Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Suck My Blood Please, Edward!

I’m going to apologize up front to anyone who has a teenage daughter and has had it up to here with vampires (sorry). I don’t usually read or write fantasy, but there is definitely something extraordinary going on when even the local news is talking about vampires. It’s amazing! If I had any champagne, I would raise a glass to the writers who created these fiendishly handsome men and to the many millions of women young and old who love to read about them.

If you aren’t a fan, you may be asking: what exactly is there to love about a blood sucking creature from the underworld?

Well, a lot, actually. Let’s use Stephanie Meyers’ Twilight Saga character Edward Cullen as an example. I’ve read these books several times and asked for (and received—thank you Santa!) the set for Christmas. I’ll admit to being a little in love with Edward myself (and Jacob of course!!). Why? Let’s break it down…

Edward is inhumanly strong, otherworldly attractive, and impossibly rich. He has the patience of a saint though he can get very angry when those he loves are in danger. In many ways he’s a loner, even though everyone knows who he is (and many admire/desire him). He's intelligent. He’s deliciously dangerous, but wishes he wasn’t; in fact he’s trying to turn over a new leaf. He can be jealous and hard to deal with, but all his other qualities make up for it. He’s brooding and tormented (I mean being with Bella is actually painful for him). And, most importantly, he’s willing to sacrifice his own happiness for the heroine because he’s completely in love with her.

Honestly, what isn’t there to love? Leave out the blood sucking bit and he is every woman’s fantasy.

It isn’t that much different if you look at Bill Compton from Charlaine Harris’ The Southern Vampire Mysteries (HBO True Blood series). Bill is just a little bit more dangerous (ok, a lot more dangerous but that just means Sookie has that much more to reform). Now TV has also brought to life L.J. Smith’s series The Vampire Diaries in which there are not one but TWO gorgeous, tormented vampires (brothers Stephan and Damon) in love with the same woman (some women are greedy). The list goes on…

Book sales, movie tickets and TV ratings are soaring for these vamps and it isn’t because half the female population has decided anemia is cool. It’s not even because the plot lines are enthralling or the writing is original (because in some cases, they aren’t). It’s because the characters are so appealing. They are strong, flawed and interesting. More than that, Edward, Bill, and Stephan represent the ultimate bad boy. As far as bad boys go, you can’t get much better (or worse) than a vampire. You are their very weakness (or at least your blood is, but since you need that to live…); one slip and you are a mid-night snack (but what's more exciting than being a man's weakness?).

Come on, admit it. Even though you may not be a vampire fanatic you know exactly what I’m talking about. (If not picture James Dean in Rebel Without a Cause, Tom Cruise in Top Gun, Mel Gibson in Lethal Weapon, Patrick Swayze in Dirty Dancing…). Every one loves the bad boy; men idolize them, women fanaticize about them.

You love them so much that you WRITE about them. So, what characteristics are essential to a bad boy? Here are a few no brainers:

  • strong (not always in the supernatural sense)
  • attractive
  • rich (sometimes stone-broke is just as attractive as long as it isn’t permanent)
  • loner
  • dangerous
  • brooding
  • tormented
And naturally the bad boy has to fall madly in love with the heroine before the end of the story…

There are a lot of resources available on archetypes. Here is just one link with some thoughts specific to bad boys:

Who’s your favorite bad boy? What do you love about him? Other characteristics you would add to that list?


DebH said...

I'm not really into vampires or the werewolves of the paranormal - but I do like fantasy characters and books.
That said, the most appealing vampire I've read to date is self-pubbed writer Garon Whited's Nightlord. His Eric isn't particularly handsome, but everything is written from his point of view and well, it's darn good. (actually, I really like all of Garon's heroes - he makes them seem so real).
My favorite "bad" boy is Han Solo from Star Wars - but perhaps he wasn't really that bad. I guess I lean towards the lone rogue man with the heart of Gold.

Anne Germaine said...

Hi Deb, Han Solo was definately a rebel. "Lone rogue with a heart of gold"--love it! That statement also brings to mind Wolverine from X-Men.

