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July 30 2009

Vampires suck. And it's apparently Angel's fault. A somewhat different take on the original vampire with a soul.

I swear I've read this before.

ETA: Nope, just a io9 entry posted in June with a very similar thesis.

[ edited by Sunfire on 2009-07-30 15:22 ]
This was stupid when io9 posited it and it's still stupid now. I'm sorry but isn't there room for both sensitive vampires and your 30 Days of Night variety? And why is Angel taking the heat? I guess this author must have forgotten that essentially every other vampire on the show was a cold-blooded killer. Angel (and Spike) were just the exceptions to the rule. But, oh no, vampires just aren't what they used to be. It was better in the old days. Didn't you know? Everything was better in the old days. Oh, and don't forget that all girls who read Twilight are stupid and can't differentiate between fiction and the real world. Nope. Never.
As per usual, this discussion should steer clear of bashing the article author or other fandoms. Bash in minds all you like.

I'm pretty sure project bitsy meant that last part as sarcasm but seemed like a good time for a reminder in case I'm wrong or people misinterpret.
Everything was better in the old days though. Have you seen the size of Snickers bars recently ?

Hell in a handcart, telling you.
I was bashing the article, not the author and, yes, that last bit was profoundly sarcastic.
Saje, Snickers used to be called Marathon back in the day, in the UK!

And I kinda liked this article.
Very good article, thanks. Angelus, anyone?
then endlessly lectures other vampires about their moral failings because they don't do the same. He's not a vampireóhe's a vegan.

When did Angel lecture other vampires about their moral failings? I know there was maybe a comment or two to Harmony in AtS S5 but other than that I draw a blank.

Hey Saje, are Snickers bars small now??? It's been a long time since I've had one. And I think that one was a "king size" so it doesn't count. I remember it had like 600 calories, if that helps...
I seem to remember Angel doing quite a bit of of blood sucking as Angelus! And he doesn't 'endlessy lecture other vampires about their moral failings', he stakes them! Also, Angel and Buffy were about a hell of a lot more than just vampires; they were about life, and what it means to have a human soul, and lots of other moral goodies.

And I know what you mean about Snickers bars, Saje. All chocolate bars, in fact. They call teeny tiny ones 'fun size' - what's fun about that!
This article makes an excellent point about the modern trend of transforming vampires - originally staples of the horror genre - into what amounts to a character archetype from a romance-novel. Don't necessarily see this as being a harbinger of the end of western civilization, though (just a good reason to stay away from modern vamp fiction - unless you like romance novels, of course.)

For more on this point, see this.

STANDARD DISCLAIMER: Clicking on the above link will probably result in this. You've been warned.
The "soft" vampire isn't Angel's fault. Forever Knight's Nick Knight, 1989. He has Angel beat by about eight years on the good vampire bit. So, respectfully, maybe we can look at a wider spectrum before we go on a pop culture killing spree to get people to read our articles?

I'm terribly sorry if anyone else saw that show. (There's a support group, we can get through this together. I also bring donuts.)
The "soft" vampire isn't Angel's fault. Forever Knight's Nick Knight, 1989. He has Angel beat by about eight years on the good vampire bit.

Yes, but no one has ever heard of him (well, except for you, me, and a few others.)

Also, he did kind of at the end there, so I think it would be kind of pushing it to describe him as a heroic-softy type.

[ edited by brinderwalt on 2009-07-30 17:27 ]
Vampires became good partly because bad vampires had been done pretty much every way and they needed something else IMO. As with any other trend, we may now have a backswing response to the original response and the cycle begins anew. Dayglo clothes are back you know. One turn of the wheel means i'm no longer young. If/When I see them again it'll mean i'm officially old ;).

(and as brinderwalt's life-sucking, tab-spawning link mentions, what about e.g. Hannibal King ?)

Saje, Snickers used to be called Marathon back in the day, in the UK!

And about half again the size, right (maybe 600 calories but small calories alexreager ;) ? Yep twinkle, up until about 5 years ago i'd still call 'em Marathons every now and then (I was translating for our transatlantic cousins). And I still always call 'Opal Fruits' 'Opal Fruits'... I mean I still call 'Starburst' 'Opal Fruits'.
They'll be Opal Fruits forever. I didn't used to eat Marathons when they were Marathons though so those are Snickers to me. They just better not go renaming Double Deckers or I'll be lost.

