Bloodsucking B!#%&$: Vampires, Girls, and Vampire Girls

 

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Photo by Oscar Keys on Unsplash

Part 1: Love in the Time of Hot Vampires

As a teenage emo in desperate need of attention, I languished in despair over this one simple fact: handsome, vampire men weren’t real. Edward Cullen wasn’t going to stalk me to my room and then try not to kill me in my sleep, Bill Compton wasn’t going to orchestrate my almost probable murder just to get in my pants, and don’t even get me started on the pain I had over not personally knowing the vengeful Salvatore brothers.

 

Teenage Marnie (the hopeless, misguided romantic that she was) would only settle for a man with fangs and a (slight) moral compass. Suffice it say, I was single for most of my high school years. Now that I’m older and wiser (and incredibly cynical), I see it as a good thing that I never really pursued the guys who would remind me of a sparkly Robert Pattinson, or a sly, blue eyed Ian Somerhalder, because as I came to see during my college years, vampire boyfriends really suck (pun most certainly intended).

 

To begin with, vampires are predators. Of what you ask? Oh yeah, people. Their track record with humans is spotty at best, so to think that they could have a stable relationship with a human is laughable. To use a well-known example, Edward Cullen from the Twilight Saga fits all of the criteria of an emotional abuser. He talks down to his mortal squeeze, Bella Swan, on the daily by calling her “silly” multiple times, and claiming that it’s hard to take care of her because she’s clumsy and irresponsible. He also isolates her from her own family by lying to her father about where she is and how she’s doing, and by also refusing to let her see her guy friend/rebound/werewolf Jacob. He also threatened to kill himself if Bella ever died, and almost got away with it in the second book. Furthermore, he controlled her life by planning her days, events he forced her to go to, and even planned when she was going to become a vampire like him (which he was adamantly against no matter how much pain and anxiety it caused Bella to stay human). Oh yeah, also before they got together, he would watch her sleep (without her knowledge), follow her everywhere (also without her knowledge), and try not to kill her (he completely admitted to that, but she still wanted the sparkly D afterwards).

 

It does make a sick kind of sense though. vampires, based on their mythology, aren’t really supposed to be built for long lasting relationships, well with humans at least. They are known, at least in the last 100 or so years, as seductive creatures only because they need to find an easy way to get prey. They were basically used as a warning to not give into your base instincts, and in the case of Dracula, to beware of the outsider trying to steal your girl.

 

But to the teenage mind, that doesn’t translate. Yeah, vampires are monsters, but they’re also mysterious, brooding, gentlemen from a different, more chivalrous (more restrictive for women) time. Edward was just being “overprotective,” and he just cares so much about Bella that he has to make sure she’s okay 24/7, and would willingly kill himself if she died—that’s not creepy, it’s romantic! I’m not making a generalization here: my friends and I would constantly talk about how romantic we thought Edward Cullen was on the daily, and on the many message boards (sigh, yes message boards) that I perused, most other fans were writing about the same thing. Edward was a little overbearing, and a little too old-fashioned, but he was romantic, dammit!

 

I would say that Stephanie Meyer was a genius for understanding that vampires make the worst boyfriends, but this also isn’t true. Instead of showing his abusive signs as red flags that Bella Swan should have definitely seen, Meyer literally has the two get married, have a vampire/human baby that mortal Bella carries to term even though it basically kills her, and then sticks her with Edward for the rest of her life as a vampire with a pretty lame superpower.

 

And this story, flawed as it most definitely is, spurred on a Young Adult (YA) fiction vampire romance genre that was already gaining traction with other series that were just starting, but gave it the international push that it needed. For the last ten years, the genre has exploded the market to the point that most horror publishers now have a “no vampire” rule for what an author can submit.

 

Before Twilight became a worldwide phenomenon, the YA and adult vampire genre as a whole did a little more than have a vampire and human fall in love. Not to say that there weren’t many vampire/human romance novels; Anne Rice’s series of novels featuring the mysterious and psycho Lestat, later played by 90s heartthrob Tom Cruise, propelled vampires from pretty scary and seductive to just mostly seductive. But where Twilight cemented vampires in the “boyfriend material” section, its predecessors were all about showing you how being a vampire, or trying to date a vampire, was not a good idea at all.

 

A book (and author) that is greatly underrated in the genre is Companions of the Night by Vivian Vande Velde. Published about ten years before Twilight in 1995, the story is about a teenage girl named Kerry who lives with her brother and dad after her mother abandons them. She is the main caretaker of her brother, so when he loses a stuffed koala bear named Footy at the laundromat, the teenaged heroine doesn’t think twice about going to said laundromat to find it. Instead of just finding the bear though, she finds a freaking vampire/vigilante slayer showdown, which propels her into a really weird night (the vigilante vampire slayers think Kerry is a vampire too, so they kidnap her brother and father, as one does). And of course, this story also includes a really rude (but of course hot) vampire named Ethan.