Good point on the 'handsome' characteristic. In fact, now that I think about it, some bad boys are not classically handsome at all.

Thanks for the comment!

Helena said...

Welcome to the Chicks, Anne. And you've started with a bang. I can hardly wait to see the list of favourite bad boys develop.

My hero from the Fifties definitely had to be James Dean. You mentioned his character in Rebel Without a Cause (and didn't we all envy Natalie Wood!), but he became every girl's fantasy off-screen as well. We were all devastated when he crashed his Porsche and died.

Currently, I am not really a devotee of the vampire mythology, but I began watching The Vampire Daries last fall with my 17-year-old granddaughter. Of the brothers, Stephan is my favourite because, in addition to the brooding, handsome, and mysterious aspects of his character, he is genuinely trying to be "good" by using the means available to vampires to control the urges. On the other hand, I know some prefer the really attractive but evil Damon, and I can understand the draw of his magnetic personality. Trouble is, if he has any redeeming qualities, he is keeping them hidden, and meantime, the blood is flowing!

I've been trying to think of some contemporary bad boy characters that appeal to me, but it must be too early in the morning. Going back to the time of Happy Days, it had to be The Fonz. Somehow, I still expect Henry Winkler to play the bad boy, but he doesn't swagger so much anymore.

I really appreciate your analysis of the bad boy archetype, and I will keep in mind those elements that would strengthen any male character, hero or villain. Thanks for a fascinating post.

JoanneBrothwell said...

Anne, I totally agree. I love Edward and the Twilight Saga for all of the reasons you listed. Don't we all want a gorgeous, powerful and potentially dangerous man to fall head-over-heels in love with us and be willing to sacrifice anything for us? The hero in my novel is a classic bad boy too, but maybe a little more dangerous than Edward leaving my heroine constantly wondering- just how bad is he?

Anne Germaine said...

Hi Helena,

Thanks for the post. How could I forget Fonzie?

I haven’t read The Vampire Diaries, but from the TV series I have to agree with you that there doesn’t seem to be very many redeeming qualities in Damon. I have a feeling they are there, just deeply hidden, and maybe that’s why I’m secretly cheering for him. I’ll be disappointed if he doesn’t have a good side, then again every story needs a villain.

Anne Germaine said...

Hmmm...sounds fantastic! Maybe we should add 'mysterious' to the list of characteristics. Will he ever truly be good? The readers will be dying to know!

Anne Germaine said...

I'll check in on comments later in the day. I can't wait to hear what other bad boys come up!

Karyn Good said...

Great post, Anne. Welcome to Wednesdays. I can tell I'm going to enjoy sharing the middle of the week with you :)

Bring on the bad boy vampire types! Love The Vampire Diaries. Damon - omgosh! He has it going on! I have yet to read the last of the Twilight books but enjoyeod the first three. Heading out in January with some pals to see New Moon. Can't wait.

But my favorite vampire has got to be Zadist from J.R. Ward's Black Dagger Brotherhood Series. He takes tortured to a whole new level and even though he's part of the Brotherhood, he's got loner and driving people away down to a fine art.

There's something about bad boys and when you add vampire to the list it just cranks the appeal up a notch - or ten, at least for me :)

Darn it, now I want to work on my vampire wip but must persist with revising other project. Must revise faster.

Laura Breck said...

I've got a unique bad boy. I'm watching the Showtime series Dexter as research for my Miami manuscript. He's a forensic blood specialist working for Miami Metro Police, and he's a serial killer! The series is fascinating, there are some hot, romantic scenes, and surprisingly, I've got a crush on Dexter!

The one good quality he posesses, is that he kills only killers who have escaped justice. Bad Boys have a strong need to uphold the rights of the vulnerable.

Great post, Anne!

Jana Richards said...

Hi Anne,
Welcome to Wednesdays! We're thrilled to have you here.

I'm probably the only female of any age in North America who hasn't read or seen the Twilight series. I've got to admit I'm just not into vampires.

