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One Bad Apple, part 2

Amelius at 12:09PM, Dec. 2, 2018
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So if vampires are a hot mess and haters are at the gates what can YOU learn from vampires? Well, a lot, vampires are not the only over extended sub-genre out there. Let's explore another genre that is trying to avoid ending up in a similar space, superheroes, specifically Marvel superheroes. A lot of people, IE My Mother in Law, already put all superheroes in the same bucket and turn their nose up. As far as they are concerned superheroes and vampires are pretty much on the same artistic level. So how do these two genres keep riding high? Well first off, a popular superhero or vampire both have to get out in front the pack. Since both can cover so many themes and tastes, both need to clearly establish who they are and what they are offering very quickly. Guardians of the Galaxy is working VERY hard to establish itself and its tone as something wildly different from Black Panther. People going into Black Panther expecting wacky nostalgic comedy are going to be very disappointed. Likewise, people expecting a soulful exploration of the outside condition are going to be pretty off put by revenant blood raging vampires who stand for something like toxic masculinity and cult of personality.

A lot of genres like vampires or superheroes are not really genres in the same way a mystery or a romance is. Generally speaking, these sort of stories are always attached to another genre. Twilight for example is primarily a romance, After Dark is primarily a western, Interview with a Vampire a drama and Dracula is primarily horror to say nothing of the many weird in-name-only (or of a different name) Vampires you find in scifi, classic mythology or “trying too hard to be different” Fantasy.

It can be pretty limiting to write off anything wholesale, be it superheroes, vampires, anime, etcetera. These cover a lot of ground and cross genres pretty easily. They exist as a sort of wolf in sheep's clothing, slipping secretively into other mediums, appearing where you might not expect them. “Hey, that alien which sucks out people's fluids is just really a space vampire!!!” Vampire's are not alone in this, there are a lot of weird evolutionary links in media. The Hulk is a just a new take on Jekyll and Hyde which shares similarity with the original lore of the werewolf, which is an old take on the animal within. They keep echoing because they speak to the human condition, which is where a lot of great writing comes from.

Shutting yourself completely off to a genre that speaks so directly to something we all seem to find in ourselves century after century seems to me to shutting yourself off to a truth of the human condition. Touching on Hollywood again, people keep saying that superheroes are going to die off the way westerns did. I for one, don't think that is very likely. Certainly at some point the magical money printing machine that is Marvel will come to close and likely with it this version of the superhero, the costumed vigilante version of the superhero will sunset. However, since the time when people drew on on cave walls they've been telling stories of superheroes. From flying cavemen to super strong demi-gods to magical knights to costumed vigilantes, the superhero has long been with us. It is just part of the human condition to ask “what if we could do more”, “what if we were more” and “what if I had the power”. Vampires speak to a similar part of the human condition, the conflict between Id and Ego, between intellect and primal desire, between being a part of society and preying upon it. This is why they are so enduring, despite a few attempts to de-fang them.

Knowing how something works in the first place helps give you context into where it all goes wrong in those oft-touted examples where it goes right off the rails. As artists we are all, in a sense, exploring the human condition. So even if you have no interest in vampires themselves, it can improve your writing to understand the themes of vampires, how they can be applied well and what makes those themes so appealing. I'm not saying you MUST enjoy these stories, but I hope you understand why so many people still enjoy vampires despite one bad apple in the barrel.




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anonymous?

PaulEberhardt at 8:19AM, Dec. 3, 2018

I used to like superhero stories as a kid. I knew they weren't real, but I loved daydreaming about what it would be like to be capable of so much awesome stuff that nobody else could ever do. That's probably why they're one of the oldest story types there is (see fallopiancrusader's post below); they represent the dream of the freedom to be completely unlimited by all that tedious stuff from real life like gravity, say, or being weaker and slower than most other animals of your size and so on, just like vampires reflect our primordial fears of the dark and other undiscovered countries whence no travellers return (at least not on an everyday basis). The problem is when they get too formulaic, as unfortunately many creators make them these days: it takes the whole mystery and imaginativeness out of them. That's the very thing that put me off of most superhero comics as soon as I got a bit older (I won't say "grew up", because that'd be something a real man just can't ever do ;) ).

