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Why are there no fat vampires?

February 22, 2010

With all the news of Kevin Smith being ousted from a Southwest flight for being “too fat” and Michelle Obama’s fight against “childhood obesity,” I thought it seemed like an appropriate time to post my “Why are there no fat vampires” piece which ran a few weeks back at Womanist Musings. Here goes:

I have long been interested in which types of bodies count as “beautiful” and “normal” in our world. Perhaps it stems from my thin-obsessed older sister dubbing me “chub” (and labelling me as such in family photo albums). Or, perhaps is it do to living inside a female body, that type of body Aristotle long ago labelled defective and that has been allied with monstrosity/excess ever since. In any case, the image below caught my body aware-eye and got me thinking, are there any fat vampires?

Here, in an image that is supposed to be funny, the vampire-hunk Edward has morphed into a fat twinkie-fanatic. Interestingly, his body is markedly feminized in this fat rendering of his corporal form – he has what are colloquially known as “bitch tits” (now there’s a hateful phrase if ever there was one) and the saggy belly associated with females who have “let themselves go”and are “in need” of a tummy tuck (or a “mom job”).

In the image, Bella and James look on in judgement, as if to say “Oh, Edward, what have you done to yourself?” Edward looks none too happy – apparently those twinkies are not satisfying his hunger. (Which brings up another fat-hating stereotype this image draws on: fat people only eat junk.) Edward of course can’t possibly be happy with his fat body – that would go against the “thou shalt be thin” commandment.

As Melissa McEwen of Shakesville writes,

“It remains a radical act to be fat and happy in America… If you’re fat, you’re not only meant to be unhappy, but deeply ashamed of yourself, projecting at all times an apologetic nature, indicative of your everlasting remorse for having wrought your monstrous self upon the world.”

Here, using the phrase “monstrous self,” McEwen hits on an enduring link between fatness and monstrosity. To be fat is to somehow fail at being fully human in our body policing society; it results in being judged as lazy, greedy, unhealthy and endless other negative presumptions. Fat bodies are decried for taking up too much space, for eating too much, for assaulting the eyeballs of those of “normal” weight. Many movies code fat as monstrous (think Wall*E, Monster House, Shallow Hall, What’s Eating Gilbert Grape to name a few…)

Fat-hating comments and actions still function as “acceptable prejudices” with a general disdain for fatness dominating popular culture. And, although we feign to be living in an era that celebrates diversity, the range of what counts as a “normal body” is thin indeed. The explosive growth of plastic surgery, anorexia nervosa, and exercise fanaticism all attest that we are policing our bodies perhaps more than ever before.

So, how does the vampire craze fit into all of this? Well, I have never checked into the “nutrition facts” for a blood only diet, but I am guessing it might accord to the Atkins/BellyFatDiet/SouthBeach diet crazes. I am assuming blood would be low in carbohydrates (and those dreaded sugar carbs) and high in protein… Could one be fat on a blood only diet? According to textual depictions of vampires, it seems the consensus is no.

However, a fellow vampire addict alerted me to Fat White Vampire Blues, which Booklist describes as follows: “Poor Jules Duchon. It isn’t easy being a vampire in New Orleans. Potential victims’ blood is filled with fat from the rich local cuisine, and so Jules is a whopping 463 pounds. He would like to diet, but, really, his life isn’t too bad–until he walks into his house and finds tough-talking black vampire Malice X waiting for him. Annoyed that Jules has been feeding off black victims, Malice tells him to stick to his own kind. Shaken, Jules turns to his stripper ex, Maureen, the vampire who made him. She is as overweight as Jules and can’t bear to have him around because he reminds her of her own heft.”

WTF? Judging by words such as “whopping” and “heft” I doubt this is a fat-positive depiction. And if this brief description is any indication, seems like there might be some interesting white privilege/racism issues to examine. I might have to read this one…

I asked around amongst other vampire aficionados, and no one could think of many well known (let alone obscure) fat vampire characters. To the contrary, most vampires are represented as thin in the extreme – and those currently in vogue (Edward, Alice, Rosalie, Stefan, Damon, Eric, Bill) are no exception. Vamps have often been depicted as attractive monsters – perhaps the most attractive – so their representation as muscular and thin is in keeping with cultural norms of the body beautiful. Yet, must all those they bite, turn, or fall in love with be thin as well? It seems so. Mina Harker was hardly curvaceous, Sookie Stackhouse is a size 8, Elena Gilbert is skinny as all get out, and Bella Swan is whisper thin, weighing in at 108.  Perhaps vampires stay thin by only supping on thin women? Perhaps this is why Raaachem of WTForks?! posted Step away from the food with this image:

Ah, there is it again, the notion fat people eat junk and only thin is sexy. Bella Swan, vampire it-girl extraordinaire, seems to agree – throughout the Twilight series she repeatedly refuses food and insists she is not hungry. Her love for Edward, as riffed on in this, my TwiKidTrio Halloween skit, fills her up. Who needs food when you’ve got Mr. Golden Eyes?

