The Problem of Evil in Spooky Stories

Allow me to repeat the opening paragraphs of this article from one Leo Grin over at Big Hollywood (http://bighollywood.breitbart.com/lgrin/2010/10/09/modern-hollywoods-love-affair-with-satanism/) :

“It is the eve of St. George’s Day. Do you not know that tonight, when the clock strikes midnight, all the evil things in the world will have full sway?”

Those are words spoken by a superstitious old woman to Jonathan Harker in Bram Stoker’s novel Dracula (1897). Fearing for the outsider’s safety, she gives him a crucifix. “I did not know what to do,” Harker writes, “for, as an English Churchman, I have been taught to regard such things as in some measure idolatrous, and yet it seemed so ungracious to refuse an old lady meaning so well and in such a state of mind.”

But later, overcome with terror in the bowels of the Count’s Transylvanian castle, he has reason to be most grateful:

Bless that good, good woman who hung the crucifix round my neck! For it is a comfort and a strength to me whenever I touch it. It is odd that a thing which I have been taught to regard with disfavour and as idolatrous should in a time of loneliness and trouble be of help. Is it that there is something in the essence of the thing itself, or that it is a medium, a tangible help, in conveying memories of sympathy and comfort? Some time, if it may be, I must examine this matter and try to make up my mind about it. In the meantime I must find out all I can about Count Dracula. . . .

Over a century later, Stephenie Meyer managed to write four bestselling books concerning vampires (later translated into a quartet of popular movies) without the word crucifix appearing even a single time in her hundreds of thousands of words.

My comment: Fan that I am BUFFY and ANGEL and of much of Joss Whedon’s work, I have always been disappointed and offended at how weak, silly, inept or arbitrary the supernatural Powers of Light have been portrayed in the seasons I watched.  (A confession: I gave up watching BUFFY when Spike became Buffy’s BFF. At that point, I realized that Mr. Whedon was just interested in jerking my chain, and no longer interested in telling me a witty, gripping and entertaining tale of vampire-slaying derring-do.)

I seem to recall that when Cordelia went to Heaven, she was simply bored by it, and wanted out. On the other hand, when Buffy returned from Heaven, she could not revert to normal life, because Earth seemed like Hell compared to that enervating bliss. So here in the same show are two opposing views of the Power that opposes Hell, demons and vampirism, and in the first case, it is as bad as anything Achilles in Hades laments, and in the second, it is no better than what the Buddha seeks.

The Council of Watchers in BUFFY (which I am secretly convinced is one and the same as the Council of Watchers in HIGHLANDER, and is probably run by Methos and Vandal Savage together) is the nominal good guys, but they are portrayed as ruthless, bureaucratic, and unworthy of anyone’s trust or loyalty.

In a similar vein, the angels or angelic hosts as portrayed in other spooky stories, such as the SANDMAN by Neil Gaiman, or the Alan Moore run on SWAMP THING, or even the angel in SPAWN (who is, of all absurd things, a bounty-hunter) are portrayed as being about as admirable as the Watchers of BUFFY: namely, either indifferent or harmful to human affairs, and not someone you can turn to for help, and certainly someone you would never turn to in prayer.

(I might also mention Phillip Pullman’s ‘His Dark Materials’ trilogy has the same type of evil or unappealing portrayal of Heaven, but that was deliberately written as an anti-Narnia and ant-Christian diatribe, so any similarities between these stories and his are not to their credit. Whether deliberately or not, these other tales reflect the same world-view, not unchristian, but antichristian.)

In none of the stories I just mentioned, even stories where the image of Our Lord in His suffering nailed to a cross is what drives back vampires, is any mentioned made of the Christ. Is is always an Old Testament sort of God ruling Heaven, or no one at all is in charge.

So why in Heaven’s name is Heaven always so bland, unappealing, or evil in these spooky stories?

I can see the logic of the artistic decisions behind these choices, honestly, I can. If I were writing these series, I would have (had only I been gifted enough to do it) done the same and for the same reason.

It is the same question that George Orwell criticized in his review of THAT HIDEOUS STRENGTH by CS Lewis. In the Manchester Evening News, 16 August 1945, Orwell writes that the evil scientists in the NICE [the National Institute of Coordinated Experiments, who are the Black Hats of the yarn] are actually evil magicians of a modern, materialist bent, in communion with ‘evil spirits.’ Orwell comments:

Mr. Lewis appears to believe in the existence of such spirits, and of benevolent ones as well. He is entitled to his beliefs, but they weaken his story, not only because they offend the average reader’s sense of probability but because in effect they decide the issue in advance. [emphasis mine] When one is told that God and the Devil are in conflict one always knows which side is going to win. The whole drama of the struggle against evil lies in the fact that one does not have supernatural aid.

I myself happen to think Mr. Orwell’s criticism is utter rubbish.

Is Milton’s PARADISE LOST lacking in drama because one know which side is going to win? What about the story of the Passion of the Christ in any of its versions, including the child’s fairytale version as told in THE LION, THE WITCH, AND THE WARDROBE? Or what about any and every version of Dracula? While there may be modern versions where vampires are driven away by leather-clad vampiresses in shiny coats shooting explosive bullets while doing wire-fu backflips, in the older versions of the tale, it was the crucifix that drove off the evil spirits. Merely having God Almighty on your side does not remove the element of doubt nor the element of drama.

Firearms instead of Crucifix?

Having said that, I must hasten to admit that Mr. Orwell has a point.

If the drama centers around the struggle between the White Hats and the Black Hats, and our team has God Almighty or a magical lion as its quarterback, the game is a done deal, and there is no drama.

In each of the examples above, including THAT HIDEOUS STRENGTH, however, the drama centers around not whether the White Hats will smear the Black Hats, but around whether the main character (Adam & Eve in the case of Milton, Mark & Jane Studdock in the case of Lewis) will end up on the winning team or will be pulled by temptation over to the Dark Side and over the edge of the abyss. (And I do not mean any wimpy, namby-pampy pseudo-Taoist Dark Side produced by a galactic energy field of mitochloridians: I mean the wretched and magnificent Prince of the Fallen Angels.)

Well, you may have also wondered why in a Disney movie the main character lives alone with her foolish and incompetent Dad, or her shy and retiring Mom, with the other parent always dead. The reason is that if Mom were around or Dad were sane, there would be no discussion of Jasmine marrying Jaffar, and certainly none of this sneaking around in disguise in the market place hobnobbing with street rats. Likewise, Professor Caractacus Potts is not inventing Chitty-chitty-bang-bang and taking his two adorable moppets up in a rickety and wheezy and untested flying motor car without helmets nor parachutes if Mom is around. (n.b: At least in the movie version. In the book, to his credit, the Crack Potts inventor did not know the car could fly until the car told him so).

Likewise here: if the Virgin Mary, Queen of Angels is on stage as a character, not in disguise, the vampires and the devils do not stand much of a chance. If Mom is around, she does not want you getting in the silly mess that makes up the main action.

This has nothing to do with religion: In addition to keeping Mom from solving the mess, you also, dear writer, have to make up a reason why the hero does not simply call the police, the FBI, the NSA, the NASA, the Bureau of Unexplained Phenomena, James Randi, or the special Vatican SWAT Team of rocket-Deacons and Opus Dei Assassins to take out the nest of vampires hiding in the haunted museum. If you want your hero to solve the problem on his lonesome, he is not allowed to call Heaven or to call the cops.

There are many ways to write a vampire story, and, at this point, I think nearly all of them have been done, and, if you will pardon the expression, done to death.

Joss Whedon’s original idea, which was brilliant, was merely to take the innocent blond cheerleader who takes a shortcut through the graveyard and is usually the first victim of the vampire, and make her the heroine and the scourge and nemesis of vampires. It is a feminist sort of idea, based on a desire not to portray women as victims. Or something.

This makes the story something of an action comedy with horror overtones, but it is not really a horror story any longer, at least in that respect, because now the rabbit is able to hunt and kill the wolf.

Firepower beats the Powers of Darkness!

You can do a vampire story as a thriller or a detective story, where the drama is finding the monster, and the actual flourishing of the crucifix and spraying the vamps with a supersoaker filled with Holy Water is as routine as shooting a mad dog.

But if you want to have your hero, or, better yet, your svelte and leather-clad yet Navy SEAL-trained Ninja heroine, to go a dozen rounds with the bad guy in Chapter Five and have the Boss Battle in Chapter Twenty, fighting fist to fist, knife to knife and kusarigama to batarang in a knock-down drag-out donnybrook atop a burning skyscraper beneath the tornado formed by two colliding supersonic hurricanes during a volcano-triggering super-earthquake caused by the two halves of the shattered moon descending from their orbit toward the Earth, well, then by Jove, you cannot have your plucky yet sensuous heroine merely hold up a folding yardstick in the shape of a cross and make Lord Dracula the Impaler scream and vanish.

Having the moon break a second time from tidal stress of passing Roche’s Limit to form a second crack, visible from the Earth, at right angles to the first, so that the whole lunar surface looks like a Celtic cross, with the miraculously reignited molten core of the moon filling the two trenches to form a burning cross in the heavens, now that would be Way Cool.

