It might seem a little bit too late to catch on to the hype, but I still feel like writing a post.
Beside the fact that vampires (almost nearly always inevitably male) are handsome, demure, elegant and perfect (ly abusive) — why do girls love vampires so much? Their physical appearance and capability obviously factor into their attraction, and in fact, you can say that their attraction as a literary or story trope is essentially physical.
For one, to survive, vampires need to consume blood. I don’t know how physical you can get with that. When a romantic relationship takes place between a human and a vampire, the physical or sexual tension that surrounds him are off the charts. Vampires need to suck blood from humans, period. If you’re human, that means you’re always going to be a potential source for blood. If you’re a girl next to a hot vampire guy, you will always be an object of desire–a physical object of desire.
And what does that sound like? Ding ding ding. The physical objectification of women. It’s something that affects (and distorts) the nature of desire, especially for women and girls. To desire means to be desired, because the internalization of the male gaze and the patriarchal treatment of women.
The byronic vampire is the perfect patriarch, if you think about it. Take Twilight, for example. Edward is physically astonishing and perfect, and he basically babies Bella, stalks her, belittles her, patronizes her and commits all types of dating violence. What’s even more astonishing is probably the fact such male character is actually desired by a large portion of female population–but in a way, it’s not that surprising because of the twisted gender roles conditioned by our society. If you take a look at Fifty Shades of Grey, it’s the same thing all over again. Christian Grey is a sex addict that relishes in BDSM practices. Once more, the concern is entirely focused on the female body (and not female desires. Hey, hey, hey. Maybe I’m out of my mind-ind-ind-ind-ind-ind-mind.)
Believe it or not, I actually wrote an essay on gender roles and desire in Fifty Shades of Grey and Twilight for my Sociology class a while ago. Yes, that means I read both books (what most people seem to be obsessed about). Initially, I read them just so I could probably criticize them. But boy, what a gold mine of gender topics–both of them. Despite the cheesy romance and horrible literature, I must applaud to both Twilight and Fifty Shades for the conversations they stir up.
Anyway. Back to vampires. Even if the vampire character himself (focusing on male vampires here…wait, are there female vampires??) isn’t abusive or misogynistic, he’s still a shining beacon of desire due to the fact he consumes blood, and the consumption of blood requires physical intimacy, which will inevitably lead to sexual intimacy or at the least, sexual tension, or arousal. You really can’t have sexual peace of any kind when you’re around a sizzling (or shiny) vampire. The very word itself screams sex, but it is wrapped in the comfort of having a paranormal romantic relationship (just like Fifty Shades uses a traditionally romantic tale of love and marriage to buffer Grey’s non-conformative sexual practices).
The truth is–women can’t read these things at peace without being called a slut. There’s no sex in Twilight, but the stigma and disapproval towards such literature can be very extreme–not to mention Fifty Shades. Twilight is mostly criticized for its horrible writing, lack of plot, one-dimensional characters, and incredibly cheesy romance. Which, begs the question, why is it cheesy? Maybe it’s because Twilight completely and utterly confines to the stereotypical, patriarchal gender roles. And maybe a lot of us are flagging it in our heads, even though we can’t quite put our finger on it. Fifty Shades is, of course, much more stigmatized and criticized than Twilight…as much as I dislike those two books, but hey, in a way, the popularity of Fifty Shades Trilogy does give woman a safe ground to talk about sex–no? As cheesy or frowned upon as it is as a piece of literature, at least it’s breaking the societal taboos and creating a space for women to be open about their sexuality. I mean, yeah, Fifty Shades is highly problematic in its portrayal of women–but Fifty Shades didn’t cause this to happen. Those problems exist because of the way patriarchal ideals condition us. And something that problematic is bound to stir up controversy, and controversy will lead to conversations, like this one (although, way overdue, and super late, and probably not very topical…)
So what I’m saying is…while admittedly Fifty Shades and Twilight are horrible, horrible books (in a strictly literary sense), we shouldn’t be too quick to judge them, or their fans, or their merit.