TOP 7 VAMPIRE AND WEREWOLF TROPES THAT NEED TO BE STAKED TO DEATH

Vampires have changed a lot since their soulless bloodsucking days of Camilla, Dracula and Varney. No longer a shrivelled menace, but a sexy, sexy protagonist with a dark, brutal past .. washboard abs… and the pain of centuries of loss and denial and longing carried on their big, muscular hunky shoulders… (did I mention abs?) Yeah, goodbye evil demon and hello brooding sex God, vampires are totally teenage fap material now, while werewolves, though  less popular (the bestiality thing is kind of a boner killer), are the cool macho alternative; they can transform at will, are the natural rivals of vampires, and provide a caveman alternative to the metrosexual, refined seducers that are the vampires.

But while change is not bad (and as a woman I admit I actually love the sexy vampires and werewolves as action leads), there are some new annoying patterns that are beginning to emerge again and again. And there are some conventions that just need to be staked to death…

1) The ridiculous homophobia and racism analogies

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Damn those bigots and their intolerance against beings who frequently kill people!

There’s fantastic racism , but ever since the X-men became mainstream, comparing ‘discrimination’ against your supernatural creatures  to homophobia (while not actually including any actual gay people  as anything more than sassy comic relief or victims) has become the new trend to make a story more ‘edgy’ and ‘relevant’. But comparing the prejudice against a typically harmless minority to a justified fear against a supernatural  whose means of survival regularly ends in murder and torture is ridiculous.

Vampires  are feared  and hated because they’re extremely powerful with absurd wealth, often contacts in high position and have superpowers which they tend to use to kill people on a regular basis.

Fearing vampires/ witches/ werewolves isn’t discrimination- it’s is an entirely reasonable reaction to the threat they pose and the only reason it’s portrayed as prejudice is because vampires and wolves are super hot. If vampires looked less like David ‘putting the Buff in Buffy’ Boreanaz and more like Uncle Lurch, we would still be calling them monsters and no one would call it prejudice. And speaking of sexy vampires….

2) The  whining about the curse of being a super powered sparkly sex God

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Look at my monstrousness!

Ah, the trope that began with Louis, became mainstream with Angel and reached its horrifying pinacle with Edward Cullen: the vampire who is Just. So. Tortured. About being this super special immortal sex God…

Look, there is nothing terrible about being a modern vampire. Nothing.Sure, in the days of Dracula, when people were superstitious and vampires were actual monsters, becoming an evil hell beast would have been a serious downer. But not any more.

In pretty much every modern vampire series, vampires are the ultimate wish fulfillment. They’re eternally young, super sexy, super powered and in many versions they don’t even need to kill people to survive. When they do, there’s usually a way to only kill bad people- like Lestat’s mind reading in the vampire chronicles. Hell, half of them can even go out in the frickin’ sun.

Sure, you can’t have kids (well in some versions you can have little Dhampir babies), but that is pittance compared to all the benefits. There is no downside, and their plight is about as sympathetic as those characters from 90s who whined about how empty it was to have a great job and a nice car.

Lestat here sums up exactly how I feel whenever this trope comes up…

3) The Female Werewolf as the only one, an aberration or an anomaly

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Elena the lone female werewolf. Leah the only werewolf in Quilette history. Even in Wolf’s Rain, which has by far the best portrayal of wolves I’ve seen, SPOILER Blue the lone main female wolf in the series doesn’t count and can’t SPOILER enter paradise with the rest of the pack because of her  half dog status and is always the outsider in the pack.Female werewolves in the Mercy Thompson series are rare, and though Mercy herself is a skin walker (though I think that was retconned in later books), she is similar to this trope as she’s a rare canine shifter and is desirable to the males because she’s one of the only females whom they can breed with . And for that matter, the werecats in the shifter series operate on a similar basis. Female werewolves are always extremely rare and a HUGE emphasis is often placed on their fertility.

This makes NO sense. This makes no sense whatsoever. What kind of species operates like this? Not real wolves, which has a pretty even gender split. Moreover, in a wolf pack only the Alpha couple will breed, meaning that the fertility of the rest of the females aren’t a big issue.