Seeing as fatness is still so culturally loathed, I am in hopes there is a fat-positive vampire somewhere. This question seems to dog the imagination of others with many questions posted at Yahoo Answers such as “Why are there no fat vampires”If a fat person was turned into a vampire would they stay fat forever? and  “if u turn a fat person in to a vampire do they still stay fat and just turn beautiful? However, the comment threads are filled with fat-hating comments like “People are chosen to be bitten by their sex appeal. It explains everything.” Yeah, cuz fat = zero sex appeal. Right.  (Sadly, ruminations on Stephanie Meyer’s weight are also widespread on the internet– most of them insulting. “How dare she, the creator of beautiful vampires, be fat,” the comments imply.)

As recently reported at CNN, fat discrimination is more damaging to one’s health than fat itself! (For many great posts on fat-hatred and even more fat-positive messages, see Kate Harding’s Shapely Prose blog).

Why do fat vampires matter? Or, more to the point, why does it matter that almost all vampires are thin in the extreme? For the same reason it matters that they are also generally male, white, heterosexual, moneyed, able-bodied, etc. Popular culture matters – and currently vampires are having another major vogue – how they are represented shapes how we think of the world and ourselves. And if the most beautiful monsters are never fat, or never WOC*, what does this say about our “post-racial” supposedly diversity-loving society? It says that fat-hatred or sizism (and all the other nasty isms) are unfortunately undead.

23 Comments leave one →
  1. February 23, 2010 8:30 pm

    All of the fat vampires I can think of are steeped in that cultural sewage in which fat is short hand for either incompetent/pathetic/stupid or greedy/arrogant/stupid.

    The number of fat vampires I can think of off the top of my head is really small: One of Sunday’s sidekicks in BtvS 4.1 “the Freshman,” Balthazar the tub-bound villain in BtvS 3.14 “Bad Girls,” Bubba in the Sookie Stackhouse novels, and Eddie in “True Blood.”

    I feel like Eddie can be interpreted as a comment on how hard it is in society to be homosexual and not traditionally attractive. He became a vampire out of choice, but it didn’t fulfill his need for companionship. He was still lonely and pathetic, even with eternal life and fangs. Eddie still bore the short hand interpretation of fat = loser – even though he was an undead sweetie (he misses his son! He wants Lafayette to care for him! He tries to help Jason even as he’s held captive!). He would probably be a better love interest than Bill or Edward, now that I think about it…

    • natalie wilson permalink*
      March 4, 2010 4:56 am

      Love your point about “cultural sewage” — so true.
      Yes, not many fat vampires. I plan to read a book a friend told me about – called something like Fat White Vampire Blues. I doubt it will be fat positive though.

  2. February 23, 2010 8:37 pm

    Also:
    Why does Bella have to be petite? Why do heroines always have to be small? Can’t tall, buff, and/or fat women fall in love too?

    I get that in order for a human man to sling a gal around in a traditionally heroic way, the lady must be proportionally smaller and lighter. But I feel like a vampire lover’s strength would be appreciated infinitely more by a taller and/or bigger woman much more than a tiny woman.

    Her size/weight would be unimportant for someone with super strength. She could be carried and handled in a way that an average human man would not be able to replicate. A physically small woman can get that with an average guy. The impact of super strength would be so much greater for someone who is, oh 5’9″ and hasn’t weighed 108 since junior high…

    • natalie wilson permalink*
      March 4, 2010 4:58 am

      Great questions!
      Love your point that “a vampire lover’s strength would be appreciated infinitely more by a taller and/or bigger woman much more than a tiny woman.” But we couldn’t have pop culture giving us the message that fat bodies are normal, could we! Gasp! What would become of the billion dollar body hating diet industry and patriarchy’s lynchpin — making women hate their bodies?!?!