And yes, I feel it's a cycle too. Almost all storytelling is taking something people are familiar with and putting a new twist on it, to see what happens if nothing else. Whilst individuals may prefer one version to another, lamenting it is as silly as lamenting that posh restaurants call gravy 'jus' these days. Well, the ones that aren't too posh for me to get into do. I don't know about the really really posh ones.
Archetypes live on because the current culture finds a facet of them relevant and builds on it. Without relevancy they would go the way of all those stories about accidentally marrying your mother. (Whoops!)

I think the interesting question here is what do these popular "lite vampires" say about the needs/absences in our culture today? Since most of the "lites" are characters in sort of romance-y stories and for the most part men... What does that say about women and men in our culture at the moment?
Thank you for that, BreathesStory. I agree completely and also think itís time the common understanding of art and entertainment got a whole lot better.
I guess I'm the only one here who actually LIKED Forever Knight, even when it was first a back-door pilot movie called Nick Knight, starring Rick Springfield. Granted, it was very....Canadian, and a product of its time, but I still enjoyed it.
I remember liking Forever Knight but I haven't seen it since it was played on TV when first made. I am curious to see it again; I wonder if I would still enjoy it (if it's as good as I remember it being).

Some things I liked 35 years ago don't hold up well over time...did I say 35 years! Balls!
kungfubear, nope. You're not the only one. Of course I'm now not sure exactly why I liked it and watched it... Maybe I was just starved for some vampire stories. 'Cause I like 'em. And there just weren't any others around at the time. I think if I were to re-watch it now I would find it slow and uneven. But the end of the series kind of ruined any of my good feelings for it. Such a major cop out.
BreathesStory makes an excellent point there. I wonder if the current trend of good vampire as romantic figure has something to do with the fact that the kind of borderline rape-romance seen historically with evil vampire romantic figures is not as appealing any more? I mean, Dracula had to be evil because that way he could corrupt innocent women, because of course women's sexuality was pretty repressed during that period. Perhaps we're moving on from "the vampire made me do it" to something a tad more...enlightened.

I would also like to point out that "Varney the Vampire" pre-dates a lot of the classic vampire canon, and Varney was a sympathetic character, not an evil vamp. So this whole vampire with a soul thing is hardly new.
Looked at in that light, though, I think there is a big difference from the Buffy/Angel version of a vampire and the more recent, Twilight-esque type. The former deals more with examining the darkness in your own psyche, playing around in it and seeing what effect it can have on the world - and possibly how you control it. The latter is much more simply escapist, I feel, with risk-taking that carries very little risk and a larger emphasis on being special enough for the vampire to notice you.

They're both different from the guarding of women's purity at all costs, but I'm not sure they actually are any more enlightened, as attitudes. Just different, and reflecting our modern fears and obsessions.
kungfubear Most Forever Knight episodes are available now
on Hulu. It was not a bad show. What I noticed when I recently
went back and looked at it was that the pacing of the show was
slower* than more modern shows. And of course the writing was
nowhere as good as most of the shows I watch these days. There
is a 6-7 year difference between the starts of FK and BtVS.
However it feels like a eon when you look at the two shows

*I find this true of most older Dramas. Anything older than
say 1996 that holds up today is usually exceptional.
The former deals more with examining the darkness in your own psyche, playing around in it and seeing what effect it can have on the world - and possibly how you control it.

I dunno, if Angel is about examining the "beast within" then wasn't Dracula similar ? In Victorian times sexuality (especially female sexuality) was seen very much as part of that inner, baser beast (though I agree that 'Dracula' was also about depicting it in a "safe" environment, where the "rape" aspect is ultimately a sort of protection for the characters - and presumably the readers that identify with them - against the charge of actually having *gasp* genuine sexual desires).

In that light maybe most good vampires are men because men are seen as the ones that most have to struggle with their inner monster ? In e.g. 'The Dark Age' BtVS even makes the point explicitly that Angel has to some extent tamed his demon in the process of becoming a whole man.
I think that part of the attraction of vampires is that they are all about need. They need us to live. And who doesn't want to be needed? (The whole surviving on animal blood is just taking the easy way out. It's NOT the same what with the different antigens and all.)