PaulEberhardt at 7:57AM, Dec. 3, 2018

If a bloke feels the need to decidedly not carry an umbrella and decidedly not park his car in the shade etc. to show how masculine he is, I've often thought of it as a sign of insecurity about that very point. Unless he's always making a show of it, that is, because "true humour begins when a man ceases to take himself seriously".

bravo1102 at 2:50AM, Dec. 3, 2018

I apologize for letting my tongue get too firmly embedded in my cheek with the conflation and hyperbole. I can't take the whole concept seriously since I have been the butt of its censure for years from "masculine " types. When it matters I'm there pitching in every time and they're posing. If you're someone who has been there and done that "toxic masculinity " is empty boasting and a social construct fit for ridicule. Sorry about my rainbow umbrella but I hate getting wet because I've been knee deep in water and soaked so bad it took weeks to dry out. I can do without it. Ever hear of trench foot or the creeping crud? Some guys are too tied up in what they're supposed to be as opposed to who they are. Guys who get it tell me "Takes big balls to carry that umbrella"

JaymonRising at 12:02AM, Dec. 3, 2018

Ah ok. yeah I understand. It just hasn’t been an easy topic to digest for me since then, especially after so many of my childhood heroes have been getting exposed as of late. I know no one’s perfect, but some are less perfect than others I guess. It's good these issues can be expressed with sensibility, though. :)

Amelius at 10:15PM, Dec. 2, 2018

Just a quick response and I'll expand on later cuz it's late: Toxic masculinity is a critique of behavior, not a political ideology. Masculinity itself is great. Some of my favorite things in the world ooze machismo. "Toxic masculinity" is when a man ridicules another man on facebook for having an umbrella when it rains, or a man who won't go into the wig store with his wife who has cancer, or a celebrity who makes fun of how a father carries his infant in a "papoose". It is an unhealthy expression of masculinity, NOT saying that masculinity in of itself is a toxic thing. Anyway, it is a theme that has been explored in vampire fiction, so it bore mentioning.

usedbooks at 7:56PM, Dec. 2, 2018

Just read my post. I must be tired. Sorry for all the run-ons and buts.

usedbooks at 7:55PM, Dec. 2, 2018

Disc World vampires are interesting. I haven't read a book with them in a while, but as I recall they are similar to classic vampires but many were able to give up blood and have their own version of basically AA. But they are naturally obsessive, so after giving up blood, they have to turn to a new obsession or they risk a blood lust. (One became addicted to coffee. Another was obsessed with photography.)

ozoneocean at 7:36PM, Dec. 2, 2018

That Marvel movie thing is interesting... Those superheroes work for me because they're not afraid to BE what they're supposed to be, they're not just a slightly embarrassed twist on a concept, they haven't been changed too much to appeal to some director's perception of what an audience will like. You don't have to be as strict with vampires because the source material is a LOT more amorphous and varied, but I still think they often work better when you keep them closer to the classic lore. -But by the same token, you don't make them cartoon clones of Bella Lugosi.

ozoneocean at 7:27PM, Dec. 2, 2018

I was always in the same boat with superheroes... The last ones I was really into were probably when I was 8 or 9 when I liked the cartoons... Justice league, superfriends, Spiderman, Ironman, Hulk, Thor... Then I just stopped and moved on. I was never into their comics. Oh, and the 1960s Batman series! With them on the big screen again though, I like them. The Michael Keaton Batman movie offered hope (That's almost a superhero vampire type character). The X-men did NOT do it for me at all, those were too concerned about looking "realistic" and scared of the costumes and stuff, BORING and lame. The Marvel movies came and did it right.

ozoneocean at 7:21PM, Dec. 2, 2018

Used books has the right idea. "Toxic masculinity" is more about being poisonous to yourself, as a man. Like those sad guys who're so obsessed with being "manly" that it becomes like a weird performance art or being part of a dangerous cult.