But that doesn't mean I'm not into bad boys. In all the examples you mentioned, the heroine (and the reader) sees this tortured hero and is sure she is going to be the one who reforms him or saves him. And she's the only one who can. Very powerful.

For an example of a bad boy (and in this case he really is a boy!)how about Noah "Puck" Puckerman from the TV show "Glee". He's the one with the mohawk who is secretly Quinn's baby daddy. You just know he belongs with Quinn (the classic bad girl).


Vince said...

Hi Anne:

Thanks, this is a very interesting post. I’d like to see your ideas developed further.

Of the seven qualities on your list, I can understand the first five from an evolutionary point of view. A strong mate is probably healthy and more able to survive in tought conditions. An attractive person is usually considered healthy. A rich person has resouses to get through tough times like famines and droughts. A loner may not be as tempted to leave the female for another one. A dangerous person (though not dangerous to the female or her offspring) probably will better defend himself and his mate and children.

BTW: a sense of humor is also very high on the attractiveness list as an attribute with survival value. A male with all that power could in a fit of anger quickly kill his mate and offspring. Humor is very useful in defusing a deadly buildup of anger.

I think vampires lack a sense of humor while most conventional heroes are expected to have one. A sense of humor ranks high on the list in surveys in what women think makes a man sexy. Do you think you can create a vampire with a sense of humor without making the story a comedy? That would be interesting.

The last two items on the list: brooding and
tormented, I don’t get from an evolutionary point of view. I don’t see what survival value these characteristics have.


Do women want a man with defects, a fixer-upper, so they can fix him, make him whole, and thus become the only proven female who can fix him (put his mind at rest) and thus better secure their position as his mate?

Perhaps, if there really is a natural female desire for this type of male (and bad boys probably fit this category), then those women, who have these feeling, would be expected to more successful in getting a superior male as a mate. If this is true, then these seemingly negative characters could actually have a positive evolutionary value.

What do you think of this idea?


Silver James said...

Welcome, Anne! Bad boys. We all love them for sure.

Jana, I thought I was the only female in North America who hasn't read the Twilight books or seen the movie.

My favorite vampire is a character of mine in a WIP. Sinjin is...not your ordinary vamp, nor is he a typical bad boy. I think my all time favorite isn't so much a bad boy as the loner. Tell Sackett from the Louis L'Amour books. Of course, it didn't hurt that Sam Elliott played Tell on screen. ;)

Anne Germaine said...

Karyn – I know what you mean. After writing my post, I dipped into Twilight again. After about an hour, I reminded myself that although extremely enjoyable, it isn’t going to help me with the non-fantasy piece I’m working on right now.

Black Dagger Brotherhood Series – Interesting. I haven’t heard about that one but can’t resist brooding and tormented.

Thanks for the comments and I’m very excited about sharing Wednesdays with you too!

Anne Germaine said...

Hello Laura,

Dexter – of course!! He’s cute and creepy at the same time. He’s definitely on the list with vampires (and I’m not just talking about his fascination with blood). Tormented for sure… Smart, definitely. His character is interesting but I have to admit I’m not actually a big fan. (I’m still on season one so maybe that will change.)

Anne Germaine said...

Hey Jana,

I think you’ve hit it right on the nose. The idea of being rescued (even if only from a boring and/or lonely life) is appealing to the heroine and the readers. But these tortured heroes need to be saved on some level as well. In all these examples, only the heroine can save the hero (and that’s exciting for both the hero and the reader). Great insight!

Janet said...

K - Silver, Jana and I are forming the group "Women Who Haven't Read Twilight!

Not a big vampire, werewolf, paranormal fan - but the explosion in that genre is huge and can not be ignored. The bad boy character taken to the extreme - and readers are loving it.

I do, however, love a bad boy hero - one that will find a true love with a woman who understands him (and isn't afraid to smack him upside the head if need be). Suzanne Brockmann's heroes in her Troubleshooters Series come to mind.

Great post, Anne. Looking forward to your every other Wednesday's insight and perspective :)

Anne Germaine said...

Awesome comments Vince. Thank you for looking at my characteristics from an evolutionary perspective (it lends them a certain credibility!).

