Vampires and privilege

8 Feb 2014, 4:06 p.m.

Cross-posted from Tumblr, someone else's thoughts on vampires as a metaphor for the oppressed vs. the privileged, and my musing on what this means for the novel I'm currently writing. Other interesting reflections on the same blog post: this piece on the vampire's historic status as stand in for the aristocracy, plague and foreigners, this piece about its shift to representing the marginalalised and creative in the 1970s/80s.


I’m starting to think that instead of vampires as a metaphor for oppressed people, we really need to start using vampirism as a metaphor for privilege.

Like, yes, you’re a vampire and you probably can’t help that, and sometimes people will freak the fuck out when you’re coming at them even if it’s just to ask if you can borrow a cup of sugar for your blood muffins or something, and you’re like, “Hey, don’t judge me just because I’m a vampire!”

And then a human’s like, “Um, well, historically, vampires tend to attack us humans and drink our blood.”

And sure, your first instinct is to go “Hey, I’m one of the good vampires! I have a subscription service at a blood bank and everything!”, but… that… doesn’t change the fact that historically, yeah, vampires have survived by eating humans. Any changing perception of vampires is going to have to start with vampires.

So instead of protesting your innocence, you have to start by going to find other vampires and being like “Hey guys, we have to stop eating humans.”

And unfortunately, a lot of vampires are gonna think they’re already doing everything they need to to be Good Vampires, and this needs to be combatted. Being a Good Vampire is a never-ending struggle, and it’s not very rewarding, but it’s what has to be done.

And some humans will never, ever stop being suspicious of you, and you’ll have to accept that. Humans don’t owe you their respect just because you’re doing them the basic service of not flapping into their bedrooms at night and biting their necks. That’s like, the bare minimum of not being an asshole vampire. And some humans will probably still make jokes about how vampires can’t go in the sun without burning up and how they have no reflections and how for some reason they think “Alucard” is actually a cute baby name, but you’ll just have to deal with that, because they’re coping with the fact that this is an entire population of things that historically have always eaten them.

But it’s not about you. It’s about making the world safer for humans, and combatting it every damn time you see another vampire planning out a good old-fashioned round of feasting on virgins in nightgowns, and saying “Okay, no, that’s really offensive” the next time one of your vampire buddies refers to a human as a bloodbag, and generally working overtime to present a pro-human standpoint.

Because really, what good does it do to make the monsters the oppressed ones?

Yes, this is a really very good point. (Although 'Alucard' is an adorable baby name. #reasons why i shouldn't reproduce)

I'm at the stage in thinking about my current writing project where I see everything in terms of its characters and themes, to be sure, but this is also a useful expression of things I've been thinking about there in less explicit terms. (Have I mentioned I'm working on a Thing? My new year's resolution was to have a first draft by the end of the year. It was supposed to be a silly, blowing-off-steam rewrite of 30 Days of Night, which I haven't even seen, but it grew.) There is one human protagonist in a sort of vampire holiday camp with her vampire lover, whom she idealises but who is actually a bit of an asshole, which will eventually become apparent even to her. There is a murder mystery and further, darker secrets that will take the bloom off the rose even more when she discovers them. So, in one surface way it's a story about discovering you've let your guard down and you're in a much more dangerous position than you thought yourself, surrounded by monsters you thought were your friends.

There's also an obvious privilege aspect, in that the protagonist, Laurel, is a student from a working-class background, and the holiday is taking place in a location that's both ecologically fragile and very expensive to get to. The vampires are all there to ski and hunt and play winter sports, and their ability to be there at all depends on a network of favours and behind-the-scenes relationships. This is threatened when the murder happens, so the secondary protagonist, the vampire queen Damarete, has to discover the murderer's identity and cover up the crime, which is absolutely the exercise of privilege. Actually, Damarete was originally the lead character, but Laurel has got more interesting to me over time.

Also: I somehow stupidly forgot, until this week, the existence of the Global Seed Vault right in the middle of my setting. Obviously my characters will have to visit it, and it calls the environmental aspects of the story more to the forefront. I've been wondering this week just what that means in terms of plot. Stories about vampires are, I think, an underexplored and potentially very productive way of taking on the theme of the wreck of the environment: see Gulfport, Only Lovers Left Alive, The Gilda Stories. On the other hand, there are reasons not to take on this theme too heavily. I don't want to overload my silly little plot, for one. For another, well, I'm afraid of looking into that particular abyss.