For the better part of twenty years vampires have been the seductive malcontents of the literary world. Starting with Ann Rice through the current Stephanie Meyer Twilight mania, the vampire emerged from the scrap heap of camp a vigorous and apparently immortally popular character.
Yes the raw lustiness associated with vampires throughout their literary history is undisputed, starting with the Gothic German poem Der Vampire of 1748, but the past decade vampires have been cooped by increasing numbers of authors: once raw and vicious creatures have been diluted and their fangs ground down slightly.
But we ask, at the end of the day, vampires are still monsters, right? And a recent addition to the primal pantheon , werewolves, have become hunky loners, due in large part to the popularity of Twilight. But they too are monsters, right?
Oh, but some cry, ‘But at their heart they are men. Misunderstood, cursed men.’ It seems to us that they may be ‘men,’ they are still creatures that feast on human flesh and blood. Hard for some readers to get past, no matter how brooding or hunky they are portrayed.
The first vampire fiction is believed to be Der Vampire, an 18th century short poem featuring a male vampire visiting a devoutly Catholic woman every night, kissing her and drinking her blood. Later that same century Goethe’s The Bride of Corinth followed an undead woman as she rises from the grave each night.
From my grave to wander I am forc’d,
Still to seek The Good’s long-sever’d link,
Still to love the bridegroom I have lost,
And the life-blood of his heart to drink;
When his race is run,
I must hasten on,
And the young must ‘neath my vengeance sink.
Vampires have been dour and remorseless in their quest to slake their taste for human blood. Through time it’s natural to expect a character become less gore obsessed and more introspective, hoping for a redemption from their cursed life.
Werewolves have only more recently been depilatoried of their monstrosity. In literature, werewolves have been mainstays of animalistic evil since 61 CE the Satyricon, which includes a passage about a Roman soldier turned wolf by night. While later werewolves of fiction modified the basic cursed fiend, the origins were purely malevolent and flesh eating.
Irrefutably, werewolves and vampires have been sensual creatures since they began appearing in fiction. It seems to be those more sexual overtones (or undertones) that draw particularly women to the genre of vampire fiction, running the gamut from straight love stories to more complex supernatural trysts.
In writing about the werewolf and vampire genre, we wonder where gender plays a role if at all. Are men conditioned in society to look at the monster first and being second? Viewing those beasts as baneful threats to loved ones and to be stopped at all costs? Or, more deeply, are they threats to masculinity?
What do you think, are vampires and werewolves still just monsters? Or are their current incarnations acceptable variations on men first, monsters second?