stuff on the kitchen floor until it has fuzz all over it and someone (noideawho *innocent*) has stuck googly eyes on it and given it a name.
(Yeah, that's mostly me. Bob is much more organized. Good thing I'm irresistible, eh?)
But real life includes all these things, and more, and you need to be able to deal with them without dissolving into a little helpless heap, or thinking that because these things are happening, that the love you have isn't the right one.
I can understand teenagers getting all googly-minded over the Twilight saga, and claiming that they want a man like Edward, and they want to live their lives just like Bella - that's the kind of silly stuff teenagers do, and have always done (we just get to read about it more, because every teenager now has a blog, and they inflict their teenage mutterings on the entire world, instead of just a written diary). It's much more worrisome for me to see things like the Twilight Moms, as I wonder what kind of impact that level of obsession must have on their husbands.
Personally, I would hate it if Bob suddenly became obsessed with a fictional romantic ideal, and spent all his time blogging, researching, and creating a web site about it - I'd be wondering what I was doing wrong that he has to look for emotional fulfillment from a person that isn't even real.
It is normal for teenagers to put themselves whole hog into the place of a fictional character they identify with - that kind of roleplaying is a way of learning about their likes and dislikes, and trying different lives on for size is a good thing when you're 15 and don't know what you want to be. I did it - I spent many hours daydreaming about being someone else, but I grew out of it.
As one should, as one finds one's own path, and ceases to try and live in a fantasy world.
Understand, I'm not knocking poeple who like romance novels - I have read quite a few myself (though I tend to stay away from ones with rapes in them, because I don't understand how that is romantic). But I think the vampire is so compelling for some people that they try to lose themselves in the idea, and in the process risk throwing away the real relationships they have for a fictional character who will never become real, no matter how hard they wish. It's about substituting fiction for flesh and blood. In this way, the vampire can suck your life out from under you just as effectively as if he was sucking your blood in person. In a way, he's still a monster, but now he has become the unattainable sexual fantasy against whom no mortal man can compare.
Screw that. Real men are much better.
By the way, Dracula? Total Playa. He has three "brides" back at the castle, yet he claims Mina is his one true love? Please. What are those three girls back at the castle? One night stands that he bit without a condom? His sisters (ew)? Random girls he keeps around for when he has male guests? What if Mina had decided to go home with him to his castle?
Mina: "Dracula, darling, I can't believe we're home at last! Wait - who are these girls?"
Dracula: "Oh, no-one, my love - they're just, um, former girlfriends."
M: "But you said I was the only one! That you've been waiting for me for generations!"
D: "I did! I do! But, you know, a man has... needs."
M: "Needs? Needs?! I can't believe I fell for your lines! I am so out of here!"
D: "Wait! Wait! Come back! I love you! Really! And... it's 10am, sunny outside, you're a vampire now, and we don't have any sunscreen."
M: "Dammit! What about the girls, then? Are you going to just let them stay here?"
D: "Um, well, I can't exactly turn them out - they've been living here for a while... and they pay half the rent."
M: "God! I don't know why I found you so irresistible! You're living with your former girlfriends, the castle has no central heating, you can't afford rent without help, and you have really bad plasma breath."
D: "Fine. I'm going to brood on the battlements. Do what you want." *attempts to slam door, fails*
M: "Fine!" *pause* (to "brides"): "Sooooo... what do you guys do for fun around here?"
No, I can't imagine that would go well. It's probably just as well that she stayed with her husband.
Mind you, Jonathan probably knew nothing about oral sex.