There's also that whole "they are us/they aren't us/they are made from us" thing that keeps them separate from society at large and and lends itself really well to the loner archetype who may or may not be misunderstood. Then it's just a step away from the underdog or the stand alone hero. I also agree with the self-identifying as "the one who does not fit in."

Just a thought... but maybe the fluffier versions of vampires we are seeing is somewhat the result of women experiencing an ownership of their own sexuality and a general lessening of their feeling powerless in society overall--at least in one on one relationships. (Who at this point isn't feeling vulnerable to the corporations/big government?) Having the ability to support yourself and not be at the mercy of others has got to have an effect that will resonate in our stories. Maybe the "classic" vampire just isn't our boogeyman any more.

I have noticed that werewolf stories have a tendency towards those controlling alpha-male characters, whose attraction I don't understand. Those stories always seem to deal with hierarchies in groups where the main woman is generally at the bottom of the pack. Not sure what the proliferation of those stories say about women and men except that we are schizophrenic in our relationship desires. No news there. But there is IMO, a different cultural need being addressed than with the vampire stories.
I just don't get the whole modern vampire craze. I love Buffy and Angel but I didn't get into them because of the vampire thing, it was because of Joss. I really like what they did with the monsters and vampires, especially comparing the two evantaul good vampires, Angel and Spike, one of which was totally different with and without soul, the other was pretty much the same demeanor wise (well he was crazy at first, but you know what I mean.)

Modern vampires don't seem at all similar to Angel to me. Angel was always sort of a danger, was one of a kind (until Spike, but again, different story with him), and fought evil, both internally and externally. I watch True Blood, and to compare the vampires in there to Angel is laughable. And I won't even comment on Twilight besides the fact that it seems to me that the author knew nothing about vampires and simply stole some of the most drama-y parts of the Buffy and Angel relationship, and none of what made the shows brilliant, and any series that promotes abstinence is reprehensible to me.

Now I know modern vampires seem to say 'Don't be around me, I'm dangerous'. But they don't prove it by going totally evil and killing your teacher like Angel did. Besides, this author is obviously not a true fan, otherwise they would remember about the entire episode devoted to making fun of people who glorified vampires, who thought they were good and misunderstood... and would have been slaughtered by Spike and Dru.

edit: I think that the main reason why I like the Buffy and Angel vamps is because they are just one of numerous monsters. Plus modern vampires just seem to exist to be vampires, not actually do things like fight evil lawfirms or fight hell monsters or anything.

[ edited by SteppeMerc on 2009-07-30 20:36 ]
I made some similar comments in my response to the article, which I read earlier in the day. Angel isn't a typical vampire, and he doesn't lecture vampires on their choice of food, he stakes them.

Still, it is true that Angel has become a kind of archtype for vampires these days, and it makes them dramatically un-scary: for instance, Twilight. True Blood manages to keep the vampires at least somewhat scary, even if there are quite a few who seem decent enough (they can never be fully trusted).

It's too bad, really. As I said in my comment on Slate, I like my vampires bloody and violent. It's worth noting that both Angel and Spike (despite their later transformations) were among the bloodiest and most violent among their kind.

Oh, and can I say how disturbing it was in reading Twilight how many of Angelus' traits Edward had? Not Angel's traits, but Angelus. And yet he's a good guy. Talk about screwed up.
I watched soem Forever Knights on Sci-Fi durign the mid-90s. When my duaghter emntioned Angel as "the world's only good vampire" I used Nick as the counter-example :-).
It points up one problem with traditonal vampire stories and the idea that the person is "turned into" a vampire. Unless the transformation involves devloping psychosis with evrything else (a plausible idea but never mentioned) how many people would just give in to their new bloodlusting lifestyle? Strikes me many would be like Nick.

I first saw a good explanation of this in the Beyond the Supernatural RPG; vamps are just using the bodies but are actually extensions of the "vampire intelligence." Joss's idea of their being free agents but still a demon is similar; that's no more the person "ehslef" than an embalmed body in a cemetery or a cadaver in a med school is "the person."

