Vampires, The Other Undead.
Howdy, kids! It’s me, The Duke. Today, I’m here to talk to you about the undead! No, not zombies. Different type of undead this time. Yes, those blood-sucking pointy-fanged fellows who sleep in coffins and stay out of the sun, vampires. Well, at least in some of their incarnations. That’s one of the things that I’ll be going over in this article. So if you’re interested, read on! If you’re not interested, read on anyway, to validate my life choices in watching SO MUCH vampire stuff.
Anyways, this article comes on the heels of a conversation I had with my good buddy Josh Rivers when he was driving me home from our weekly Pokemon card tournament / board game night / all around geek-out. I’m not entirely sure how it got brought up. I might have mentioned that I was looking forward to watching the next episode of True Blood. Yes, that is one of my guilty pleasures. But I’m glad I brought it up, because it started a lengthy conversation about the role of the modern vampire in media today, and how things have changed in recent years, and not necessarily for the best. This started out as a criticism towards things like True Blood and Twilight, which I halfheartedly tried to defend because dammit, I like True Blood. Twilight, though, not so much. Hence the half-heartedness.
But I’ve been a fan of vampires and anything based in the supernatural ever since I caught my first episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Seriously, the first time I saw that show it had a huge impact on me, and I’m not entirely sure why. I remember it clearly. Which is odd, because most days I can’t remember if I’ve taken my pills or when the last time I went outside or many other mundane things that people generally remember. But my first experience with Buffy? Hell yes. We’d just gotten back from a family reunion. And the boring side of my family, too. My mom’s side. Nobody remotely near my age, all either small children or old people. At least my dad’s side had hilarious drunks. And still does. That’s the nice way of saying that my family is full of delightful entertaining alcoholics. Anywho, I got back from the family reunion, dying to relieve myself of the excess of boredom that had accrued in my mind over the course of the day. I flick on the television, and there it was. Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Season two, episode eighteen. The one where Buffy gets sick and ends up in the hospital, only to find a demon preying on people in the night. Before that, I hadn’t even HEARD of the show. And immediately I knew I was hooked. I became an avid fan, watching whenever I could. I bought books, I read forums, I did whatever I could to bring myself closer to that world. Because something about the supernatural, the occult, the hidden world right beneath the surface of our own…In the words of the immortal Egoraptor, that shit makes my dick ROCK HARD.
Since then, I’ve grasped at anything supernatural that I could get my hands on. Dozens of short-lived television series, anything dealing with vampires, zombies, werewolves, demons, or anything else of that nature, I soaked that up like I was some sort of fucked up sponge. Vampires were always a favourite of mine. Because while being definitively evil (at least, they were back then), they maintained an aura of classiness about them. They didn’t just go and burn down a house. They were subtle, clever. They played the long game, because hell, if you’re immortal, why not? That’s what I liked best about them. They weren’t simply mindless beasts, like some other monsters I saw in the shows. But things have taken a turn since back in those days for the….interesting.
A lot of work has been done by television and film these days to try to humanize vampires (which is sort of funny to think about, since they appear so human, but they’re definitely not). And soooo much work has been put in to romanticize them. Ugh. Ugh, I say. I mean, I get it. I understand why women would be into that. Men from a more cultured and civilized age, when men were still gentlemen and women were treated like ladies. It makes sense to me, why they would want something like that. It’s like having the charm and class of Captain Jean-Luc Picard in the body of…Man, I am out of touch with stuff, just insert whatever young attractive male figure you want here. I don’t really care. Just imagine them, classy as hell, and that’s what these vampires try to come off as. I get it, I do. I don’t like it, but I get it.
But there’s a problem in there. Somewhere over the years, they decided to try to take vampires from being the soulless, cruel, calculating, and evil monsters that they were, and make them teen heart-throbs. Come on. Don’t do that to me, man. The blame does not fall ENTIRELY on Twilight, although it is really the most current and biggest violator of the idea. Now, I’m not going to claim to be an expert on the Twilight series. I’ve only watched the first two movies, and those were only to take part in an AWESOME drinking game. For those wondering, drink whenever girl bites her lip, drink whenever the vampire stares, and drink whenever wolfy isn’t wearing a shirt. I have only the vaguest remembrances of what happened during these movies, which just goes to prove that the drinking game was a good one. Anything that gets me drunk enough to ignore stupid romance and drink copious amounts of rum is good by my books.
But I still take issue with where vampires have gone these days. At least with True Blood (yes, we’re back to that) they’re willing to show us blood, gore, and boobs. And to be frank, the focus on the vampire/human relationship sort of becomes less and less important as the show goes on. I feel like in the beginning it was used more as a web to draw us in and make us care about these vampires, but by now, in the fourth season, it’s fallen to the wayside. Granted, I’ve never read any of the books it was based on. I just heard that the show had blood and boobs, so I gave it a shot. There’s a major plot in that show, echoing through all of the seasons, where the vampire characters and the human characters are trying to sort out if it’s even possible to coexist and not just slaughter each other. But even so, they do tend to make the vampires generally more friendly or personable, though not to the extent that my drunken self remembers Twilight doing.
Honestly, my favourite incarnation of vampires is probably back in the days of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Well, at least before they got into the later bits and into the Angel spin-off series. Back then, it was black and white. Vampires were evil. There wasn’t a question about it. Upon becoming a vampire, they had their souls ripped from their bodies, never to return. Well, almost never. We’ll get to that in a second. Vampires may have had the same faces and the same memories of those they once were when they were alive, but they now had no conscience, no proper emotions holding them back. They were driven by their powerful hunger and used humans as cattle, killing indiscriminately and draining their victims of their blood. In fact, there were only ever a couple of vampires who were able to rise above the rest and stop murdering people. And that was because their souls were returned to them. Angel, who was so big that he got his own spin-off show, his entire character is built around being a vampire with a soul. You see numerous flashbacks of his days when he was still a soulless creature, killing folks left and right. Then it goes back to him with the soul in present day, trying to redeem himself and make up for the things he’d done when his soul was gone.
