Surprise Me, I Dare You

Vampires. They’re a pop culture phenomenon that I admit I’ve been sucked into following. While they’re not exactly a new sect of paranormal popularity (Dracula, Nasferatu, Anne Rice, etc.) the last five years have really seen a spike (haha) in mass-marketing. Having read and viewed my fair share of vampire stories, I feel that I can be semi-reliable when I say that there’s really only one archetype for every vampire story of the last score of years. To wit: I will compare and contrast four sources: Buffy the Vampire Slayer, True Blood (The Southern Vampire Mystery Series), The Vampire Diaries (tv show), and Twilight (don’t mock. I can feel you mocking from here and I don’t like it.).

Main Character: A young female ingenue who can hold her own. Typically a social outcast, fiercely protective of her loved ones.

  • Buffy Summers: Perhaps a little to badass to be an ingenue, per se, but young and female. She is the Slayer after all, charged with killing all things demonic.
  • Sookie Stackhouse: Her telepathy got her pegged as an outsider at an early age and made it difficult to pay attention in school.
  • Elena Gilbert: The death of her parents put her out of the realm of popularity as she became a little reclusive and less of a partier.
  • Bella Swan: Classic outcast story. Awkward, clumsy, people-don’t-understand-me-and-I-just-moved-across-the-country-to-a-backwoods-town.

Backwater Town: Small town, USA. Population: less than 20,000

  • Sunnydale, CA: There’s one main street in the small town. It’s on top of the Hellmouth. Not exactly prime real estate (unless, of course, you’re a demon).
  • Bon Temps, LA: Hicksville, USA. They do all of their shopping at the Wal-Mart two towns over. Everyone is racist and/or homophobic. Supernatural baddies galore.
  • Mystic Falls, VA: Small town America. One local hangout for all the kids which doubles as a bar for the adults. Classy. Also, it was a vampire haven in the late 19th century and descendants of the founding families include werewolves and vampires.
  • Forks, WA: It’s rainy there. All the time. And a quintessential small town, I guess. You know, the perfect place for all of those sparkly vamps and shape-shifting pups to hang out and are sure to never, ever be discovered.

The Boyfriend: Vampire. The proverbial “nice guy.” Tends to brood. A lot. Generally has dark, ridiculous looking hair. Has a terrible accent.

  • Angel (Angelus): Dark hair? Check. Broods a lot? Check. Tortured soul? Check, but only because those damn gypsies cursed him into carrying around a soul and feeling regret for his actions unless he manages to find his “one moment of happiness.” Terrible Accent: appears only in flashbacks to his days in native Ireland.
  • Bill Compton: Dark hair? Check. Broods a lot? Check. Tortured soul? Does the phrase, “It is pure NIHILISM!” mean anything to you? (If not, read: check.) Terrible Accent: Anytime he’s from the south. Which is always.
  • Stefan Salvatore: Dark hair? Check. Broods a lot? Check. Tortured soul? Check. I mean, he did turn into a vamp by drinking his fathers blood. Then forced his brother to turn, against his will. Oh, and that was after he stole his big brother’s girlfriend. Don’t worry, now he’s all remorseful and only feeds on bunnies and other cute woodland creatures. Stefan escaped the terrible accent, but he is dating a girl who is identical to his vampire ex-girlfriend, so we’ll call it a wash.
  • Edward Cullen: Dark hair? Check. Broods a lot? Well, he may be the youngest vamp on the list, but he broods so well you’d think he invented it. Tortured soul? Well, he’d tell you he doesn’t have a soul, but it doesn’t stop him from acting like he’s the most woebegone creature on the face of the Earth. Also feeds on innocent woodland creatures. Terrible Accent: only when on-screen.

The Bad Boy: Obviously the more swoon-worthy of the leading men. Sometimes comes with a nice accent. Oh, and has the ability to emote. And a sense of humor. Also not one to shy away from the booze.