Which gives Angel, and later Spike, (and, in my own 'verse, Harmony, altho she ignores the possibilites) a reason not to be a predator, ahuman soul giving them the conscience and empathy which "normal" vampires can't have, for survival reasons alone.

Not familair with thwes newer books,b ut what is the reason in those? It's like they are imitating Angel but with no basis; they're just doign it because, since Angel shwoed up, that's how the character is expected to "clicheve.".
Hmm. Another thought. About Twilight (which I haven't read and I guess I probably should just because it comes up here so much ;))... perhaps the attraction to young girls is due to their own burgeoning sexuality with which they are not entirely comfortable--and their desire to control it at a time when everything in their life feels OUT of control. Especially their bodies.

The idea that there is some guy that likes you (stalking aside), isn't pushing you sexually, and is in fact helping you hold back from actions that some parts of you aren't ready for, has got to be attractive. That's so different than real life where the major media is sexifying pre-teen and teenage girls all to hell.

Huh. No matter how you look at it, vampires really are all about life/sex aren't they?
Isn't all fiction about sex and death, ultimately ? They're what drive us.

Surprised immortality hasn't come up more in people's comments, in a lot of ways vamps are the ultimate wish-fulfillment fantasy. As 'Lost Boys' told us "Sleep all day, party all night, never grow old, never die - it's fun to be a vampire".

In fact, maybe the attraction for girls/women is simpler (for some people at least) ? I mean, vamps're pretty much exemplars of the stranger archetype, most fictional male vampires I can think of are the cliched "tall, dark and handsome", they're strong and yet often portrayed as sensitive (Angel reads frikkin' French poetry FFS ;), they're usually stoic, when they say they'll "always be there" it actually means something - if you add "basically good" into the mix then don't you have a sort of uber version of the stereotypical romantic hero of old ? Even of the stereotypical male role-model ?
Isn't all fiction about sex and death, ultimately ?

Well that's made me look at the Famous Five in a new light.
Bear in mind, Simon, that one of the Famous Five was non-human too...

And I've (very nearly always) refused to eat Marathons since the stupid change of name, Saje, while Opal Fruits (made to make your mouth water) will never change their name. (Fingers in ears and singing la la la now.)
At least Angel, Anita Blake's vampires, Sookie Stackhouse, and most of the rest of them have a lot of sex.

Since when did Angel have a lot of sex? In eight years (three on Buffy, five on Angel, I haven't read the comics) he had sex once with Buffy--twice if you count dreams-- once with Darla, and dreamed about sex with Cordy before finally getting a girlfriend he barely had time to date before the apocalypse (always with the apocalypse!). Even modern-day Angelus didn't have much sex...did he have any? He talked about it to make people uncomfortable, and hit on Dru to piss off Spike, but did he ever actually sleep with anyone? I don't think he did. Perhaps the author meant that Angel the TV show had a lot of sex. Even then...
*cracks up at Simon*

Saje, I definitely agree that vampires symbolise something we think we want, for whatever reason, and that the teen romance form of that is definitely the tall brooding immortal guy who won't pressure you into anything.

I guess the reason I don't normally find vampires interesting are that they are usually very unsubtle in their symbolism - the death and sex (or lack of both, in the safe teenage version) are right out there on a platter for us to pick and choose our desires and fears from. Angel, however, was one of the most subtly satisfying shows I have ever seen and I think it's because by that point the narrative had become entirely about questions of guilt/redemption and intentions/actions, and those are the type of questions that (for me anyway) can be asked and answered a hundred different ways without ever becoming boring. The fact that Angel was a vampire ceased to be relevant really once he was away from Buffy and the stereotypical beautiful girl victim scenario.

Which is a long way of saying I don't think he's responsible for the current wave of sensitive vampires because in a lot of ways I don't think he's a vampire, a narrative device in the sense that places us in the role of his victim/lover. He's a person as much as the rest of the characters, and that's not what most vampires are for.
I quite like that. Yeah, more than most, maybe vampirism was almost a plot device on 'Angel', a way to isolate him (the curse helped there) and to give him something to atone for (not to mention a ton of backstory to plumb as well as superpowers).

Well that's made me look at the Famous Five in a new light.

