Monday, July 11, 2011

Asking WHY: A Vampire's Dichotomy

I've said it before and I'll say it again -- the difference between smart and genius is the asking of WHY.

Why why why.

Smart people know how to do something. It's the genius who understands why it's done that way.

So I've been wondering why it is that vampires are the sensual monsters, the sexual killers. They suck your blood and that's downright gruesome, but for some reason we still want to schlep em.

And my why-thinking has brought me to this, which may not be all that original of a thought, but it's where I arrived. Vampires are sexy murderers owing to their dichotomous nature.

See, the vampire kills you, but gently. That's a contradiction. Many times the male (historically the vamps are overwhelmingly male) seems downright gentlemanly. Ma'am, he says, I would like to please suck your blood.

He then takes the woman in his arms, kisses her a few minutes, and then sticks his fangs in her carotid and gets his rut.

But it goes deeper than that, which is where I think most people stop.

See, the vamp also has fangs. They're sharp and gruesome. Werewolves and all sorts of monsters have fangs, and even for the vamp the fangs are intimidating, scary, and always at the fright-scene the vamp reveals the fangs before the scream.

But unlike most monsters -- say, a werewolf with its hairy maw, or the freak-monsters with its gruesome visage -- the vampire's fangs are housed in a succulent mouth, perky lips, inside a beautiful face.

Do you see the dichotomy there? Terror inside beauty.

It's the same with their claws, which the vamp usually grows as demanded by need. Sharp claws, but soft hands and gentle fingers.

Total dichotomy.

They remain young and beautiful in many renditions, and in other manifestations are allowed to morph between beauty and beast.

Often the bad-guy vamp, if there is one, is old, wrinkled, and sexually undesirable. Why do we do this, authors I mean, why do we make him (usually a him-vamp king) so old and wrinkled and gnarly?

It's to remove the beauty of him, to make him undesirable, to squash that dichotomous nature and make him all monster and no beauty.

Now where am I going with all this? I've been thinking of vamp-whys for a while, now, because I want to create a monster like a vampire, but who is not a vampire. I want the desirability and sexual attraction invoked by the vampire myth, but for my own unique monster, my own creation. Nobody wants to mount and ride Frankenstein's jock.

But what if Frank had been built from perfect body parts and groomed to be a gentleman?

See how that works? Even Hannibal Lector in his grotesque insanity maintained a strong sex appeal, with his understanding of Claire and his succulent and classical high-class behavior.

Me, I'm making women-monsters. I look back at my work and see sexually desirable women doing much of my killing. Weird how that works, a man's mind bent on finding the perfect villain, that perfect spider who satisfies and eats me afterward.

- Eric


Cathy Olliffe-Webster said...

I think a handsome and gentlemanly Frankenstein would be an instant star. You should write him!

Matthew MacNish said...

You make an excellent point, Eric. I think it's the mystery, the veil of chivalry, manners, and beauty that make vampires so fascinating to so many people.

Wine and Words said...

From a writing standpoint, I think it's because we are being asked to "like" the monster. Within the love/hate....intrigued/repulsed dichotomy, we are addicted. We will read the next novel and the next without realizing that our subconscious wants to solve the riddle. Monster? Beauty? Would I, could I, love it? Who does that make me? Could I kill it? Could I harm something I was attracted to? So many questions that point to our own inner turmoil. We keep reading.

Roland D. Yeomans said...

In my mythos, they merely mesmerize their victims into seeing that which attracts them. The truth is blurred by delusion. You know - like with politicians! LOL. Roland

Anonymous said...

"Me, I'm making women-monsters. I look back at my work and see sexually desirable women doing much of my killing. Weird how that works, a man's mind bent on finding the perfect villain, that perfect spider who satisfies and eats me afterward."

I think this has been done. It's called a praying mantis!

Love this post!


Unknown said...

This is a really interesting thought, and I think a valid premise.
Maybe writers are tapping into subconcious a human willingness to be prey, as long at there is satisfaction first.
Something to think about as I world build my new urban fantasy...

Phoenix said...

I think vampires seduce, and it's that seduction that draws people in. They are (if they are male) usually gentlemen indeed, and you know what they say about gentlemen? "A gentleman is a patient wolf."

The mythology of vampires stems from a primal interest in seduction and abduction (later referred to as rape) which is why most of them are male - you don't see a lot of female rapists or abductors. But there is curiosity about the line that is drawn between seduction and rape, and vampire mythology allows us to explore that safely.

The other element of the vampire that is fascinating is the self-loathing, the dual nature (as you rightly noted) of something old but immortal being able to stay that way only through committing terrible sins against those young and alive and innocent. We loathe the vampire along beside himself but we also pity him for the choices he could have made.

In the end, the perfect villain doesn't exist, and that's why they fascinate us. :)

dolorah said...

Excellent points Eric.

But the world is changing, and so also is the sexy vampire. Not always are they pleasant gentlemen. Look at Eric Nordstrom from True Blood (loved his novel version, not so much the series).

A sensuously pleasing Frankinstine would be a nice change. So would a powerful female villian.

I'm looking forward to reading your versions :)


Unknown said...

A thought-provoking post. You given me a lot to think about for my current antagonist...thanks also for your long and helpful comment on my blog!

Olivia J. Herrell, writing as O.J. Barré said...

Women monsters. Did you just answer your own question? :)

Miss ya dude! I'm back, too! that rebel, Olivia