 

Spoiler alert: the reason this is one of my favorite vampire novels is at the end, with the vigilantes taken care of and her family safe, Kerry has a steamy make-out sesh with Ethan, but instead of staying with him for the rest of her mortal (and maybe immortal) life, she grabs Footy and goes the hell home.

 

When I first read Companions of the Night, I was livid! I was so obsessed with vampire romance that any other option just seemed wrong. But I get it now, and would have probably done the same as Kerry. She saw that her life with Ethan wouldn’t be the way she would want it to be. Yes, there would be passion, and adventure, and possible immortality, but Kerry had plans for her future. Kerry had a freaking test to study for! She had no time to be undead when there was so much living she wanted to do, and honestly, while being a vampire sounds awesome and everything, it’s not the “best” long term plan for your life. The author gets that, and instead of perpetuating an emotionally abusive relationship wrapped up in a “no sex before marriage” morally correct message, Velde shows what all of us should do if a vampire promises forever. Run. Fast!

 

I haven’t read YA vampire fiction in a long time, but I do see vampire lore shifting once again. The Vampire Diaries show just ended, the Twilight Saga is buried, and the undead lover is no longer a viable relationship goal. Just by peeking at a list of upcoming YA novels for 2018, the vampire romance genre is starting to become a thing of the past, but now vampires (as shown in popular adult book series like the Strain and The Passage) are starting to get their bite back. Instead of being fully in the seductive field, those lines are getting blurry again, and these monsters finally have the room to be gross and terrifying, and definitely not something you want to have kids with. Finally, all is right in the world of vampires.

 

If you still have a little blood lust left in you, please join me for the next (and final) installment of this series, where I’ll explain why vampire girls are the true queens of this mythological creature. Until then, have a safe Halloween and if you meet a tall, dark, and handsome vampire, don’t ask for his number unless the fangs are detachable.

Bloodsucking B!#%&$: Vampires, Girls, and Vampire Girls

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Our former teenage vampire, Marnie Azzarelli

Introduction: I was a Teenage Vampire

We all go through phases as teenagers. Some of us go crazy over romance, some of us try desperately to follow the crowd, and some of us get really, REALLY into horses. But some of us shy away from the norm, lurk in the shadows, wear black eyeshadow, and feel like no one understands us. I’m talking about Emos, and you bet your studded, checkered belt that I was (and still a little bit am) one. Not only was My Chemical Romance my all-time favorite band, but year round I wore a huge Jack Skellington hoodie, ripped jeans with fishnets underneath, straightened the ever living hell out of my curly hair, and wore enough black eye liner that I’m pretty sure I kept Wet N Wild in business through the mid 2000’s.

 

Besides writing sad poetry about things that I didn’t really understand, and lamenting the fact that my mom wouldn’t let me dye my already dark hair black, there was a distinct creature that took up basically all of my attention and obsession: vampires. Yes, I was a Twilighter (because I hate the nickname “Twihard”) and was instrumental in spreading the book (that I lost all of my social life to) through my high school when the craze first started. I spent hours writing stories based off of the series, listening to the same songs Stephanie Meyers listened to when she wrote the books (Blue October’s Foiled is still a go to album for me), spent more of my time on message boards (yes, message boards) on the Twilight fansite, arguing with people over who should play what character when the movie was finally made, and spent the rest of my time watching fanmade Youtube videos of mashed together clips from different movies and drooling over fanart masterpieces that I still think about to this day. This was all before the movie came out and my room was legitimately covered in any poster of Robert Pattinson that I could covet, which still exist along with similar merchandise in a heavy rubber bin in my garage.

 

To put it simply, I was obsessed. While, I look back now and laugh at all the passion I had over a not-that-great book series, I also think of all the other books, movies, lore, and TV series that Twilight opened me up to and solidified my love for fanged, blood loving creatures.

 

When I was 18, I got my third tattoo, which is a set of lips with vampire fangs and the words “show me your teeth” written around them, placed (very visibly) on my chest. Not only was it a mark of a phase that was quickly coming to an end as I entered my first year of college, but it became a nostalgic reminder that to this day I still find vampires to be the most fascinating creatures ever, especially when it comes to the girls who fell in love with them (or didn’t), or the girls who became monstrous vampires themselves.

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That is why I want to split this series up in parts. I’ve got a solid 10 years of myths and stories whirling around in my brain, and I can’t wait to release my inner 15- year-old, vamp loving self onto the masses. So if you want a Halloween that’s a little bloodier (and more woman friendly) than normal, please stay tuned for the rest of the “Bloodsucking B!#%&$” series, and remember that not all phases are truly over, especially when they’re meant to be immortal.