  3. Merinne permalink
    February 24, 2010 12:07 pm

    I think that Siobhan in Breaking Dawn is meant to be fat… but Meyer is so coy about it (not just a fat vampire, but a fat FEMALE vampire!!! Oh no!) that it’s pretty hard to discern. Anyone else get a euphemism vibe off her Siobhan descriptions?

    • natalie wilson permalink*
      March 4, 2010 4:59 am

      I do think she could be read as fat with her “undulating” body. But, like you note, it is not explicit. Plus, she is a VERY minor character. And what about all the ire directed at Meyer for her own body?!?

  4. Henry permalink
    March 18, 2010 11:52 am

    Well i just think that vampires as they have many perks like cell-regeneration speed etc. that keeps them healthy and they only drink blood, how on earth they could be fat. Totally unrealistic if thats possible to say about fictional thingies.

    What i noticed that in a vampire tv-serie True blood, there stepped in a fat guy and he claimed to be a vampire, i felt quite frustrated and that the show doesnt keep up with the glamor of vampire beauty in common.

    This is just my opinion about vampires, and there shouldnt be fat one, like there cant be fat 100m sprint runner in olympics.

    • natalie wilson permalink*
      March 19, 2010 4:38 am

      Henry,
      Actually, I am currently reading a book called Fat Vampire Blues whose protagonist is, you guessed it, a fat vampire. The premise is that he “eats” people who have too much fat in their blood and this makes him fat as well. So, it’s still a far cry from a pat-positive representation.
      As for fat vampires being unrealistic, I am not so sure. If the person is fat when they are turned, would they necessarily become uber thin like Bella and Edward? Fat is, of course, not only due to diet but to complex genetic/biological factors as well.
      I am curious, why did you feel frustrated when True Blood departed from “the glamor of vampire beauty”? And, cannot fat be beautiful? I think Mo-nique is beautiful, for example.
      How far off is saying there shouldn’t be fat vampires to saying there shouldn’t be fat people? I understand fat hatred is very entrenched — but it’s no less problematic than hating someone for their skin color, sexuality, or gender. I am all for vampire (and human) diversity. I love bodies (and vampires) of all sizes.

  5. Losing Nemo permalink
    March 19, 2010 9:11 am

    OMG! I can’t believe you’re totally like dissing Twilight on dis…it totally changed my world view of people and made me realise that i am not alone in my room with my fish!

    In additionally, both of my fishes and my hole family are fat. (but we aren’t vampires though, duh)

    • natalie wilson permalink*
      March 19, 2010 6:22 pm

      Losing Nemo,
      Are your fishes vampires? And you can never really be sure — one of your family just might be vampire. Have you checked for sparkling?

  6. Henry permalink
    March 21, 2010 2:20 am

    About vampire being fat i think blood itself cant contain that much fat to make vampire fat. Also what comes to genetics of the person that has been bitten, i think the whole person icluding genes will change in to vampiric non human genes. i dont have anything against overweight people but some things like imagening edward running superfast with beer belly just doesnt feel right.

  7. September 13, 2010 7:50 pm

    I just think certain desires are easy to project particular images. There’s always something spidery about vampires so I think the thinness was initially used to represent the unnatural (to humans anyway) hunger their condition presents.

    But this is just the enduring appeal of a particular idea for a given population – for example, as stated, there is definitely a preference towards white, male, moneyed and physically sleek vampires in popular western culture.

    I found Park Chan-Wook’s THIRST interesting because being set in Korean culture it immediately dispensed with the notion of garlic as a poison. I think the idea of a vampire is what endures through all cultural representations: primarily drinkers of human blood with sustained immortality.

    I also find that if the vampire of the story is viewed as ‘good’ the less vulnerable they are to being easily dispatched. If the vampires are viewed as little more than walking appetites then there are always means of their dispatch by humans.

    I always find it funny when fans get bent out of shape over non-white vampires when the mechanism of transference is something that can happen to any human.

    People respond to mythic creatures by what they can project onto them, vampires have universal concepts projected onto them (love, blood, death and desire) and are easily recognised (just make them blood drinkers who never age or die) and so they will ALWAYS have an enduring popularity.

    The prevalent ideas on vampires are the ones that plague the culture. In the west it’s the coveting of youth, money, power and priviledge and the retention of this even beyond death (and often an absence of existentialism, empathy and spirituality). In other countries it could be about an entity draining the lifeblood from others. In still others it could be about the spread of disease. Or further others an existential idea about the inability to change or move forward from a traumatic event that reshaped their entire centre of perception.

