NB: This post was originally published sometime circa 2009. For reasons entirely too dull to go into here, I’m reposting it in modified form.
What is it with teenage girls and vampires?
Not that any red-blooded sexy male bloodsucker should let such attention go to his head. His power still depends on the girl who lusts after him, even if it’s all a bit pre-teen and she’s not quite sure why she’s so interested yet.
A confession: last weekend, against my better judgement and with my own hard-earned cash, I purchased – with intent, what’s more – Stephanie Meyer’s Twilight.
In my own defence, and before you lose faith in my bloody schlocky sexy literary tastes, it was not for my own reading pleasure. It was a gift for an eleven year old girl-child who mentioned it in passing. I won’t say she expressed interest as such. She said her friends were reading it. But, like any adult desperate to get a child hooked on the reading drug, I pounced. Dragged her to the bookstore with the promise of books, books and more books.
Ah, the things we’ll do to encourage a child to read.
Which is not to say I don’t love a good vampire. It’s just, for me, the only good vampire is a downright dastardly one. The black clad and nasty, the enigmatic and overly sexed up and evil ones. They can be conflicted, if they feel like it; I don’t mind a bit of guilt and tortured soul in my vampires. Or they can just enjoy all that sheer badness. But the badness has to be there, or else why bother?
So not exactly the kind of creatures in Meyer’s books, where the vampires sparkle and attend high school and are, um, well, good. Worse, they wear beige. I had to Google this (my search history is a truly confused beast), but I present to you Exhibit A, a quote from one of the books:
“If I hadn’t seen him undressed, I would have sworn there was nothing more beautiful than Edward in his khakis and pale beige pullover”
Whoa. Can I just state for the record, vampires do NOT wear beige. It’s like zombies which run, just plain wrong.
Anyway, I can deal with vampires of good intent, I can even handle their going all Swarovski-crystal in the sun, but I cannot and will not engage with a vampire who makes poor sartorial choices. End of story.
But that’s me – not interested in any vampire tale with the blood, death and sex taken out. De-sexed vampires are defanged vampires; totally against nature and missing the point entirely.
Let me illustrate. No, actually, let Bram Stoker illustrate. This is what vampires should be getting up to, rather than swanning about being all good or whatever:
On the bedside by the window lay Jonathan Harker, his face flushed and breathing heavily as though in a stupor. Kneeling on the near edge of the bed facing outwards was the white-clad figure of his wife. By her side stood a tall, thin man, clad in black. His face was turned from us, but the instant we saw we all recognized the Count, in every way, even to the scar on his forehead. With his left hand he held both Mrs Harker’s hands, keeping them away with her arms at full tension. His right hand gripped her by the back of the neck, forcing her face down on his bosom. Her white nightdress was smeared with blood, and a thin stream trickled down the man’s bare chest which was shown by his torn-open dress.
Now isn’t that just the slightest bit hot? Okay, maybe that’s just me, but you cannot deny the sexual undertones of the scene. And surely I’m not the only one who, when first reading this as a wide-eyed and enthralled fifteen year old, was secretly hoping for the Count to win?
Serious question now – is there anybody who actually wanted the other guys to win in Stoker’s novel? You know, the good guys?
In the red corner, we have uber-cool, dark, enigmatic Count Dracula, the bad guy with all the power and sexual charisma and moves to get the girls into a pulsating, heated, heavy-breathing state of desire.
While in the blue corner we have… an uptight, repressed accountant, his loser mates who can’t even get the girl, and a patriarchal old misogynist determined to save women from themselves, without ever bothering to ask if they want the saving or not.
Come on, you can’t tell me you were really rooting for Jonathan Harker here?
Let’s try another. We’ll go back before Dracula, to another key vampiric text of the nineteenth century. Sheridan LeFanu’s Carmilla. Scrummy, sexy Carmilla. Yum:
…when to my surprise, I saw a solemn, but very pretty face looking at me from the side of the bed. It was that of a young lady who was kneeling, with her hands under the coverlet. I looked at her with a kind of pleased wonder, and ceased whimpering. She caressed me with her hands, and lay down beside me on the bed, and drew me towards her, smiling; I felt immediately delightfully soothed, and fell asleep again. I was wakened by a sensation as if two needles ran into my breast very deep at the same moment, and I cried loudly. The lady started back, with her eyes fixed on me, and then slipped down upon the floor, and, as I thought, hid herself under the bed.
Okay, my deviate band of budding Freud’s, psychoanalyse that, then.
From John William Polidori to Anne Rice, the vamp is sexed up dangerous fun. Which is not to say I can’t understand where the popularity of Meyers’ work comes from; they’re high school romances, innocent and sexless and, well, beige. And there’s nothing wrong with that, if you’re into that kind of thing.
Me, though. I’m into something other. For I’ll always prefer my vampires to be all so very adult.
And on that note, I think I’ll head to bed now and do a bit of reading. With the door locked, but the window cracked open, and a hope that maybe there’ll be a something akin to Carmilla’s dreams a-lurking under my bed…