In my last post, I talked about zombies as romantic heroes. But among the undead, is there any romantic hero more popular than the vampire? From Edward in Twilight to the Black Dagger Brotherhood in J.R. Wards series, the vampire represents danger, allure, mystery, and desire.
What is it about vampires that draw us in? For one thing, they are characters with which we, as human beings, are more likely to identify. They are characters that look like us, act like us, think as we do. The vampire is a creature that was once alive, one a living human being. So, it’s only natural that there’s a connection. In fiction, the vampire is humanity to the extreme… faster, stronger, more powerful, more attractive. The ideal.
The alpha male is the epitome of patriarchal power and dominance. What screams “alpha male” more than a vampire? Culturally, there is the prevailing idea that to be a man, a “real” man, means that emotions should not be readily shown. The overall cultural ideal of a man is own who is strong, in control, and generally emotionally distant. The vampires of the Black Dagger Brotherhood epitomize that ideal… hypermasculine and emotionally distant. There is no question that these vampires embody all that is considered to be masculine, the very definition of alpha males.
The vampire also represents society’s rather diverse and complex relationship with spirituality. How vampires are portrayed in literature can be interpreted as a reflection of that relationship. The stereotype of a vampire is often of a dark “creature of the night,” beings that are frequently seen as evil, representing sin, even living life as a vampire as punishment for that perceived sin. Despite that, vampires are often glamorized, made to be mysterious and dangerous, but sexy and alluring as well. This idea is reflected in each of the Brotherhood vampires.
The Brothers are warriors, sworn to fight for the good and longevity of their race, but their methods are necessarily violent and somewhat questionable at times. However, despite their histories and lives, these are men of honor that have their own system of beliefs to which (and to each other) they are deeply sworn. There is a contradiction to be seen between the idea of vampirism as evil and the intense loyalty and strict belief system that these vampires adhere to, making this Brotherhood a clear metaphor for the complex relationship with religion in society. It proves that there is not always a clear cut line between good and evil, that not everything is always as it appears.
The vampire trope in fiction can also create cultural anxiety with social norms as it relates to sexuality. The lore of the vampire is very much shrouded in sexuality, allure, and desire, a sense of uninhibited pleasure. The male vampire is truly a romantic ideal… dark, mysterious, the “bad boy.” The vampire romantic hero can allow the reader to play out all manners of sexual fantasy, to experience through the words of the book that which they would not in their own lives. What was once perhaps seen as repellant is now seen as sexy, in no small due to vampires like those in Twilight, True Blood, and The Vampire Diaries. These kinds of vampires glamorize sex in a way that goes against much of our society’s view on sex, especially from the framework of faith. Many of us, as women, are taught that extreme sexuality is not acceptable, making the messages sent often somewhat contradictory, sexual beings versus virginal, chaste beings.