It is an absolutely annoying trope which often reduces females to commodities to be fought over because of their gender, or treats them as a bizarre anomaly. And speaking of werewolves…

4) ‘Of course they’re like that- they’re werewolves’ as an excuse for the male lead’s douchey behaviour

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Paranormal Romance: making this guy look like the paragon of progressive gender roles

Clay Danvers. Adam Hauptmann. The literal alpha male. He’s  possessive and controlling. He makes decisions for our heroine ‘for her own good’.Not because he’s a co-dependent dick with no boundaries, oh no. It’s because he’s a werewolf, not a human, and of course they’re like that. Okaaayy now…

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First off, werewolves don’t exist and therefore  they don’t have to be anything. If they’re sexist dicks, then they’re sexist dicks because the writer chose to write them that way and that’s a really terrible thing to make your romantic lead. If vampires can stop being hideous chaotic evil monsters and go out in the sunlight sunbathing (which is wrong on so many levels), then werewolves can not be completely terrible too.

Second off, this has nothing to do with actual wolf behaviour. Compared with primates, wolves are fairly egalitarian, as they have an alpha couple, and a parallel rank structure for each gender- the males compete with the males while the females compete with the females. The curse of the werewolf should make men less patriarchal compared with humans if anything.

And finally, even if being a werewolf meant he had to be a controlling dick, for reasons, then there’s still no reason why any woman should put up with this. I don’t care if they’re mate bonded/ pinkie promised whatever  and he just can’t help himself- no.  That’s his problem and his responsibility. No heroine should have to put up with this.

There are plenty of human men out there, and If he wants to be with her that badly, because they’re SOULMATES, and IF SHE SAYS NO  it will cause A WHOLE PACK RIFT and HE CAN NEVER LOVE ANOTHER WOMAN AGAIN, then he needs to get his shit together. Just because he’s a werewolf doesn’t mean he’s not sentient and can’t control his actions- which are nothing like any real wolf. And if it does mean that, then he is a monster who needs a silver bullet not sympathy.

This trope is like Beauty and the Beast if Belle loved Beast BECAUSE of his shitty behavior and she didn’t make him change.Sounds fucked up? Well, welcome to paranormal romance.

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See this? This is Belle’s ‘I’m not impressed by your Alpha male shit’ face.

 

5) The Stupid Amount Of Money That’s Always Brushed Over

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This is more a trope I want to see explored rather than wiped out. Most vampires and often werewolves are insanely wealthy and it’s never really explained how. But it really should. How do they do that? I mean, when you can’t go out in daylight, can’t age and therefore can’t stay in the same job long enough to build a business empire.

I mean, think of the possibilities: maybe they gain money by offering the rich and powerful money in exchange for their business know how, creating a rather privilidged class of dangerous aristocrats (like Dracula). Or they could constantly have to make human contacts to look after their money? This trope is something that began with Dracula and continued with The Vampire Chronicles, and should really be something that’s explored.

6) The Generic Sexed Up Vampire Babe

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Vampires aren’t nearly as male dominated as werewolves, but when you think of all the prominent pop culture vampires: Dracula, Louis, Lestat, Jean Claude, Alucard, Blade, Angel, Spike, Bill, Damon, and many more, they’re all men. Honestly, the highest profile female vampires in pop culture I can think of are Marceline from Adventure Time, Claudia from Interview with the Vampire, those strippers from Dusk Till Dawn and that little girl whose name nobody remembers from let the right one in.

Vampires in fiction are very male dominated, And when females do appear? It’s usually not good. While male vampires can be heroes and villains, sexual and well rounded, vampire women are usually always evil and are relegated to the laziest of all female villain tropes: the evil sexy women. No ‘complex’ brooding for you, you are just evil and like sex, and use sex to get your way. And it is boring. These characters are comparatively shallower, less memorable than their male counterparts.

It’s a shame, because while Camille and Elizabeth Bathory provide some great precedents for cool female vampires, who are sexual but also powerful, Instead they seem to always use the overdone Bride of Dracula route with a bit of vampire queen Akasha from Queen of the Damned mixed in, as often vampires will have a female Queen or leader.

