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Friday, July 3, 2009

"Bloodsucking Is a Boys World"

What is America's obsession with vampires? I'll admit, I've fallen into this obsession. It all started with Buffy, which I only started watching earlier this year, and now I'm into True Blood as well. There's also Twilight, which I have a weird fascination with as I've talked about before. As much as I love these vampire shows (Buffy and True Blood, that is), why is America obsessed with them? And why am I obsessed with them? (My obsession might have something to do with my obsession with pop culture and TV shows in general, but maybe it's something more too since America seems obsessed with them as well.)

I loved Buffy because the character was a strong woman who saved the world on numerous occasions which is such a rare occurrence in media today. Even though Buffy had the help of many strong men, she was the one in charge and the one who ultimately would save the day. True Blood centers around a strong female character, Sookie Stackhouse, and her relationship with a vampire, Bill. While Sookie often needs rescuing, she can stand up for herself. My weird obsession with Twilight has more to do with my lack of understanding for the obsession with the phenomenon. Bella is not strong, cannot stand up for herself, and constantly needs to be saved by Edward. And Edward is basically a creepy stalker. I prefer Buffy and True Blood because of the strong female characters, where as Twilight is a feminist nightmare. But why does America like vampires?

In the New York Times article "A Trend With Teeth," Ruth La Ferla examines the appeal of vampires. She states,

The vampire’s attraction is “all about the titillation of imagining the monsters we could be if we just let ourselves go,” suggested Rick Owens, a fashion bellwether whose goth-tinged collections sometimes evoke the undead. “We’re all fascinated with corruption, the more glamorous the better” and, he added, with the idea of “devouring, consuming, possessing someone we desire.”

Dodai from Jezebel wrote a similar, yet feminist, article titled "Women Play Mostly Supporting Role Within Male-Dominated "Trend"". To explain America's fascination with vampires, she proposes,
But in a new interview with True Blood series creator Alan Ball, he says: "Vampires are sex. Vampires basically arose in our time as a metaphor for sex. I mean, vampires are sort of the ultimate Romantic rock star, bad boy or girl fantasy."

So, if vampires are all about sex, it's no surprise that America has an obsession with them. Especially with the 'abstinence porn' that is Twilight. This series is all about sexual control, in a very sexualized way.

But why do we always see male vampires? Buffy had Angel and Spike. Twilight has Edward. True Blood has Bill and Eric. One of the few exceptions is the newly made vampire Jessica in True Blood, who is a whiny teenager who is still learning to control her impulses. There is also Drusilla in Buffy who is very mentally disturbed.

Why is it always the men that embody sex, dominate women, and possess others? Why can't women be in these powerful roles? And why is it that when women are vampires, as in Jessica and Drusilla, they are in some way less than the male vampires, whether through age and experience or mental capability?

"Bloodsucking is a boys world," according to the Jezebel article. It then goes on to describe the online phenomenon that was the video of Buffy 'dusting' Edward.
Jonathan McIntosh, who created the clip, says: More than just a showdown between The Slayer and the Sparkly Vampire, it's also a humorous visualization of the metaphorical battle between two opposing visions of gender roles in the 21ist century […] In the end the only reasonable response was to have Buffy stake Edward – not because she didn't find him sexy, not because he was too sensitive or too eager to share his feelings – but simply because he was possessive, manipulative, and stalkery.

I guess that what we need to combat the male domination of the vampire world is digitally created video of two different shows mashed together.

I wonder if a show or movie centering around a female vampire will ever be as popular as Buffy, Twilight, or True Blood? Sure there are powerful female characters in two out of three of those, but they are not vampires. When will women be able to embody sex and sexuality like men as vampires?


Ameya said...

I also have a sick love for Twilight.. but may i add that Alice is pretty awesome. Esme & Rosalie are certainly strong as well. I actually quite loved all the secondary characters.. i can't understand why Bella & Edward are so fake and dependent and cheesy..

But it's a goode question! Perhaps one reason is the main consumers of this vampire stuff are females.. so the idea could be that we want to see males being sexy over females being sexy (generalizing, of course!) And sadly that whole male overpowering and controlling being sexy is still very much in the collective concious/unconcious. These entertainment trends just play up the energies surrounding society now, and this is no different.

I think a lot of it is that many women now recognize that that sort of behavior is bad and they *shouldn't* be attracted to it.. but for whatever reason, they are. But when those sorts of guys are vampires then we can "understand" and justify the behavior.. and with it safely in the realm of fiction we can feel less guilty about being in love with them for it.

I would like to say that I don't really count myself in on that "we" buut... I like Eric much more than Bill. I think Eric is nice.. but he's certainly more in control than Bill is. Maybe i'm just as guilty when it comes to my fiction.. (NOT my real life though, thank god.)

But the fact that sexy & sexually empowered women are way too scary and intense for the general public, in their own opinions. Certainly a female with that much power (& attention of a story line) would be EVIL! and corrupt everyone with her evil-ness and therefore be the bad guy.

I haven't read the books, so i'm interested to see where Vampire Jessica is going to end up. She was wild when she first went vamp, but now, under bill's paternal eye, is calming down. Drinking fake blood & getting with the town sweetie who wants to wait. Will she become a passive, forever under bill's old fashion fatherly control, vamp with no sexual life of her own?

Hmm. Sorry for rambling, its hard to keep track of what on earth i'm saying in these tiny comment boxes!

Ameya said...

Holy crap, that was long! Haha. Sorry for any typos!

Laura said...

You make some really great points, Ameya. I especially like you point that "sexy & sexually empowered women are way too scary and intense for the general public." That is so true. Whenever we see sexually empowered women, whether they are vampires or not, we tend to identify they as sluts and bitches. There are so many things wrong with that that I don't even want to go into it right now.

I also agree that the supporting characters in Twilight are much better than Edward and Bella (personally, Jasper is my fave, followed closely by Alice). However, the supporting women vampires aren't that strong of characters either. Rosalie is seen as a bitch and Alice as a spacey flake (maybe not that intense, but I definitely think the subtext is there).

And don't worry about the length of comments. I think it's great that you have so much to say and am always interested in what other people think.

Mea said...

I too am a fan of True Blood, although I do have a little bit of a problem with the way that women are portrayed in some instances.I find it hard to like Bill. I find him so controlling. I know he does "own" her (by the rules of vampire novels/movies), but I just can't stand the idea. However, there are some strong female characters. Sookie is tough and she doesn't always listen to Bill, but his attitude towards her and that red headed vamp Jessica always gets under my skin. I know it's the "vampire" way but it doesn't help portray females in a positive light.

I think that we may see some changes though. Have you noticed that they have made Jessica appear more "sexy" as of lately? I think the the world may be ready for a lead female vampire. Marianne, though now a vampire, is another example of an attractive woman on the show with a lot of power. I think we will see True Blood breaking down some barriers of how sexuality is portrayed in the media.

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