Wednesday, 22 August 2012

Vampires and Creepy Behaviour

Reading Christine Feehan’s Carpathian novels have gotten me thinking about how vampire heroes seem to have a repertoire of really creepy behaviour which no woman would tolerate from a human hero.  Even when they’re good, they stray into the eek-side of behaviour.

Let’s start with the most recent: Edward from the Twilight series.   He’s got the overprotective, lock-her-in-a-cellar-for-her-own-good vibe down.  But the creepiest thing he does is the initial stalking of Bella.  He stands in her bedroom and watches her sleep when she doesn’t know he’s there.  That would have kyboshed any hope of a relationship for me if I had found someone doing that.  It’s a huge violation of privacy and boundaries.

Now for one of my favourites: Angel from Buffy The Vampire Slayer.  He broods, he lurks, he withholds information to avoid confrontation.  He doesn’t try to overprotect, which is good since Buffy can kick his ass without trying.  But he does play hot and cold with her, indulging and then pulling back “for her own good” only to jump back in later.  I’ll leave out the whole going evil as soon as they have sex since that wasn’t completely his fault.

Feehan’s Carpathians are effectively good vampires but have no trouble using their mental powers to coerce and compel their desired women into obeying their commands.  They hold to a strict dominance hierarchy where the male protects and cocoons the female away.  Personally, I hate the concept of being whisked away to an ivory tower to remain sheltered and worshipped for the rest of my days.  The occasional weekend would be nice but eternity in a box would be boring.

Now we’ll go back a bit to Anne Rice’s Lestat and Louis from Interview With A Vampire.  Neither of these men really court a woman, so they aren’t really romances.  In some ways, while they are sympathetic, they are also unapologetic murderers and predators.  Rice tried to clean up some of Lestat’s reputation in the sequels, making him a predator of other predators.  But he’s still an egomaniacal killer who enjoys what he does.

Don’t get me wrong.  I like vampires.  I like them as a metaphor for the dark, primal forces within us.  I love how they all seem to get great hair along with eternal youth.  I like exploring the internal conflict of having to fight your inner demons but also having to rely on them to do what is necessary.  But sometimes I need to pull back and have a little reality check to remind me that much of what they do wouldn’t really be great on a resume of a potential partner.

That’s the purpose of fantasy, to allow us to explore without danger or consequences.  In the real world, a man who is controlling a woman is on the first step toward abuser-ville.  Even if he claims to be protecting her, it’s not okay for him to dictate how she lives her life.  It’s equally not-okay for her to dictate how he lives his life.  Partnership means trusting your partner, even when they don’t make the decisions you would have made in the same spot.

But I guess that’s hard to make into an interesting story.  Guy meets and respects girl, treating her like an equal … yeah, we need to throw a few fangs in there to liven things up.

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