by Connie Chastain*
On the writers groups and blogs I visit, from time to time discussions ensue about the popularity of vampires as romance heroes. There seems to be an increase in these discussions now, probably because of the release of Eclipse, the latest film in the series based on the vampire novels of Stephanie Meyer.
For anyone who's been off-planet the last few years, Meyer's Twilight series chronicles the love story of Bella Swan, a teenage girl, and her relationship with Edward Cullen, a vampire, in the gloomy, great northwest.
I generally don't take part in such discussions because I'm pretty sure women who love to write and read about vampire heroes would not care for my explanation of their popularity -- misandry, brought to you by feminism.
I've noted in previous essays that women who may not consciously embrace feminist thought can nevertheless influenced by it, considering how pervasive it is in our culture. I've also put forth the opinion that feminism seeks to alter the most fundamental of human relationships--that between male and female. Women are drawn to men, especially those they perceive as strong and capable. Feminism has done its best to discourage that attraction.
The claims of thousands of years of evil patriarchy, which is nothing more than men oppressing and exploiting women...the complaints about men denying women education, careers, the vote...the bellyaching about the "imprisoning" of women in the "comfortable concentration camps" of brick ranch houses in the 'burbs...the charges that men long to keep women barefoot, pregnant and in the kitchen...the whining about the glass ceiling and paying her $.79 for every dollar he makes...the allegations of sexual harassment on the job...the pervasive showcasing of domestic violence (all committed by men, of course)...the accusation that every man is a potential rapist...the constant carping about rape culture....it's all designed to sow discord. To plant in women the fear and hatred of men and to bring about a "new" humanity, where the old rules no longer apply because the old roles no longer exist.
It's difficult to imagine this goal will ever be achieved. It goes against what humans are on the most basic level. However, at the very least, feminism's drive toward this unachievable goal has made it unpopular, even offensive, for a woman to admire and love a man, particularly a strong one. The problem is that women are drawn to strong men, and when that attraction is discouraged, it will find expression another way, up to and including admiration for -- or, in the case of the Twilight saga, obsession with -- entities that do not even exist.
Is it really coincidental, then, that the ascendency of sexy vampires in novels and movies coincides with the after-effects of second-wave feminism with its element of egregious man-hating?
In 1979, Stephen King's Salem's Lot was made into a TV miniseries, and the vampires looked like this: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:TheMasterKurtBarlow1979.jpg
In 1994, Anne Rice's Interview With the Vampire was made into a theatrical movie, and the vampires looked like this: http://www.radio21.ro/files/uploads/editor/image/Vampiri/tom%20cruise.jpg
And in 2008, Stephanie Meyer's Twilight was made into a movie, and the vampires looked like this: http://cristinagrosu.files.wordpress.com/2009/06/edward-cullen-twilight-series-3897195-1280-102421.jpg
Interesting that they grow to look more and more like the loathsome men feminists would have us fear and hate but, paradoxically, emulate.
I haven't read Meyer's or Rice's books, or seen the movies based on them, nor have I read the profusion of vampire novels flooding the paperback racks. I'm not a feminist; I haven't bought into all the man-hating, so I don't need a substitute for human males as an object for admiration, even in light, escapist reading.
My admiration is reserved for the flesh-and-blood sons of Adam--the good, decent men who love their wives and children, who provide for their families, who make society work, and who strive to make the world a better place for all. These are my heroes.
I'm sure there are feminists who don't undestand that; they can be sure I don't lose sleep over it.
*Connie is a regular and valued contributor to FRS. Her personal blog is http://conniechastain.blogspot.com/