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Vampire love can be nothing but tragic

We all know zombies are far superior boyfriends than vampires.  Vampires are pushing, demanding, patronising, cruel and have a very twisted idea of love. Zombies never want their loved one to lose their independence or give up their dreams because of them. Zombies don’t require the human to convert to zombiism, and don’t encourage it. Zombies love you for you!

And of all the terrible vampires to have as a boyfriend, Edward from Twilight takes the sparkle. He is straight out abusive, as is the other love interest in the series, “Shirts chafe” Jacob. There are so many academics who pick apart the Twilight series for its screwed-up-ness, and perhaps the scariest thing of all is that people see this cruel relationship rife with domestic violence and domination as a relationship to crave!

One of the things I love about the world and humanity is our insane curiosity and desire for meaning which leads us to such incredible in-depth analysis. A book is never just a book! Bordieu said something about art (which I got from an art class at uni, but can’t find the direct quote), that art styles do not develop independently but rather they develop out of particular social interests. Can anything created be separated completely from the context in which it was created (not meaning everything is a direct analogy)?

Anyway, the main thing I wanted to share was this awesome analytical piece of the Twilight series (ignoring all the horrors of the English language that take place within) about how it’s really a tragedy of the loss of who Bella is, her soul. It’s a very well done piece, and I not-so-secretly wish the author would write a whole thesis on it (I’m a geek, I know it, and I don’t care who knows it!)

Read it here on Reddit!

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But mum, he’s just undead!

“The next step in evolution of this highly specially subgenre will likely literalise the metaphor, presenting narratives in which the zombies tell their own stories, acting as true protagainsts and even heroes”

~ Kyle William Bishop, American Zombie Gothic

Why can’t we love the undead? So many friends push aside the idea of a zombie lover completely (you guys can’t judge me! You read about vampire sex!)

As discussed before, zombie romance is more romance. Sex never enters the equation. It’s about a relationship of souls (personalities), a coming together of two people.

But still zombies aren’t good enough! The rotting is either done away with completely or can be avoided with medication. The eating of people or brains is the same. So where is the problem? They are undead humans, as are vampires.

With rational thought, being capable of emotions, moral agency and free will, why are the undead any less suitable as mates? They can’t procreate and have different lifespans, and perhaps different nutritional needs, but so can human lovers. (Zombies, Vampires and Philosophy  Should Vampires be held Accountable for their Bloodthirsty Behaviour – John Draeger) Some undead choose to vegetarian and will not eat humans, just as some humans choice to not eat meat or meat byproducts.  (Z,V & P – The Blood connection between Vampires and Vegetarians by Wayne Yuen)

So, they might have a disease, parasite, genetic mutation or be cursed by magic. Why do we accept a Trill then (a humanoid that is capable of hosting an inner snakey-alien that shares its lives)? Or a Bajoran’s nose? They are different from humans physically too. (Can you tell I just rewatched Deep Space Nine?)

The lovely Kira Nerys from Star Trek: Deep Space Nine

Frankly, people stereotype zombies. And if you think its too far from cultural zombie lore, look at Day of the Dead. Bub could recognise death and exhibited signs of sorrow. Big Daddy in Land of the Dead looked after his zombie community. There was even a cute couple holding hands, strolling about the apocalyptic scene, who were zombies.

 

As far back as forever there are stories of love between humans and the unknown, gods , fairies, monsters etc. This evolution of the zombie is no lesser than those stories. At a time, werewolves might never have appealed or vampires not been sexy (but Alexander Skarsgard is always sexy!), it is time and literary evolution and imagination that allow us to perceive injustice to these creatures.

 

Don’t prejudice your daughter’s next boyfriend just because he’s a zombie. He’ll treat her right!

 

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Recommended Reading
Non-Fiction
American Zombie Gothic by Kyle William Bishop
Zombies, Vampires and Philosophy, edited by Richard Greene and K Silem Mohammad
Fiction
Including love with zombies, zombie like beings or humans infected with zombie plague
Dearly Departed by Lia Habel
Warm Bodies by Issaac Marion
Generation Dead (series) by Daniel Waters
The Forest of Hands and Teeth (series) by Carrie Ryan
Die for Me by Amy Plum
I Kissed a Zombie and I liked by by Adam Selzer
Pride and Prejudice and Zombies (series) by Seth Graeme-Smith and Steve Hockensmith and Jane Austen (first book is Jane Austen’s with Seth’s additions, the prequel and sequel are by Steve)

ZomRom is misunderstood

There’s a lot of misunderstanding about zombie romance, particularly with the upcoming movie of the brilliant Warm Bodies. People read the synopsis and think they know all the depths of a zombie romance. But there are elements of classic zombie texts in zombie romance too, and compared to vampires, zombies make way better boyfriends!

 

Brilliant artist Matt Busch recreated some of the best movie posters into zombie posters with his Hollywood is Dead series. Click on the picture for his website.

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Vampires are undead too

If anyone mentions necrophilia with zombies only, remind them that vampires are corpses too. Sex is not an essential part of a romance story, and if you really want to think about it, how do vampires get aroused when they have no blood to … stiffen. These zombie romances are young adult books, not erotica (although I’m sure there is some out there!). They are about first kisses and dates to the movies, not horny and sex-obsessed (which most vampires seem to be – True Blood, I kissed a zombie and I liked it.)

