One problem any popular genre develops tends to be tropes that pervade too much of it all. In and of themselves, maybe they work. Often they work quite well. They can, anyway. But when we see the same thing over and over and over again, we enter into the realm of the cliche. So here’s a list of some that vampire films and books and comics as well as t.v. series should probably avoid for a while. Say, a decade. Or two.
Vampire Romeo and Human Juliet. And no, by that I neither mean an end to all things Twilight nor a complaint about love stories. But what do we see time and again? A ‘good’ vampire falls in love with a living girl and in effect she becomes his anchor to humanity. Well, one can see the appeal of such an idea. Hence its appearance in Forever Knight, in Buffy the Vampire Slayer, in I Kissed a Vampire and so on. So much so we find ourselves knowing how a given story will play out once we see the two archetypes appear on stage. In other words, we knew what’s going to happen. No surprise there. But on the other hand, all kinds of other possibilities exist. A gay vampire romance, for example. A genuinely surprising coupling–like if Bella and Edward never fell for each other but Bella’s father and Alice did. What if Sookie on True Blood turned out to be a psychopath? Or shake things up in an even more disturbing way–like Stefan (in this conception a much younger undead) being Elena’s father?
LOTS of Vampires but NOBODY notices! Really, if a town the size of Mystic Falls has at least four or five vampires within the city limits at any given time, how many of the pesky things must dwell in Manhattan? Within California? In the United States? The Western Hemisphere? How could we not have noticed them? This seems especially true if vampires usually kill their prey. Anne Rice in Interview With the Vampire makes this kind of error and it always bothered me. Three vampires killing a minimum of one person per night for six decades in a town of less than half a million people? Yet the same problem pops up in they don’t kill, because sooner or later the victims will talk or the CDC is gonna notice these pockets of anemia. Lots of ways to solve this–from the paranoid (vampire elders are the Illuminati and control the world) to mathematical (there just aren’t that many bloodsuckers) but just address it!
Male Chauvinist Bats. Okay, surely many of you have noticed? And not just in vampire fiction? Women as eager submissives or masochists. Vampire lords with their harem of scantily clad brides. Buffy at least addressed this head-on with the mostly-male Watchers’ Council facing an increasingly independent female Slayer. Twilight has at least a heroine who calls all the shots, but the gender roles in those books pretty much proclaim Boyish Girls = BAD. Things have gotten better. After all, in the novel and first several film adaptations of Dracula one horrifying symptom of vampiric infection was that females gained (GASP!) a sex drive. Ever notice though how–still–female villains still come across as femme fatales? Even though in real life we know lots of terrible women (and men) are actually puritanical. Likewise we tend to see lots of copious female flesh but not so much male (True Blood and Buffy make refreshing exceptions).
Models Biting Models. Okay, I’ll admit one reason for not regularly watching The Vampire Diaries remains the fact everyone looks so good. So pretty. So…airbrushed. And enjoying really top-notch hair specialists. Not that I object to eye candy! Pretty people share this world with the rest of us! But where are the nerds in Mystic Falls High School? How come we never seem to see a cute vampire girl played by Felicia Day? This is not just a complaint about one t.v. show but in general. One thing I find off-putting about Twlight is just how utterly gorgeous Edward Cullen is supposed to be, as in Greek God looks. Not just nice-looking, but a statue of Apollo walking around in modern dress. How about characters who wouldn’t look out of place on The Big Bang Theory?
Human-Shaped Sharks. Less common now, but hardly rare. And like many of the above, this trope can often work and work well. But–at least the hint of an explanation would be oh-so-nice. Why did Blade‘s mother turn evil as a vampire? Ditto Amy and Ed in Fright Night? Maybe the new instincts of a predator overwhelm them? I can buy that, just as in Bram Stoker’s Dracula as well as Buffy the hint of demonic possession works well enough. Mostly, though, it tends to be a given that upon transformation the person who changed in a real sense evaporates. That can make for some good stories and rising tension, but the tension between human and monster in the same body frankly seems a lot more interesting. 30 Days of Night was cool, but in many ways seems more like a flick about zombies (the comics dealt with this idea far better).
This probably comes across as whining about every possible vampire story, but honestly it is not. Both Let Me In and Twixt, to mention fairly recent films, either avoid or subvert these tropes quite well, as does the novels The Moth Diaries and Ancient Blood. Buffy managed it, and sometimes so does True Blood. So it can be done!
What do you think? Are these tropes you also would like to see retire for awhile? Or are there others that bother you?