(Yes, I know the core of the Moon has no lava core, but I am on a roll, here. What?! You will give me vampires but you won’t give me a volcanic Moon?)

But just having the plucky yet sensuous leather-clad super-Nun hold her katana and wakizashi at right angles—well, heck, Sally Fields the Flying Nun could manage to do that with a spoon and a salad fork without even donning any leather microskirt or taking any badass ninjette wire-fu training at the Cursed Springs of Jusenkyo at all, or at least very little, so what would be the point?

What? A Nun with no Uzi? What is This?

Ergo Orwell is right if you writing an actioner. Either the crucifix has to not work, or your main character has to be disqualified from using one, or you have to ignore the modern conventions of story-telling (which include, for better or worse, the trope that girls who look like lingerie models are better hand-to-hand fighters than guys built like linebackers).

This is not some hidden and sinister conspiracy against Christianity. Well, actually, it is, but there is also a story-teller’s logic behind it.

In a story in a Christian background, the crucifix and Holy Water drives back or destroys vampires, and Protestants and Jews are merely out of luck, unless the Protestant is Solomon Kane, Puritan Adventurer, or the Jew is Rabbi Leow of Prague or Ben Grimm of the Fantastic Four, in which case, the vamps are just spit outta luck, because not only does Solomon Kane have that strange jackal-headed stave granted him by an African wizard, the Rabbi has a golem and it’s clobberin’ time.

Solomon Kane, Puritan Adventurer

Why, in these modern vampire stories, does the Crucifix not drive back the vampire? There are two answers, one of which I have already mentioned: you have to have the Crucifix be weak, or powered by faith, or something the heroine (because she is a vampire herself) cannot use, or else the fight scene is over before the skyscraper even catches on fire.

The other answer is that the modern audience is mildly (or deeply) offended by the suggestion that one Church might have super-powers that the others lack.

Look, it is merely a historical fact that since Maryland was colonized by Catholics, who brought nine barrels of Holy Water over the Atlantic from Rome, Seven Stars and Seven Stone and One White Tree (that can still be seen in Annapolis) whereas Massachusetts Bay was colonized by Puritans, who smashed out all the stained glass widows aboard the Mayflower, and removed the Holy Rood Screen, so that Massachusetts was therefore helpless before the devils summoned up by desperate Red Indian Medicine Men: to this day, Massachusetts has had a much more severe Vampire infestation problem than Maryland, not to mention the Deep Ones at Innsmouth, Witches in Salem, the Horror at Dunwich and the Joker incarcerated at Arkham.

By a very ancient and significant law, to this day the flagstaff of any flag in Maryland flying the state banner is required to bear aloft the sign of the Bottony Cross. Coincidence? There were no reports of vampire attacks in the state of Maryland this year, except near the Beltway, of course, but that is under the jurisdiction of the Great God Dagon, Lord of the Dark Waters and the Lower Chesapeake, who is sacred to the creatures and Congressmen dwelling in the District of Columbia.

But these historical facts, all of which I made up just now, annoy the modern and politically correct members of the vampire-loving pro-undead audience. Maybe in the old days, a Heathen or a Cathar could have read a vampire story without blenching at the sight of a cross, but these days to put a cross in a vampire tale would be interpreted as a studied insult against the Non-Christian segment of the book-buying public. The modern audience, or many of them, want all religions to be equal, and to be portrayed in movies and books as having the an equal degree power against the Bad Things. (And if the story is written by an Englishman, the story also has to star Margaret Thatcher as a demon-queen.)

So if, in real life, the Seal of Solomon is the only thing that drives back the Jinn, the Crucifix the only thing that drives back the Vampire, only an Elder Star-Stone wards off Nyarlathotep, and the Egyptian Ankh in the hand of Isis the only thing that destroys the Mummy, then to portray real life would be really inconvenient and some religions would simply feel left out.

Just to be safe, one would have to carry around one of those stupid COEXIST bumper stickers, supposing in case you don’t know which one drives off the Chupacabra.

Er.. Which One Stops a Frankenstein Monster?

I don’t know which sign you hold up to ward off the Archangel Michael, but I assume an upside-down star with an inscribed goat head would do the trick. I mean, if all religious emblems are as equal as they are for D&D clerics, it should work, right?

But the better solution, story-telling-wise, if you are writing an action story, is merely to have any symbol of any kind drive off Vampires, and have all these symbols more or less interchangeable, while making sure that only the Egyptian Book of Thoth can unmake the Mummy and Raise the Dead.

(Note to self: If I am ever plunged by accident into the World as Described by Movies, I am for sure switching to the only religion that is consistently and blatantly portrayed as being able to carry out its promises of an afterlife in spades, and that is Egyptian Paganism. All the other religions, even Voodoo, seems not always to function as designed in universes run by movie-logic. Well, either Ra-worship or Leprechauns.)

On the other hand, if you are writing a story where you are trying to spook your reader out, set the tale in a universe where only Crucifixes drive back vampires, and, just to make it extra spooky, have the creaking old Irish peasant grammy be dead right about everything. NOTHING freaks people out quicker than the idea that the Catholics might be, you know, right about anything. (You cannot have them right about everything, of course, because (a) then it is not fiction and (b) rioting Leftwing zealots will burn down the theater in the name of Toleration, which is their name for the Great God Dagon, see above.)

Now, at this point you may be thinking, dear reader, “Wow. Kate Beckensdale playing a sexy vampiress sure looks sexually attractive to me when she wears shiny skintight black leather. But I also like Milla Jovovich playing a sexy vampiress in skintight red leather.” In which case you are the perfect audience for modern vampire stories, and you occupy the same sub-basement-level of popular culture as I do.

Vampiress is the Good Guy. Bad Guy is Big Pharma. Typical Modern flick.

But just in case you, dear reader, are a female, a male homosexual, or someone above the mental age of fifteen, you might be thinking, “Is there really a sinister and hidden conspiracy against Christianity?” Or you may be thinking, “If I am a female or a homosexual, or above fifteen years of mental age, why in the hell am I reading anything written in John C. Wright’s journal! He is the Epitome of Evil!”

The answer to both questions is, of course, no, no, of course not! And by “of course not” of course I mean “yes.” That is, I am not the Epitome of Evil, but merely the Assistant or Vice Epitome of Evil manning the ‘Evil’ desk until the Epitome comes back from vacation. Also, hate to break it to you, there is a sinister conspiracy against Christianity, but it is not hidden in any way, shape or form, but is brazen, open, and shameless.

One element in the conspiracy is to abolish the sexual distinctions which nature, or nature’s God (take your pick) established in human nature. In the name of equality, the masculine impulse to protect women and children is allegedly unmasked as a sinister impulse for male dominion and oppression: so busty cheerleaders and/or busty bad girls in tight Goth leather are now the vampire slayers and monster hunters, and boys are the comedy relief sidekicks, or even more annoying than we are in real life.

Myself, being an unrepentant Viva-la-Différance type of fellow, I do not see the immediate advantage to the cause of female equality once movies where ‘eye-candy’ actresses portray scream queens and fainting yet chaste damsels in distress menaced by Mummies and Swamp Things have been swept aside and replaced with movies where ‘eye-candy’ actresses portray Amazonian babes frolicking and fornicating with vampires and werewolves. The guys in the audience are still going to such flicks to oogle the chicks who have va-voom, and the only difference being the woman are no longer presented as needing and wanting no help in life, so the guy can no doubt go back to his flat where he lives with his unwed live-in girlfriend and not do the dishes or the yardwork.

In the same vein, I am not sure what message it send to thirteen-year-olds to normalize or romanticize necrophilia and bestiality and sexual congress with Unclean Spirits of the Dark (well, maybe the movie vampire boys are not that bad. Angel and Edward are clearly Unclean Spirits of the Dim).

But I do notice that the same people who complain that Barbie dolls damage girls by imposing an unrealistic body image on them seem not to complain about the realism of the body image of bodies able to hurl long-fanged vampire-demons through a plate glass window, twenty yards across the street, and into a conveniently untended gasoline tanker truck filled with nitro. Not to mention able to run in high heels.

You see, the conspiracy does not really care about whether women are treated as non-person sex dolls or not—or, if it does care, the conspiracy wants to degrade women as much as possible, particularly the most sacred aspect of womanhood, which is maternity, gets degraded–what the conspiracy wants to do at the moment is uproot the masculine sense of chivalry, because this contains two things Hell cannot tolerate at all: a sense of humility and a sense of sacredness. Chivalrous men think femininity is sacred, even if the individual woman is neither fair nor a damsel. Once you take chivalry out of the picture, all that is left is the pagan worship of power.

And power-worship is what is behind portraying leggy blond nymphs as world-saving monster hunters: the idea is to make the women seem more powerful than previous tales portrayed them. But it is not feminine power, it is masculine: brute strength, force, directness, domination, aggressiveness, competitiveness, all those qualities routinely condemned in men and routinely bred out of modern boys.

Power-worship is what is behind making the vampires be the boyfriend instead of the enemy: the modern idea of a vampire is not a thin and bald cadaver with pointed ears and rabbit teeth, but a buff dude with brooding eyes who looks good with his shirt off, has killer abs, a mocking smile, and can throw a normal man out the plate glass window window, twenty yards across the street, and into a conveniently untended gasoline tanker truck filled with nitro.

