SWV Seeks May-December Stalker-Romance

Gather ’round the campfire, homechickens, because it’s story time, and I’m pretty sure that none of you have heard this one before, so listen close.

It all starts with an Ancient Vampire with poofy hair, drawn to a young human female by deep inner compulsion. She’s from a broken home, and has always seemed a bit…unusual. Let’s call her Mary Sue. Ancient Vampire stalks Mary Sue (perhaps by attending her high school in the guise of a fellow student), and she falls hopelessly in love with him, swept away by their intense and immediate Love Connection. They decide to date, despite the obstacles, only it brings trouble into Mary Sue’s life, because their Forbidden Love has gotten someone else angry, like maybe some rival vampires or something. Eventually they do it and the Earth moves and Mary Sue is initiated into a magical (and sexual) world by the Power of the Vampire Penis. Except that he’s a little rough during sex so he feels a little guilty, but that’s ok, it will all work out, because their love is eternal (just like him!).

What’s that? Oh, you have heard this one before? Really? Where?! ’cause, like, I totally just came up with this idea off the top of my head, so I’m kind of surprised and offended that you say it sounds like it’s lifted from some other story. Maybe I can change it up a little by making my Ancient Vampire capable of being in the sunlight without dying, or at least without dying immediately, that would make it way different. What? It still seems derivative? Ok, then, how about this: my Ancient Vampire doesn’t feed on humans! Now that’s definitely something you haven’t heard before!

Seriously, people, what is up with the Ancient Vampire stalks young women trope? I’m officially over it. And you should be too, considering that this story is being told over and over again with essentially no variation or attempt at creativity.

Let’s review, shall we:

  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer features Angel (who feeds on pig’s blood from the butcher’s), drawn to Buffy because he wants to help her as part of his personal redemption process. Buffy’s just moved to Sunnydale with her single mother to try and recover from the split of her family, the destruction of her life, and the realization that she’s The Slayer. Angel stalks Buffy (for her own good, of course), Angel and Buffy fall in love, but it’s a love which can Never Be because, you know, when they do it, he turns evil, so they only did it the one time, when he took her virginity. And the fact that they’re dating brings down all kinds of shit on Buffy. Who then seeks another Vampire Penis, because, you know what they say, once you go dead…hey, did I mention that at one point Buffy saves Angel by giving him some of her blood?
  • The Vampire Diaries, a young adult series released in 1991 and adapted into a television series by the same name in 2009, features the lovely Elena and her own personal vampire stalker, Stefan (who eats furry little woodland creatures). Stefan pursues Elena by attending her high school in disguise and, you know, stalking her. Much like Angel, he randomly pops up when it’s not expected and it’s considered kind of endearing and cute, instead of what it actually is, which is FUCKING CREEPY. Elena’s an orphan, naturally, and she, too, gets to save her vampire boyfriend by giving him some of her blood. Amazing!
  • Twilight, featuring everyone’s favourite sparklevamp, Edward (who eats furry big woodland creatures), treats us to a relationship based pretty much entirely on Edward’s magnetic attraction to the delicious scent of Bella’s blood. He also (surprise surprise) stalks her, even sneaking into her room at night to watch her sleep, and also attends her high school as a student despite the fact that he died in 1918. Uhm, creepy much? Then, of course, another gang of vampires gets all riled up about the “vegetarian” Edward and his pet Bella, and all hell breaks loose. But it’s ok, because they get married and have a sparklebaby. Hey, did I mention Bella was a virgin? I didn’t? Oh, by the way, she’s also from a broken home, living with her single dad while her mom gallivants about with her new boyfriend. Furthermore, Bella also gives blood to Edward; once when he has to suck out the venom of the Evil Vampire and again when he turns her. (She’s evidently an exception to the rule that the human girlfriend doesn’t get turned.)
  • True Blood/The Sookie Stackhouse Novels feature a nice little departure from the norm: Sookie Stackhouse is a waitress in her 20s, instead of a 16 year old girl in high school, when she meets her very own Bill Compton (who consumes artificial blood developed in Japan). Sookie is apparently instantly attracted to Bill, who (spoiler!) is only pursuing Sookie because he was ordered to seduce her so that her powers of telepathy could be exploited. But he feels a connection with her too and they do it (he takes her virginity! Amazing, I know) and everything is awesome. Well, except that Sookie discovers that sex is awesome and dumps his ass and starts doing it with other vampires. Did I mention that Sookie’s parents died when she was a little girl, so she was raised by her grandmother, who is brutally murdered in the first book/season to leave her alone and vulnerable? Oh, also, guess which body fluid Bill and Sookie exchange? Hint: it’s red!

