It is no secret that I have a Problem with Vampires.
My long and storied obsession with all things chilly and gorgeously undead began when my mother unwittingly narrated a stripped-down version of Dracula for my sisters and me during car rides when I was 8 or 9, thinking only to stun us into silence for a few minutes with her version of Jonathan Harker’s brush with the damned. Instead, her almost-but-not-quite-chilling PG-rendition, particularly the bare sentence or two she devoted to Drac’s inhumanly beautiful harem of baby-eating she-vampire seductresses, sent me into a silent and burning fervor of imagination that has lasted nearly two decades and has survived quite a glut of bad TV and movies and books.
Enter Stephenie Meyer, who wrote the sparkling bloodbath that is the Twilight juggernaut (a phenomenon that calls up just about every seventeen-year-old impulse–and oh, there are many–in me, and which has spawned my own personal quest to make her my homegirl; but I digress). This latest heat source brought my simmering obsession to a boil this past summer…and the pot bubbled over all winter, with the advent of the film adaptation, which, I kid you not, I went to see eight separate times in the theater (I finally got a whole theater to myself on take eight; just me and Robert Pattinson in the glittering dark for two straight hours? Totally worth the collective hundred dollars I spent on tickets).
But despite the fabulous escapist release and wild teenage intensity of the whole endeavor, it also made me think long and hard about my ambition to, you know, be a vampire when I grow up. And in a way that the enthralled 9-year-old version of me obviously couldn’t grasp–the more I thought about the whole pesky immortality issue, for instance, the more I found that it really really bothered me. I mean, in the context of Twilight, we are meant to accept that you could do just about anything for your version of Edward: you could happily die for him, and immortality would in no way seem crushingly vast and horrible if you were spending it with him. He is just that rad. And, in the happy bubble of suspended disbelief, okay, yeah– Bite me, baby, and let’s do this whole forever thing.
But since I carry fictions into the real world with me alarmingly often, and think about them far more deeply and constantly than they are meant to be thought about, I found myself wondering what living forever would do to you. If you can’t die, what importance can you fix to anything? If your existence is limitless, how can anything you do or feel mean anything at all? And goddamn if I did not have a mini crisis trying to reconcile my devotion to Edward with the fact that, oh god, you mean… this doesn’t end? Ever? I worried that I was getting cold feet on the vampire front–developing some sort of commitment phobia– and so I re-read everything…again.
Upon discussing my Problem(s) recently with a friend I had Twilighted rather cruelly (she was in the midst of writing final papers when the book I sent her arrived with my terse note: READ IT. NOW.), she asked me why, exactly, I am so firmly in the vampire camp, especially when the immortality thing bugs me so deeply. She brought up Meyer’s werewolves as a foil (at this point she was addicted and had run through all of the books at breakneck speed), and argued that in the pantheon of mythical, fetishized monsters, a monster that is nonetheless still alive and human…at least some of the time… seems the more attractive option. “If the cusp of death is what turns you on,” she said, “a werewolf can still kill you, but, you know, traditionally spends 27/28ths of his time as a normal dude, while vampires are insatiable and deadly 100% of the time. A relationship with a werewolf just seems more likely to have a chance…and to come to a relatively normal end.”
I had trouble answering her annoyingly compelling argument in complete, non-spluttering sentences, and this made me wonder: Why am I in the vampire camp? Vampires may just be the perfect fantasy cocktail of sex and death: Oooh, he’s gorgeous AND he might kill me at any second? YES. But I think there’s something more to it than that for me, something I can’t quite put my finger on.
Maybe my own freakshow psychology means I like my monster loves to have unbearable consequences in the same way that I appreciate a good screwed-up love story in real life, and the whole immortality consequence serves with fraught and impossible neatness. Or maybe it has something to do with the charge I get out of anything deeply and fundamentally creepy: a vampire looks like a man…but isn’t– he moves like a predatory animal, is cold and pale as a corpse, and is so hypnotically lovely that you’ll forget how disturbing he is and let him get close enough to end you. A werewolf on the other hand–at least in Meyer’s universe–acts like a man as a man and a wolf as a wolf; nothing all that uncanny about him.
So, in the Extreemly Pertinent Vampires v. Werewolves Debate, where do you stand?