Thursday, March 27, 2014

A Totally Scientific Study on the Pros and Cons of Vampirism Across Multiple Franchises

Once upon a time, I was a hardcore vampire purist. If the vampire in question didn't closely match Anne Rice's vision of the creature, I wasn't interested.

Thankfully, I got over it. These days, I'm up for any and all interpretations of the myth. Give me vampires, be they televised or in print, and I'm a happy girl indeed.

There’s one trope that consistently bugs me, though. Pick a franchise, any franchise, and you'll find at least one vampire who spends an ungodly amount of time wringing their hands and wailing about their lost humanity.

These vampires who’d rather not be vampires annoy me.

I mean, I sort of get it. Vampires are literal monsters who eat (er, drink) people, so becoming one requires a pretty major adjustment to your self-image. It’s probably hard to control your insane thirst around tasty human-types, too. It’d be like trying to make friends with the juiciest, most delectable bacon cheeseburger in all the land.

But y’see, I’m pretty sure I could be friends with a bacon cheeseburger, just so long as the bacon cheeseburger could talk. And vampirism’s many advantages could very well be enough to counteract the whole self-image issue.

That said, the whole thing depends an awful lot on what kind of vampire we’re talking about. There's a pretty big difference between the life of a bumpy-faced Buffy vamp, one of Anne Rice's virtually indestructible immortals, and Stephenie Meyer's sparkly undead family.

Therefore, I've decided to use SCIENCE to conduct a franchise-by-franchise evaluation of how much being a vampire sucks compared to how much it rocks.

Ain't no arguing with SCIENCE.

This is non-exhaustive, of course; I’m not familiar with every vampire story out there (though I’m working to remedy that). Please feel free to chime in on any vampires I’ve missed, or to add your own pros and cons to the lists below.

Cover art for The Vampire Lestat, featuring the title in Gothic lettering against a red background

The Vampire Chronicles by Anne Rice

Ah, my first vampiric love. Anne Rice’s Vampire Chronicles (which begin with INTERVIEW WITH THE VAMPIRE) got me into vampires--and historical fiction--in a big way. They remain a favourite, even though I’m no longer slavishly devoted to Rice’s vision of the vampire.

Pros
Cons
You don’t have to kill people to live. You can drink a little bit from this person, a little bit from that person, and maybe a smidgen from that rat over there. It can be hard to drink from someone without killing them, particularly when you’re a younger vampire.
Few things can harm you, and they all become less of an issue as you age. By the time you’re an oldster, you can sunbathe with no more ill effect than a deep tan. You’re basically a corpse during the day, which totally reduces your productivity and makes it hard to use any public services that close before sundown. You’re also easier to hunt, since you can’t run away or reliably defend yourself when the sun’s up.
You can charm people into giving you stuff you need and/or pickpocket your victims, so hey! Free money! Charming people into giving you stuff you need and/or pickpocketing your victims is totally unethical, so you’ll probably end up with lots of guilt if you take that route.
You don’t have to eat and you can sleep anywhere that’s completely shielded from the sun, so your cost of unliving is minimal even if you do choose to eschew the charmer pickpocket route. Hello, large bank account. You actually can’t metabolize, or even taste, anything but blood. Goodbye, food.
You live forever, provided nothing kills you. You’re basically in stasis, so your hair will never grow any longer and you’ll be stuck with whatever imperfections you had when you were alive. Like, imagine going through eternity with a torn fingernail, or a bit of annoying stubble on your chin.
If you live long enough, you’ll be able to fly! There’s a good chance you’ll go crazy due to sensory overload, bloodlust, or the whole monster self-image thing, not to mention the narrative's demands.
Dude, did you hear me? IF YOU LIVE LONG ENOUGH, YOU’LL BE ABLE TO FLY. Uh, yeah, but everyone you love will wither and die while you’re off drinking people and waiting to get your wings.
You can turn other people into vampires if you’re really, really fond of them. Statistically speaking, the people you turn into vampires are liable to resent you for it.
Dude, just ask first and make sure you adopt good communication strategies over the next few centuries. Also, enjoy your ABILITY TO FLY.