Something else which I find interesting to note about these four essentially identical stories: three of the four vampires are turned by a predatory vampiress. So we have the “older woman initiates younger man” trope thrown in there as a free bonus even as we’re treated to the exploitation of young women by superold dudes. Sorry, vampires. (Alternatively, you could think of it as the “victims of abuse often become abusers” trope, but I’m not sure any of the retellers of this tired old story were actually this sophisticated.)

So, here’s the thing: when I see an older person with a high school girl, I don’t think “gee, that’s totally romantic.” I think “that’s really creepy and icky and quite probably illegal (or it will be), and seriously, is that dude so pathetic that he can’t date ladies his own age?” So, why is it that the older-vamp-pursues-young-girl/woman story is being repeated over and over, and being treated as the “love for the ages?” Why are we treating this as something not only appropriate, but romantic, instead of what it is, which is predatory and gross at the least and statutory rape in most cases?

I keep meaning to write a post about why it is that romantic vampire leads always appear to be male, and that’s a post that I’m still going to write at some point, because I find it intriguing that female vamps are succubi, and male vamps are, you know, love interests. I think that says a lot about society, and the fact that we apparently enjoy seeing/reading the same story over and over again also says a lot about society. We have literally been hearing this story for over 100 years, and apparently it’s still not old.

Given that vamps are the current pop culture obsession, when are we going to see some fucking variation on this same old theme?! Could we have a female vampire who is taken seriously as a love interest, rather than just treated as a predator? Why is it that female vamp-younger man is viewed as inherently icky and predatory, while male vamp-younger woman is hot and sexy? What does this say about our culture? What does this say about the people who are enjoying these stories uncritically?

(Edited to add, for those who don’t have the courage to wade through the comments, Natalie at She Speculates has a discussion of True Blood which was sparked by this post which y’all should go read.)

17 Replies to “SWV Seeks May-December Stalker-Romance”

  1. Not just vampires. Relationships involving an older woman and younger man in general… you could argue biological instinct, but I personally think it’s past time that we as a species moved past “biological instinct” as a primary drive.

  2. To go along with your last post and Aoede, older women/younger man relationships always have a sort of ‘intro’/’explanation’ to it. For example… older women who go after younger men are cougars. But older men who go after younger women, well that just ‘happens’. *rolls eyes* It’s something that always seems to happen when women are compared to men or in the eyes of society, when women ‘attempt’ to do something like men.

    Our society just needs to get it’s act together–and your whole post hits the nail on the head. When are we going to get tired of the SAME OL’ STORY?

  3. “What’s so scary about this is that teenage girls are reading and viewing all of these stories and start seeing this predatory actions as romantic.” Yes, this. Especially when one considers the fact that skeezy older dudes prey on high school girls, who are now primed to think of relationships with older men as romantic. As are their friends, which means that the voice of wisdom is unlikely to pop up, or be listened to. While there’s a long history of cultivating the idea that younger woman/older man is romantic and acceptable, it feels more overt, without any apologies, these days, and that worries me.

  4. What’s so scary about this is that teenage girls are reading and viewing all of these stories and start seeing this predatory actions as romantic.

    I would also like to see more female vamps period, but definitely in a “positive” light that a lot of the male vampires in these stories are seen. I can only think of a couple examples of female vampire leads or primary characters in shows and only one example of a female vampire in a relationship (relationship, not just using for sex) with a human man. Even in that case, the man is older than the female vampire. She was newly made vampire and 17, he’s like 25. And no one seems to be bringing that creepiness up.

