I had a job interview today!
But this post isn’t about this, except that it allowed me to finish Insatiable, which is Meg Cabot’s take on the whole “vampire craze.” I figure with Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter coming out on Friday, this is as good a time as any for me to wade in to that water that is so fraught for fangirls (as it encompasses the best and worst of all of qualities) the “good vampire.”
I was devouring Insatiable, and it’s heroine Meena Harper’s (it’s funny because her name sounds like the girl from Dracula) relationship with Lucien Antenescu and I ran in to the problem that I always run in to with these stories. I didn’t want Meena to get together with Lucien, I wanted her to get together with Alaric Wulf, the sexy vampire hunter she starts hanging out with. I’m almost always rooting for the other guy…it’s kind of a pathology with me that I think goes back to singing “On My Own,” in my shower and thinking that Cosette was a tool and Marius should have ended up with Eponine. But it also got me thinking about a bunch of the other pop culture vamps that I’ve spent inordinate amounts of time with.
It would be wayward and stupid and unfair of me to start anywhere but with Angel. Angelus, Angel, Liam whatever you want to call him, is one of my all time favorite fictional characters, and absolutely my favorite of the vampires I’ll be talking about here. We first met him in the “Welcome to The Hellmouth” pilot for Buffy The Vampire Slayer. Joss Whedon created him specifically to be Buffy’s wrong guy. What could be more awful for her, than to love a vampire, when it’s not only her job, but her divine mandate to destroy vampires and demons? He was the ultimate bad boy she had to stay away from, and couldn’t.
Thank God it didn’t just end there. Angel eventually became one of the most complicated, layered and amazing characters in the Buffyverse, which is saying something, because most of the characters are layered, complicated and amazing. It starts in an episode entitled, “Angel,” where Buffy learns that he is a vampire, and an exceptionally famous and dangerous one at that. She (and we) learn, however, that a group of gypsies cursed Angel with a soul, so unlike most vampires, he has feelings, and more tortuously, can feel guilt and remorse. In this universe Vampires are sociopaths, they don’t feel things. But Angel feels all kinds of things. And one of the most important things that he feels is love, and even more important than that, he feels love for Buffy.
The brilliant, Buffy Season 2 arc, in which Angel loses his soul and becomes Angelus again and all because he and Buffy had sex, and he liked it! Because the over arching theme of Buffy was that Buffy’s literal demons could also be manifestations of her figurative demons, this particular one was, “When you lose your virginity to an older guy, he becomes an asshole who no longer values your relationship.” Except in Buffy and Angel’s case it was, “you lose your virginity to an older guy and he no longer values your relationship, your sacred duty, or life in any kind of capacity and becomes a psycho killer.” Eventually, after killing a lot of people, and with some help from Spike (ohhh, Spike, he doesn’t get a place here because he’s not exactly good. If I ever get into a morally ambiguous hot blond vampire thing, I can talk about Spike, and Eric from True Blood, and Rosalie Cullen) Buffy and Co. get Angel his soul back, and send him to hell.
Yeah, this is where the “women they love,” thing comes in to play big time. Because part of what makes Angel more compelling than most of the other vampires on this list is that he’s in love with the woman is chosen by divine mandate (the powers that be) to destroy all of his kind. And even when it practically destroys her, she sends him to hell, because she has to. Because he hurt people she loved, and people she had never even heard of. And what’s even more amazing, is Angel understands this, forgives her for it, and it makes him love her even more.
Of course after twenty episodes of that, he gets fed up and runs away and gets his own show, where he solves crimes and impregnates another vampire, and does some other stupid stuff. But the over arching theme of Angel is that he is striving to become human. And why, would a super powered awesome vampire want to become human? Well, to be with the woman he loves. Which, if you believe in comic book sequels, is exactly what happens…um sort of, none of that is really easy to understand, because that’s how Joss Whedon rolls.
Beyond Angel, there are of course, other “good” vampires, and I might as well get my least favorite out of the way after my favorite. I’m talking about the sparkly, tree climbing, Volvo driving control freak that twelve year old girls all over the world swoon for, Mr. Edward Cullen. Look, I’m not saying I hate Edward. Actually, when I read the Twilight books, I greatly enjoyed the character. I’ve been Team Jacob since minute one, but I at least saw Edward’s appeal. I absolutely understood why some girls would prefer him, and I totally understood why Bella Swann preferred him. Actually, my favorite thing about the Twilight universe is one of the most overlooked elements of Meyer’s take on vampires.
The constant complaint, from plenty of my friends, is that Twilight’s vampires aren’t vampires in the strictest sense. They go out in the day time, they can’t be killed with a stake, don’t mind garlic, or crosses, or silver or any of the other traditional vampire stuff. However, they are immortal, do subsist on blood (animal or human, depending on the clan) and don’t age. The sparkly thing, OK, most people are judging that off of the movies, who not only did a terrible job of portraying it visually, they also didn’t explain it properly.