    I actually liked that Meyer did not stick to the vampire ‘rule-book’ and so her vampires are sparkly. This always seemed to me to be nothing more than a secondary result of their physical change, i.e. because their skin became hard. I find people saying they aren’t ‘real’ vampires strangely invested in the continuation of certain fictional tropes which makes me question the reasons for their persistent presentation.

    As to fat vampires, I think it would be distracting – the projection value would be rendered less distinct – because vampires are portrayed as monstrous because they drink blood, make a vampire fat and you have people ascribing their monstrosity to their fatness – not that it can’t be done, just that you’ll encounter a large amount of resistence from viewers/readers that will detract from the story being told.

    You can also ask why most vampires are attractive despite or often because of their vampire monstrousness. The vampire itself is a reflection/incarnation of existential issues or the avoidance of them (if they are non-aging vampires which most of them are); most vampire stories mention or allude to the spiritual, moral, or frankly the soul itself. If the vampire is a sympathetic character. If the vampire is simply the opposition or the enemy of the story then they are again the basic empty vessel of walking appetite (in order not to make the hero morallly questionable for destroying them).

    I think perhaps a suggestion might be and idea I’ve always had: due to the fixed point in time, unchanging, that a vampire suggests, the vampire itself embodies or becomes the soul itself when created. The desire to feed and the means becomes the atonement, corruption or enlightenment of that soul.

    If the vampire is entirely unredeemable then it has to literally be soulless. The absense of something, starving of something is more suggested the thinner you make the character – in a sense projecting an unnaturalness. That’s the idea, I guess.

    So, I think you might more easily find other fat supernatural beings because the vampire is intended as a statement on the soul and fat is attributed more of a physical dimension/state, rather than a spiritual one. Or perhaps it’s that people more easily project those ideas onto thin vampires than fat ones. I think the fun of vampires is also the way in which they can straddle multiple projections of the reader/viewer which is again the reason for the popular and enduring appeal.

    This is also the reason for Twilight’s appeal. Multiple readings and ideas can be projected onto the story – no one is reading it for the same reasons they can all identify things that appeal to them personally and follow the story in that way.

    Edward can be seen as a protector, or a creepy stalker. Jacob can be seen as pushy, and arrogant, or he can be seen as someone whose sincere feelings and capablities are being exploited. Bella can be viewed as a self-centred manipulator, or a highly introverted intuitive. You may like the Cullens or be reading the series to follow adventures of the wolfpack. It’s so popular because there are so many different readings of the same book.

    • natalie wilson permalink*
      September 14, 2010 7:32 pm

      FF,
      I find your use of the term “spidery” very interesting… Would love to see an image of the Cullen family spiders! ;)

      On top of that, your vampire analysis if very interesting and much appreciated.

      I agree that the idea of a “real vampire” is not in keeping with vampire lore and texts. I am not a fan of the sparkling though — one because to me it smacks to much of white, wealth privilege and two because I find it cheesy (for lack of a better term!)

      Thanks for your thought-provoking comment!

      • Futon Fighter permalink
        February 6, 2011 11:37 am

        Thanks for your reply.

        I think the ‘sparkly’ doesn’t bother me because I never really ascribed it to the Cullen’s paleness. I honestly think I always thought of their skin as similar to a snakes or lizard’s patterning (on a micro level) and so that made me think of them as predators: like a boa constrictor or viper something that could be seen as beautiful but was deadly and subconsciously everyone – except Bella – could see that and avoid getting too close to them.

        Sometimes I think people put too much store on what is essentially only Bella’s POV. I know that can be challenging because plenty of people will take a POV and hold it up as the definitive image (the culture already gives a free pass to that so it makes sense that would end up a prevailing view). But it becomes clearer whenever you venture into POVs that aren’t Bella’s (Edward’s, Jacob’s, Bree) that her view point is just her view point and often not necessarily the prevailing one.

        I think there is an aspect of spidery-ness to the Cullens (diminished perhaps in the case of Carlisle who has had plenty of time to work on that and needs to be approachable to humans) and I think that’s what has kept most humans at bay to a degree. Every time someone they’re not interested in gets to close they simply show that slighly sinister aspect and it scares them off. Edward did try this with Bella but I think it’s been intimated enough times that Bella isn’t quite right in the head. Whether this is her personality, innate shielding ability, the needs of the plot, or simply falling on her head too many times – we’ll never definitively know.

