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What vampire daddy would you pick?

June 19, 2011

(cross-posted at Ms.)

If you have been following pop culture over the past 5 years, you probably know the genesis of vampire fathers: He’s the vampire who turns you into a vampire via toothsome bite. The most popular contemporary vampire series, Twilight and True Blood don’t feature any vampire mothers. But they do present us with a number of good, even godly, vampire fathers. Twilight’s Carlisle Cullen is a perfect undead dad to permanently teenage vampire Edward. And when Bill Compton (above), the hunky undead leading man of HBO’s True Blood, becomes a reluctant father to vampire Jessica, he steps up quite well.

Cullen Family: Emmett Cullen, Rosalie Hale, Esme Cullen, Edward Cullen, Carlisle Cullen, Alice Cullen, Jasper Hale

It’s clear Twilight author Stephanie Meyer would put Carlisle up for the prize for best vampire dad. He literally MAKES his vampire Brady-Bunch family (right), by, yes, turning people into vampires. How preferable to having to reside in one of those icky woman-wombs for nine months! And, in a saga that so values the sex-free life, he is a surprisingly good matchmaker, turning first the seductive Rosalie into a vampire to provide his century-long-virgin-son Edward an opportunity for bumping uglies, then, when that doesn’t fly, voting to make Bella undead. (Imagine if he sought sex partners for DAUGHTERS–now that would likely cause quite the stir, no?)

Even the non-vampire dads in these series compete for best dad status. In Twilight, Charlie is a benevolent dad to heroine Bella Swan, giving her the space and independence most teens desire and even supplying her with cool wheels. Billy Black is touchingly protective of both his werewolf son Jacob and Bella, and Sam is the dedicated, if overly authoritarian, muscle-daddy of the werewolf pack. True Blood is full of touchingly queer fathering arrangements: queer cook Lafayette serves as a quasi-father to his cousin Tara, shapeshifter Sam acts as dad to waitress Arlene’s kids when she is on a bender induced by an evil manead (don’t ask!), and the town yokel Hoyt plays the role of compassionate, forgiving father-figure to his unlikeable mother.

But, if I had to pick a vampire daddy to call my own, I would pick the surprisingly progressive Bill of True Blood. Despite his reluctance to vamparent, he is patient with his new vampire daughter, Jessica, helping her to find a synthetic blood she can tolerate and carefully teaching her the rules of vampire life. And, with heroine Sookie’s help, he recognizes Jessica is a sexual being and does not go all Edward-in-Twilight-crazy with talk of her “virtue” or how sex will damn her soul. The final episode of Season Two included a particularly touching scene where Bill and Jessica are each dressed to the nines for impending dates. Bill tells Jessica “you look quite the vision.” She worries this is a nice comment to soften his coming complaints about her dating a mortal (the goodhearted-but-hapless Hoyt). Instead, Bill admits “times have changed” and tells her “I hope you and Hoyt have a nice time.” What a nice trade from dad as quasi-virginity warrior (a concept Jessica Valenti explores in her book The Purity Myth). I would much prefer this kind but not-overbearing Bill to Carlisle’s creepy matchmaker habits!

The uber-pale good vampire daddies in Twilight and True Blood certainly outclass the bad vampire dads of older texts. Such narratives represent vampire dads as crazy, violent and racist (as in the 1987 film Near Dark), as creep-fest, power-hungry patriarchs (1987’s The Lost Boys), or as tooth-happy ghouls who turn innocent girls into wanton, lustful beasts (as in Stoker’s paradigmatic Dracula). In contrast, the human daddies are the bomb. In Near Dark, for example, protagonist Caleb is turned back into a human by his kindly father. Daddy even saves Caleb’s vampire love Meg, who turned Caleb into a vampire in the first place. How sweet.

While these dad-savior that populate vampire narratives are appealing–they allow us to envision fathers who approve of our chosen mates (as Bill and Carlisle do) and granddads hip enough to recognize the local teen bike gang is not what it seems (as in The Lost Boys)–they fail to have equally satisfying mother figures. They reveal the sad fact that our culture still assumes that fathers, even when vampires, werewolves, or shape shifters, know best.