And shut up, I didn’t put a spoiler warning because that’s season one shit. That’s about FIFTEEN YEARS AGO. After that long, spoiler warnings are not strictly necessary.
Anyways, that’s the type of vampire I always liked. You knew where you stood with them. You were their food, and if they could use you up and spit you out, they probably would. They weren’t reigned by their emotions, just their hunger. If you look at them compared to where vampires are today, you will likely understand my confusion, and the source of the discussion on the topic that we had.
But there have been many forms of vampires over the years. From the old ones with the accents and the capes, where it was more about seduction and being a suave and sneaky creature of the night, to the soulless buffy the vampire slayer ones, to the sparkly lovey-dovey twilight ones. Ugh.
Part of me understands why they went in that direction, though I won’t say that I like it. In the days of Buffy, the cast was focussed around the human characters, and vampires were perceived as the enemy. I mean, it’s in the damn title. You know right from the get-go, slayer good, vampires bad, slayer kill vampires. When they introduced Angel, they wanted to make a proper vampire character, but they had to give him that extra bit of story, that explanation for why he is the way he is, rather than just make him a penitent vampire seeking redemption because he woke up one day and realized how mean he’d been for all those years. They needed a reason to make you care about the character, bring him to the same level that the human characters were on.
Nowadays, they don’t bother with that. They instead try to make it seem like vampires aren’t so bad. Instead of justifying individual cases of vampires being good rather than evil, they try to set a different precedent, that hey, vampires aren’t so bad. Sure, some of them will kill you just as soon as look at you, but that doesn’t mean they’re all bad. And I get it. You want us to connect with these vampires the same way we’d connect with human characters, and it’s hard to connect with pointy-fanged murderers. And if we’re going to be able to see vampires in genres other than straight horror, we need to connect with them. Not that I particularly care to see them outside of their genre, but…I guess some others are more open-minded about that sort of thing than I am.
But let’s examine some other vampire types that have been used in different shows or movies.
Let’s see. We’ve got Being Human. I’m referring to the UK version, rather than the US version. I’ve seen all four seasons of the British version, but none of the American version. Yet, anyway. I plan to check it out, though I doubt it will be able to properly rival good old British TV. If you’re unfamiliar with the show, it’s about a vampire, a werewolf, and a ghost. They….live together. I know that probably doesn’t sound overly interesting, but the characters are interesting. And things tend to go wrong. They tend to go wrong a LOT.
The vampires used in this series are rather different from most. They still suck blood, have fangs, aren’t overly keen on religious symbols, don’t cast any reflections. But they can be out in sunlight without bursting into flame. Or sparkling. I mean, seriously, Twilight? They just sparkle? That’s goddamn ridiculous.
Also, the vampires used in Being Human are not good people. There are only ever a couple that try to curb their murderous impulses. They kill people, well-placed vampires in the police and elsewhere cover it up, lather rinse repeat. They cover the fact that vampires tend to kill a lot of people, although most of them don’t seem to show any remorse for it. The main vampire of the show attempts to not be a murderous dick. I like their version of vampire, they seem more…human. They all do bad things, especially when they’re getting used to the whole vampire thing and lacking in self control. They tell themselves that they lose a part of themselves when they turn, that they’re not really the same, that they couldn’t do those things if they were still the same. But it’s called into question. So you get a heavy dose of moral dilemmas with your vampires. I rather liked it. The vampire characters of the show, even when trying to be good, they’re still not good people. But hey, that’s the point of the show. I mean, it’s called Being Human. The struggle to retain your humanity even after it’s ripped away from you by force. On that note, I fucking love this show, and highly recommend it.
Yes. Let’s see, what other forms of vampires should be discussed…There’s the Supernatural vampires, which have only appeared scattered around the various seasons of the show. And of them, I’m not really sure what to discuss. They’re evil, though there’s one episode with a few of them trying to not murder people. I dunno. The show jumps around a lot with whatever they happen to be fighting that week, so they don’t usually stop and put the spotlight on creatures like vampires. So that’s sort of a dead end. GET IT? A DEAD END? You’d better be laughing right now.
You know what else handled vampires superbly? Vampire: The Masquerade. If any of you have ever played Bloodlines, you know what I’m saying. Different vampire clans, secrets in the shadows, monsters everywhere. But that game is almost ten years old now. Damn good game, though. Damn good. In fact, I want a sequel. I could make an entire article just about the game and and pen and paper roleplaying game that preceded it, but I’m already a couple thousand words deep into this article, so I won’t go down that branch today. Especially because nobody is ever willing to try the roleplaying game with me. Dungeons and Dragons, they’ll play. Star Wars, Saga Edition roleplaying game, I’ve got a game of that going on right now. Actually, my Dungeon Master has a little blog he’s running, where he talks about his view on things as a DM and complains about his players. Also, while I’m linking things, here’s an old article I wrote about appreciating your Dungeon Masters.
But I suppose that about wraps us up for vampires today. Different writers portray them in different ways, and ultimately, there’s no right or wrong way to do them. You just have to make them fit into your story in whatever way works best. But I still hate the romantic crap. I’d make a necrophilia joke here, but I just don’t care enough.
Anyways, what do you guys think about vampires? Who’s portrayed them well, who needs a good stake to the heart? And how good was Buffy the Vampire Slayer?! Sam knows what I’m talking about.