Re: sense of humour in a bad boy – In romantic fiction, even vampires have a sense of humor (at least the ones I’ve read about do). Usually it is a little dark and often is directed at themselves or their situation. The vampires in Twilight refer to themselves as vegetarians because they don’t drink human blood (well, I think it is funny). And Eric (Bill’s nemesis) in True Blood delivers some good one-liners. It is very important to be able to laugh, our heroes can’t be all dark—-we should add it to the list of characteristics.

Re: men as fixer-uppers – It seems to me that by ‘fixing’ the man, the heroine establishes her value to him. From an evolutionary perspective…maybe the bad boy goes beyond the safe boundaries of the forest and is shunned by the tribe because he is always breaking the rules. The woman reforms him by curbing his behaviour and brings him back into the tribe. But then, it is because he was a rebel and explored the forest that he is able to find food when the tribe is threatened…? Who knows, but it is definitely an interesting line of thought.

Anne Germaine said...

Silver, Janet and Jana - thanks for playing along! I know some people are tired of hearing about vampires but like you said Janet, it is hard to ignore what readers are gobbling up.

Helena said...

Had to come back and admit that I am in the Janet, Jana, Silver club, too. Or am I disqualified if my younger granddaughter was re-reading one of the Twilight books while she was at my house over the holidays? She'll be twelve in the spring, and her mother wondered about letting her read them a couple of years ago. A bookstore clerk told her they were quite "sanitized" (I think that was the word used.)

Is True Blood the HBO series? It may be the one my son likes. Clever writing, I believe ...?

Oh, yeah, almost forgot. I was hoping the list would include more bad boys who were not necessarily vampires. Would Javier Bardem in Vicky Cristina Barcelona count? Mmmmm

Hayley E. Lavik said...

In terms of vampires, I'll take the pre-Twilight variety any day of the week (particularly Lestat before we got into his point of view and he suddenly became all tormented and weepy). I've actually wound up with some really interesting discussions with a friend on the appeal of vampires (which she had to explain to her boyfriend) and why it doesn't work with other undead like zombies (had to explain to my mom the difference between a zombie and vampire because they seemed really similar to her).

As for bad boys, well to keep things concise, I'll point you to a couple blog posts from a little while ago where I mulled over some of my thoughts on bad boy appeal (here and here). One thing I've been thinking about today though, since I first read your post, is I think I like the legitimate bad guys.

I don't necessarily try to justify or explain the appeal of seemingly poor choices (they're fiction, after all... vicarious escapism!), but I don't get as much out of the tormented-but-technically-hero characters. I like the villains, the actual bad guys, or at least the anti-heroes. Emily Bronte's Heathcliff (Wuthering Heights) is one of my favourites, and while he's the main character of the novel, he's also the villain, and such a terrible person, no disguises about it. If he did all those bad, manipulative, cruel, spiteful things but the author tried to gloss him over as "actually really great," I wouldn't buy it.

That's my thing (among others) with Edward Cullen. He has all these trappings of a 'nice' mate (being 'vegetarian,' deeply in love, etc), but he's actually terribly controlling and abusive in my opinion, and that's just a recipe for excusing a poisonous relationship rather than thrilling escapism, for me. Now if he were just a straight-out bad character, rather than ostensibly the good choice, I'd probably feel differently.

Not sure if that makes much sense though, that just seems to be the way I go with these things. I don't like glossing over bad actions just because someone wasn't hugged enough as a child, or because it's out of 'twue wuv' :)

Anne Germaine said...

Thanks for your perspective Haley. I have to admit, I did have some concerns regarding Edward's 'protectiveness' and how that might be viewed the by teenage girl population. I think you have a very valid point. As we write about bad boys we have to carefully consider what actions are redeemable and what ones aren't. There are some things readers just can't look beyond and then your story just flops (I once picked up a book that started out with the hero forcing himself on the heroine--I was astounded. I couldn't read on because in my mind there was no way for him to redeem himself from that action.)

Great comments everyone! Thanks for the wonderful welcome to this blog!