In short, we need more Francines and Claudias in our life, and less of these vampire succubus.(although Claudia is the mother of the creepy child female vampire trope which while enjoyable, is still a role that women get relegated to.)

7) The Ridiculously Old Vampire That Acts Like A 12 Year Old- and the Immortal Teenager

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Ever since The Vampire Chronicles introduces the ‘children of Millenia’ and the idea that a vampire’s strength increases with age, we’ve had a litany of vampires who are just stupidly old and it really has no bearing on their character. Especially the goddamned immortal teenagers.I mean, age just seems like a status symbol in vampire fiction, like a rolex watch.

Even if a vampire is old enough to have seen kingdoms rise and fall, or at least old enough to have seen the horrors of both world wars, their biggest priority is getting that 17 year old to go prom, or the decor or whatever childish problem they have…

It shouldn’t be that way. Having an ancient vampire that has lived through God knows how many tragedies should change the character and make them extremely different from the rest of us. Say what you will about Anne Rice and her purple prose, at least she made their immortality mean something, at least we felt the impact of the years on them and they felt different from everyone else around them. In many modern works, the immortality means nothing and doesn’t has lost so much of its impact.

 

Those were my top 7 biggest gripes with the werewolf and vampire mythologies, and if you have your own I’d love to hear about them.

 

SHADOW HUNTERS RECAP, EPISODE 1: THE MORTAL CUP (IT WAS LOVE AT FIRST GLOWER)

The episode kicks off with the Shadow Hunters stalking a man who changes appearance.  while cool music plays in the background. If you’re undercover stalking demons, you’re going to look as cool and sexy as possible doing it.. Jace bumps into Clary and gives her the full Cullen treatment, glowering at her and being surprised a mundane (muggle) can see him.

Cut to an art audition. Clary is auditioning for an art college and they are unimpressed with her entries. They then see Metallica cover-art sketches all over her book, and because they’re obviously fans of 80s metal, they let her in.

She then has a conversation with her obviously lovestruck best geeky friend (we know he’s a geek because he has glasses). He starts saying ‘to think you could be in love with someone and they don’t realise it’, thus giving us a premonition about how much nuance the show will use when handling relationships.

Clary goes home to visit her mother’s shop and their assistant is acting weird. She goes upstairs and her mother Jocelyn gives her an ancient light saber. Now, we know we’re supposed to feel tension because they’re playing ominous music. Ominous music.

Her mum starts acting distressed all of a sudden. She tells her daughter that there’s something she desperately needs to tell her, but Clary blows her off to talk to her friends. I’m sure it’s okay though, because I’m sure Jocelyn isn’t going to reveal things at the most dramatic moment.I’m also sure Jocelyn is going to live a long and fruitful life…

‘I love you mum.’

OH MY GOD DON’T SAY THAT! YOU’VE JUST ENTERED A BLATANT TRAGIC FORESHADOWING SCENE, YOU AIR HEADED AMOEBA.

So that we’re not kept in any kind of actual suspense, we’re kindly given a flashback of when Clary is playing by a lake and HOLY CRAP WHAT WAS THAT? Jocelyn saves her from what can only be described as a terrible CGI Lock Ness monster.Instead of deciding that maybe it’s time to maybe start teaching Clary how to defend herself , the first thing she does is to rush to warlock Magnus Bane and ask him to wipe her memories.Because that decision always turns out so well.

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See? See how well this is going?

Meanwhile, Clary talks with  the world’s most sidelined black best friend (she’s stuck being Clary’s emotional sounding board and totally brushed aside by love interest in favor of the white lady? Here’s hoping she becomes a lesbian and gains magical powers or her life is gonna suuuck. Right Bo?) They have a Totally Subtle foreshadowing conversation about keeping secrets. ‘My mother is incapable of concealing anything from me.’ ARE YOU KIDDING ME? Your mother was obviously on edge and then she gave you a weird heirloom saying she had something to tell you – that  screams family secret! What more do you want, Clary?  Do you need a giant neon sign telling you whenever something’s going to happen?