Bloody Mary and Her #Squad: The Secret Feminist Agenda of Urban Legend Ghosts

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Photo by Oscar Keys on Unsplash

There is really only one thing that scares me in life (besides spiders, getting kidnapped, being an adult, and zombies) and that is ghosts. As a kid, I thought that a little girl ghost lived right outside the doorway of my room and even cried when I’d close my door, much to my horror. Obviously, I had a wild imagination when I was little, but since I’d watch episodes of “Are You Afraid of the Dark” and the movie “The Ring” on repeat, there is no wonder those thoughts of ghosts (who can show up anywhere…they’re not usually limited to time or space so I don’t know about you, but I’d rather not have a spirit pop up while I’m on the toilet) were usually revolving around my head. I remember the time when I was 8 and I thought the “Princess” from “Thirteen Ghosts” was following me around, I still can’t imagine anything scarier than a female ghost— especially when she wants revenge.

 

The vengeful female ghost is an enduring character in film and TV. “Supernatural’s” first episode featured “a vanishing hitchhiker” (whose story ended up being more like La Lorona’s or the Crying Woman) while numerous (low budget) movies have been dedicated to the American legend of Bloody Mary and the Japanese/South Korean legend Kuchisake-onna, or the slit-mouthed woman. Even creations like the angry Victorian ghost in “The Woman in Black,” and Kayako Saeki of the “Ju-On” and “Grudge” movies are based off the trope of an angry, female ghost. Articles before have mentioned what it is about these ghosts that make them scary, which I will get into in a minute, but I am going to write about why they are still popular and still important today.

 

It all starts with urban legends.

 

Urban legends, folktales, and campfire stories all have the same thing in mind. Most of them, especially some of the older ones, started out as ways to easily scare someone.

 

Saying “Bloody Mary” into a bathroom mirror three times (or sometimes more) with only a candle as a light is a classic sleepover and party game that started getting popular around the 1960s, but possibly started in 18th century Britain. After saying her name, Mary, a disfigured ghost would pop up and either grant you a wish, gouge your eyes out, or cut you to pieces, depending on her mood.

 

The origin stories for Mary (her full name was supposedly Mary Worth) are as various as the ways that she could kill you. Some say she was a witch (or an herbal healer) who was mutilated and hung during a witch hunt in her town, while others say she was a young girl who got into an accident that tore apart her once beautiful face.  Before her accident, Mary was constantly looking at herself in the mirror, but after, her family warned her to never look at herself again. This didn’t last long as curiosity overtook Mary and she looked at her reflection. Terrified and angered about her appearance, Mary, somehow, went inside her mirror and swore to attack anyone who spoke her name.

 

Either way, Bloody Mary almost always wants revenge on the people who call her name for the shiggles. Also, the only way I ever found of successfully stopping Mary is by breaking the mirror when you start to see her face after repeating her name. Although other reports claim that if you break the mirror, you only release her into the real world faster, so how ‘bout you don’t say her name into a mirror three times, okay?

 

Another Urban Legend about a vengeful ghost is that of Kuchisake-onna, also known as the slit-mouthed woman. This legend dates back to (possibly) the Heian Period (794 to 1185 AD). Apparently a married woman cheated on her samurai husband with another samurai and as a punishment cut her face (which was profoundly beautiful) from ear to ear and asked her “who would find you beautiful now?” before she died. These are some great stories to tell your kids before they go to sleep, right?

 

Anyway, once this woman died, she came back as a vengeful spirit who would roam around town with a cloth over her face, and randomly walk up to people to ask them if they thought she was pretty. If they said “yes,” she would lower the cloth to reveal her new “smile” and ask again if they thought she was pretty. If they said “yes” or screamed, she would slit the victim’s mouth from ear to ear, just like she had. If they said “no,” she would disappear but then would return to kill them when they were sleeping.  Like all other urban legends, this story isn’t the only one told about Kuchisake. Modern tales say that she was once a woman who chased and followed children during the 1970s. As she was running after some kids, she was struck and killed by a car, which resulted in a gruesome wound that ripped her mouth in half. Another story is that she was a mental patient who tore her own face apart, because she was bored.

 

Whatever the reason, people in South Korea have claimed to encounter Kuchisake since around 2004. Now she wears a red surgical mask, and if you tell her she isn’t pretty, she’ll cut you in half with a pair of scissors. Fun fact: there is no way to escape her. She will follow you until you give her an answer. For both the older and newer versions of the tale, there is very little in the way of escaping Kuchisake. Some say you have to throw her candy or money. Others say that you have to answer her indecisively to escape her bloody scissors, and escape having to tell people how you got those scars for the rest of your life.

