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02 January 2003 @ 09:45 pm
The Style of Vampires  
I think I'm going to be rather insufferable and redundant to some of you for a while, because now that I have this LJ, I'm tempted to (re)post all kinds of things I've only posted on lists before now.

This is from a thread on vampires, where I tangented off and proposed that representations of vamps come in two flavors: the stylized, which is what we see in canon, and the ritualized, which is what we more often see in fan-fiction or fanon--i.e., a focus on masters, sires, childes, fledglings, etc.

And I guess I lean more toward what we tend to see in Jossverse canon (I think), which is more of a feral or occasionally stylized vampirism, rather than a ritualized, or societal vampirism....

So, what I mean is, stylized vampirism: for the most part, vamps are caricatures--naturally, because 99% of them are simply bit players or slayer fodder. So we have only a concept of vampires, which becomes somewhat rigid and ingrained--or stylized--over time. Except for a handful of notable exceptions (the fanged four, Dracula, Harmony, Holden), they're static. They immediately become evil when rising--no difficulty adapting, no growing-evil pains, no residual soul. Their personalities are easily subsumed in vamp posturing (game face, violence). Game face itself is a kind of mask that renders them individually faceless and uniform. When put to the test, all eventually react in the same way--same loss of control, same gestures, same attack form. It's all dramatic and animalistic; vamps are active symbols of evil.

We see very little of the social side of vampires--we get just enough to extrapolate that vamp society *does* exist in some way, and may have its rituals and personality differences, but Joss doesn't want to go there. He wants to have his cake and eat it too: he wants a handful of exotic, individualistic vamps, but he wants to keep vampires as a whole a faceless mass, an evil army, because that's what slayer existence is premised on. It's a strangely reactionary and even ugly metaphor if you consider vampires as a race or species: the idea that a race is its stereotype--nasty, brutish, low, and evil--except for a few noble exceptions who transcend their blood/genes/kind.

But despite this, I'm not really thinking of "stylized" as a wholly negative representation--and really, I think it's something I try to replicate in my own writing. And you still have to consider as exceptions to any rule the "individualists" of the vamp world--Angel, Spike, et al. I don't write much about the other types of vamps--they're relegated as in canon to being fodder. I'm interested in the sports and freaks of the vamp world. Still, I think that writers who extrapolate from canon to write about vampire society and relationships are focusing on something very different, though. (Well, duh.)

And stylization and ritualization probably aren't opposites, of course. I'm just polarizing them in a handy rhetorical way in order to categorize my ideas.

And why am I starting all my sentences with "and"? Yay for incoherency. Yay me.
miriam heddy: Kaye and Crosbymiriam_heddy on January 3rd, 2003 11:16 am (UTC)
I think you're right, and that split makes it damned hard to explain the vamps with character.

Angel's got a soul. Well okay. That explains his humanity.

But what about Spike?

So you end up going, "Smart vampire, soul vamp, crazy vamp" and those vamps with no modifier are just "vamp."

Buffy'd be far more violent if you could presume that every vamp Buffy killed was interesting and engaging, instead of just stupid-monsterish. But then, I think that's the point.

The only shades of gray vampires in Buffy-ville are the ones Buffy ends up in bed with (or the ones that end up in bed with the ones Buffy ends up in bed with *g*).
Dammit, Clark's penis is going in *something*.: fanboythete1 on January 3rd, 2003 04:42 pm (UTC)
I am fangirl, hear me rationalize.
They immediately become evil when rising--no difficulty adapting, no growing-evil pains, no residual soul.

But what about Darla's (second) vamping? That was really interesting to watch -- it seemed to take a little while for her to cope. And yeah, I know, she's part of the Fanged Four, but...

I think there's a point to be made (some point, somewhere) in the fact that so many nameless, faceless vampires get the spotlight for so many teasers over the years. They make with the banter, they get to have *personalities* -- for the 2 or 3 minutes before being staked. Sure, it's mostly played for comedy, but still. It's there.

They dress differently, speak differently... a lot of care and attention is given to the slayer fodder.

I think the best vampire writers build their putative vampire societies with this in mind. Yes, most vampires are stupid, short-sighted, and trapped in their death-time. But that doesn't mean they aren't *people*.

I think Joss has been playing with us longer and more deeply than we give him credit for. If you go back, the vampires have *always* been individuals -- so long as you look at them through eyes other than those of the Scoobies'. It's a grey, grey world.

Blah, yadda, blah.
Anna S.eliade on January 3rd, 2003 04:46 pm (UTC)
Re: I am fangirl, hear me rationalize.
I think Joss has been playing with us longer and more deeply than we give him credit for. If you go back, the vampires have *always* been individuals -- so long as you look at them through eyes other than those of the Scoobies'. It's a grey, grey world.

You're so *dark*, Te. You represent the evil force of moral relativism. Go, Te! {g}

Kisses you.
Dammit, Clark's penis is going in *something*.: watcherthete1 on January 3rd, 2003 05:12 pm (UTC)
Re: I am fangirl, hear me rationalize.
*ahahahaha* You know you love it.
do you want orcs? because this is how you get orcs: bloodyspikekita0610 on January 3rd, 2003 04:52 pm (UTC)
I think the point is in the show's title. She slays vampires, it's her job, it's her duty, it's what we watch her do every week. And Joss was very clear upon the show's inception, that the vamps be in gameface and turn to dust when she pokes them with sticks- otherwise, you have a teenage girl killing something akin to PEOPLE every week, and no one is gonna wanna buy the tshirts.

I don't know, however, if he expected the vampires to ever become the heroes of the piece to the extent that they have, ala Angel on his own show, and the phenomenon that is JM and Spike. Joss had no choice but to make them gray at that point. I also wonder how much fanon has played a role in the Jossvampverese. He has a writing staff who hang out on fan boards, and at least one came from a background of fanfic writing. No matter what the public face says, this has to play some part in his stylings of vampires.

The other point to consider re Joss is that he has specifically stated he sucks at continuity (and calender math, and, let it go, Kita, let it go...) and as such, trying to piece together background storylines for even the Fanged Four result in alot of head scratching. So- I wonder if even JOSS knows what his vamps are about personality wise, and how they are sorted by Stakebait vs. Character.
fortunamajor88 on March 15th, 2006 06:57 am (UTC)
I just stumbled across this, and thought I'd add my two cents. I've come up with a theory based on the Freudian concepts of the id, the ego and the superego. Basically, the superego, or conscience, is lost when someone is vamped. Vampires retain either the id (basic urges, food, sex etc.) or both the id and the ego (sense of self). This allows both hordes of mindless fledges and those rare individuals who've kept some part of their human personalities. Harmony in particular comes to mind as someone who barely changes from the vain airhead she was in life.