  • Spike (William the Bloody): Once a merry prankster in cahoots with Angel, they were never really best buds. Spike has too much panache to be all doom and gloom like Angel. Plus, sexy British accent. And he’ll spontaneously burst into song. (Most notably in Once More, With Feeling. But he burst into The Ramones’ “I Wanna Be Sedated” a few episodes before that.)
  • Eric Northman: Oh, you know. The ushe. 1000 year old Viking vampire. Body of a norse god: tall, blond, ripped. Menacing, with a touch of devil-may-care evil, and a ton of joie d’ vivre. Plus, he has the slightest Scandanavian accent and will speak Swedish with his progeny (with whom he has an adorable relationship).
  • Damon Salvatore: Oh, lord the “eye thing”. Brilliant, expressive, blue eyes.  Ripped body. Funny. Loves to dance. Evil, but delightfully so. He would never allow any harm to come to the ones he loves. But that doesn’t stop him from emotionally (and, on occasion, physically) torturing Stefan (his baby bro) for all eternity for the whole making-him-turn-against-his-will-after-having-stolen-his-girlfriend-and-always-being-the-favorite-son thing.
  • Jacob Black: The only non-vampire that falls into the bad-boy category. Not really that much of a bad-boy either, excepting the fact that he rides a motorcycle and… ditches school? Not really one for the random acts of evil, this one.

The Werewolf: Pretty straight-forward. A man who, every full moon, must turn into a, say it with me, wolf.

  • Oz: One of the Scoobies (Buffy’s merry band of Slayer-helpers). The boyfriend of Buffy’s best friend (you know, before Willow turned gay). Locks himself up during the full moon to protect the innocents.
  • Alcide Hervaux: The most prominent of the werewolves in Bon Temps. Decent guy when he’s not pining over his shape-shifting bitch of an ex. Not to be confused with Sam Merlotte, Bon Temps’ resident shape-shifter.
  • Tyler Lockwood: Well, his uncle was one, too, before the big, bad Damon ripped the still-beating heart out of his chest. He’s triggered the werewolf curse, but has yet to actually transform.
  • Jacob Black: While technically a shape-shifter limited to one form, he thinks he’s a werewolf, so we’ll count it.

The Big Bad: You know, the antagonist. Tries to kill the protagonist. Not to be confused with the Bad Boys. Though they can be quite antagonistic on their own.

  • The Master/ The Mayor / Adam / Glory / The Trio / The First: All different. One big bad per season was the general rule. You can lump Spike and his wayward ex Drusilla in there, too, but I’d rather you wouldn’t. All are generally set on world domination and/or destruction. They thrive on the general evil-ness that the Hellmouth emits and all want to see the Slayer (aka Buffy) dead.
  • Rene Lenier (aka Drew Marshall) / Maryann / Russell Edgington: Again with the one big bad per season deal.  The evil gets arguably evil-er as the series progresses.
  • Katherine / Elijah / Klaus: The Vampire Diaries is usually very generous with quick reveals concerning intricate plot twists, but fans are left hanging as to what, exactly, these three big-wigs want with the Doppleganger Elena. (Elena is Katherine’s doppleganger and distant descendent who seems to hold the key to breaking the curse that keeps the vampires from walking around in the sun.)
  • James, Victoria, and Laurent / The Volturi: More menacing than evil, in retrospect. There’s a lot of threatening to eff things up, but not that many things (or people) actually get effed up.

See? Formulaic. Each category is conveniently filled. I can tell you each story if you fill in the blanks: [Main Character] suffers a personal loss or trial such as the death of her parents or a relocation. Then, when she least expects it, she meets [the Boyfriend]. Then, [Main Character] befriends / rekindles friendship with [Werewolf]. Just as [Main Character] and [Boyfriend] start to settle into a comfortable rythym in their relationship, [Main Character] meets [Bad Boy]. While at first she shies away from him, she is drawn to his ability to emote and not be a perpetual debbie-downer. [Boyfriend] gets more depressed and broodier than usual. [The Big Bad] attempts to kill/maim [Main Character]. [Bad Boy] helps to save [Main Character] but gallantly steps back as [Boyfriend] gets the credit.

Lather, Rinse, Repeat as necessary, occasionally throwing a wrench in the [Main Character]/[Boyfriend] plot and spicing up the interaction between [Main Character] and [Bad Boy]. Listen to the fans squee sickeningly.

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