 

One more famous, vengeful ghost is La Llorona or “the crying woman.” As with the others, her origins are long and dark, dating from at least the 1500’s. Her span of sightings also reaches from the western United States, all the way down to Central America. What’s her tale and how is she going to kill me, you ask? Well, let me tell you. La Malinche, an Aztec girl, was enslaved by Hernan Cortes (the Spanish Conquistador) in the 1500’s. She soon gave birth to two children of his, but was tortured over the fact that Cortes was basically trying to wipe out all of her people, and that she became a part of it. Meanwhile, the Spanish Monarchy at that time was afraid that Cortes was growing too powerful and would betray him, so they asked him to return to Spain. He refused until a beautiful woman was sent over to entice him from the new world. He then was going to leave and take his two children with him, leaving La Malinche in dire straits. She prayed for an answer and supposedly heard from the gods that one of her children was going to return from Spain and destroy her people. The night before Cortes left, La Malinche sneaks away with the babies and kills them at the lake, which Mexico City now stands on. In some versions, she then drowns herself, but in others she dies of natural causes not long after. Since soldiers witnessed how she killed her only children, they came to call her La Llorona for the way she cried when they died.

 

Again, this is another heavy and dark tale that resulted in an unrestful and sometimes vicious spirit. The many variations of her story (which are always connected to bodies of water) have spread far and wide, but one thing is certain: if you’re a kid walking alone at night, or an unfaithful man, La Llorona will find you and take your soul.

 

Are you freaked out? You better be, but did you learn something? You better have, because these legends are not only used to scare the bejesus out of you, but are also used as a lesson. These tales are warnings (and reminders) of how scary and ruthless the world can be. Unless you want La Lorona to rip you a new one, don’t cheat on your wife, same goes for the Sihuanaba, a shapeshifting ghost from Central America who targeted unfaithful men. Other stories like Bloody Mary and Kuchisake-onna warn against being too vain, or in Mary’s case, might be an allegory for the terrifying changes we go through during puberty. Also don’t say a spirit’s name three times into a freakin mirror!

 

What is lost in some of these female-led urban legends is what happens in most, if not all, urban legends: we don’t bring the creature into account. Besides their tragic and brutal backstories these murderous, sometimes animalistic, ghosts barely seem human anymore, but there is something in them that many women don’t ever feel like they have: freedom to do whatever the hell they want! This is agency to nth degree. These women can be everywhere and anywhere and unless a Winchester brother comes along with his shotgun full of salt rounds, nothing can really stop them.

 

Like some mythological goddesses, these women want you to know how unstoppable they truly are. Unlike most goddesses though, they are tortured and twisted from their former lives, which lends some people to sympathize and even believe that they’re actions are justified. Since many of them gave birth to creatures like Sadako of Ringu fame, Anabelle, Bathsheba of “The Conjuring” fame, and Mama from the (vastly underrated) movie “Mama,” it’s obvious that stories like Mary’s, Kuchisake’s, and La Malinche’s have staying power.

 

That power has kept their own legends going for hundreds years, as well. There’s just something fascinating about a woman untethered from whatever originally held her back. Yes, there are reasons to be scared of them (they’re unstoppable and murderous), but there are also reasons to praise them for not giving a crap about societal restraints and for also teaching us some important life lessons (I swear to god, do not talk to your mirror!). So the next time you see Kuchisake-onna in the streets, don’t run and hide; shake her hand (not the one holding the scissors) and tell her how great she is for questioning conventional beauty standards. Then throw some candy and run the hell away because she’s going to kill you.

Intro: Horror and the Her

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Photo by Benjamin Balázs on Unsplash

Women are scary.

Whether they wield a knife to avenge their (kinda) dead son or rip you a new one for sending “nudes”to another woman at 3 a.m., women can be a force of unstoppable nature.

Mere centuries ago, goddesses were not only hailed as life bringers but as life takers as well. Take Hera for instance. The Greek goddess of matrimony had a soft spot for animals and nature, but even her husband, Zeus, was terrified of her tantrum, mostly because they were caused by his rampant unfaithfulness. She would often take out Zeus’ cheating out on him or his demigod children. Or look at the Hindu goddess, Kali. She’s known as both a creator and a destroyer, who (with her signature red eyes and lolling, gruesome tongue) ripped apart a spawn of demon clones then danced on their corpses. And she’s considered one of the good guys.

Again, women are scary.

This concept has not changed through history, folklore, and even modern pop culture either.  Who knew that Madame LaLaurie in Season 3 of American Horror Story (played brilliantly by horror queen Kathy Bates) was based on a real, vicious, inhumane woman who was never caught for her crimes?  I did.

As I sit at my desk next to books about female serial killers, Mary Shelley’s real life monsters, and an in-depth account of the Salem Witch Trials, it is safe to say that my near decades long obsession takes a distinctive lean. And I’d like to share that with you.

Be it through real life history or online myth, I am going to delve into the darker side of the formerly called “weaker” sex and show you how scary women can be.

Better keep your night light on.