In the Twilight universe, vampires are frozen in whatever state they were in when they became a vampire. They become a magnified eternal version of whoever they were in that moment. So Edward, who was an overly serious minded seventeen year old boy impatient to enlist in World War I, becomes forever stuck in the mindset of a serious minded seventeen year old boy preparing to go to war. He’s overly defensive and possessive for that reason. And Bella, who is an old soul no matter how you look at it, and is shy, serious minded herself, and used to taking care of people, is drawn to someone who’s main drive is to take care of her.
Another more physical result of this freezing, is that the vampires become like a sort of living rock. They sparkle but they aren’t “shimmery” it isn’t like they’re covered in glitter. They sparkle when they catch the light, like quartz or some other semi precious stone. It’s still a little stupid, but in context, it’s a lot less stupid. And if you consider the emotional consequences, which are laid out better in the books, because they’re explored through Edward’s “siblings” Rosalie and Jasper, (and kind of Emmet) it all makes a lot more sense. And it makes Edward slightly less abhorrent and the attraction between him and Bella a little less, well, “huh?” It also helps when they’re being played by people in your head and not Robert Pattinson and Kristen Stewart, who are basically just awful.
In the end, I’d still probably pick Jacob, but this isn’t about werewolves or my obsession with “the other guy,” it’s about vampires. Those are other posts for other days!
If we really want to go into the darkness, it would be impossible to ignore Bill Compton. Bill is, well, I’m pretty sure Bill is just meant to be a sex object. I never quite understood his character. I did understand that he was like some weird Edward/Angel mash up with a southern accent. (And before anyone jumps down my throat, I know that “The Sookie Stackhouse Mysteries” which inspired True Blood predate Twilight. However, they didn’t come in to my pop culture sphere until after) Anyway, Bill’s entire existence seems to be only to protect Sookie from other vampires, and have sex with Sookie. I have never seen him be motivated by anything else. But I never enjoyed the books, and when the show decided that Sookie was a fairy, I stopped watching, so maybe things changed.
I dig his backstory though. William Compton was a Confederate soldier on his way home to rural Louisiana. Along the way he stopped at a home, looking for some food, shelter, standard wandering soldier on his way home fare. The woman living there introduced herself as Marlena, said she a widow and welcomed him in. After eating and drinking, she invited him in to her bed. A married and honorable man, Bill refused her, but not without saying that she shouldn’t sell herself short that way. He went to sleep and when he woke up, Marlena was drinking his blood.
See, Marlena was a crazy ass vampire. She decided that Bill’s refusal to sleep with her made him a worthy companion. So she changed him in to a vampire, and revealed that this is what she does, she welcomes traveling soldiers, gets them fed, and when they take her up on the sex she kills them! Yay! Bill is disgusted and briefly tries to return to his human life. This fails miserably. Then he goes on to live with Marlena randomly killing people and being fabulous for a good fifty or so years. Then TruBlood get invented, Bill comes out of the coffin and starts dating a pretty little telepathic waitress, who’s actually a fairy.
The last vampire that I cannot get enough of, also gets the least amount of attention of any on this list. His name is Simon Lewis. He comes from a book series, The Mortal Instruments. You should read them, because they’re amazing. Simon is a terrifically over looked brother of the good vampires, mostly because unless you’re an x-core fangirl, you’re probably not terribly familiar with Cassandra Clare’s The Mortal Instruments Series. Even I overlooked them until this year. (I was suffering from Twilight/True Blood backlash, I wanted nothing to do with the Supernatural for a while.) But I’ve become a massive fan and a huge advocate of these books (and their companion series, The Infernal Devices). The main plot is an epic, tragic, ridiculous, love story between Shadowhunters (demon killers) Clary Fray and Jace Wayland. That’s far too complicated to get into here. But one of the most compelling side plots, of which there are many, concerns Clary’s best friend Simon who is turned in to a vampire in Book Two.
Simon is unique among vampires in The Mortal Instruments series for several reasons. His best friend is a Shadowhunter, as is his sort of girlfriend (Isabelle Lightwood). He’s also known as The Daylighter, because he drank Jace’s blood (Jace is part angel, yes I know) so he can go outside in the day time. Clary also drew the Mark of Cain on his forehead in order to protect him (Clary has magical drawing powers, I know, OK? But the books actually are awesome). So he’s an invincible vampire who can go out in the day time. Oh and at the end of Book Five, he gets blessed by an angel so that he isn’t among the damned anymore.
I know I’m making him seem like the worst kind of Cullen, going out in the day, not actually being evil at all, but see that’s not what’s interesting about Simon, or about what Clare did with Simon. What’s interesting is that Simon is Jewish. As a result traditional methods of vampire harm, (aside from the day time stuff, because like I said, unique) because things like crosses, holy water etc. are Christian symbols, and Simon doesn’t believe in their power. However, the Sign of Solomon, The Star of David, these all burn his skin. For a short while in Book 3, The Shadowhunters imprison Simon, and do so by building a cell in the shape of a Star of David with a silver doorknob emblazoned with the sign of Solomon. It’s a very, very cool character quirk that makes him interesting. Because of being a Daylighter and having different weaknesses than the others, Simon doesn’t fit in with other vampires. This makes him extra broody and sarcastic.
Which, when it comes down to it, is what the whole thing is all about, right? These guys brood, snark and are slightly dangerous, and that’s what’s so very attractive about them.