Bloodsucking Fiends - Vampires and Feminism what?

It could be said that I like vampires quite a bit.  It could also be said that the sky is a very nice shade of blue today, zebras generally have stripes, and for the most part fish like to be in water.  Are you picking up what I'm laying down, here?  Vampires are pretty much my favorite fictional creature after dragons.  I've tried to pin down why that is, and I've got two possible reasons.  The first is that I am attracted to things that frighten me - I was so afraid of the original Bela Lugosi Dracula when I was a kid that I would hang a glow-in-the-dark rosary over my bed while I was sleeping.  The second is that since I am a heathen and don't particularly believe in an afterlife I have a vested interest in living forever.  There could be a combination of both going on.

So one might imagine that I've read a ton of vampire books, which would be a correct thought so congratulations.  A lot of them I don't like, and many I actively hate for various reasons.  I don't like the Anne Rice vampire books - too languid and "oh pity me I'm an eternal hottie and I'm tortured".  I've never read Twilight, but I've seen some of the movies and known enough people who have read them to hate it simply because of the horrifying messaging.  Give up your ambitions to sublimate yourself to a (way older) dude right out of high school, girls!  Base your whole self image on another person!  Chimo is ok, because bonding!  I don't give a crap if the storytelling is good (which it probably isn't) I hate those books on sheer principal, leaving aside the sparkling.

Ok, I'm getting the Rage, its time for a Goon interlude.

Oh the endless ROFLs!  Spoiler alert, he beats them up.
There are several vampire books I very much enjoy however.  The Nightwatch series is excellent, and of course there's the original Dracula.  But today I would like to talk about a little book called Bloodsucking Fiends by Chrisopher Moore.  Its a comedy like his other books, but it also has one of the most accurate of the female perspective that I've ever seen from a male author.  So its funny and thought provoking!  Warning - I don't consider myself a militant feminist by any means, but I am a lady and I've had some experiences that are unique to those who are ladies.  I'll try to generalize as little as possible and keep this out of "RAAAGHRR all men are idjits!" territory.
Fiction has long been a great way to explore and illuminate social issues through the venue of story.  The main character of this particular story is Jodie, a normal lady with a normal job until she gets singled out and turned into a vampire for the sport of a really bored old-as-dirt vampire.  After that happens, she suddenly finds herself in the unique situation of being a woman who doesn't need to be afraid of anything.
As far as society has come in the last few decades, we ladies still struggle against labels, inconvenient socialization, and fear.  Dr. Nerdlove talks a bit about it in his blog, which is definitely worth a read.  I don't take quite the extreme view that he does - that being that most women instantly evaluate men they meet on a threat-assessment basis.  However I admit the way my brain works gives me a tendency not to care much about personal safety.  I've waited for buses at 2 am in parts of Seattle that really shouldn't be frequented by civilized folk at those times.  
However, there is one thing I've noticed in myself that's really irritating, the socialization to be nice.  I'm not talking about being kind, or noble, or anything like that.  Just being nice.   Not making waves, being accommodating, and polite even when the person on the other side of the conversation really doesn't deserve it.  How many of us have smiled and tried to keep reading on the bus while all you really want is to be left alone, only to have a conversation forced on us?  Giving someone a fake phone number instead of just saying "Sorry I just don't find you attractive" - an instance where the difference between nice and kind really stands out.  I'm not going to say that this experience is unique to women, but I will say that it is more culturally forced upon us than it is upon men.
When Jodie becomes a vampire, she slowly starts to forsake all the socialization she's been subjected to her entire life thanks to a conservative childhood in Carmel.  (Woo!  Monterey Bay FTW!)  It starts with makeup.  Somehow having to survive on blood makes stabbing yourself in the eye with a mascara wand completely irrelevant.  She starts saying exactly what's on her mind, to hilarious effect especially given the super hearing.  Walking around the city at night is exhilarating instead of terrifying.  Its an interesting statement, becoming something inhuman enables her to forget all the rules and fears that society forced upon her.
There are three books in this series, and it also explores Jodie's life with her boyfriend Tommy after she turns him into a vampire.  He has the exact opposite reaction to the change that she did - where she felt powerful and unafraid he feels confused and frightened.  He doesn't like being a vampire, its too far out of his comfort zone.  But Jodie's "comfort zone" was so spectacularly uncomfortable that anything else is a relief.  I say "uncomfortable" because her life before being a vampire wasn't bad.  She had a job, a man, parents that irritated her, but she was always afraid of something.  But then, all of a sudden she wasn't.  And so when she's offered a cure she turns it down.
I find the contrast between Jodie and Tommy and their reactions to being vampires incredibly interesting.  Tommy, who already knew (at 19!) his place in the world, is thrown on tilt.  Looking at it from a feminist perspective, that makes a bit of sense.  Tommy, being a quintessential male, is comfortable with his place in the world.  Even though he becomes a more powerful entity, he isn't happy.  
All that aside, the book is hilarious, a highlight being the parts narrated by Abby Normal, the teenage PerkyGoth.  Hilarious, I tell you!

Look! Buttons!

Comments

With a recommendation like that I'll definitely check it out.

In the 21st century it really seems like we've abandoned the vampire altogether. Nobody has effectively updated them like they have with the zombie. They're either gritty primates or so human as to barely qualify as monsters. Just look at the TV reboot of Dracula to see how little the need for blood (IE gourging on it like a sex addicted hemophiliac with an eating disorder) actually plays into the modern vampire. It'd be the equivalent of the Great Old Ones becoming so toothless as to be cast in a remake of All In The Family. Just Cthulhu, Shub-Niggurath and the gang learning a thing or two about this craaazy thing called life through their family's whacky hijinks... Actually that might be kind of awesome.

To me the penultimate use of the vampire story was Vampire: The Masquerade. It took all the old mythology (and I do mean ALL of it) and tied it together into a single cogent universe. It did for vampires what Star Wars did for sci-fi but has never formally entered the mainstream (despite it's influence being everywhere)... And that's regrettable. In my head I see a World of Darkness show on HBO that never premieres.

... Also, where rosary beads are concerned, vampires don't believe in god either. The vampire from your childhood that sat in the corner of your room while you slept didn't eat you simply because it chose not to.
Pleasant dreams.

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