Wednesday, July 22, 2009

On Vampires

Recently, the conversation amongst some of my friends turned to monsters. A certain comic joked about how monsters just represent exaggerated male archetypes. This is reasonable enough, but it got me to thinking about how monsters are also representative of fears people have. In general, it got me to thinking about how monsters are awesome elements of myth-building.

This usually then leads me to getting frothy-mouthed over seeing a monster utilized completely and utterly wrong.

Yes, yes, no such thing as a "wrong" use for a metaphor, that meaning is built around it in the context of the story, etc. Fuck you. Vampires aren't there to be teen idols.

I like vampire stories. I really do. These are the stories where vampires are vaguely human, but nonetheless monstrous. They feed on people. They prey on their fears and insecurities. They torture and they torment and they kill. They can be animalistic, obviously terrifying their victims, or they can be super-human, stronger, faster, smarter than regular people. Both interpretations work for me.

What doesn't work is when they're used for power fantasies. "Oh, come on," you say, "How is this different from using a mutant?" Because the X-men are there to show us how the future might be different and awesome, whereas vampires are there to show us how fucked up a human being can become. They're a cautionary tale. They're not anti-heroes, people conflicted by what they are. They're not just victims, people with an affliction they're trying to overcome. They're monsters, people that, for some reason or another, aren't people any longer, shouldn't participate in our society, do not deserve our pity and, finally, are trying to use our lives to sustain their own miserable existence.

Perhaps you've noticed I feel strongly about this. You may even suspect that, if they're a cautionary tale to me, it's a lesson I apply to other aspects of my life. You'd be right, too! That this is personal doesn't detract from the point, though. Building up cheap fantasies around the icons that used to represent the worst in us threatens to rob them of their original value. In it's place? At best, just another vessel to practice escapism in. At worst, people looking at the stories with these new monsters will walk away thinking they should become them rather than fight them.

There's a lesson in all this, I'm sure of it.

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