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Zombies – the gentle lover

Vampires are dominating creatures in any text, they usually have super human strength, mind reading or controlling abilities and other powers that put them at a distinct advantage over humans. Vampires take advantage of this in many texts, or even use human-like manipulation and psychological warfare, constantly reminding the humans how useless they are, how small, how insignificant, how defenceless against the vampires.

Zombies in romance texts are much more gentle. They are not forceful, never mash their mouths against a woman against her will. They are seen are weak one on one, only powerful in hordes, and it could be this that makes them softer. They are content with basic touches, of hands, hair, hugs.

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Humans, best served warm

There’s a few ways that zombie romances get around the whole cannibalism thing. Some zombies just exist as corpses, not requiring any food. Some use medication to control their urges. Some just have self-control. Authors do come up with interesting ways to control their zombies.  There are ways of controlling vampires too, but as they are dominating creatures, they usually find ways around the control. In most texts, without food, the vampire will perish or enter a type of coma. Even in zombie-as-enemy texts, zombies don’t need food. They crave to consume, but can last a long time without food.

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Conciousness is essential

Zombie romance is not the only texts that include zombies with self awareness. Many zombie-as-enemy texts have self-conciousness as well, even in Romero’s work, so it doesn’t go against the lore of the zombie (if there is really any lore, Romero is the definition). Self-awareness is important in their journey. While vampires can choose to become vampires, zombies are always the victim.

 

Undead/paranormal and romance

What makes undead/paranormal romance different from other romances? What is it about the relationship that has changed?

When asking on Twitter, one of my friends wrote “@GraecoMuse:  The fear and incomprehension of a normal romance is emphasized through personification among other things.  I always think that they aren’t that different except in portrayal and emphasis.”

And on Facebook (yes, social media bunny that I am), another friend (who works in a bookstore and is one of the local paranormal romance experts) said “A lot of the conflict in paranormal romance is the same as in normal romance, but it is conveyed in different ways or to greater extremes.”

  • Cross species or living/dead relationships are looked down upon – same as cross class relationships, particularly in older days. There’s usually some sort of difference, but what makes the paranormal ones special is the amount of difference. It usually involves them being more violent, dangerous or out of control some or all of the time.
  • “We can’t be together!” – that old defence! Whether family, your loved one lives off blood/brains or whatever, there’s got to be a reason you just can’t be together! As my pararom expert buddy says, this “is common in most romance, whether they’re potentially divided by ambition, class, distance, species, law.”
  • Can’t have children – barrenness is pretty typical in romance or romance/other-genres, so it’s nothing special for the undead or paranormal. Or the opposite:
  • ‘Our child will be different!’ – as in a half breed, or full breed paranormal. Again, this isn’t so wrong or different in normal romance.
  • Legal issues – undead don’t have legal rights or can’t legally be married. This is a side issue. Not every romance ends in a marriage, and marriage doesn’t mean something to everyone. Some books specifically deal with discrimination of the undead/paranormal, if they are known in society, and it has been an issue throughout human social/legal history as well.
  • ‘One will always be more powerful than the other’. In quite a few para-roms, the partner of the one who is paranormal must be equal in some way and it doesn’t mean has to be paranormal as well.
  • “You just ate my X!” – well, isn’t that the same as ‘You just killed my X’? People fall in love in romance novels despite killings, and sometimes come together for it.
  • While violence is in a lot of novels, whether it’s about wartime love or love with pirates or Vikings (Viking Vampires are the best…) , it’s a lot more dominant in paranormal romance novels.
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One of the main differences about paranormal relationships is that it usually relies on a change of life state – to becoming vampire, were or zomb to keep up with their partner.  As my pararom expert friend says “a conversion in species is more irrevocable than changing religion and noobs can be dangerous until they control their new abilities.” Let’s say Klingons. Klingon men need a Klingon or otherwise hardy woman for their ferocious…nighttime activities *cough*. But one cannot physically change to become Klingon for their loved one. One can take on Klingon traditions, but it’s not the same.

With vampires, weres, zombies, you CAN become just like them. Give up life itself, or becoming furry occasionally. That is a big ask. There are people who give up (or take up) religion or traditions for their loved ones, but this is a totally different ask. Particularly in the case of vampires, vamps are usually immortal. You can either live, grow old and die under their love while they continue on, or you can live on forever together. Of those with human lovers, vamps (where the lore allows) could watch generations of their descendants live, grow old, and die.

Not all paranormals live forever or require their loved ones to convert. Some magical beings that are still essentially human don’t have as severe a problem as those undead/immortal beings.

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Have a thought on the above or disagree entirely? Go for it in the comments!

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With brain love to Allison, Jenni and Nicole Murphy for helping me think about this more. Now go buy Nicole’s excellent books where Allison works and check out Jenni’s blog, because they are all brilliant!

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Articles which made me think about this and are on the topic paranormal romance, but not really comparing paranormal to straight romance novels:

* Deadly Love : Images of Dating Violence in the ”Twilight Saga”

by Victoria E. Collins and Dianne C. Carmody

Affilia 2011 26: 382

* A Boyfriend to Die For: Edward Cullen as Compensated Psychopath in Stephanie Meyer’s Twilight

By Debra Merskin

Journal of Communication Inquiry 35(2) 157–178

* Beauty and the beast : The romanticization of abuse in popular culture

by Laura Béres

European Journal of Cultural Studies 1999 2: 191

* ‘The urge towards love is an urge towards (un)death’: Romance, masochistic desire and postfeminism in the Twilight novels

by Anthea Taylor

International Journal of Cultural Studies 15(1) 31–46