Old Fashioned Vampire

New Fangled Vampire. I know which one I want MY daughter to date!

Another and more important element in the conspiracy is to make sure that Crucifixes do not actually drive back vampires in stories, or (what amounts to the same thing) any symbol of any faith, including the toy plastic lightsaber of the Jedi religion (now recognized as legal in Great Britain!), will be equally effective in evil spirit repellification department.

To add insult to injury, you writers who are cooperating with the Conspiracy, should make sure to make it so that the symbol does not draw on any real power or real authority outside of the personal self-affirming self-hood of the badass leather-skirt clad heroine, so that is it is HER faith, and not the power of Gaea or Isis (or whatever) who is abolishing the bad spirits.

That makes it nicely All About You, and nothing bigger or better than You need ever come on stage: none of the things honest nature-worshipers actually worship, the sublime things showing the frightening grandeur of nature and the littleness of man; Wind and Welkin, Oak and Ash and Sacred Fire, or the Never-Setting Stars that shine on the Land of the Young beyond the Western Seas where no man goes.

No, have your heroine use her pagan ‘faith symbol’ of some safely nondescript New Age description, without venturing too near into the waters of real paganism, which are deeper than you know, and have strange under-currents sometimes leading pagans to other and richer and truer faiths. It would truly be awkward in a story if your heroine was blasting vampires with her mistletoe of Freyr or somesuch, and Brunhilde the Valkyrie showed up to kill her and make her an Einheinjahr-ess or Shield-maiden in the Last Battle, so that she could die at the side of Odin, father of gods and men, when Fenrir eats him alive, and tramples the golden roof of Valhalla to ruin: those old fashioned notions of dying while defending the ashes of your fathers and the altars of your gods do not have much emotional sway over the “You’ve Come A Long Way, Baby!” generation.

A survey of the modern vampire literature and movies is dispiriting. We have not returned to the level of the pagans: we should be so lucky. We are far below it. Even the idol worshipers were not so idolatrous as to worship themselves.

About John C Wright

John C. Wright is a practicing philosopher, a retired attorney, newspaperman, and newspaper editor, and a published author of science fiction. Once a Houyhnhnm, he was expelled from the august ranks of purely rational beings when he fell in love; but retains an honorary title.
This entry was posted in Drollery, Musings. Bookmark the permalink.

184 Responses to The Problem of Evil in Spooky Stories

  1. Will le Fey says:

    Or maybe some sticky rice and a chicken egg.

    I don’t know what you’re getting so worked up about; vampires aren’t real.

    • deiseach says:

      Will, you really haven’t got the point of this whole comment thread, have you?

      Next thing, you’ll be trying to tell me the púca doesn’t exist, and just before Oíche Shamhna and all!

      :-)

    • The people who read and write about vampires are real. People learn their moral lessons from their stories, and that goes double for the young. If impressionable young girls are digesting large numbers of stories about women lusting after nymphomaniacal necrotic oral sadists, how are such stories likely to affect them?

      The purpose of the post, and of the comments following, is not to argue that vampires really exist, but to hash out the moral implications of vampire stories, and of how vampire stories are told, and to discuss what such stories say about the culture in which they’re embedded.

  2. Dan Berger says:

    The “all religions are equally equal to Christianity” anti-vampire-symbol bit you complain of above, was neatly parodied in the 1999 version of “The Mummy.”

    Remember when Beni meets Imhotep, and pulls out religious amulets one after another? I thought it was pretty darned funny, myself.

    • Mary says:

      Carpe Jugulum has it, too.

      • CPE Gaebler says:

        Carpe Jugulum also had the vampires decorate their castles with easily-twitched-aside curtains, ornaments that could easily be broken into religious symbols, and were probably situated right next to the water-blessing facility located among the garlic patches. Gotta keep things sportsmanlike.

        • Mary says:

          That was the old Count.

          The new Count set about eliminating all such weaknesses. The net effect of which was to make everyone so angry that they revived the old Count and got rid of the new Count for good.

          Playing fair had its advantages — it limited how much they hated you.

  3. Juliet says:

    “Er.. Which One Stops a Frankenstein Monster?”

    A heart. What that creature wanted was compassion–at least at first. Therefore someone who really adhered to Christ’s message (and met him early enough in the plot)would have foiled the whole thing early on. He was teachable. He was simply hideous to behold and unnatural in design.

    But Dr. Frankenstein was not a religious man, was he?

  4. Excellent. Brought a tear to me eye. I wish you’d do more on pop culture (perhaps even a book of essays?) than that “dry” philosophy stuff. ;)

    That is, I am not the Epitome of Evil, but merely the Assistant or Vice Epitome of Evil manning the ‘Evil’ desk until the Epitome comes back from vacation.

    I’m having a very nice vacation thank you. No plans to come back any time soon.

    You can do a vampire story as a thriller or a detective story, where the drama is finding the monster, and the actual flourishing of the crucifix and spraying the vamps with a supersoaker filled with Holy Water is as routine as shooting a mad dog.

    Hey, that’s almost exactly how Supernatural does it. You been watching the show? If not, send me your address, I’ll loan you my seasons for awhile.

    In a similar vein, the angels or angelic hosts as portrayed in other spooky stories, such as the SANDMAN by Neil Gaiman, or the Alan Moore run on SWAMP THING, or even the angel in SPAWN (who is a bounty-hunter) are portrayed as being about as admirable as the Watchers of BUFFY: namely, either indifferent or harmful to human affairs, and not someone you can turn to for help, and certainly someone you would never turn to in prayer.

    That is somewhat how Supernatural did it but… there were some twists and interesting moments. As for God… I think after you see it, you realize that He gave the characters exactly what they wanted. But – as is so often the case – the characters didn’t really realize what they were asking, until they got it.

    There are many ways to write a vampire story, and, at this point, I think nearly all of them have been done, and, if you will pardon the expression, done to death.

    Ok – ok, that almost sounds like a personal challenge. What do I have to pay to get you to glance over my “book” sometime. (hey, DmL can recommend/condemn it)

    (hah, just kidding, I’m practicing my shilling skills, which you’ve taught me all good writers need to master XD)

    • DmL says:

      Nate’s book is definitely of a kind with this sort of over-the-top-and-yet-superbly-crafted sort of genre-smushing.

    • deiseach says:

      “Hey, that’s almost exactly how Supernatural does it.”

      Speaking of which, I was laughing in the early seasons when they make their own holy water by dropping a rosary beads into a water tank while reciting the (actually accurate) text from the “Rituale Romanum”.

      On the other hand, I am full to bursting of triumphal Roman Catholic geekitude when the actors are exorcising demons by spouting off the Latin; on how many tv shows do you get to hear an invocation of the Immaculate Conception?

      On the third hand, during the climactic scene in (was it Season Four?) when Azazel is invoking Lucifer by slaughtering a convent full of nuns on the altar of a church while possessing the body of a priest, I was *extremely* distracted due to said Catholic geekitude by the way the actor was attired; I was all “No! You don’t wear a fascia with an alb and besides, as the celebrant, he should be vested in a chasuble! I don’t care if he *is* too busy sacrificing a nun on the altar in order to raise the devil!”

      :-)

      I ignore all the angel and devil and Heaven and Hell and God stuff of the later seasons because that’s (1) almost perfectly illustrating exactly what Mr. Wright is getting at here (2) I treat it as an AU version of reality and nothing to do with theology as we know it, Jim.

      • deiseach says:

        Correction to above: instead of alb, I meant of course surplice.

        Better go out and roll in the nettles as a mortification to make up for that elementary error ;-)

        • Maureen says:

          I admit that evil magicians are usually a bit more careful about the rubrics than your average 1970′s seminarian, but evil does tend to rot your standards. Once you’re sacrificing nuns, what price liturgical abuse of vestments? I mean, it might have even been intentional.

          • deiseach says:

            I’m sorry, Maureen and Nate, but I must respectfully disagree.

            If you’re a demon who’s gone to all the trouble of possessing a priest in order to slaughter a convent full of nuns which is conveniently located over one of the gates to Hell, then I expect a certain amount of attention to detail in your work, and that includes vesting properly for Mass.

            Getting it wrong just means that you look less like a fear-inducing minion of the Dread Prince of Darkness and Duke of Hell in your own right, and more like a candidate for Christopher Johnson’s “Bad Vestments” blog.

            Or as though you’re chaplain to the Roman Catholic Woman Priests movement, and really – you don’t want that, now do you? Even monsters of iniquity ascended from the pit have some standards.

            :-)

            • Hmmm…. I’m torn. Usually when wanting to induce fear, one of the best methods is to be almost completely right but be off just a tiny bit. Maybe a funny limp, small deformity, etc.

              Unless the evil creature is visibly hideous, what is there to put people ill at ease?

              Of course, I think it could be an interesting character study too. Remember, SPN has body inhabiting demons – ones that typically don’t care about their appearance (I can think of maybe… 2 exceptions). What do they care? It’s not them that’s getting insulted in the priestly fashion mags, it’s the “meat suit” they’re wearing.