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I hate you, Shadowhunters.

Team Zoolander (I’m calling the Shadowhunters that from now on) enter the club on a mission and we’re back at our starting point.Clary follows him in and we go to a curtained off area of the club (don’t VIP sections usually have security?) Then Izzy starts doing a dance… I’m really not sure why she’s dancing, as they start hacking their foes away two seconds later. Clary gets involved and uses the force to defeat one.

Clary is royally freaked out. She finally has a conversation about the Shadowhunters with Jocelyn at the most dramatic moment possible and learns about the existence of the supernatural. Jocelyn is tracked down by the Circle and refuses to give over the Mortal cup and sends Clary to safety in an unconvincing magical portal. Meanwhile, she traps herself in this green energy… stuff… so the Circle can’t interrogate her. Nice work Clary, you just had to set up that tragic foreshadowing, didn’t you?

Clary’s transported to Luke, but as he’s being questioned about her whereabouts, she does to get out of her way. A woman tells her about her mum before she turns into a weird chest hugger faced thing.

Jace rescues Clary from a monster and takes her into the Shadow Hunter HQ (at east that’s where I think they are). He takes her to the Shadow Hunter HQ and he and Alec have a lover’s tiff about bringing her there and Izzy suggests that he’s jealous because it’s the first time he’s shown interest in someone. Really? Did I miss something, because Jace looked like he was glaring and folding his arms. Is that how flirting works in Shadowhunter society?

Finally, the Big Bad reveals he wants to find the mortal cup and learns about Jocelyn’s daughtet. Now he’s determined to track her down to find the cup.

 

I’ll admit, this episode was a lot better than I expected- though that’s a really low bar to clear. This show wasn’t good. It really, really wasn’t. The acting is so, so bad- but then again, saying half of those lines with a straight face must be challenging enough, let alone making it sound like stuff that real human beings would say. Everyone sounds like they’re rushing through it and trying to skip through as many of the book’s events as possible.

But I wasn’t bored for a second. Harry Shum Jr was kinda badass and I’d like to see more of him. The cast are gorgeous to look at (especially Izzy and Alec- seriously, did the recruit Shadowhunters by sifting through CVs for Abercrombie and Fitch models?); hell,  they even took the time to show the unlucky-in-love geek best friend is ripped. It also helped it was unintentionally amusing. Some of the cliches and scenes were so ridiculous, so heavy handed, that it was funny to watch and I laughed my ass off.

Maybe as the series progresses it will develop its characters a bit more and spend more time building tension and not jump from pace to place so much. As someone who never read the books (but has a vague idea going in about the premise and who Clary, Jace, Alec and Magnus Bane are) I was a bit lost about who some of these people were and why there are so many face huggers. However, I’m hoping it will get clearer as the series goes on. But if Jace goes full Cullen, I’ll watch just for the pure comedy.

RATING: 2.5 Abercrombie and Fitch models/ 5

 

BOOK REVIEW: Real Vampires Don’t Sparkle- by Amy Fecteau

Matheus Taylor didn’t ask to be murdered.

To be fair, the percentage of people actually asking to be murdered is probably small enough to be safely ignored, but he felt it was worth stating regardless. His life might have been ordinary, but it was his life and he wasn’t done with it yet.

Quin didn’t care.

A seventeen-hundred old Roman, Quintus Livius Saturnius had a different view of morality than most people. Killing Matheus and hijacking his undead existence seemed perfectly acceptable to him.

Now, Matheus spends his nights running for his life, questioning his sexual orientation, and defying a mysterious new threat to the vampires within his city.

Real Vampires Don’t Sparkle is a hilarious book overflowing with dry humour and acidic one liners. It had me constantly bursting out into laughter in the middle of Costa (and causing half of the other customers to edge slowly away from this crazy hyena) while I read this.I think the best way to illustrate how good this book is, is to go through it and quote its best lines. But if I did I would just be quoting half the book and this is supposed to be a review and there are other things to discuss. Instead, I’ll just quote a few examples of the nuggets I found in this goldmine:

“I know there’s nothing wrong with being with gay,” Matheus said loudly, as though more volume equalled more truth.

