Friday, May 11, 2012

Your Vampires Suck Sucks

I am going to use this opportunity to complain about a trope I don’t like. Probably not the best or most creative use of my time, but here we go.

This trope is Your Vampires Suck.

Your Vampires Suck doesn’t only apply to vampires, but it mostly applies to them because they’re the supernatural creature that gets this treatment the most. Really, all the setup the trope needs is a supernatural creature and pop-culture based around that creature, and vampires are likely an easy target because they’ve managed to inundate Urban Fantasy for the past several years.

Your Vampires Suck means that somewhere within the story the old legends on some supernatural creature are debunked, usually by calling any part of the folklore “silly superstition”. Most of the time this is meant to be clever or humorous and prove that the vampire, or supernatural creature, is more powerful than expected. They can go over running water, walk in the daylight, eat garlic, whatever with ease, and may flaunt it in the face of the puny humans carrying their ancient tome of magic lore.  But the problem is this is often not clever or funny. It may have been funny or clever the first couple times, but it probably wasn’t. Vampire folklore has evolved from digging up blue, bloated corpses that looked like they had eaten their shrouds to hideous shapeshifting monsters with hairy palms that eat babies to sexy nightclub owners that like to nibble on patron’s necks. “Vampire” is a vague term, despite the fact that some purists always argue for Bram Stoker’s Dracula (which sways from extremely well-researched to barely researched, so no one is quite sure what he was smoking when he wrote it). Also, I would argue, that taking time out to talk about how your vampires are different from every other vampire detracts from the story.

Let me explain. There’s a series by the BBC called Sherlock in which Sherlock Holmes and John Watson go around solving crimes in modern day London. It’s a great series and I highly recommend it, but here’s the thing – there’s never any mention of the original Sir Arthur Conan Doyle stories. If they did, they would slow the story down. It would be horrible at every turn to have to be reminded that this happened in a fictional book before, that this is so much like the story!

Now, I know Sherlock Holmes isn’t vampires. But, if it isn’t okay to mention how something is always the same as the stories, why is it okay to mention how it’s always different? It’s distracting to have to rely on other sources to prove how original your version of vampires is because, honestly, not that many people have actually read Dracula. Unlike Sherlock Holmes, you have no idea what people know about vampire lore, and no reason to assume that all someone knows about vampires is from “movie vampires”. They may have only read Anne Rice, or Stephanie Meyer, or Bram Stoker, or devour vampire literature and have had this Vampires You Suck lecture a thousand times, or they may be getting their doctorate on European Folklore and have studied vampires from the very beginnings of the legends into the modern day. Folklore is many and varied. The same beings often don’t have the same powers from story to story, and yet make no assumptions on the listener’s knowledge. As the narrative of folklore shifts, there’s no attempt to reconcile the older stuff; There’s no reason to. It’s folklore. There’s so much lore floating around, especially on the internet these days, that there’s no excuse to assume. The assumption may make sense from a certain perspective, but sometimes removing something that makes sense actually makes the story better, as in the Sherlock example. There’s no way that nobody in London would comment on a Sherlock Holmes and a John Watson running around solving crimes in modern London, but nobody does, and this ends up as nothing more than a musing in the back of the audience’s head rather than something that grates them in story every time it’s mentioned.

Your Vampires Suck sucks because it makes too many assumptions of the reader thinks about vampires (or any supernatural creature) and can pull someone too seasoned or unseasoned out of the story. Even if the trash talk is actually clever, the cost just isn’t worth it.

This has been a part of the TVTropes Blog Hop. Please go read all of the other entries. This one is very uncreative and the other ones are much better.