              On the other hand, think of the vision of Future!Lucifer we saw. Notice how he was so vain he insisted on dressing up his vessel. I’m actually going to take your idea and run with it sometime, using clothes as a clue to the personality nature of possessing entities. XD

              • deiseach says:

                Well, not to get too meta about it all, it just struck me as so off when he walked out on the altar dressed like that (seriously, did none of the nuns think “Hang on, what’s up with Father Whosis?” Big clue something was off right there!) and it distracted me.

                Of course, that could all be intentional as you say; after all, why should a demon care one way or another about properly vesting? :-)

                But it just would have been nice to see it done properly. On the other hand, they had the altar set up ad orientem, so maybe – just maybe – this was a deliberate error because they don’t mind actors pretending to be Lutheran pastors, but they’re not going to simulate the sacrament of Holy Orders when it comes to a Catholic priest!

                ;-)

      • I won’t go into TOO much talk since you can visit my blog if you really want to see me geek out over SPN…

        On the other hand, I am full to bursting of triumphal Roman Catholic geekitude when the actors are exorcising demons by spouting off the Latin; on how many tv shows do you get to hear an invocation of the Immaculate Conception?

        Yes, the show does its homework often. Which makes the times it doesn’t all the more distracting & disappointing.

        On the third hand, during the climactic scene in (was it Season Four?) when Azazel is invoking Lucifer by slaughtering a convent full of nuns on the altar of a church while possessing the body of a priest, I was *extremely* distracted due to said Catholic geekitude by the way the actor was attired; I was all “No! You don’t wear a fascia with an alb and besides, as the celebrant, he should be vested in a chasuble! I don’t care if he *is* too busy sacrificing a nun on the altar in order to raise the devil!”

        Yep, end of season 4 “Lucifer Rising” (geez I’m such a geek). However, you can think of it as a meta wink. The demon is deliberately messing up the priest’s attire just to add as much blasphemy as possible. (of course, they film in Canada so I don’t know how much Catholic research they get to do)

        I ignore all the angel and devil and Heaven and Hell and God stuff of the later seasons because that’s (1) almost perfectly illustrating exactly what Mr. Wright is getting at here (2) I treat it as an AU version of reality and nothing to do with theology as we know it, Jim.

        Well of course it’s a little AU, but I think it gets closer than almost anything else out there (even some Christian works). Of course, I do believe the show was working under a jewish motif more than a catholic one and you can see that in several instances. But again, if you want to talk more about it, I always welcome discussion on my blog. :)

        • deiseach says:

          I have a sneaking suspicion one at least of the writers must be Lutheran; in earlier episodes, when they were showing an obviously liturgical church, I was going “Hmm – is this Anglican/Episcopalian? Don’t think so – what other Protestant liturgists are out there? Ah, must be Lutheran!”

          Then they really gave it away in the Season Five episode with the Lutheran rose and everything for the church infiltrated by the Whore of Babylon :-)

          Re: Canadian shooting, I think that must explain the bits’n'pieces of Catholic stuff used as set dressing, e.g. a statue of the Blessed Virgin in one episode and a painting of the Sacred Heart (the traditional oleograph Sacred Heart as displayed in many’s the Irish country kitchen of yesteryear) in another.

          And I have to love a show where rosary beads, holy water, and a honkin’ great knife are what every well-equipped monster slayer hauls around in the boot of his car ;-)

          • deiseach, truly you are a man of refined and excellent tastes.

            Except you forgot the shotgun. Rosary, holy water, knives, shotgun.

            “Hunter Town” (not it’s real name obviously) was one of my favorite episodes from last season. I wish they had done more with it. (also, I like the fact that while the Angels might be debatable… you notice that every religious person, priest, etc are some of the best and most noble souls on the show?)

            This reminds me, I need to catch last Friday’s episode. Season 6 is… not as bad as I feared. Oh, and have you seen…

            • deiseach says:

              I purr with pleasure at your approbation, pausing only to murmur bashfully that I’m not a man of any description, whether or not my tastes are refined :-)

              (My own fault for using a nom-de-internet that’s not in English, I admit, so don’t feel obliged to be embarrassed or anything.)

              Alas, I have not yet seen anything from Season Six, because I’m living on the opposite side of the Atlantic Ocean and our television stations here in Ireland haven’t got it yet. I could do the bittorrenting thing *coughbtjunkiecough* (the same way I caught up with all five seasons in one fell swoop) but… that’s horrendously illegal regarding copyright and the likes, and I certainly wouldn’t be doing anything horrendously illegal regarding copyright, now would I?

              ;-)

              • I purr with pleasure at your approbation, pausing only to murmur bashfully that I’m not a man of any description, whether or not my tastes are refined :-)

                (My own fault for using a nom-de-internet that’s not in English, I admit, so don’t feel obliged to be embarrassed or anything.)

                Consider “man” to be synonymous with “person” then (as a sort of tradition of English).

                Alas, I have not yet seen anything from Season Six, because I’m living on the opposite side of the Atlantic Ocean and our television stations here in Ireland haven’t got it yet. I could do the bittorrenting thing *coughbtjunkiecough* (the same way I caught up with all five seasons in one fell swoop) but… that’s horrendously illegal regarding copyright and the likes, and I certainly wouldn’t be doing anything horrendously illegal regarding copyright, now would I?

                Why didn’t you say so earlier?

                Ask and ye shall receive.
                The site proper should also have episodes up, but their archive of shows is more temporary.

    • Never pay someone to read your manuscript: remember the Wright’s Rule O’ Writing includes the rule that money always flows towards the writer, never away from the writer!

      If your idea is good, keep plugging away. If you actually have a new take on an old theme, and if the execution is good, and your book gets widespread distribution, well, the world will be your oyster, and the Hugo Committee will be lining up to give you your reward.

  5. Dan Guy says:

    In the Whedonverse, we never actually saw The Powers That Be. Skip claimed to work for them, and helped Cordelia ascend to “Heaven”, where she was bored, but then it turned out that Skip was working for the Big Bad and that Cordelia was just being taken off the board — it seemed likely that “Heaven” was just an empty dimension, not Heaven.

    • Whedon has stated that this attribute of the PTBs is deliberate. The lack of any sort of good God or Christian spiritual backbone is not just a constraint of drama. Whedon himself is an ardent atheist. Their non-appearance is a deliberate statement by him that he doesn’t believe such deities exist. His heroes are essentially supernatural humanists.

  6. lotdw says:

    You’ll enjoy this then: http://whedonesque.com/comments/13271

    “In a similar vein, the angels or angelic hosts as portrayed in other spooky stories, such as the SANDMAN by Neil Gaiman, or the Alan Moore run on SWAMP THING, or even the angel in SPAWN (who is a bounty-hunter) are portrayed as being about as admirable as the Watchers of BUFFY: namely, either indifferent or harmful to human affairs, and not someone you can turn to for help, and certainly someone you would never turn to in prayer.”

    You probably know this already – but the reason why the Sandman angels are similar to the one in Spawn is that both were created by Neil Gaiman. Gaiman had a long-running suit against Todd McFarlane, creator of Spawn, because McFarlane wanted to use Gaiman’s creations without paying him royalties, so after the first few issues which Gaiman wrote for Spawn, McFarlane used other angels identical to Angela in all but name. The court case was hilarious because the judge actually used Spawn’s cosmology and storyline to come to a decision.

  7. Robert Mitchell Jr. says:

    DC is kind of fun about that. If you read more of the titles, the theme seems to be that you see in the Supernatural what you expect to find. This is actually addressed in the Books Of Magic miniseries, where the Phantom Stranger is showing our hero the pre-history of Earth. It is addressed indirectly with the different depictions of the Angels in charge of Hell in Hellblazer, DC proper, and Stanley and his Monster. It might not have been deliberate, but the idea that the Supernatural cannot be correctly perceived by the Natural, leading to the Elephant problem, is a fun one.

  8. Al Harron says:

    Fascinating read! I’d been pondering Leo’s piece over at my own blog, and I think you have something of a point in regards to the “calling the cops” analogy. At the same time, though, I’d rather they came up with better ways to do that. For instance, you can’t call the cops if you have no contact with them like a telephone: likewise, anyone without a direct line to God/the Pope/The Vatican could have the same amount of trouble.

    I think the lack of a Christian presence in Buffy is one of the things that irritates me about the show. I simply can’t understand how you can have crucifixes and holy water damage vampires, yet make a point of separating the show from Christianity. It’s kind of baffling in general. I would even have preferred it if all the Christian elements were expunged: at least then you could argue it’s a “scientific” or “secular” vampire. Just don’t do it in half-measures: have the Christian elements in entirety, or don’t have any of them.

  9. I don’t know why I always end up defending Twilight when it’s so awful, but here goes…

    One thing Meyer does have to her credit is that she takes the modern urban fantasy tropes, done to death as you say, and twists them 180 degrees again so you once more have the chivalrous man protecting the woman, rather than an action babe whuppin’ the bad vamps and bedding the “good” vamps. Yes, the bishie emo vampire is still there, and the books don’t have enough depth in the moral philosophy department, but at least Meyer makes the bold attempt to inject some chastity and chivalry into the vampire romance genre. For some who avidly read in this genre, Twilight may be the closest thing to healthy romance they’ve ever seen.