"Five Are Together Again" ? Smuggler's tunnels ? Aunt Fanny ? Dick ? C'mon man, open your eyes !
heinouslizard, Angel also had sex with Eve (because Lorne told them to). He definitely had sex with werewolf girl, since what else was the point of Wesley's speech about how rare true happiness was, and that most people had to settle for much less?

edit: And Angelus totally had sex with Dru while Spike was in the wheelchair. We know that Angelus loved to make fun of Spike back in the day by sleeping with Dru, and it never crossed my mind that Angelus didn't follow through on his taunts to have sex with Dru, if only to piss off Spike.

[ edited by SteppeMerc on 2009-07-30 23:25 ]
Thanks SteppeMerc--I'd forgotten about Eve. Nina was the girlfriend I mentioned. I still don't think that qualifies as "a lot of sex", though, especially for a vampire story.

ETA: Crap! Buffy in the first season of Angel and Darla in dreams. Ah! Well he did definitely have a twisted sort of sex un-life, but I still don't find it dismissably excessive.

[ edited by heinouslizard on 2009-07-30 23:49 ]

[ edited by heinouslizard on 2009-07-30 23:49 ]
He also had sex with Buffy in 'I Will Remember You'.
So, given that a lot of this new slate of vampires is created by women... What are these vampires currently reflecting in our culture? Why are they creating these "men?" And what does it say about women and what they want since they are such popular characters/stories?
Wow, so many great ideas here, I had not seriously considered what makes us so fascinated by vampires. Something that always stuck with me when I was watching the film Blade commentary and I am paraphrasing here, David Goyer said he wanted to portray vampires as the elite social cool club you could never ever get into, they were just the faceless young hot crowd you hated because they have everything going for them at a glance. Of course it gets much more interesting when you consider there is a member who doesn't like or fights this style of living (no pun intended).
"It points up one problem with traditonal vampire stories and the idea that the person is "turned into" a vampire. Unless the transformation involves devloping psychosis with evrything else (a plausible idea but never mentioned) how many people would just give in to their new bloodlusting lifestyle? Strikes me many would be like Nick."

Except what type of person is typically turned into a vampire? Most of the characters I can think of were either predators in life, in which case continueing to prey on others after being changed makes sense, or were victims in life who having suddenly found themselves with the power to exact their will on the world around them do so with vampiric gusto. People have an almost genetic imperative to overpower and control others in real life, without the added perks of all that it means to be a vampire....

Add to that the idea that you're body can only be nurished through a means that hopefully will disgust you, and you're suddenly rife with possibilities for self loathing and interesting psychological quirks. At first you may just think you're a monster, but sooner or later you begin to believe it, and finally you act the part.

I suspect that most of the "good" vampires would quickly fall into self destructive patterns and wouldn't last long, while the worst of the worst would thrive.
Saje, it's always about sex and death, which is why that's one of my favorite phrases. And it's why Spike's got it right about blood. Makes you warm and makes you hard, as he said...
Yep, "The blood is the life" (n'other Spikism, with some inspiration from Genesis admittedly ;).

[ edited by azzers on 2009-07-31 11:02 ]
That is just a totally unfair and superficial reading of Angel. And Angel is by a long mile, my second favorite vampire in BtS/AtS.
You want wimpy/broody that makes Angel seem a piker by comparison, look no farther than Ann Rice's Louis.

And as for a 'trend' - is everyone up to date with True Blood? Even if not, I can say without being too spoilery that there are some seriously bad-ass vamps on that show.
If anything, Angel, not just the character, should be thanked for keeping any interest in vampire franchises alive. I did see a couple friends at a forum the other day state, "I am so over vampires," only to have an acquaintance retort, "You'll have to rip True Blood out of my cold, dead hands."

I don't get the thesis of the article, I guess. Vampire have turned into wimps? Or, something. I do think the market has become somewhat saturated, what with Twilight and Being Human. I don't know how many more or original takes on vampires can be found. I look at True Blood, in Alan Ball's hands, as both totally derivative and original at the same time, timely (God Hates Fangs [shades of the Phelps family]), with characters that serve up delicious adult drama.

I really don't seem to be suffering here from a lack of grit and bloodletting.

[ edited by Tonya J on 2009-08-02 00:15 ]

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