JaymonRising at 5:48PM, Dec. 2, 2018

Eh, it's not so much fragile but intellectually demotivated masculinity: we fear our cockiness will force us to become like Aquaman or Chris Pine's character in Wonderwoman, in the sense that we know we're not perfect but we fear criticism that is more being picked on rather than constructive due to our misguided confidence. (something they can handle because they're idealized enough to breathe under water XP)

usedbooks at 4:01PM, Dec. 2, 2018

Another example is if you use the words "fragile masculinity" in any social media format, a dozen men will immediately reply taking offense to the term and insisting that their masculinity is strong.

usedbooks at 3:59PM, Dec. 2, 2018

Oh, and "fragile masculinity" refers to the phenomenon of men being extremely offended and hurt by any suggestion that they are less manly and avoid being "unmanly" at all costs. Example: someone refuses to sit in a chair because it's not a manly color, so he remains standing in order to protect his masculinity. (Yeah, weird and highly hypothetical example. But I have known men who would do just that.)

usedbooks at 3:51PM, Dec. 2, 2018

I believe toxic masculinity refers not to it being toxic to women but to the men themselves. Masculinity is great. Be proud to have physical strength and do sports and other things that are considered "man." Toxic masculinity is when it means belittling men for having emotions or being doting parents or enjoying anything that isn't "manly." It is the effect of a male-dominated society on the men themselves. It's why sexism is bad for all genders.

JaymonRising at 3:21PM, Dec. 2, 2018

@bravo1102 Ah ok, so it IS an informal way of saying hegemonic masculinity (which I completely understand yet am nevertheless against) the same way feminazi is to third wave feminism (or at least the kind that uses a woman's scorn to oppress men), though I actually thought feminazi was just slang. Thank you for the clarification, I feel like a weight has been lifted in a way.

bravo1102 at 3:07PM, Dec. 2, 2018

"Toxic masculinity "It's the evil dominance of men and all things Male. The patriarchy that has subjugated the female since time immemorial. The treatment of women only as property belonging to father (miss) or husband (mrs.) The term is rather new but the school of thought goes back to the 1960s and there are even some roots to be found in the 18th and 19th century. You could also see the term as a backlash to Rush Limbaugh's term "feminazi"

JaymonRising at 2:41PM, Dec. 2, 2018

I never really understood the origins of that phrase in a manner that was explained gently yet clearly in a way that felt coherent and warmly reassuring rather than riddled with illegitimate bias and opinion:Toxic masculinity. Like what did masculinity do? Have people just been using testosterone for evil or something?

fallopiancrusader at 2:02PM, Dec. 2, 2018

I have always been interested in the cross-pollination of culture and mythology. I believe that the archetypes that we find in the myths and fairy tales of the past have been reborn as fodder for the corporate entertainment mill of today. The Gilgameshes and Hercules of ancient times are models for the comic book superheroes of modern times. As individuals, we still have the choice of enjoying those collective narratives, or rejecting them, just like we can conform to the culture that we live in, or question it. To the immediate topic: I personally have a very clear memory of when I was six years old, and some friends showed me a superhero comic. My first thought to myself was "that's really stupid." I have hated the superhero genre ever since. Does that make me an iconoclast, or just pretentious? I don't know... XD

usedbooks at 1:18PM, Dec. 2, 2018

I personally enjoy the magical realism take on a variety of (possibly overdone) fantasy stories. My issues with fantasy/magic/superheroes in general is being unable to relate to characters. Does it hurt when they get punched? No? Their only relatable struggle is fear for the well-being of less-magical beings? That's doesn't usually cut it for me. But if they are in a realistic, familiar setting, if they are clearly relatable characters with one or two magical quirks, or if they are a secondary character to a much more mundane and relatable protagonist, I find myself often captivated by the story. I also love, as you mentioned, when genres are seemingly mismatched but done in a clever way that works. I don't like dark tones myself. I like when things feel down-to-earth (even and especially when some of the elements are out-of-this-world).

Banes at 12:28PM, Dec. 2, 2018

As far as Superheroes, we'll see. I don't think they're going anywhere any time soon (I am curious about what the Marvel Universe is going to do going forward - we'll see how the reboot of the X Men and so on are gonna play out). Great article - wouldn't have thought of the comparison between these two genres!

Banes at 12:25PM, Dec. 2, 2018

Yeah, vampires can get a bad rap, but there's a lot of stuff that can still be done with them! I mean, What We Do in the Shadows was fantastic, in a genre that was supposedly played out a decade earlier ! And there are the dark, brutal Vamps like in 30 days of night (the Near Dark types, i'd call em) and the more soulful, deeper stuff like Let the Right one in...surprised they get so much guff and zombies don't.


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