“That’s English you’re speaking,” Mattheus said.” The language that sidles up to other languages in dark alleys, mugs them, then rifles through their pockets for spare vocabulary. It’s the bitch-whore of languages and it owns the world. Suck on that, Rome boy.”

Quin stalked beside him, his anger a physical presence between them. Matheus named it Bob, and addressed imaginary questions to it to distract himself.

Now, onto the plot. Too often paranormal romance stories don’t have a lot going on, and as a result seem direction-less. Real Vampires Don’t Sparkle actually avoided that pitfall and had a decent plot and a good climax.

The story focused on Mattheus’ journey in learning how to survive as a vampire, and his relationship with his maker, Quin. However, Mattheus’ past played a key role, and the way it was gradually fed through the story was well done and provided some real emotional stakes at the end. His relationship with Fletcher, a tragic figure and an important person from his past, was touching and brought some real sadness at the end. It had a good and convincing villain as well.

In spite of the fact that it’s fairly funny and light hearted, Real Vampires Don’t Sparkle doesn’t shy away from portraying the brutality of life as a  vampire. It does a good job of illustrating how tough it can be operating on such a necessarily cold moral code, and Mattheus is forced to do some dark things in the name of survival. It also addresses a number of clichés found in the vampire genre that are usually glossed over; for example, Quin discusses the need to teach Mattheus how to deal with passports and create a constant supply of money that will last an eternity. This is in a genre where we are used to seeing supernaturals being extremely rich because they  inherited a castle full of gold from a mysterious vampire who conveniently killed himself (looking at you The Vampire Lestat , who started all this).

However, you don’t really care much about the world when you’re reading it; you’re in it for the characters and the banter between them and it was amazing.

There are two lead two characters in this book: acid tongued, socially awkward Mattheus, and the man who made him a vampire, immortal Roman Quinn.  The story is a same-sex romance, though nothing’s explicit at this stage; it’s a love/ hate relationship where Mattheus is slowly dealing with the fact that Quinn turned him into a vampire against his will- and the fact that he is finding himself attracted to a man . A great thing about their relationship is that there is no coercion or dubious consent like in a lot of male/ male romancers written by and for women (or paranormal romance for that matter). In fact, Mattheus even directly brings up the trope:

“Stop following me. They give out pamphlets about that kind of behaviour. Showing up in a pamphlet is never good, Quin.”

One problem I had, however, was that although Mattheus’ bitingly sarcastic comments were hilarious, sometimes he crossed the line where his comments were so profoundly unmerited and nasty that it made him seem profoundly unlike-able. Sometimes it would have been nice if Fecteau could have just resisted the funny put down and just allowed Mattheus to act like a normal human being for a second and share a moment with another character rather than just going for the scathing out-down. This doesn’t ruin the book too much, but it does make Mattheus a weary character to deal with in spite of his humour.

The other characters, however, are great ; Milo, the only major black character,is a dry, no nonsense brilliant computer geek who doesn’t take any crap from Mattheus. Bianca is the main female lead and is funny and quirky and has a likeable relationship with Mattheus. Alaistair is Quinn’s self-absorbed ex and is the pretty boy Dorian Gray archetype who is not developed much here but will be in later books.

The one thing to note is that although the ending is complete, it does end very, very abruptly. Usually after the climax there’s a few pages to wind down, illustrate the aftermath and allow the reader to digest what’s just happened . Real Vampires Don’t Sparkle just cuts out as soon as the main conflict ends. This is because this series was originally published as an ongoing serial on Fecteau’s website, and the novel ends when the first story arch on the website ends. The ending isn’t exactly a let down, but it does not feel quite complete.

Overall, Real Vampires Don’t Sparkle was an amazing read. Even if gay or paranormal romance is not your cup of tea, I would still strongly recommend reading this for its sense of humour alone.

RATING: 5 Bitingly sarcastic put downs from a socially awkward vampire/ 5

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