Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Classic Monsters versus Sparkly Sexy Monsters!!!

I am haunted by a question that an interviewer recently asked me.

"Why do people keep writing about the same old monsters and don't make any new ones?"

My answer is that the monsters born of our fears are already here. We've shaped them out of the mist to take terrible, but recognizable forms that we can fear, yet understand. Even the newer monsters, added into the mix, are now iconic (Freddy, Jason and Michael, I'm thinking of you) and often imitated.

The vampire represents our hidden sexual urges and fear.

The werewolf represents our fear of our own primal impulses.

The unstoppable killing machine represents our fear of our modern society.


I don't mind the old monsters. I rather enjoy them in their classic incarnations.

Christopher Lee's sexy, alluring and terrible Count Dracula comes to mind. He cut a swathe of destruction through the ranks of pretty virgins and he didn't let a little thing like a stake keep him down.

Or poor Larry Talbot, the tragic werewolf, whose impulses nearly destroy those he loves.

Hell, Godzilla smashing Tokyo into smithereens is always charming in his own reptilian way.

I don't think the problem is the old monsters, its the new "twists" that are making them feel annoyingly unfamiliar and aggravating.

Imagine the dark, menacing Christopher Lee's Dracula swooping in through a window, grabbing the virgin, and suddenly declaring his undying love for her. Instead of chomping down on her delicate neck so her blood splashes the room red, he lavishes kisses on her and has pretty erotic sex with her. Then the sun rises and instead of turning into dust, he sparkles.


Larry Talbot turns into a fearsome werewolf and instead of his lady love running from him in terror, she gets turned on and sex quickly follows.

Thank God that Godzilla, for now, seems safe.

Let's be honest...the monsters that so terrified us have been dumbed down, defanged, and made into nicer, less terrifying version of themselves.

Vampires have suffered the worst fate. I feel for the fanged ones. I could go on forever about how the once terrifying vampires have suddenly become the posters boys for angsty, hot men who just need a good woman.

And that is why my vampires are throwbacks to the classics. They don't sparkle, they don't run around in the sunlight, they don't yearn for someone to save them, they are NOT human, and all the old restrictions (holy water, sunlight, stakes, etc) do apply. In my mind, once you take away the classic trappings of vampire lore (the fangs, the limitations, the dangerous nature), you don't really have a vampire anymore.

Of course, on the flip side, sometimes people go too far trying to restore them. I love the 30 Days of Nights franchise, but at the same time, as I watch it, I cannot help but think they've gone too far. The vampires are so feral, their need to feed so great, I think those vampires would bring an apocalypse down on mankind within weeks. Instead of rampaging zombies, you'd have the vampires.

I don't think our problem is that we're glutted with the old monsters, I think our problem is that we corrupted them. Instead of serving their purpose as a reflection of our darker desires and our fears, they are now something we can tame.

The only monster to escape this curse so far, is the zombie. I'll talk about the shambling dead in my next post.


  1. Can't disagree with your analysis - and the vampire has suffered the worst, probably because of what the vampire represented.

    I'm not too sure if the zombie escaped scot free. I've not seen the remake of Day of the dead but I understand that it was set at outbreak and yet tyhey had Bud the zombie in it. Not a zombie trained and evolved, so as to release memories, as in the original but because he was a vegetarian he became a vegetarian zombie... Now I could have that all wrong, it is heresay after all, but if true then it might mark the beginning of the rot for the zombie too!!! Depressing thought

  2. I agree--so much of urban fantasy these days has so tamed or turned the monsters into erotic playtoys, that they have no "bite" anymore.

    They've become code for dominant male in such a way that wouldn't be acceptable in normal romance fiction.

  3. Taliesin,

    I heard about that plot device and I could not bring myself to watch that movie. I don't know if I will or not.

    Of course, after I wrote this I found out that "zombies" are appearing in paranormal chick lit books now.


  4. Julie,

    I couldn't agree more. I do have a soft spot for Mary Janice Davidson's books, but at least a lot of the old rules apply to most of the vampires. And Sinclair is not necessarily "nice" for that matter. But a lot of the other books in the genre have taken vampires to a place where I just don't recognize them anymore. Some of the rules have been changed so much, I don't think the word vampire can even apply anymore.

    As for the dominant male...don't get me started. I like strong men, but some of these books have abusers as heroes.

  5. It's not just the vampires (as you mentioned). Many of the books I've come across on the shelves emphasize the wolf-pack Alpha Male to such a degree that it makes me wonder exactly what fantasies are being expressed. They all make being under the thumb of an abusive male in a patriarchal system inevitable.

    The rare (female) writer will try using that new-old trope by subverting it, but under the wash of many others that revel in the abusive domination (Feehan, looking at you for Vamps) they're singing to the wind.

  6. Julie,

    I'm really bothered by the werewolf alpha male (or shapeshifter) that has become a staple of the genre. I won't read any urban fantasy or paranormal romance with a werewolf in it. They always come across as just...ugh..abusive.

    I do agree with you. Abusive domination has been creeping up on lots of novels of late. I, personally, think the worst offender in the genre is LKH's Anita Blake. Anita should be the villain, her actions are so loathsome.


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