      • natalie wilson permalink*
        March 16, 2011 9:14 pm

        “Bella isn’t quite right in the head” – I’ve never thought of it in exactly this way, but it’s an intriguing angle on her character!

  8. Pia C. permalink
    October 19, 2010 2:38 am

    Let’s please all keep in mind that this is fiction, and that there is no reason to try to make the characters physical descriptions too fat or unattractive- because then, the writer would be accused of making those people “bad” or “picked on”. However, is it not part of our culture since DaVinci what we think of as beauty. Bella is 108 lbs because she IS small. Edward is skinny because he was dying of the Spanish flu and because he had been drinking blood for 109 years.The Cullens have acquired wealth because they have had enough time and means to save and gain….Give me 100 years and I can assure you I would financially out-do the biggest billionaires. I apologize for my thoughts being sporadic , but I very quickly wanted to get a short word out there….Keep reading everyone!

    • natalie wilson permalink*
      October 19, 2010 3:50 am

      Pia C,
      But don’t you think if we had more fat characters — good, bad, mediocre, etc – that it might go towards de-stigmatizing fat? I would say the same of gay characters, disabled characters, and all sorts of characters that are less privileged due to socially constructed and maintained norms. Talented writers can (and do) make very likable, appealing characters of all shapes, sizes, sexualities, etc. However, Meyer does not. This is her CHOICE. She chose to make Bella 110 – it wasn’t necessary. After all, Edward is uber-strong and surely could have zoomed her through the forest if she weighed much more… Also, you seem to indicate that fat by its “nature” is unattractive at the outset of your comment — this is the very point the post is trying to deconstruct…

  9. Pia C. permalink
    October 19, 2010 2:41 am

    And by the way: in the Bree Tanner book isn’t the guy Bree hides behind (whom everyone stays away from because he smells bad, but it is his way of protecting himself)…fat?

  10. Vivivi permalink
    February 11, 2011 10:16 am

    Why would there be fat vampires? These characters are supposed to be attractive. A lot of young girls want a boyfriend like Edward or Jacob, someone who is fit, strong, loyal, protective. It is unattractive and unhealthy to be overweight. What would be the point of reading a book about fat and ugly vampires?

    • natalie wilson permalink*
      March 16, 2011 9:06 pm

      And fat can never be attractive? Wow, that is a rather limited worldview (but one admittedly promoted by the MSM). That “overweight” automatically equals unhealthy is a total fallacy. I encourage you to read up on the issue as written about by Kate Harding or Melissa McEwan.

  11. June 15, 2011 2:30 am

    Neat, I don’t know how I stumbled upon this, but I did create my own Fat Vampire character, her name is Lady Luljetta here you can have a look at her:
    http://guts-n-glory.deviantart.com/art/Delicious-Halloween-184466429
    http://guts-n-glory.deviantart.com/art/Lady-Luljetta-Front-View-168258304
    http://img10.imageshack.us/img10/8702/luljettacolors.jpg

    The concept behind her was that she simply drinks far more blood then she needs to, she is a very lavish, fun loving overly indulgent lady of the night. She has always had a way with men, and is drinking the fictional European country of Leitania dry. Her ex boyfriend Atra, a handsome gluttony demon was a chubby chaser and worked his magic on her. Simply being around him caused her already hardy appetite to increase. But after losing interest he dumped for someone fatter and more gluttonous (more for power then food though). These characters were created to be part of a fat positive comic book which was originally proposed to be a fighting game. Lady Luljetta, now jaded by the one man who rejected her, is out to stop her ex from working his wicked ways on others.

    I also drew this for fun a long time ago back in 2007,
    http://theamericandream.deviantart.com/art/Halloween-Card-Too-much-candy-67371845

    (perhaps the precursor for Luljetta’s design) I’ve always loved the idea of a plus size female vampire, but this is probably due to my preference for larger curvier girls. I’d definitely love to see a plus size or big and tall vampire get out there as not just a bad joke.

    • Natalie Wilson permalink*
      June 16, 2011 4:12 am

      I really love those images and would love to hear more about Lady Luljetta! She seems to be portrayed very lovingly, rather than in the way that fat females are so often portrayed – as disgusting or dumb or lazy and so on. And she is drinking a country dry! Love that concept! A fat positive comic book sounds fabulous – is it still in the works? Please keep me posted…
      And, how do you think Lady Luljetta would get along with the Twilight vampires? Seems their “vegetarian” ways would not gel well with her “indulgent” drinking…

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