tirsdag 10. november 2009

THE VAMPIRE AS VICTIM


The vampire lecture I’m giving this Thursday carries the title “Poor Vampire. The bloodsucker’s development from monster to victim” (it sounds better in Norwegian). I will air some of the things I’m going to talk about here, to see if I actually agree with myself when I see my opinions published.

The subject is one that has interested me for some time. It is the logical conclusion of a development that started with Anne Rice’s Interview With The Vampire: When the vampire becomes the protagonist (or a close ally of the protagonist) only a short step is necessary to see it as a victim.

It can be seen as a victim in two senses: Because it is an addict and simply because it is a vampire.

The vampire as addict
The vampire as addict is among the metaphors I find most interesting of all things vampirological. The vampire is not simply addicted, as an alcoholic or a drug addict desperately needs his drink or her fix. Its addiction runs deeper – because it is fatal. Without blood, it will die. This makes it the perfect metaphor of drug addiction as many see it: The moment you are “addicted” you are lost.

For the vampire there is no way out. Except through death, of course. It is best seen in my perhaps favourite vampire movie: Lost Boys (or “The Just Say No”-movie, as I sometimes call it).

It is a schizophrenic movie indeed: The vampires in the movie are the cool guys (being fought by nerds), who “sleep all day, party all night, never grow old and never die”. But they have to feeeeeeeeeed. And that makes them, after all, the bad guys. Cool, but bad. And always “the others”. To become one of them is to be lost. They are, as the title says, Lost Boys.

When they finally die (for instance by being burned to death in a bath tub filled with holy water), they revert from grown, cool men into innocent boys. In death, they are once again human.

Being addicts, it is in this day and age natural to focus on vampires as victims. And they are the perfect victims, as they cannot stop being addicts. There is (outside of Terry Pratchett’s books) no Anonymous Bloodsuckers, for those who want to overcome their addiction. It can’t be done. There is no point in talking about personal responsibility. They either feed, or they die.

The dilemma is very well shown in the South Korean movie Thirst: A priest becomes a vampire, a very introspective and ethical vampire. But he makes his lover a vampire too, and she is anything but introspective or ethical: She is a jolly vampire, a vampire that enjoys her vampirical existence to the full. She is, in other words, a lunatic killer – a vampire that kills for food, but also simply because she can. She is lost anyway, so why not enjoy the ride?

Hers is an impossible existence. A vampire that fully enjoys “life” is simply too dangerous to exist. She has to die. And she does (sorry about that, but it’s not much of a spoiler really), in one of the most elegant endings of any vampire movie I have seen.

The vampire as victim of abuse
But there is also another sense in which vampires are victims: They are victims merely through being vampires. Or rather: Through having been made vampires.

If we accept the premise that being a vampire is a bad thing – you do, after all, have to cause other people’s deaths to stay alive – then being made a vampire must be considered a rather extreme kind of abuse. And every vampire has at some point in its history been made. Which means that the lot of them are abuse victims.

They are predators. But once they were prey. They are murderers. But once they were themselves “murdered”. In this sense, vampires are parallel to sexual offenders, who often themselves have been victims of sexual abuse.

The one exception to this rule, are vampires like the woman in Thirst: She is made a vampire at the point of dying. Making her a vampire is a way for her lover to “save” her life (and boy, does he regret).

The book (and movie) which takes both these concepts of victimhood the furtherest, is the Swedish Let The Right One In, where Eli is both a victim of vampiric violence and abuse and very obviously an addict. She is a killer, but argues that she is not any different than the rest of us: She simply does what she has to in order to stay alive. Wouldn’t we all?

Like the female vampire in Thirst, Elis existence is an impossible one. You simply cannot kill that many people in a fairly small area and expect to get away with it. She has to stay on the run more or less constantly.

The absurdity of it all
And here we approach the absurdity of seeing the vampire as a victim. Because even if it is one, it is also by nature (or un-nature, if you prefer) a killer. People must die for it to stay alive. Others may murder for them, but they are still, essentially, responsible for their deaths.

In my neo-reactionary view of the world, this is where the vampire teaches us something about ourselves. We may all be victims, one way or another. But we are still responsible for our actions. We may have reasons for hurting others, reasons related to our own claims for victimhood, but we are still hurting them. It is still wrong.

It is no point in feeling sorry for the vampire, even if what brought them to their present situation was a road of pain and hurt. Because they are, by their very nature, murderers.

All of this is of course a fairly ridiculous line of reasoning. They don’t actually exist. They are figments of imagination.

True enough, but entertainment – even slightly arty entertainment, like True Blood – tells us something about ourselves. Because entertainment, unlike art, appeals to what we hold dear, rather than, like art, challenging our view of the world. And what we seem to find entertaining these days, is to feel sorry for the vampire. They are the ultimate bad guys, but, we seem to ask ourselves, maybe – just maybe – they are redeemable after all.

This is absurd. Vampires are what the Victorians thought them to be: Demonic murderers. We may no longer fear that they will cost us our salvation and eternal life – which was the real horror of the 19th century vampire – but they want our blood. No, more than that, they need our blood.