    As for the lack of crucifixes…well, let’s not forget Ms. Meyer is Mormon. Mormons are not real big on crucifixes. Actually if crucifixes could repel a vampire in a Mormon writer’s vampire novel, I think that would surprise me.

    Also, on another note, I admit I’m fond of the girl-whups-villain trope myself (there really is something kind of cool about the victim becoming the champion), even though it’s getting to the point of being over-played, and I agree it’s clearly exploitative when combined with the tight leather and high heels. If we remove the cheesecake and stop portraying males as inadequate losers, do you think there’s a way to do this right?

    • And P.S., if you find the COEXIST bumper sticker too awkward, you could try driving back vampires with the more convenient “multifaith talisman” used in the Leave It to Chance comics, where they also have multi-tipped bullets good for several kinds of monsters, bottle rockets loaded with holy water, and blessed halogen lamps capable of repelling zombies.

    • deiseach says:

      Deej, what is it with you and sparkly vampires? :-)

      The Mormonism I don’t mind. But the sparkles! *That’s* really offensive.

      :-)

      • I know, I know, I’ll try to stop. But I really think Meyer was trying to subvert this raunchy genre, and in a mostly good way. I don’t think she was simply going with the flow.

        • deiseach says:

          I have no objections to vampires who wish to repent. I particularly enjoyed George R.R. Martin’s “Fevre Dream”, even when that’s one where the vampires are a sub-species, or parallel evolution, or something and thus natural predators on humans, not supernatural entities created when humans made demonic pacts to become undead.

          I think I liked it partly because in that universe, humans *couldn’t* become vampires; it was impossible, even though the Bad Guy strung his human minion along with promises of “I’ll turn you one of these days”.

          So I don’t mind Ms. Meyer writing of penitent vampires, or even vampires who are natural not demonic in origin, but I do mind – and this is what gets me about the modern take on vampires – the notion that vampirism in itself is a desirable state. I much preferred Joss Whedon’s notion that why would you *want* to be a vampire? and Angel mourning his lost soul,even if the later seasons of both “Buffy” and “Angel” went wonky.

          To sum up, my requirements of vampire fiction are few and simple: vampires who regret their bad bargain – good; evil vampires getting staked by fearless vampire hunters – even better; paranormal romance where the height of achievement will be the hero/heroine becoming a vampire – bad. Paranormal chick-lit masquerading as urban fantasy where the heroine is a Wiccan half-lycanthrope whose day-job is as a private detective or cop specialising in hate crimes romancing an Aztec vampire who are being menaced by a lich who’s one of the Conquistadors from vampire boyfriend’s time (thus giving our heroine and her squeeze an excuse to trot out pages of how the Spaniards were Very, Very Bad and the Native culture was Perfectly Wonderful in All Respects and the villainous lich just proves once again that when Christianity is Organised Religion, It’s Just Evil, unlike our heroine’s lady vicar friend who’s got a girlfriend and is all about social action and God Is Love) – where’s my pitchfork and flaming torch? I’ve got an auto-da-fé to attend!

          Note to above: no objections to villainous liches, either. A good bad lich is a great villain. Even an evil Conquistador lich isn’t, de facto, a no-no. But no pop-psychology comparative religion, please. I had enough of that with a Mercedes Lackey novel where one of the characters (a Mexican-American Catholic cop) comes to the stunning realisation that, just as he feels the sacred nature of receiving the Eucharist with devotion, so too did the Aztecs when performing human sacrifices and aren’t both ceremonies comparable, what with the ‘victim dying for the sake of the good of the community’ thing?

          • Your hierarchy of vampire fiction I find reasonable and acceptable on all counts. I capitulate to your greater knowledge of urban fantasy, which I usually avoid touching with a pitchfork.

            But mind you, I’m only trying to give Meyer credit for what it appears to me after looking into her work that she was trying to accomplish. It’s evident the books are concerned with chastity, but you are right that turning the girl into a blood-sucking monster is a damn lousy metaphor for marital bliss, just as bloodlust is an ugly metaphor for sexual desire, or at least for any healthy kind of sexual desire, which is why I believe–as I said at my own blog–that any attempt at chaste vampire romance is doomed from the get-go. The setup is all wrong. There’s a limit to what you can do with a creature who rises from the grave to prey on the living, simply because of what it is. Yes, you can make this creature angsty, as you say. You can even make him an angsty beefcake. But wholesome romance? Nah.

            …Unless maybe he somehow turns human again at the end, instead of turning the girl into a vampire. That might work. (Man, I can always find exceptions.)

            At any rate, angsty-emo-I-want-to-protect-you vs. “empowered”-eye-candy-licentious-detective-babe is a battle between the merely bad and the openly perverse, and I want to make sure the merely bad doesn’t get unjustifiably lumped.

            The one thing I kept thinking while reading Twilight was that I wanted Bella to date any of the boys hanging around her, any of them at all, except that creep Edward. Daddy should have gotten that shotgun blessed and blown the angsty emo sparkle-boy off the porch. Good grief, the girl had her own flopped harem, and which one did she choose? The dead guy.

            • deiseach says:

              Oh, I hasten to disavow any great knowledge of urban fantasy; it’s just that being a genre junkie (no, I’m not ashamed anymore, can you tell?) that I grabbed the first instances of this when they came out and got burned.

              Also, all the Mercedes Lackey books belonged to my youngest brother, I never of myself purchased any of her work :-)

              I’ve never really forgiven Laurell Hamilton for turning Anita Blake (a promising character in an interesting universe) into a raging Mary-Sue. I like emo bishie vampires as much as the next girl, but they should either be penitent or staked, not the boyfriend of the lead vampire slayer (amongst her harem of weres and other supernatural entities).

              No, it’s Peter Cushing as Professor van Helsing who’s my exemplar and lodestar!

            • deiseach says:

              “…Unless maybe he somehow turns human again at the end, instead of turning the girl into a vampire. That might work. (Man, I can always find exceptions.)”

              “Forever Knight”, the tv series (and before that, straight-to-video movie), explored that element with Nicholas Knight being the vampire-cop seeking to attain his lost humanity again. I’m not sufficiently caught up with the more recent ones such as “True Blood” and “Being Human” to comment on them (except to say cue much eye-rolling on my part when I read a synopsis of “Being Human” and – quelle surprise! – the baddies include fundamentalist Christians who want to destroy the undead, including our heroes. Oh, my, there’s something unexpected!)

              Er. I know *way* too much about vampire fiction, don’t I? A realisation that hit me like a ton of bricks when I was reading Kim Newman’s “Anno Dracula” and going “Hey, that’s the vampire from Count von Steinbock’s short story “Eric”!”

              Followed by “Crap. How do I even *know* about Count von Steinbock? Sounding a bit obsessive there, girl!”

              :-)

              • deiseach says:

                Argh. Brain dead. The man’s name is Count Eric Stenbock, and the story is not called “Eric” but is called “The True Story of a Vampire”. And the vampire in that is Count Vardalek.

                But still, I recognised the reference when I saw it, and yeah – too much vampire fiction :-)

                • I like emo bishie vampires as much as the next girl, but they should either be penitent or staked, not the boyfriend of the lead vampire slayer (amongst her harem of weres and other supernatural entities).

                  I also like emo bishies as much as the next girl…which is weird…but I somehow lose interest when you add “vampire.” For some reason I just can’t get excited about vampires. I didn’t even like Dracula much.

                  Well, okay, I dig Lovecraft’s “Shunned House.” That’s a fine vampire story. And of course Matheson’s I Am Legend. Maybe I’m the sort of guy who thinks vampires should be defeated with SCIENCE!!

                  No, I think the reason I don’t like emo bishie vampires the way I like other emo bishies is because I just don’t like love stories involving the undead. I guess I’m just weird that way; romance with aliens or mythological beings I’m cool with, especially if it’s IMPOSSIBLE FORBIDDEN ROMANCE (I cry every time I read “The Little Mermaid”), but romance with corpses is just getting plain icky.

                  • Maureen says:

                    It’s hard to get excited over life-affirming reproductive activity or even desire, with something that’s both the antithesis of life and the antithesis of reproduction, and every reason not. I mean, it’s like trying to get the stereotypical mindless zombie to pass the Turing test. Why and how would it want to? How could it even begin to pass the test, even if it did want to?

                    Or even more accurately, it’s like an archaeologist falling in love with a dead skeleton and some fragments of DNA, or me falling in love with my cheeseburger. There’s no there there.

                    • It’s hard to get excited over life-affirming reproductive activity or even desire, with something that’s both the antithesis of life and the antithesis of reproduction, and every reason not.

                      Yeah, that pretty much sums it up, though my reaction was more of a visceral, “Dude, that guy’s dead.”

                      Waitaminnit, what’s wrong with falling in love with a cheeseburger?

                  • deiseach says:

                    You feel towards vampires the way I feel towards zombies, which is fine. And nobody loves the poor werewolves, though I think they too are being changed in characterisation recently.

                    Though it does amuse me that a manly man like you likes romance novels better than a girl-type person like me :-)

                    (I think that’s why you’re sympathetic to Stephanie Myers; you enjoy a good bodice-ripper while I roll my eyes and say “Urgh! Kissy stuff!”)

