Fair warning: I can’t believe I’m still dwelling on this.
It has become apparent to me that you cannot be taken seriously as a female Vampire in book lit (or anywhere else) unless you dress like a Victorian corpse who died of consumption…or maybe a pierced tattooed thug in heavy eye makeup with ankh jewelry and quasi-street rubber/leather New Religion goth clothing.
Or — you know — you happen to look like Kate Beckinsale.
Don’t get me wrong: I like her, too. She’s gorgeous in a timeless way, looks bad-ass whenever she wants, and you WANT to believe in the character she’s playing. Yet at the same time, she’s a walking undead cliché: perfect dark hair, pale skin, the ethereal blue supernatural contacts, the custom-leather corset (accentuating whatever you have to work with) and, well, just all of it.
* bangs head on desk *
Here’s the problem: NONE of this makes any sense. Who makes up all this stuff? “LadyVamps R Us?” Maybe Blade has an excuse (“He makes the weapons; I use ’em.”) but where’s the sweat shop of old gypsies stamping leather for the Underworld Vampire lords and death dealers?
Here’s the truth: anyone can be a Vampire (assuming you survive the transformation), so Vampires can look like anyone; “True Blood” got this right. We should WANT to look like “anyone.” We need real living human blood to sustain us — blood that can’t have been outside of a body for more than an hour — so a source must be kept close by, and willing donors are always preferred to unthinkably trying to maintain a fully stocked dungeon. Never mind that the whole undead Cleopatra look attracts the worst donors: mortals who just want to become immortal.
Tattoos and piercings? Oops…Vampires HEAL. That’s right; subdermal ink and flesh holes go away. I have to re-pierce my ears every single time I want to wear a pair; the holes close as soon the posts come out and are outright ejected whenever I rest.
Back to Underworld: who builds all their little underground blood bank safe-houses with the fully stocked weapons cabinets? Who keeps those places sterile and so spotlessly CLEAN? Ghouled slaves? Island Fortress Cleaning Services?
Dracula never had to put up with this kind of disrespect. Then again, he was originally EVIL.
So the next time you’re watching a supernatural television show or horror movie where “the too-cool Vampire girl” walks on-screen (and it’s ALWAYS a girl because, according to writers, no self-respecting lady Vampire would ever want to look like a mature woman) just remember: real Vampires can and do look like anyone. Just because you rise from the dead doesn’t mean a mysterious crate arrives from France full of dark makeup, clothing, and smoke machines to celebrate becoming a creature of the night.
Nor do you rise knowing expert martial arts fighting skills — but that’s a rant for another night.
Keep each other safe.
11 thoughts on “Kate Beckinsale and Worlds of Darkness – Vampire Verisimilitude”
Firstly, I disagree. Kate wasn’t a girl, nor was the matriarch from the other clan they went to meet. Vampires don’t have to blend in, they have supernatural powers. Like charisma. Even Dracula had this. Humans are food. Vampire the Masquerade gave men and women the ability to fit into their own clan based on abilities, nature, tendencies, etc. There IS nothing wrong with women wanting to be beautiful and powerful. I repeat.
There is nothing wrong with a female wanting to be beautiful, and powerful. And bad ass.
So to that point, a vampire has supernatural powers, some – like Selena – have been alive for centuries and trained to be a death dealer.
What doesn’t explain her martial arts in that?
This whole “cliche” you speak of, focuses on the wrong premise. The bride of Dracula originally were a mindless victim brought into a harem. That’s the real tragedy. I love the new mold. Sexy, beautiful, frightening, and intelligent.
As women we need to stop attacking this mold. I worked as a makeup up artist, and studied martial arts. I love a good Smokey Eye while I’m knocking men around.
A female horror writer
LikeLiked by 2 people
Thank you for the reply. I empathize — I really do. I’m all for kick-ass ladies; I said as much.
I. Like. Kicking. Ass.
But let’s flip this: do all kick-ass MEN have to look like body builders? Fight club attendees? Dwayne Johnson? Brad Pitt? Those two pretty boys on The Vampire Diaries?
Don’t you think — maybe — you’re pigeonholing us?
Women are held to a minimum standard of beauty to confirm their worth: “is she doable?” What I DIDN’T say in my rant is how this extends to sexism — it really does. Why are we REQUIRED to flaunt our sexuality in order to be seen as powerful? And as vampires, this should be even more so? Shouldn’t it be the opposite? “You should know I can kick your ass nine ways to Sunday, Mr. Pickup Artist…just because I’m wearing jeans and a t-shirt doesn’t mean I can’t or won’t.”
And c’mon! Looking good doesn’t mean going Lady Gaga every time we step out of the crypt and into public. Can’t we keep the special occasions special?
I’m talking about the extremes, Lisa. Kate’s look is CONSERVATIVE in comparison to much of this nonsense. And outside of the big city night clubs, Small Town USA looks a lot more like Near Dark than it does Underworld.
Oh and as for “humans are food?” As a country girl at heart, I’ve never seen Farmer Brown dressed to the nines as he goes out to pick a cow for slaughter, nor have I observed Mrs. Brown putting on her makeup to cut the head of a hen.
That said, we don’t have to kill to survive or even thrive, so maybe that’s the real issue here.
Reblogged this on The Ravings of a Sick Mind.
