Saturday, November 22, 2008

But, Dear, The Boy Sucks Blood..... by Anthony McCarthy

I know he seems very charming and you feel sorry for him because he seems so sad but I just can’t feel good about this relationship. He sucks blood, he feels an enormous urge to bite people in the neck and drink their blood while it’s still warm. Yes, yes, I know you say he’s got it under control but it’s only a matter of time before they figure out where the cities pets are going. Then what? He’ll go to court and you’ll get dragged in as a character witness. The neighbors will put two and two together then what will happen? You used to be such an animal lover. And does he really have that much will power? I know you say he’s got more will power than normal but don’t you remember that time you had him over and your little brother teased him about his crypt palor? I mean when he bared his teeth and his eyes turned red, do you want to risk that happening when it’s not just family? Now, that’s no way to talk about your brother, and considering your boyfriend people who live in glass houses.

I know you think you’re in love with him but you don’t have that much experience. What if he’s not as serious as you are? No. No. It doesn’t reassure me that he calls you “sweetheart”, I’ve seen how he looks when he says it. And you’re the one who wanted to try going vegetarian. You remember how long that lasted?

And what if he is serious? I mean when you’re older than fourteen. What if you get married? What about the children? You think your brother’s a pain in the neck but, believe me, there are worse. Yes, your cousin Howie is a good example of one but as far as I know he doesn’t suck blood. Yes, yes, I know you think I’m OC about that one but it really isn’t his most attractive feature. Come to think of it, you used to like a boy with a tan. I knew letting you stay after for that project was a mistake. You’d never have been there while night school was in session....

And what about as you get older. What about mid-life crisis. You remember your father. I mean, the boy’s got problems now that a broken collar bone and tattoo removal won’t cure. What if he goes off the deep end? You have no guarantee that he won’t have some kind of hormonal imbalance and start chasing after ..... And, come to think, how long does a vampire’s mid-life crisis last? You’re setting yourself up for an eternity of heartbreak. No, I think the best thing to do is to just cut it off. Oh, you’re just being overly dramatic, it’s not like you’re putting a knife in his heart. Besides, he’ll get over that. No, I’m putting my foot down. I don’t want you seeing him again. Bars on your window? Well, if that’s what it takes, though your father thought wire mesh would be more effective.

OK, that’s it. You’re grounded. What do you mean in more ways than I can imagine?

Update: Biting Vampires As Ideal boyfriends? Good grief.

The idea of the vampire as being sexually alluring is something that is clearly demented, no, make that perverted. It was bad enough when the colorless old man of Stoker’s Dracula turned into the young, black and white greaser of Bela Lugosi, then the technicolor dry look Frank Langella. The idea of a man slipping into a woman’s bed room at night and vampirizing her as romance might be less sick than the romanticizing rape only due to the fact that vampires don’t exist. At least I hope there aren’t kids trying out biting people in the neck as a lifestyle choice, now that Hollywood is presenting the blood sucker as a white bread teen idol. I just don’t get it. But then, I never got The Leader of the Pack either. I haven't done a study of it, but I'll bet that female vampires preying on males are not generally portrayed as sympathetic, romantic characters. They might be seductive but they the ones I recall are only the more evil for that.

The vampire as a metaphor for beleaguered minority group boyfriend is worse than inappropriate, it’s offensive. If they existed vampires would be the embodiment of all of the lies told about the dangers of the dangerous “other”*. If they existed, they would actually be cunning, dangerous, predatory killers, stealing not only the lives of their victims but their very souls, condemning to eternal damnation. The vampire isn’t just the boy from the wrong side of the tracks, though, as in the first paragraph, I’ve got a feeling a vampire would be seen as more socially acceptable, as long as they dressed well, could feign middle-class manners and practiced enhanced oral hygiene.

You would think that this style of vampire was everything a you wouldn’t want in a man. He’s undead, bites people in the neck, drinks their very life essence and enslaves them to a half-life, isn’t handy with tools and can’t be relied to come home at a reasonable hour. They aren’t good life-companion material. I know I wouldn’t put up with one.

The advent of AIDS made the issue of blood even more dangerous, a more twisted literary device. I don’t get its increased popularity in pop-fiction as it becomes a clearer danger. But, then, I’ve watched my friends die of AIDS related diseases.

You wonder how the Twilight series would do if instead of being a vampire the teenage heart throb merely picked peoples’ pockets or hacked their bank accounts instead of drank blood. I have every confidence that stealing peoples money is, actually, less socially acceptable than drinking their blood and stealing their soul. Would a teen thief be able to sustain a series of kiddies’ block busters or a movie? I mean as the main attraction instead of a cute side line.

It’s been my sad observation that there is no man so repulsive that they can’t find a woman, somewhere, who will waste her life for him. Our culture sets women up for that with the idea that they’ve got to have a man, or boy friend, that they’re nothing without one. Some women are lucky enough to have resisted that pervasive message but too many haven’t. Girls, I suspect, are more vulnerable to that pressure than adults. The anxiety of being a teenager makes every pressure explosive. I don’t think this is an innocuous trend in teen fiction, I think it’s symptomatic of the vampirism that women are subjected to in real life, and that’s no tall tale. There has to be something that explains how something so counter-intuitive is so pervasive in our far less than girl-friendly pop-culture.

* I’m not opposed to vampire stories on principle, I do actually have a favorite vampire story, “Blood Libel” by Leigh Ann Hussey about a Jewish vampire, helped by a wise Rabbi who finds a way for him to retain his humanity and his place in a community. It was a very delicate handling of a very charged libel of real anti-Semitism.