  5. I have a book recommendation for a vampire novel with a twist. Evernight by Claudia Gray. Here’s the blurb from the author’s website:

    When the story begins in Evernight, Bianca has just left the small town where she’s spent her whole life. She’s a new student at Evernight Academy, a creepily Gothic boarding school where her classmates are somehow too perfect: smart, sleek and almost predatory. Bianca knows she doesn’t fit in.

    Then she meets Lucas, another loner, who seems fiercely determined not to be the “Evernight type.” There’s a connection between Bianca and Lucas that can’t be denied. She would risk anything to be with him—but dark secrets are fated to tear them apart… and to make Bianca question everything she’s ever believed to be true.

    I know it SOUNDS completely samey and you think it follows the usual vampire tropes – but then the big reveal is awesome! And I really loved it. The love interest is also pretty well written and cool in his own way.

    Also, I’ve been following your Joss Whedon series of posts and I have to say, thank you for them! I’ve also been grappling with the problems I’ve seen in his shows and your posts have brought a lot of interesting points up.

  6. You know, I totally forgot Bite Me! It is a fantastic book. But, I would argue it’s not as much part of the mainstream as the Twilight, Vampire Diaries, and Sookie Stackhouse books, and that it’s marketed more to adults than teens.

  7. wait! you missed something.

    the older dude–I mean, vampire–has to be BE OLD, really old, but he has to LOOK YOUNG. that makes it all okay.

  8. In regards to the variation, “Bite Me: A Love Story”, by Christopher Moore features a young girl who is turned by a random predatory stranger (who is portrayed as a nutjob vampire) but then left to fend for herself. The resourceful protagonist finds herself a younger bloke to run around generally be useful in the daylight.. (kinda like the women in alot of vamp fiction seem to do for the male vamps)…
    It’s absolutely fantastic and completely twists the current vampire storyline on its head. Not to mention, it is all told with Moore’s witty and almost wry writing style.

  9. Too true; he must be chronologically old, but appear young (shades of the evidently universal human desire for youth and immortality).

  10. What about Vivian Vande Velde’s “Companions of the Night”? That’s YA. It starts out with the heroine finding and saving the vampire (albeit not knowing that he is such) and… doesn’t really have romance between them. On the other hand, it does use the “older predatory female vampire” thing… yet on the tentacle, all of that is explicitly stated from the heroine’s thoughts, and the events involving the vampiress cast her in a more sympathetic light.

    Well, anyway, it’s YA and it’s not quite the same.

  11. Oh man, with all of the YA vampire books I’m ordering from the library right now, the librarians must have some very peculiar ideas about me.

  12. No doubt. I’d much rather see Christopher Moore mania, since he’s funny, and a terrific writer, and his books often portray, you know, women, in a positive way. But, alas, the desire seems to be for troped books which are really all just carbon copies of each other: boy meets girl, boy stalks girl, girl falls in love, the end. Humorous/sardonic writers in general tend not to get as much attention (I think people think that it’s naughty or low-class to like their books or something).

  13. Speaking of humorous writers, am I incredibly deluded in thinking that Piers Anthony kind of sucks as far portraying women goes? Because some of my very intelligent friends insist that I must have misread or whatever, but then again, they were also guys.

  14. No, you are not incredibly deluded, Piers Anthony’s books portray women in a way which I would dare say is totally maddening. I remember when they were all the rage in high school so I borrowed a few and just…yeah. Awful. Cringeworthy, even. It’s a pity since there’s so much great feminist science fiction, and no good reason to read books that trash women.

  15. Hi Mel,
    I should have said it earlier, but excellent post. I wrote an addition and a little defence of True Blood… your comments would be most welcome.

  16. Try Christopher Pike’s “The Last Vampire” books. I read them in middle/high school and love them to death. Told in the first person from the POV of a female vampire. Also featuring (interestingly enough) an origin story not relating to Caine! I saw a compilation volume of the books in my Borders not too long ago …

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