                    • I thought werewolves had always been sympathetic characters, at least since The Wolf Man, because they can’t control their transformations.

                      Yes, it’s true, I like the kissy stuff. I even read shoujo manga. And that probably is why I halfway defend Meyer.

                    • Wuh…wait a minute, I just realized what you wrote. Please don’t tell me somebody is writing zombie romance. I mean, at least the vampires aren’t actually rotting most of the time.

                    • deiseach says:

                      Zombie romance???!!!!

                      I certainly don’t think anyone is writing that, at least I *hope* no-one is writing that. Though with this latest craze about Jane Austen’s “Pride and Prejudice” and Zombies, you never know…

                      I’m getting the impression that werewolves are being beefed up, so to speak; that the original notion of Larry Talbot as a victim rather than someone who chose to be a werewolf is being discarded. Not like I’ve made an in-depth study or anything, but think of the werewolves in “An American Werewolf in London” and “Underworld” and so on, and particularly in modern horror fiction/urban fantasy; it seems to me that there is a tendency to treat them much the same way as vampires have been re-made. It’s less about being afflicted with a curse and more being either (1) a natural sub-species living alongside humans (and being persecuted by ignorant bigoted human prejudice who don’t appreciate creatures with a tendency to turn feral and rip out their throats once a month living amongst them) or (2) really cool supernatural powers that mean you’re an awesome killing machine – but not in a *bad* way, unless we’re talking about evil werewolves who are the villains of the piece.

                    • Mary says:

                      Werewolves have been getting sympathy since Marie de France’s Bisclavert.

                    • I just looked that up: Good little story. Thanks for the reference.

                      Some of the comments in this thread are inclining me to the opinion that it’s easy to be too dogmatic about how these stories should go. Some have pointed out that crucifixes driving off vampires was original to Stoker, and others have pointed out legends of vampires marrying and having children, and here we see a long history of sympathy for the werewolf.

                      Although I agree there’s a general trend toward greater luridness and immorality in fiction as well as an anti-Christian attitude, that doesn’t mean every individual instance of a vampire being immune to crucifixes is an example of anti-Christian propaganda. For example, I think Leo Grin’s comment on Twilight in the original Big Hollywood article is misplaced (there I go again!).

          • I thought Fevre Dream was excellent on all levels. It is the only vampire story that made me want to write one of my own. Usually I hate the whole genre of vampire stories because they come off as chic fantasy or just plain ridiculous. Martin made a solid, creepy story with the Mississippi as a great backdrop.

            • deiseach says:

              Seconded with great enthusiasm. It’s the novel that made me want to read more George R.R. Martin, so I dipped a toe into his “Song of Ice and Fire” and as rapidly jumped out again.

              Some love that series, and good luck to them, but (perhaps unfairly) I thought the beginning of it too derivative (or reminescent) of the film “Willow” for my taste, and too much redolent of Robert Jordan or another guy whose name I cannot call to mind this instant, drat it! Anyways, think long, interminable, meandering fantasy series set in quasi-mediaeval monarchies with characters that don’t really appeal to me ;-)

          • Mary says:

            “Mourning his lost soul” — this is one of the really annoying things. Why oh why do writers insist on treating souls like some detachable things with feathers? It’s not just in vampire stories. In the first Xanth book, Anthony gets it right — a manticore asked whether it had a soul, and the Good Magician Humphrey observed that the very ability to ask such a question proved that it had one — but then treated them like things you could lose without changing, or which could be torn into two — profoundly silly.

            If vampires do not have souls then they are, in the Chinese manner, diabolically possessed corpses. And they would lack the facilities to mourn their lost souls.

            • Maureen says:

              Weeeeeeell, technically… Christian theology does think human souls are detachable (though only at death), and that both soul and body are incomplete without each other. But alternately, it does seem to be true that an awful lot of everyday mind stuff originates and is carried out by the body, although obviously the soul is still driving the bus.

              However, since Aquinas has the souls of most things being a sort of substance or life force of the physical living thing (though only human souls can survive being detached through death or destruction of the physical form), one could reason that a dead, demonically pseudo-revived body might allow the brain to drive things around without a soul. But in that case, you’d expect Angel’s soulless brain and body (with the demon possessing his body suppressed) to have been a lot less clueful and a lot more interested in basic appetites, or all about logic and emotion without much real reason.

            • deiseach says:

              Ah, but that’s the point of being undead – not properly all the way dead, and not alive (though simulating it), but instead trapped in an in-between state where the demonic possession taints your soul. There seems to be some kind of wiggle room involved here where before the soul can completely disassociate from the body, the demon re-animates the corpse and so you have a dead body with a soul not in full control of it. Or something.

              Granted, if you’ve made a deal with the devil in the first place to gain vampiric powers, then you’re damned as is, but those who are victims of a vampire and succumb without making the same bargain are in a bad way.

          • Rade Hagedorn says:

            It has been awhile since I watched Buffy the Vampire Slayer, but I thought the entire point of Angel is that he HAS a soul and regrets what he has done when lacking a soul.

            In my unclear understanding of vampires in Whedonverse, they are human bodies who have died (and in doing so been rendered souless) and the souless corpse corrupted into a demonic entity. The demon is the animated souless corpse. In instances, such as Angel’s, where the human soul has returned, then you have a weird hybrid of a vampiric body with a human soul trying to control it.

  10. If vampires are driven back by crucifixes, what do the Chinese do? Or do the monsters very kindly observe geographical distinctions, so that vampires only exist in Europe? Were I a vampire of that sort, I would instantly move to Japan, where the incantations of Shinto priests (or whatever) wh=ould presumably be quite ineffective against me. I could swap places with one of the locals, who would no doubt be glad to go to a place where the locals stupidly try to drive him off with sticks held at an angle.

    • If I recall, Legend of the Seven Golden Vampires, a collaborative work between the Shaw Brothers and Hammer Studios, tried to solve that problem by having the vampires afraid of any and all religious objects. The B-Movie Catechism, which has the best B-movie reviews/Catholic essays on the Internet, pointed out that this made the vampires kind of lame. But on the other hand, the movie had lots of Kung fu.

      Come to think of it, that might be the beginnings of a counter-argument to Mr. Wright’s first point about the needs of story in an actioner. The vampires in Legend of the Seven etc. were afraid of religious stuff, but the movie had Kung fu. I also recall that Christian items and other randomly placed talismans are usually effective in Hellboy, but Hellboy always has an excuse to punch stuff.

    • Robert Mitchell Jr. says:

      How parochial of you. Asian vampires have it far worse. Throw some rice on the ground and they are compelled to count each grain, for one example……..

    • KokoroGnosis says:

      Shinto has traditionally dealt with its horrific monsters the same way it’s worshiped its benevolent beings. It builds them shrines. Sometimes this will even placate the horrible fiend and turn it to the side of good. (Re: Sugawara Michizane, formerly a Heian scholar, then an angry ghost, now the kami of education and learning.)

    • deiseach says:

      Red threads, Buddhist texts, and Shinto whupping with the fan by the Taoist high priest. Handy hint: if being pursued by a Chinese vampire, you can successfully hide from them by holding your breath and standing still, since they hunt by (apparently) sense of hearing and not sight :-)

      Can you tell I watched an awful lot of Hong Kong comedy-horror vampire films with Sammo Hung versus hopping vampires back in the late 80s?

    • deiseach says:

      Speaking of the cross-pollination of European and Asian vampires, Mr. Andreassen, mMay I recommend to your attention that classic of the 1970s cinematic genre represented by the co-production of Hammer Studios and Shaw Brothers Studio, “The Legend of the Seven Golden Vampires”?

      Handy plot synopsis from Wikipedia:

      “Professor Lawrence Van Helsing (Peter Cushing) gives a lecture in 1904 at a Chongqing (Chungking) university on Chinese vampire legend. He speaks of an unknown rural village that has been terrorized by vampires for many years. After the lecture, a student (David Chiang) informs him that the legend is true and that he knows the location of the village. He then asks Professor Van Helsing if he would be willing to travel to the village and destroy the vampire menace. Van Helsing agrees and embarks with his son, the student and his six kung-fu trained siblings on a dangerous journey funded by a wealthy widow (Julie Ege). The seven golden vampires, however, are acting under the guidance of Count Dracula himself, masquerading as a mad taoist monk.”

      I paid good money to see this in the cinema back in the day. My only excuse is that I was a fifteen year old :-)

      • lotdw says:

        The movie is still kind of awesome, though. I watched it just a few months ago. My only quibble is that Julie Ege does not compare well to most of the other Hammer vixens.

    • “If vampires are driven back by crucifixes, what do the Chinese do?”

      Convert. Bishops are standing by.

      Oh, don’t give me that look. It is not ‘cultural imperialism’–if the Middle Kingdom is willing to switch from Confucius to Marx, they should be likewise as willing to convert to the real thing, seeking the real paradise, of which Marxism is the mere secular shadow, a false promise of an earthly paradise. Marx is best understood as a religious heretic and not as an economist. The switch from false religion to true religion is relatively painless, and one enjoys the added benefit of lowering the vampire population, by which I mean the Reds. You think the Party Members do not suck the blood of the peasants?

