My friend Damith came down to dotelkay from dotus a few weeks ago, and just before he left we engaged in our time homoured tradition of sitting up on the roof and talking until the wee hours of the morning. There is usually alcohol involved, but this time his father had hidden the key to the liquor cupboard, damn the luck. And as it is with such conversations, the topics were wide and varied, and one of them was the social significance of vampires, zombies, and werewolves.
So hear me out. There may be a test later.
The modern obsession with vampires started with (of course) Dracula in 1897. This led to vampire plays, vampire stories, and then vampire movies. And there were so many of them. The big name movies, and the many B-movie exploitation/blaxploitation/gorefest flicks. But the most important part of the genre is very simple. You have the Vampire - smart, suave, educated, cultured - living in and preying on a small village or town. The people of the toen are kept quiet and docile because of his power. Until one day a Hero shows up. One man, fighting against the nay-sayers of the village to fight for them, kill the vampire, and lead the people to freedom. Maybe picking up a beautiful woman as a reward along the way.
But things get interesting if you look at it through the context of the time. This was the start of the Industrial Revolution. This was also the time when people went up agains the established elite classes. The time when brains and determination would let you become bigger and more powerful than the hereditary elite of the past. And maybe overturn them, bringing power to the Little Guy.
An elite that was educated, cultured, and well-dressed (which translated to "suave and smart"). And was seen as sucking the blood of the common man.
But that was then. Vampires have still stayed sexy, but they are hardly elite anymore. They don't dress in fancy clothes, no waistcoats and opera capes. They dress in jeans and t-shirts. They are having fun. They are dead and loving it. They have gone from being the power elite, to being all night party animals. Vampires have become the celebrity brat pack. The social elite have become the a-list celebrities. And then, in the height of ignominy, they became sparkly.
And then there are zombies. Zombie movies have been around as long as - or possibly longer than, depending on who you ask - vampire flicks. But it has been in the last few years that the zombies have enjoyed a resurgence. But what makes them so popular?
A zombie movie is a downer. The "heroes" are outnumbered. The zombies are tireless, relentless, fearless - if only they are too stupid to fear. They will chase after you. Hunt you down by sight, scent, and sound. Depending on the director they will shamble or run. But they will keep coming. And coming. One bite or scratch from them will put you on an irreversible path to being one of them. And the only way to stop them is to destroy the brain.
And barring a miracle, you can't win.
Sure you can escape them, but to where? If it is a localised outbreak, it may be possible. But that doesn't solve the problem. It just postpones it for another day. If it is localised you can bomb the area. Napalm, nukes, take your pick. But what if it is not?
Both those movies are about humanity as an endangered species. The world is covered in zombies, and the humans are fighting a losing battle. No one's getting out alive.
A world where the majority is an unthinking mass shambling around, concerned only with fulfilling their very basic needs. A mass that will chase you down and turn you into one of them. Or, failing that, eat your brain. Sound familiar?
If the old vampire movie was about one man fighting and leading the masses against the elite exploiting and sucking the blood out of the common man, the zombie movie is about the minority of people being threatened by the mindless masses. Instead of one man against The Man, it is a group of people fighting against being dragged down by the madding crowd leading their lives of quiet desperation.
But where do the werewolves fit in?
Where zombies are shambling mindless minions, werewolves are smart enough to band together and plan a coordinated hunt. Where vampires are controlled, werewolves are chaotic. If they are the bad guys, they would be at least as cunning as vampires, and yet more dangerous because of their violence and unpredictability. The Dungeons & Dragons Alignment System would put vampires in Lawful Evil, werewolves would be Chaotic Neutral or Chaotic Evil. Zombies would not be on the chart as they have no sentience.
But where do werewolves fit in in this monsters-as-a-metaphor-for-society system? I would put them as the geeks, the nerds, the hackers. Lacking in the suaveness to be the Vampire type Social Elite, and in the mindlessness of the Zombie masses, Werewolves are society's outcasts.
This is also the reason that there are so many "teenager-as-a-werewolf" movies. The unpredictability of teenagers, coupled with their transformation from child to adult, shows that they occupy this grey area in life and society. Similarly are the geeks and nerds. Outwardly they are mostly human, but their nature shows through once in a while, unpredictably. And at that point they become a target for the people around them.
There are very few werewolf movies being made. Especially those with a lycanthropic protagonist. As an antagonist, or even anti-hero, the werewolf has become the vampire-lite. None of the style, even more savagery, and able to walk around in daylight.
So where am I going with this? I have no clue. This is a train of thought I found interesting.
And before you ask, I don't want to be a vampire, no matter how many curvaceous, long-necked women in diaphanous underwired night dresses that flow in the wind you throw in to sweeten the deal. I am sure as hell not a zombie.