December 1, 2010

Literary Citicism Essay

Vampire: The Hero?

So far all the books we have read as a class depict vampire as the predator; something for the reader to fear.  The closest we came to a sympathetic vampire character was Louis from Interview with a Vampire by Anne Rice.  The idea of the vampire being the heroine’s hero is an interesting one; an idea that is becoming vastly more popular as J.M. Tyree points out in his essay Warm-Blooded: True Blood and Let the Right One In.

Tyree’s essay discusses a number of important and notable qualities found in most vampire novels/movies/TV series.  He starts off by discussing the prevalence of politics in the recent upsurge of vampire movies.  The most notable, and his main focus, are hit TV show True Blood (2008) and movie Let the Right One In (2008).  True Bloods’ obvious political statements would be tolerance and acceptance. It is a good representation of the need for the acceptance of homosexuality. Tyree says “True Blood positions itself as a loose but obvious allegory about the mainstream acceptance of so-called ‘alternative lifestyles’- it’s about tolerance and integration of many kinds, using the vitriolic American debate over gay marriage as a touchstone, while linking it with the Southern reaction against civil rights.” (32)  Here Tyree is hinting at the importance of True Blood being set in the South, where civil rights and homosexuality are a much larger issue.  He is emphasizing that time and place are important for not only the setting of the story, but also when it was written.  This storyline would not have been possible, say 100 years earlier, because the issues were not yet relevant.  It simply would not have been thought of by the writer.  Tyree mentions books such as Dracula and Carmilla throughout the essay explaining that the issues in the books are relevant to their times.  They both also represent the “traditional vampire” as Tyree would call them.  He describes the role of the “traditional vampire” here:
            “Classically, being under the spell of a vampire involves effacement by seduction into an exploitative relationship between an omnisexual seducer and a parade of slave lovers – male and female – who are viewed as both interchangeable parts and as natural resources or blood banks.” (31)
His uses of the words “classically” and “traditionally” emphasize not only the changing vampire characters but also the changing of the times, issues and lifestyles.  This depiction of humans as objects instead of individuals was an issue when Dracula was written; mainly focusing on women but would also include minorities.  Carmilla may actually be considered modern for the period it was written in because even though the vampire Carmilla views her prey as   “self-replenishing bags of fresh blood” there is also feeling there between predator and prey, which Tyree describes as “cruel love.”
The “new” vampire is much different than these selfish, blood-crazed, monsters that we are used to.  For the most part Tyree focuses on the characters of Edward, Bill, and Eli (from Twilight, True Blood, and Let the Right One In) as the “new vampire” of our generation.  He says, “[They] embody a new combination of undead chum and unnaturally attentive lover, a sort of guardian angel with fangs.”  (32)  I think the main reason that this idea of the monster becoming the protector is because the innocent then seem special.  In all of these situations the vampire selects one human in which to lay their affections, as opposed to trying to protect a group of people.  They single out this human and seem to care very little about anyone else.  The idea is very romantic.  These days our society seems very taken with the idea of soul mates and true love.  Tyree asks a good question about today’s society.  “Does the new vampire, then, have the potential to stand in as a metaphor for our age’s fantasies of non-exploitative tolerance and relatively equitable love relationships?”  He is basically saying that what the majority of people desire today is a partner who accepts them exactly how they are and treats them fairly.  The question is whether or not this idea of the “perfect” someone is possible?  Or are people merely getting an unattainable idea in their head?
Tyree mentions in the essay that many times when a vampire is involved with a human it suggests pedophilia.  I found this such an interesting concept because in the examples that he gives, Twilight and True Blood, the humans are consenting adults when they get sexually involved with their vampire.  He doesn't touch on the subject too much but he brings up a really important point, one that is especially significant in Twilight.  The main character Bella wants to become a vampire, not only because she wants to be able to live forever like her love, Edward, but also because she does not want to grow old while he does not.  She is worried about her looks as well as how they would look together; an old woman with an apparently young man.  The reality is that Edward is about 91 years her senior.  Uh, kind of gross.  Edwards's age gap from Bella is never an issue though.  Why? Because Edward looks to be about the same age as Bella.  It is interesting that the couple looking the same age completely changes the perception of the situation; which is a 109 year old man dating and eventually marrying an 18 year old (not to mention the fact that he's a vampire).
The situation is practically the same in True Blood.  Bill, the vampire hero, and Sookie, the telepathic heroine, quickly become passionate lovers.  Bill is obviously from a different time with his southern courtliness and gentlemanly manners, but even though the age difference is right out there in the open for Sookie to experience, it never seems to bother her that she is dating someone who was born before the civil war.  These examples prove that looks are more important than the true age of the person.

Overall I agree with what Tyree says in his essay.  There are no overreaching statements that can be easily misunderstood and concepts that I had never thought of before are readily explained and supported.  For example, the idea of pedophilia being suggested in some vampire stories was one I had never considered, but it makes sense once you think about it.  He says "A genre featuring centuries-old characters attacking very young women sometimes clumsily evokes pedophilia…" (32)  I also liked his comparison of the traditional vampire, "…a false friend, the one whose magnetic personality and all-absorbing attentiveness turn out too good to be true, leading to an even lonelier place filled with life-draining abuse and manipulation." (37), and the new vampire, "(who)… aren't false friends.  What they truly desire most is something very different - they wish for an end to their interminable loneliness." (37) 

1. Is the idea of the perfect someone possible?
2. Is the new vampire a result of changing political atmospheres or just a new, more risky love story?
3. What is the fascination with blood, sex and vampires?

 1.        "Pedophilia." Wikipedia The Free Encyclopedia. Wikimedia Foundation, Inc.,     23 11 2010 . Web. 1 Dec 2010.   <>.
2.        "Pansexuality." Wikipedia The Free Encyclopedia. Wikimedia Foundation,  Inc., 01 12 2010 . Web. 1 Dec 2010. <>.

1 comment:

  1. Jenstick, I enjoyed your essay. You did a good job of explaining some of the concepts that the literary essay presented kudos! I really liked the idea you interpreted from the essay involving being mindful of the history of the novel as it was being written. It seems obvious, yet can be easily missed. Modern tales such as Let the Right One In would not be possible in an earlier time such as when Stoker wrote Dracula or when Le Fanu penned Carmilla. The ideas that Let the Right One In represent would not be applicable think about the character Hakan would the views of a pedophile be something that Victorian England would be comfortable reading about. Most likely not. One of the most important features, I believe, of reading the books in the chronological order we have has been the juxtaposition of the different historical themes and how these ideas enhance or obstruct our viewing of the novel as a whole.

    I really found the idea of the perfect someone to be compelling. Both in the way Tyree suggests and in the thoughts you present. I had not previously considered the vampires of today as “a sort of guardian angel with fangs”. Thinking about that it seems to be an apt metaphor. These characters listed from Twilight, True Blood, or Let the Right One In are lonely and are seemingly capable of overlooking their own inadequacy in order to attempt a normalish relationship. Our society is very much obsessed with this idea; consider the wide array of media dedicated to ‘finding’ true love. Whether it is in a romantic comedy about seemingly mismatched people, of which about a dozen of these films are released each year. Or a television show, slowly dragging out a story line for weeks and weeks when you know that the people are destined to be together. We are culturally fixated on finding that “perfect” someone, but is that really such a bad thing?