Twilight takes “father-knows-best” to an extra level of creepiness with the notion (one fostered by Freud and certainly held by many Mormon polygamists) that females are seeking daddies via their romantic relationships. In a horribly irksome piece originally posted at Save the Males (who knew they needed saving!), writer Henry Makow argues that men “ought to be more ‘father-like’ in their approach to women;” they “should seek younger women who ‘look up’ to them.” Meyer seems to agree with this notion, providing Bella with a man who has 100 years on her and matching up baby Renesmee and toddler Claire with much older wolves via the imprinting meme (were the wolves “imprint” on a mate – a sort of love at first sight which involves male wolves imprinting on much younger female humans). Such May/December romance is only natural, according to Makow:

Many men want a daughter-figure, someone who will demonstrate the loyalty, trust and devotion that a girl feels for her father. A man wants to be affirmed in his authority as husband and father, not mothered like a child.

So there you have it people: If you are a hetero woman, go find yourselves an older daddy-man to look up to! If you’re not hetero, you can read more (PLEASE DON’T!) from Makow on how homosexuality is destroying capitalism, the family and the world.

To close, here’s hoping that you, dear readers, have a good father or father-figure in your life to celebrate this Sunday. And, nope, I don’t mind at all if that figure happens to be a vampire, werewolf or even a woman!

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4 Comments leave one →
  1. Fruitful permalink
    June 20, 2011 5:57 am

    Natalie, I’m intrigued by the idea of vampires as “male mothers” – though they are the benevolent fathers you describe, your evidence suggests much more.

    Your Freud comment leads me to believe you’re not partial to psychoanalysis. I do think the vampire father imago is just begging for a Kleinian interpretation!

    There is so much to unpack here – the social values that are reinforced/constructed, as well as the psychic resonances, as well as the Mormon motifs (which I had no idea about before reading this blog!)

    On an slight tangent, I found myself perusing Mormon clothes websites recently. Fascinating (and some gorgeous stuff!) – the clothes are touted as “modest” but in fact they are “sexy modest” (In fact there’s an etailer named that!). They meet the requirements of modesty by covering various body parts, yet (IMO) they don’t fulfil the spirit of modesty – they actually make women look alluring. I may be stretching things but I feel there’s a connection with how Meyer handles female sexuality that could be teased out. On the one hand, she pushes “virtue” – on the other, she’s in the business of depicting and arousing female desire.

    • Natalie Wilson permalink*
      June 21, 2011 8:02 pm

      Fruitful,
      You are right, I am not a big fan of Freud. Though I do find psychoanalytic interpretation fascinating. The anthology I am editing, Theorizing Twilight, includes a couple of essays that offer psychoanalytic readings of Twilight.

      I would love the link to the Mormon clothes website! I think you are right that a connection could be made between “sexy modest” Mormon clothing and Meyer’s representation of Bella as also “sexy modest!” A guest post, perhaps?

  2. Zoe permalink
    September 16, 2011 7:16 am

    I am interested by how you said the two most popular contemporary vampire stories feature no female sires. However, you left out the third prong of vampire mania, The Vampire Diaries a TV show based (rather loosely) off the books of the same name by LJ Smith and that airs on the CW (a network aimed largely to the teen demographic).

    I’ve never read the books, but within the show both of the main vampires are sired by a female vampire (their lover), and in the second season a female character is turned by the same vampire (as a “message” to them, the message being “game on”), That character was also sired by a woman, albeit unwittingly. Within this mythology vampire blood heals but if you die with it in your system you will turn. Katherine was wounded but needed alive so a female vampire fed her her blood. Katherine immediately committed suicide, having hurt herself on purpose in order to become a vampire.

    Now that I think on it, of all the vampires who have both been important and whose origin stories we’ve known, only one was sired by a man. I have no idea what to make on it, but it is interesting nonetheless.

    • Natalie Wilson permalink*
      October 3, 2011 3:10 pm

      Good point, Zoe. I have never read the books by LJ Smith, but I do watch the show. I do, in general, find their is much more “female power” in Vampire Diaries. And, even the show circulates around a love triangle, there is more to the narrative than romance and the drive to a happily ever after leading to marriage, that is for sure.

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