Verdict: yeah, there are some downsides, but the life of an Anne Rice vampire ain’t so bad as all that. Find tricks to keep your mental health on an even keel, avoid excessive guilt by drinking without killing, and obtain consent before you turn someone else into a vampire. You’ll do fine.

Cover art for S2 of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, featuring Buffy and Angel against a red background. Angel looks like he's thinking about biting Buffy's throat, while she looks directly into the camera. Cover art for a trade collection from Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Season 9. It features a painting of Buffy and Spike on the bridge of an airship, overlooking a body of water far below

The Buffyverse, as seen in Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel

My second vampiric love, and the one that helped me overcome my vampire purism. I loved Buffy so very, very much that I embarked upon a quest to watch all the vampire shows. I’m still missing a few, but I’m happy with the progress I’ve made thus far.

Pros
Cons
You live forever, provided nothing kills you. Chances are, Buffy will find you and kill you, especially if you’re stupid enough to wander into Sunnydale.
You have an awful lot of fun living the high life. High death? Whatever; you're gonna have a ball, baby! Unless someone comes along and jams your soul back down your throat, you are absolutely, unequivocally evil. No wiggle room for you, my friend.
You seem to learn martial arts as soon as the demonic entity takes over your body. No free will.
You can eat if you want to, though it’s totally optional. Your face goes all bumpy whenever you let your inner demon out.
Lots of things can hurt or kill you, including sunlight, fire, crosses, holy water, and teenage girls with pointy sticks.
Remember how you’re an evil, soulless thing with no free will? Yeah. That’s worth repeating.

Verdict: you do not want to be a Buffyverse vampire. Not even a little bit. Unless you get your soul back the very moment you rise from your grave, you’re in for a whole lot of evil followed by a messy death and/or a guilt trip guaranteed to drive you crazy. It ain't worth it.

Cover art for Twilight by Stephenie Meyer, featuring a white person's hands cupping an apple against a black background Cover art for the Breaking Dawn 2 DVD, featuring Bella, Edward, Jacob, and Renesmee superimposed above a group of dark-robed vampires advancing across an icy plain.

Twilight

Here she is: the one that took over the world.

My relationship with Twilight deteriorated with each book as the story grew stranger and stranger, but improved with each movie as the filmmakers embraced the strangeness (and added Lee Pace to the cast). Go figure. Love it or hate it, though, you can't deny Twilight's influence over modern pop culture.

Pros
Cons
You aren’t automatically evil. You can choose to act however you please, and you're most welcome to drink nothing but animal blood. It’s really, really hard to resist the urge to drink human blood, so you’ll probably slip up at least once.
You probably get some sort of super power. Fun! Your eyes are either red or yellow, depending on whether you drink people or animals, so it can be tough to blend in.
You can’t sleep, so you get lots done. You can’t sleep, so you never get to dream again.
Decapitation and fire are pretty well the only things that kill you. You can’t eat, so goodbye tasty goodness.
You sparkle in the sun, so you have to live somewhere really cloudy or stay in during the day. Also, people will mock you for your sparkles.

Verdict: being a Twilight vampire doesn’t sound so rough unless you buy into Edward’s no-more-soul theory. (As a Buffy devotee, I’m inclined to disagree with him.) Plus, we have lots of textual evidence that Twilight-vampires can, in fact, be friends with bacon cheeseburgers. Or syringes full of heroine. Whichever.

Cover art for Dead Until Dark by Charlaine Harris, featuring a blonde person and a dark-haired vampire hovering over a farmhouse Cover art for True Blood S3, featuring a number of humans and vampires hanging out in a swamp. Most have adopted sexy poses.

True Blood/Sookie Stackhouse

I still haven't had a chance to read past the first book in the series, but I enjoy the show very much. It almost lost me with the season before last, but it jumped back in a surprisingly big way. I'm not sure I'd call it good, exactly, but it sure is entertaining. And it, like Twilight, has had a pretty big impact on contemporary pop culture.