LikeLiked by 1 person
I both write and read a lot of vampire fiction, and I’m a woman. Vampire tropes exist because readers have made them popular. For the most part, popular modern vampires fall between the grotesque and the beautiful. I accept that because I know it’s what most vampire fiction readers want. But I personally am bored with the hypersexualized female vamp trope, who looks like the black latex was poured on her perfect curves. I am tired of pale Dresden dolls with high cheekbones and pouty lips. I am tired of fanged damsels in distress or kick-ass Mary Sue’s. I want them flawed. I want them real. I want my vamps to be different.
Even in saying that, I have to admit I have some beautiful undead creatures (male, female and other…) in my novels. My vamps get to choose their face and their bodies, so, it only makes sense that some would want an idealized human form…and that varies with where and when they were turned. (Some aren’t human at all.) Youth and beauty aren’t the endgame for many of them. What makes all of these characters interesting to me is their innerworld. And really, when it boils down to it…isn’t that what the most memorable vampires in literature and fiction are? They’re interesting, flawed characters. And what makes them beautiful is their journey.
I am not offended by Janiss’s post. As a feminist, I was not offended by its spirit. I get it. And she makes some good points about the believability of some vampires traits and skills. Now, I’m all for playing with that. I certainly did. But it has to make sense in context of the world you’ve written.
So, I say, write what’s in your heart. You’ll find someone who loves your world as much as you do.
“Hypersexualized female vamp.” Yep…that’s what I was talking about. In their defense, I will say that, in their worlds, maybe that makes sense — but it really seems to be a lot of work for nothing. I used to read romance and (thanks to a co-worker) have sidelined into paranormal romance, and one thing I’ve noticed is that, in spite of being these dark angels of power and perfection, they end up being flawed and vulnerable somehow (usually in the bedroom; I’ve actually already voiced my opinions on that elsewhere).
Oddly, this push-back on an opinion (and that’s all that it is) feels like someone thinks I’m targeting them. “Firstly, I disagree…Vampires don’t have to blend in.” Have to? No. Should want to? Yeah…unless you live in a world where there isn’t a government, an army, and/or technology. Who want to be subjugated? Who wants to live in fear that they will be?
You could use Feminism as metaphor in this discussion. Why are men so against it? Short answer: a very few Feminists have proclaimed all men be removed from power and/or destroyed. No one wants rights they have taken away, just like the rich don’t want to be told they have to keep less than they have been. Somehow, my opinion over playing dress-up appears to have been twisted into “I forbid anyone to do this.” And I really, really hope this isn’t one of those Mary Sue I-don’t-like-myself-but-this-is-how-I-should-be-accept-me-damn-it pleas for help.
My point was EVERYONE has done this already; it’s in bookstores everywhere, and it’s tired. Characters need flaws; hell, I’m not perfect. Is anyone?
It isn’t realistic; it’s stylized, and that’s fine…for that. But in the real world or novels portraying the paranormal in a near-real world, it doesn’t fly. Why can’t you see the humor in that? No one believes costumed superheroes all have the same tailor, but the production designer DID come up with all the looks to make everything seamless.
So, to reiterate: I wouldn’t want to be a “hypersexualized female vamp.” I’d rather have good-looking but comfortable footwear, nice clothing I can move in, and appear in public without getting mobbed like a rock star. It’s all show, and when everyone is special, NO ONE is special.
Thanks, Leslie. You should stop by our facility for a visit. 😉
Fangtastic in comfortable shoes. hehe
Speaking again as a feminist, there is a huge difference between critiquing sultry vampire tropes, and critiquing a women right to choose her sexuality and autonomy. It’s perfectly acceptable to critique the trope. It’s not acceptable to critique women.
And Janiss, can I bring some friends?
LikeLiked by 1 person
They may enter freely, Leslie, and of their own free will.
I don’t think the issue is with vampire women being beautiful. We all know fictional characters always tend to be heightened and idealized. The issue is how impractical some of the costumes are when it comes to female vampires. Skin tight rubber or leather? Have you ever tried to move in something like that?
I remember in the commentary for “Underworld”, the director (who later became Beckinsale’s husband) mentioning that Kate basically smelled like a condom in that outfit. Same thing from the first X-Men movie when describing those leather uniforms they wore: the actors couldn’t get their legs high enough to cross a low-hanging chain! Most of those outfits are super-restrictive and only good for looks.
What’s wrong with having fictional characters who dress realistically? Frankly, as a man, I think a woman looks just as sexy in a comfortable shirt and jeans as in a skin-tight bondage outfit.
LikeLiked by 2 people
It’s all about the look, isn’t it? Buckle in and stand there being admired and objectified. That’s okay for short periods of time if you’re into that — awards shows, music videos, stage performance — but for killing? Leading?
This reminds me of those Star Wars fan videos with Stormtroopers standing around a bar and no one notices they aren’t drinking because they all still have their helmets on.
Thanks for the reply, Xuemertie.
Hmm. Okay, I have to try this, so forgive me. Is that pronounced “Zoo-MUR-tee?” Sorry if I butchered it, but I’d love to know if I got that right. 😉
This thread seems to be getting a lot of traffic lately. Maybe I should have Daya’s song “Sit Still, Look Pretty” playing in the background.
LikeLiked by 1 person