Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Is Defanging Really So Terrible?

This morning my publisher alerted me to a recent article on Slate.com by Grady Hendrix, entitled "Vampires Suck; Actually, they don't. And that's the problem." Grady has a real problem with what I call the defangitization of vampires. He's a lot like Dr. Steven Grey (pictured), a vampire featured prominently in my upcoming book, How to Catch and Keep a Vampire, and author of the essay "The Hideous Domestication of Vampires." The two share an intolerance for anything but the old-fashioned Nosferatu kind of undead.

Their complaint seems to be resounding louder lately. The more popular vampires become with the general populace, the more they are being reinvented according to individual interpretations. Whereas once (Grady would say, pre-Buffy) anyone telling a vampire story tried to stay consistent with Bram Stoker, nowadays it's a bloodsucking, or even nonbloodsucking, free-for-all. And it's the nonbloodsucking that has folks like Grady brandishing pitchforks.

I'm sure you must be dying (or undying, if you're a creature of the night) to know what I have to say on this point. Right. Well, I took it upon myself to respond to Grady in his comments section, and in the interests of laziness, will reprint here for you what I said:

It seems to me there are two types of vampire fans: (1) people who want to keep strict adherance to the "classic" archetype, and (2) people who want to adapt the vampire fit their preferences, even if those characteristics are far afield from the old legends.

I'd like to assure Grady that the original, "monstrous" vampire archetype will always be with us. Meanwhile, I have no problem with creative adaptation. The immutable essence of the archetype, no matter what spin you put on it, is that it is the Shadow, refering to the term used by psychoanalytic theorist Carl Jung.

Whether he kills or not, drinks blood or not, hates mortals or not, the vampire archetype always represents some sort of dark aspect of human nature that society shuns and hides--all the while obsessing over it. Whether that shadowy, guilty obsession is sex, violence, danger, evil, etc., the vampire serves as the perfect seductive personification.

Bill Compton is not a killer but he represents the socially unacceptable and morally compromised. Edward Cullen is not a sexual threat but he still personifies danger, unpredictablity, and uncontrollable desire. These and other "new style" vampires may be too angelic for Grady's taste, but they are always devilish to some degree.

People of all cultures, ages and interests are reinventing vampires in new ways, always to work out their own dark urges and express in the fantasy realm what is not possible in reality. So let them! I'm sure Bram Stoker's Dracula won't mind.

So there you have it: I do appreciate those people who don't want to see the old-style vampires "die out." But you see, an archetype that powerful is not going to be killed off by any mere popular trend. At the same time, there's never anything wrong with being creative and innovative about your character development and storytelling. There's room for Bill-lovers, Eric-lovers, Edward-lovers and Dracula-lovers.

I say, variety is the spice of undeath.


bainst said...

I have to say yes. Having a defanged vampire is like a claw less wolf. Part of the allure of Nosferatu is that they are ultimate villain. Bloodthirsty, demonic killing machines. But sexuality, sensuality emanates from them. You know even if they are making love to you, they could drain you dry while they are doing it.

Diana Laurence said...

I certainly get where you're coming from, Bainst. There needs to be at least SOME element of danger in the vampire for him to have that unique sex appeal. Otherwise you definitely lose something essential!