There is just one thing to do. We must bring out the hammers and stakes. We must light the pyre. We must defend ourselves. That our entertainment tells us otherwise, tells me that something is truly rotten at the very centre of our culture.
_____

3 kommentarer:

  1. Hei.
    Nærlest innlegget ditt nå. Og forsøker bli enig med meg selv i hvorfor jeg synes du trekker offermetaforikken for langt. Og jeg tror det er premisset om det å være vampyr er en fæl ting per se, som jeg vender tilbake til. For selv om det var sånn, tildels også hos Anne Rice, så er de jo slik at de fleste 'moderne' vampyrer har vampyrismen under kontroll. (fra villige, syntetisk eller dyreblod) Og dermed gjenstår hva man kan begjære. Nemlig styrke, skjønnhet og evig ungdom. Ikke akkurat hva man forbinder med offer...
    Eller kanskje man kan kalle det to retninger innen vampyrmytologien istedet. For ulikt La den rette komme inn, der det ikke er noe skjønt ved Eli. Er det i feks True Blood ol en klar seksuell (under)tone i tilnærmingen til vampyrene. Og man begjærer ikke offeret.

    Og ettersom jeg ikke fått lest boken din ennå, (men skal) er dette kanskje noe du både skrevet og tenkt mye om.
    Men skrev likevel jeg.
    Og når fått lest og slikt. Ville det vært veldig morsomt å diskutere nærmere med deg. For fascinerende emne.

    SvarSlett
  2. Aslaug: Grunnen til at du ikke helt får tak på hva jeg gjør, er at jeg bevisst jukser. Jeg legger inn et normativt nivå i en tilsynelatende deskriptiv post.

    Jeg FASTSLÅR at vampyren er en overgriper. Ikke fordi den alltid er det, men fordi den i mine øyne burde være det. Min tilsynelatende moralske indignasjon er i realiteten en stilistisk indignasjon: At vampyren i fiksjonen utvikler seg i retninger jeg ikke liker.

    Jeg kunne selvsagt lagt inn en konspiratorisk nivå, og postulert at denne utviklingen er et resultat av en villet kampanje for å svekke vår motstandskraft mot vampyrer, men det ville bli å trekke det for langt. Jeg liker ikke konspirasjonsteorier.

    Du er i en viss grad derfor et offer for et villet ironisk prosjekt fra min side. Samtidig er analysen gyldig så langt den rekker. Jeg står inne for analysen av La den rette, Lost Boys og Thirst. Det mener jeg er faglig holdbare poenger.

    Men så er det altså dette: Hva gjør man når en kjær uvenn utvikler seg i det man selv synes er gal retning? Jeg irriterer meg oppriktig over mye av det som gjøres med vampyren nå til dags. Både Twilight og True Blood går meg på nervene, mens jeg lar meg underholde av, men allikevel irriterer meg over f eks Anita Blake-bøkene (som er best når de fokuserer på andre ting enn vampyrer).

    Men man kommer ingen vei med å si "dette synes jeg er dumt". Så jeg jukser litt og anlegger moralsk indignasjon i stedet.

    Men hvis jeg nå skal slutte med det et øyeblikk:

    Ja, man ser en utvikling i retning av vampyren som objekt for begjær. Der har den overtatt rollen som det en littviter jeg diskuterte med her om dagen kaller "the redeemable bad guy": Den sjarmerende skurken som heltinnen skal redde fra seg selv.

    Det er ingen høflig måte å si dette på: Det som er skjedd er at vampyren har overtatt en klassisk rolle i den underlødige romantiske dameromanen. Det gir seg flere utslag: Ungpikeromantikk i Twilight og semipornografisk lengsel i True Blood er to av dem. For de viderekommende finnes det nok av nettsider som er VESENTLIG mer eksplisitte enn True Blood. Vampyrporno er en sjanger for seg selv.

    Det disse seriene har til felles, er at de ikke lodder særlig dypt (skjønt jeg uttaler meg om True Blood på sviktende grunnlag). Når vampyren går inn i denne rollen, mister den samtidig det som i mine øyne gir den en viss kunstnerisk legitimitet: Nettopp det som spinner rundt død og drap. La den rette komme inn er kunst fordi den bruker vampyren til å problematisere viktige sider ved vår eksistens. Den gir oss mulighet (men tvinger oss ikke) til å spørre oss om hva som er godt og ondt. Jeg datt av True Blood fordi jeg fortsatt hadde til gode å se noe annet enn overflate (om enn lekker overflate).

    Boken min er en straightere historisk fremstilling av vampyrens roler i tradisjonen og den klassiske litteraturen. Den går ikke så mye inn på denne typen analyser, men den gir et i mine øyne brukbart faglig grunnlag å analysere ut fra.

    Det er i grunnen først i det siste jeg er blitt interessert i de problemstillingene jeg her skriver om. Og jeg kommer til å fortsette å skrive om dem. Jeg håper du tilgir at jeg leker litt underveis: Dette er rent hobbyskriveri og denslags må være moro skal det bli noe av.

    SvarSlett
  3. A picture of the Dodologist has been posted at http://lordbassingtonbassington.blogspot.com/2009/11/deejanes-and-dodologists.html.

    SvarSlett

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