Pros
Cons
True Blood means you don’t have to kill anyone, or even hurt anyone, in order to eat. You just stroll on down to your local convenience store and buy a six pack of synthetic blood. True Blood doesn’t taste as good as the real thing, so that sucks. (Ha! Puns!)
You’ll probably live forever if nobody kills you. Your lack of anonymity means there are many forces arrayed against you, so chances are you’ll bite it within a season or two.
You can glamour people into doing your will. Glamouring people into doing your will is totally unethical and could lead to massive amounts of guilt, not to mention potential criminal charges.
You can sleep anywhere and you don’t need to eat, so your cost of unliving is potentially pretty low. True Blood is really expensive, so the ethically-sustained vampire can say goodbye to any advantages their low overhead might give them.
Your blood makes people high, so you can earn some extra cash by selling it. Holy unethical behavior, Batman. Also, your magical blood makes you a prime target for people who want to tie you up in their basement and drain you bit by bit. Which, again, sucks.
It seems pretty easy to make friends with (and avoid eating) humans. Blood donors are fairly common, too. You can’t eat anything but blood, so no more delicious food for you.
YOU CAN FLY and run really fast and stuff. Also, you have superstrength. You have lots of vulnerabilities, including shards of wood, sunlight, and silver.
YOU CAN FLY OMG. (It's always worth repeating.)

Verdict: Being a True Blood vampire sounds pretty dangerous. The whole superstrength thing could be enough to give you an edge over those who would destroy you, but I wouldn’t bet on it in a society where wooden bullets are common as rocks. If you get a choice, you probably want to give this one a pass. If someone turns you against your will, though, you should be able to make the best of it.

Cover art for The Awakening by L.J. Smith, featuring a portrait of a blonde girl hovering over a dark figure, with the title in a blue stripe to the left hand side Cover art for S1 of The Vampire Diaries, featuring Stefan, Elena, and Damon lying on the grass together, being all provocative.

The Vampire Diaries

Ah, my favourite does-this-make-sense-I-don’t-think-so-but-hey-it’s-entertaining show. I haven’t read the books, but darlin’, you’d better believe I look forward to the TV verson every week. The current season has hooked me but good, less for its emotional impact than for the abundance of crazy-ass plot twists.

I mean, there are evil twins and amnesiacs. I cannot possibly overstate the importance of evil twins and amnesiacs.

Pros
Cons
You don’t have to kill anyone when you feed. It can be hard not to kill people at first unless you have a vampire sponsor to help you stay on the straight and narrow.
You aren’t automatically evil; you have some choice in the matter. You can also decide whether you want to deal with pesky little things like emotions. If you choose to turn off your emotions, you’ll probably end up doing some seriously bad shit you’ll regret as soon as you turn them back on.
You live forever unless something kills you. Your continued existence is tied to one other super-duper old vampire, so if someone kills them you’re immediately out of commission.
If you can find a witch who’ll make you a daylight ring, you can wander around without being burned to a crisp by random sunbeams. If you can’t find such a witch, you’re stuck indoors until the sun goes down. Bummer.
You totally blend in unless you’re in the throes of extreme bloodlust. Nobody ever needs to know you’re a vampire. Everybody you love withers and dies while you stay young forever.
You can turn your friends and family into vampires, if you so choose. Your newly-vampirized friends and family are liable to resent you for it.
You can compel people, so it’s super easy to hide your vampiric status (and get stuff you want). Compelling people is unethical, so hello guilt. Also, it’s totally easy for people in the know to avoid your mesmerizing stare by dosing themselves with anti-vampire herbs.
You can still eat regular food, and you seem to be able to drink a ridiculous amount of alcohol. When you die, you end up in this boring limbo place.
You can easily make friends with a bacon cheeseburger. Werewolves enjoy torturing you for fun, especially if you’re blonde and/or snarky.

Verdict: sounds like the good outweighs the bad, aside from the threat of the Other Side when you die. Make sure you steer clear of Mystic Falls or New Orleans and you should be fine.

There you have it, friends. This totally scientific study proves that no, vampirism probably isn't the best thing that's ever happened to you, but it doesn't have to be the worst. Throw off the mantle of the mopey vampire and embrace your inner demon (preferably without killing anyone, thanks very much).