    • L. Jagi Lamplighter Wright says:

      The Chinese, who have been at times very superstitious and certainly have stories of vampires, do not have any stories of something that quickly drives them back.

      In the old days, they raised door jams so that you had to step over a high raise to get from room to room because they thought that some hungry ghosts could not go up.

    • lotdw says:

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jiang_Shi

      They have independent origins, of course. And they jump!

    • DmL says:

      I’m sure aspiring ninjas would be able to work out some sort of running water, wooden stake, garlic, and sunlight schtick.

  11. Doc Rampage says:

    As always, your analysis of popular culture is both brilliant and juvenile. Also, as always, my favorite parts are the juvenile parts. Kate Beckinsale is the second hawtest female butt-kicking actress of all time.

    The vampire mythology presented in “Dracula” is pretty much from whole cloth. It is not at all the way that vampires were understood in folklore. Since the efficacy of crucifixes and holy water were inventions of Bram Stoker rather than parts of folklore, there is much less reason to expect other authors to follow suite.

    For a lot of modern vampire stories, there is good reason not to follow Stoker’s lead in this. In “Dracula” the plot centered around spiritual warfare: good and evil, temptation and redemption. Dracula’s powers came from a pact with the Devil (a pact that he entered into in order to save his nation from invaders) and so Christian symbols are significant.

    By contrast in a lot of modern stories, vampires are simply blood-sucking supervillains who wear goth outfits instead of brightly-colored spandex. They have little in common with Stoker’s vampires other than the name and the diet. It would not make sense in a story like this to make them afraid of crucifixes.

  12. Bob the Ape says:

    Nitpicking: Kate Beckinsales was not a vampiress in Van Helsing: she was the last member of a family dedicated to destroying Dracula.

  13. As I read Lewis’ trilogy just recently, I completely agree that Lewis did the right thing story-wise. The drama was centered on the conflicted couple, not on what side of the larger battle would win. If that had been the conflict center, it would have failed, but that is not how he handled it. Even Ransom, by the third book, was a Galt-like character, the incorruptible whose character was not a source of conflict but more as a pillar. The third book marked a shift of conflict to the couple, the ultimate “sides” by that point were drawn in stone.

    I also agree with the last part of your analysis, and am surprised you did not bring up the scene from the third Matrix movie again that epitomizes (if I understand you correctly) this modern feature. Namely, that there is nothing “higher” (whether outside of one’s self, or a principle, a cause, a belief that encompasses more than arbitrary affirmation of Nietzschian will – which is not even a belief) but just an equally baseless self affirmation that we are to distinguish because that guy is mean and this one isn’t.

    Admittedly I had never thought about this phenomena before because frankly such stories just bore me and I move on. But it is just such phenomena that caused me to be so disappointed in the Matrix series. In the first movie there was this (or so I thought) affirmation of living in the real world and not settling for anything less, to break out of the hallucination and not compromise with an imposed substitute. I thought its theme was the value of living in the real world. As we all know, no such luck. It was about a character that was predestined to fail, there was no escape, and he continued to fight… just because, because he chose to and that is it. Durr…?

    As to a conspiracy. Maybe. But I think that is giving too much credit. To be a writer (whether of book or screen) is one thing; to be a moralist and a thinker is another. Especially nowadays. I think most of these writers just pick up, by some social osmosis, whatever trends or prevailing ideas are out there and unconsciously apply them to their work with no analysis whatsoever. I don’t think any of them would even think of asking such questions as you bring up. They take their milieu as the metaphysically given. Whatever is now is the answer. Because it is now, by that very fact, it is the truth. Contrary views are not now, they are false. Yesterday is wrong, forever upward, because it is now and not yesterday.

    Granted there are thinkers that are writers and they could be the conspiracy. But the general writer (the Meyers, the Rices) is merely a lemming with no further scope beyond the answers as generally accepted at this time.

    • “As to a conspiracy. Maybe. But I think that is giving too much credit. To be a writer (whether of book or screen) is one thing; to be a moralist and a thinker is another. Especially nowadays. I think most of these writers just pick up, by some social osmosis, whatever trends or prevailing ideas are out there and unconsciously apply them to their work with no analysis whatsoever”

      Oh, I do not mean the human writers are members of the conspiracy. The conspiracy is a mind-set, a world-view, a voluntary consensus of like-minded people, including Hugh Hefner, the Arch-Devil Asmodeus, Planned Parenthood, Prince Moloch, George Soros, Prince Mammon, The National Organization of Women, the Demon-Queen Lilith, the Democrat Party, the Great God Dagon, and so on. They do not actually meet in one room and set policy, and I am not sure if they know or are even aware of each other: they just all happen to be walking the same broad and easy path, paved with Good Intentions, to the place the Utopians call “Our Glorious Tomorrow” and the Elves call “Tears of the Tithed” and Dwarfs call “Nastrondr” and Men call “Hell.”

  14. deiseach says:

    Look, it is merely a historical fact that since Maryland was colonized by Catholics, who brought nine barrels of Holy Water over the Atlantic from Rome, Seven Stars and Seven Stone and One White Tree (that can still be seen in Annapolis) whereas Massachusetts Bay was colonized by Puritans, who smashed out all the stained glass widows aboard the Mayflower, and removed the Holy Rood Screen, so that Massachusetts was therefore helpless before the devils summoned up by desperate Red Indian Medicine Men: to this day, Massachusetts has had a much more severe Vampire infestation problem than Maryland, not to mention the Deep Ones at Innsmouth, Witches in Salem, the Horror at Dunwich and the Joker incarcerated at Arkham.”

    You know, that’s the first truly satisfying explanation I’ve seen as to why all these horror writers come out of New England (even our own John Connolly, a Dub born and bred, writing as a fake-Yank in his Charlie Parker series of detective novels set in Maine, has his hero battling supernatural criminals and not just common-or-garden murderers and drug smugglers).

    • L. Jagi Lamplighter Wright says:

      LOL

    • bfwebster says:

      Actually, I always thought it [horror writers coming out of New England] had more to do with this:

      “West of Arkham the hills rise wild, and there are valleys with deep woods that no axe has ever cut. There are dark narrow glens where the trees slope fantastically, and where thin brooklets trickle without ever having caught the glint of sunlight. On the gentle slopes there are farms, ancient and rocky, with squat, moss-coated cottages brooding eternally over old New England secrets in the lee of great ledges; but these are all vacant now, the wide chimneys crumbling and the shingled sides bulging perilously beneath low gambrel roofs.” (H. P. Lovecraft, “The Colour Out of Space”, 1929)

      Yeah, _that_ makes me want to move to New England.

      • deiseach says:

        Ah, but *why* are the dark forests and hills so demon-haunted? See our host’s explanation: the demons evoked by the desperate medicine men have free rein because the colonists stripped themselves of the protection afforded by the sacraments and sacramentals of Holy Mother Church and the Communion of Saints :-)

        Lovecraft’s “The Picture in the House”. Possibly nearly the greatest ending in any short story.

        Would have been the greatest ending, if he’d only lost the very last line and left the penultimate one as the end:

        “The open book lay flat between us, with the picture staring repulsively upward. As the old man whispered the words “more the same” a tiny splattering impact was heard, and something showed on the yellowed paper of the upturned volume. I thought of the rain and of a leaky roof, but rain is not red. On the butcher’s shop of the Anzique cannibals a small red spattering glistened picturesquely, lending vividness to the horror of the engraving. The old man saw it, and stopped whispering even before my expression of horror made it necessary; saw it and glanced quickly toward the floor of the room he had left an hour before. I followed his glance, and beheld just above us on the loose plaster of the ancient ceiling a large irregular spot of wet crimson which seemed to spread even as I viewed it. I did not shriek or move, but merely shut my eyes. A moment later came the titanic thunderbolt of thunderbolts; blasting that accursed house of unutterable secrets and bringing the oblivion which alone saved my mind.”

        Beautifully quiet and simple (save for that blasting thunderbolt which, to my mind, spoils the whole effect, though I realise he had to account for what saved his narrator; still, he should have either dropped it or moved it to the beginning), and gloriously blood-chilling in effect and mood.

        • Maureen says:

          Deiseach, you should read Nathaniel Hawthorne. He’s a lot more about the demon-haunted forest than Lovecraft is. (And come to think of it, his daughter’s the one who converted and founded a Catholic order of sisters. Not really mentioned in our lit books.)

          • deiseach says:

            Have done, Maureen, and for someone who’s on the surface much cheerfuller than H.P., Nathaniel’s work can be positively *drenched* in despair.

            Take his story “Young Goodman Brown” where nobody is what he or she seems and all the respectable pillars of society are hypocrites stealing out to cavort with the devil in the night-time.

            • JBalconi says:

              Actually, that was the devil’s trick on Brown: The illusion that everyone, even his beloved, were in thrall to the devil. He lacked the Charity to disbelieve it, and thus he was miserable and nasty to everyone for the rest of his life.

              • deiseach says:

                Yes, I agree that it’s a deceit of the Devil, but Hawthorne has a lot going on in that story. On the surface, Brown is a respectable young married man who is a valuable member of his community. But beneath that, he is tempted by the stories of diabolism and witchcraft to the point of succumbing to the impulse to go out to the woods and evoke the devil himself.

