Guess who has watched almost every episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer in the past two weeks? (Helpful hint – it’s probably me.)
Yes, yes. Good old Buffy. Always there when you need some cheesy 90s junk food for your brain. Reliable, you know? Dependably Joss Whedon-tastic. I heart Whedon so much. I’m actually glad that The Avengers has (almost) made him a household name. His writing is witty and pun-ful in a way that I think really appeals to the nerd brain. While the words themselves are sometimes clunky in the mouth, they’re extra clever, even if you have to wait until the end of the sentence for the pieces of the joke to click together. Smart humor. Which makes for smart characters, and shows a kind of trust in the audience’s intelligence. I appreciate that. I do not, however, appreciate yet another shitty theme song. Seriously, Whedon, what the hell?
This is the first time that I’ve re-watched the series in quite a while. I’ve seen the first three or four seasons a bajillion times, but I don’t think I ever got around to watching the last couple of seasons more than once. So those episodes are new and exciting. Thanks, Netflix. The seventh season aired in 2002 (which may be a contributing factor in the simultaneous failure of Firefly, that split focus of the creator and producers). So I went on a little googling mission to see what everyone on the cast is up to these days. Because they were in their twenties playing high school characters, right? I think those kinds of actors are typically pretty fucked up after the show ends (see also: 90210, Saved by the Bell, etc). And we all know fucked-up-ed-ness interests me greatly.
And lo! The internet did give unto the blogger sweet, sweet rant fodder. I found this little niblet of awesome. (Fair warning, if you watch the video part of that: it is beyond weird to hear James Marsters speaking in his real voice. Just so you know.) First of all, how great is it that he found such an insightful connection between Spike and Spock? And secondly, the man makes an excellent point about the many and varied cultural uses and impacts of vampires.
I know I don’t talk about it much here, but I’m a pretty tremendous horror fan. It seems tangential to the science fiction and fantasy thing, somehow. Not quite as squarely geek-centric on the pop culture Venn diagram. My first paid writing gig was actually doing online movie reviews of B and C (and sometimes Q or W) grade zombie films. It was great fun, but it’s taken me years to get the taste of some of those movies out of my eyeballs. You know when movies are so bad that you watch them on mute and fast-forward? Yeah, those. Anyway, zombies aside, I love horror of all flavors. And I think Marsters makes a good point in that interview, that vampires are the most versatile of the horror monsters. Because, at their center, they’re the monsters who retain the most humanity. Ghosts are incorporeal. Werewolves are essentially pure beastly instinct. Frankensteinian monsters are, in my opinion, just mad robots. And zombies are mindless eating machines (no wonder they’ve become so beloved here in ‘Mericuh of late).
Vampires are mostly still people. Problem is, they’re junkies. And if you’ve ever hung out with junkies you know that they’re basically just whiny, needy babies. Gimmegimmegimme, wantwantwant all the fucking time. Vampires are driven by need, by hunger. They’re always incomplete. Some are depicted as more evil, taking enjoyment from the thrill of the hunt. And some are just looking for their next meal and kill because they have to. But they all want to eat you. That’s their job. They’re not, by and large, hunting wild animals or sucking alley cats dry, right? What’s interesting about vampires as a cultural construct is that their food is sentient. (And don’t give me that “cows have feelings” crap. I know you’re out there, vegetarians, and I respect your lifestyle choices, but we’re talking about monsters here.)
That’s why they’re so alluring, isn’t it? They’re tricksy and false, those vamps. They have to talk you into getting close to them. In the dark. And then they suck on your neck. It’s all very sexual. Sex and death have always been intertwined. Sex can kill in many ways. Childbirth, disease, murder, madness – all deadly to varying degrees. In the middle ages, orgasms were even euphemized as “the little death.” So it makes sense that vampires would be these romantic figures, doesn’t it? They’re always young and strong and beautiful, but they carry the wisdom of old age and much practice. It’s a very appealing combo. In some lore, they have the power of hypnotism or mind control, but I argue that that could just be an extension of animal sexuality if one has the right victim. We’re weak creatures. Food, sex, and death are all that are required of us, and vampires wrap it all up in a hot little package of social commentary.
Having said that, I’m annoyed at vampire love stories. Vampires in love with each other I have no problem with. But vampires and people? My mama always told me not to play with my food. The basic, fundamental glitch in this trope is that there is a huge difference between your run-of-the-mill bad boy type and someone who has the potential to drink your fluids until you die. It’s all about difference between sex and love. It makes perfect sense that vampires would use their sexuality to tempt and beguile in order to achieve their junkie goals. But they’re not built to love you. They’re monsters, finely tuned killing machines. Con artists and serial murderers, all. I think that jumping from using sex as a weapon to equating sexuality with love is an insurmountable intellectual leap, and one I’m not willing to make.
And here’s the thing that really bugs the shit out of me: in my experience, these stories are one-sided. It’s always some dark and brooding and suave dude vampire who gets romantically involved with some impressionable young lady who doesn’t have the wherewithal to separate sex from love. It’s never a hot lady vamp trying to play house with a teenage or twenty-something guy and live happily ever after, is it? No. Because young men are much less likely to make that emotional connection. They listen to their junk and it gets them eaten alive, possibly literally. Female vampires, therefore, come across as much more ruthless. Their use of their sexuality as a ploy to attract victims, as bait, if you will, seems starkly weaponized and tactical. There’s no room in the mythology for this particular gender role reversal. Hardly seems fair, both to vampires and to readers/watchers of those piece of shit love stories.
“Oh, you can trust me. I’m a good guy. I won’t hurt you. I promise. I’ve changed.” It’s a bullshit line. Why do people fall for that? Supernatural monsters or no, if anyone ever tries to feed you that line you should turn and walk away as fast as possible. This moony, swoony girl character that we’re showing to a whole generation of young women and that they’re going to take as both pop culture icon and role model? I want to smack those characters in the mouth for being weak and stupid and insipid. That whole “he won’t hurt me because our love is stronger than his animal nature” thing? It’s just as much bullshit coming from someone who wants to beat you or cheat on you as it is from someone whose only goal is to eat your face. Fuck. That. Noise. You’re deluded! Grow a spine! Maybe find a man with a day job. Who’s not a junkie. Who can grow old with you. Who doesn’t have a century’s worth of dirt-filled baggage and a strong need to use human people like juice boxes.
I guess I just don’t get it. Maybe I don’t understand romance. Maybe I’m a cranky old lady who’s been with the same guy for half my life. Or, perhaps more interestingly, maybe I’m secretly the kind of racist who doesn’t believe in hypothetical monster-human love. Any of these is possible. I think the real point here is: how much longer can I put off watching Angel? Because I’m pretty sure it’s going to suck. No pun intended.