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.