Unless you're a Buffyverse vampire. Then you're totally screwed on every single level.

Which vampires franchises am I missing out on? What are the pros and cons of vampirism in your favourite series?

12 comments:

  1. What. This is magic. I can't even address how much I like this post.

    >>But y’see, I’m pretty sure I could be friends with a bacon cheeseburger, just so long as the bacon cheeseburger could talk.

    Bro, you are making an amazing point right here. This has never occurred to me before but it is totally true. If a bacon cheeseburger could talk and be sentient, I'd just be like, you know what, self? It is not that hard not to eat this new cheeseburger you have here.

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    1. Exactly! Sentient bacon cheeseburgers are far less difficult to resist.

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  2. You haven't read The Vampire Diaries?!? That is my favorite vampire series from childhood. I was OBSESSED with it.

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    1. My library has e-books of the whole series, so I keep meaning to have a mini binge. Someday!

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    1. Of all the posts I've ever written, this one just might be my favourite.

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  4. I love this post! But you are missing a crucial series that I would very much like to see a pro/con list for: VAMPIRE ACADEMY!!!! My sister has long told me this is her favorite series and I didn't really get into it until the second book, after which I was OBSESSED. It has a pretty interesting mythology that certainly deserves your pro/con treatment. PLEASE READ ASAP. Thanks. ;)

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    1. Ooh, I'll put it right on my library list! I had no idea it was so addictive.

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  5. See ... this post is great except if you are going to do vampires ... there is one vampire mythology that absolutely CAN'T be left of the list.

    Dracula!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    That is the quintessential vampire book of all time!!! I would go by the book and not the various movies.

    So you want to fill in your vampire blanks? You'll be doing this for the rest of your life because vampires have been popular long before there was Twilight ... Vampire stories have been around as long as there's been fiction almost. So there's: Martin (movie), Lost Boys (movie), Let the Right One In (book and a couple movies), the Evernight series (books), the Night World series (books by the same author as the Vampire Diaries), Salem's Lot (Stephen King book and movie), Forever Knight (TV series), The Anita Blake series (books), the Blade movies and I think there was a TV show as well, Dark Shadows (soap opera and movie), Underworld (movies), Vampire the Masquerade (RPG and loads of fun because there are a bunch of different kinds of vampires in the mythology), 30 Days of Night (movie), Vampire in Brooklyn (YAY Eddie Murphay!!!!), Near Dark (movie), Dusk 'til Dawn (Selma Hayek makes her debut in a role that is super sexy, but has no dialogue), AND YOU ABSOLUTELY CANNOT MISS: The Hunger (OMG David Bowie!!!!), Vampire Hunter D, Once Bitten, Love at First Bite, AND THE ORIGINAL: I Am Legend (read the book and ignore Will Smith because the end of the 2007 movie just misses the entire point of the book), Count Yorga, Life Force, the countless comic book vampire franchises, the list of all the major vampire stuff in entertainment history is endless and I've only mentioned the more modern ones here. There are also tons that no one ever hears about that are extremely old and long forgotten.

    Good luck filling in the blanks!!!!

    Perhaps you can make a career out of learning as much Vampire fiction as possible in a lifetime. It would certainly be fun!!!!

    *hugs and love*

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    1. A confession: I'm not particularly fond of DRACULA. It took me three tries to get through the book, and even then I'd likely have bailed if I hadn't made my final attempt via the audiobook. Even though it's the text from which all modern vampire fiction springs, it doesn't come instantly to mind when I think of vampires because I didn't like it very much.

      I know. I'm properly ashamed of myself.

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  6. Fantastic post!!! I am for all of the vampires except for those that sparkle and fall in love with the whiniest, most personality-deprived girls of all time. I haven't gotten to read TVD or Sookie Stackhouse but love the shows. I will get to them one of these days. Now that I have said this I am sure Tasha will make it her mission to right this wrong! lol

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    1. I'm fine with sparkly vampires in theory, but I'll admit to having issues with specific sparkly vampires. I am Team And-Then-Buffy-Staked-Edward-The-End.

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