                And he is all too willing to believe that his neighbours and even his wife (whom, on the face of it, he loves and believes to be one of the few truly virtuous people in the town) are like himself and under the cloak of respectability are making deals with the devil and are just as much hypocrites.

                So is it all down to his desire to see the worst in his neighbours? Or are they really all as bad as he is? It’s an ambiguous story; you can see it as being Brown’s delusions and that the entire town really *isn’t* creeping out to worship Satan, or you can see it as Brown realising the massive hypocrisy of his society.

                And I think Hawthorne’s view of the Puritan past is something along the lines of massive repression engendering massive hypocrisy and secret sin.

  15. kmai says:

    I think if you want to have the heroine plausibly date or be friends with the vampire (maybe not the mook vampires that are killed dime a dozen, but the main character ones), you cannot have the vampire be repelled by crucifixes. The vampire is then irredeemable/a monster. He isn’t “troubled but cute” anymore. I think that is a driving reason for the change in imagery. Evil isn’t evil. Evil is misunderstood, a different culture that we need to assimilate, evil just needs a membership to the American Red Cross.

  16. Actually, Bl. John Henry Newman says something in one of his sermons which confirms the Cordelia/Buffy experience of Heaven: Heaven would be intolerable to the individual who is not predisposed to its joys, such that they would become bored. But to the person who has made strides towards the discipline of virtue will be contented there. Cordelia in her simple, this-world nature would never strive there, while the complex Buffy just might.

    • Mary says:

      Old joke: an old reprobate, a drunkard, who picked fights, destroyed property, stole, etc. died. He woke up on a cloud, surrounded by people with wings and halos. Surprised he sat up. They welcomed him and told him to come now, they are joining the heavenly chorus to sing praise to God. He doesn’t want to, but they make him, because while they are in Heaven, he’s in Hell.

  17. Pingback: The Anchoress | A First Things Blog

  18. Craig says:

    To be fair to Joss Whedon, the Buffy “Christmas episode” Amends actually featured an effective grace note — and in response to an appearance of the no-kidding Devil, as opposed to the usual run of extradimensional monsters, which certainly seems appropriate.

    (Of course, Whedon later retroactively ruined this episode’s excellent presentation of the First Evil by bringing him back in much less appropriate form. But Amends itself is really very nicely done; enough so that some of the show’s fans who suffer from an allergy to Christianity found that it caused a reaction.)

  19. David Krumm says:

    In no particular order:

    A) it would be awesome to have someone fight off a vampire with a lightsaber.

    B) The coexist bumper sticker ticks me off.

    C) Let me slippery slope that argument in the other direction. If vampires care if you ward them off with an Ankh vs a Cross do they care that about Catholicism’s heretical veneration of the saints? ;-) And if you can’t ward them off with a Mary candle, where do they stand on infant vs adult baptism? Let’s say they only accept adult what about decision theology vs conversion as the work of the holy spirit on a dead heart? In short, should vampires be installed in every seminary so they can tell us, with hisses, smoking, and cringing, which side of theological arguments is correct? Remember, the woman in Mark 5:34 is cured by *faith* even though Jesus had not fully revealed his nature and she’s an illiterate present so her * doctrine* is likely abysmal.

    D) While I’m quoting the bible Philippians 3:19 “Their destiny is destruction, their god is their stomach, and their glory is in their shame. Their mind is on earthly things.” Making oneself one’s own god is hardly a *new* crime.

    E) My preferred method of keeping God from simply solving the problem is when the author points out that God (ala Job) would happily light the world on fire if he thought it would improve your soul. He’s a *good* lion he is not a *safe* lion.

    F) Oh, and angles, ask yourself carefully Azrael certainly packs a punch but are things so dire you want his sort of help?

    G) Finally, Dracula cringes from crucifixes. (And the host – suggesting he practices transubstantiation or at least consubstantiation rather then simply taking the Eucharist as a symbol [Petooo! I spit on the heretics that would do that.] What a resource was lost to the church when he turned to dust!) BUT it took three strong men and an elderly professor to kill him; which they did by cutting off his head and stabbing him through the heart. This is to say aggressive force certainly had a place in the novel and some of the drama comes from wondering if the gypsies will manage to drive those men off before they kill the beast.

    • “In short, should vampires be installed in every seminary so they can tell us, with hisses, smoking, and cringing, which side of theological arguments is correct?”

      This would be the truly scientific and accurate way to settle theological disputes. Either that, or have the theologians engage in the Tournament of DEATHBALL.

    • deiseach says:

      “A) it would be awesome to have someone fight off a vampire with a lightsaber.”

      Drat. This makes me want to write a ritual for the blessing of a lightsaber, probably invoking the Genesis text “Fiat Lux” as the kicking-off point.

      Hey, if you can have blessed swords, you can have blessed lightsabers.

      :-)

      • Maureen says:

        You’ve already got your claidheamh solais (sp?), and Cuchulain or the King of Ireland’s Son to wield said Sword of Light. I don’t think you need any Jedi to clear off your vampires that way. :)

  20. Liam says:

    Excellent essay, but where does Béla Lugosi tie in?

    • deiseach says:

      Well, Béla (the heavens be his bed) was the first to play the Romantic vampire (the forerunner of Chrisopher Lee’s seductive count), rather than Schreck’s Count Orlok grotesque (and let me digress to say I loved Klaus Kinski and Werner Herzog’s remake in 1979).

      So you could say this was the start of the glamorous, attractive vampire that ended up as the love-lorn Byronic hero who turned to the dark side through pining over his lost love (as in Frank Langella’s and Francis Ford Coppola’s versions).

      • Maureen says:

        And I guess that’s not really outside the tradition, because tons of vampires in Eastern Europe and Greece had perfectly normal wives and even children. So they must have been able to romance somebody, or at least do a good negotiation job with their prospective wife’s family.

  21. CJ says:

    I think much of the absence of God is simply due to the growing materialism of our culture. Think of Troy, King Arthur, and Ever After. All of those films “re-imagined” classic stories without their supernatural elements to discover what must’ve “really” happened. It’s like what Tolstoy or Jefferson did with the Gospels.

    Vatican SWAT Team of rocket-Deacons

    Rockets? Pfft. That’s why I’m choosing Orthodoxy over Catholicism. Their deacons have personal teleporters. Even sub-deacons don’t use rockets anymore.

    • Dr. Eric says:

      CJ,

      We watched the abysmal new “Clash of the Titans” the whole premise is that Perseus is waging war against the gods of Olympus. Fits right in there with the new direction of Hollywood. Not only do the secularists claim atheism, they also want to paradoxically kill God.

      • Maureen says:

        The whole premise of the Gods of Olympus is that Zeus killed their dad to save himself from being eaten (the others had already gone down Daddy’s gullet), who had killed his dad also. Zeus wars with the Titans to keep them down, and is constantly on the watch to prevent any of his kids from killing him. It’s a god-eat-god world.

        So the idea that Perseus, or any other Greek hero or villain, might want to overthrow the gods isn’t at all farfetched. What Hollywood does with it is another question.

  22. lucifel says:

    Its not only that Heaven is dull, shiningly good heroes can be dullards too. In Agatha Christie’s “Pale Horse” ( a detective story in which professional hit-men pretend to off people with satanic black magic) the main character talks about this: how in both folkish morality plays and hight art like Shakespeare the villains are always more interesting that the heroes and the forces of good can seem banal and weak in comparison. Christie’s argument was that evil has to boast and be dramatic, because it is fundamentally empty inside.

    On the subject of non-European vampires, as I’m bored with bloodsuckers as boyfriends, I’m trying to bring the nasty Southeast-Asian horror stories to Europe. I’m planning to write one vampire story in the now unfashionable colonial supernatural-style for
    a pulp anthology my friends are doing. My husband is half Singaporean and half Malaysian and he and his friends actually believe very strongly in ghosts and spirits of all sorts. These vampires, according to the stories I’ve been collecting, are long-haired women in white dresses, who live in trees and hunt mostly men. There is nothing romantic about this stuff either – instead of sucking the neck the vampire claws of her vicim’s organs trough the stomach…

    • Dr. Eric says:

      As you probably know, white is the color of death and mourning in almost all of the far East Asian cultures (I can’t think of any that doesn’t follow the 5 Phase Law) and red is the color of joy and life.

      • Maureen says:

        Penanggalan floating head-and-entrails vampires are nasty! And have been used in psychological warfare by the US (okay, one guy, to fight Communist guerrillas). A very pulpy sort of real life plot, in which they found and killed guerrillas, but deliberately picked ways that made it look like a penanggalan did it. This discouraged guerrillas from doing guerrilla things, because it would entail sneaking out at night and being alone in the dark.

  23. lucifel says:

    Oh yes, one more thing to spam:

    Has anyone here seen the movie “Frailty” ? It has a bit Supernatural -premise – while looking like a film about crazy serial killer at the same time.

    Its take on evil and religion is pretty unique.

  24. Karina says:

    ‘Just to be safe, one would have to carry around one of those stupid COEXIST bumper stickers, supposing in case you don’t know which one drives off the Chupacabra.’

    I don’t think you need any kind of warding symbol to drive off the Chupacabra. It is an utterly freaky creature, but it is also a corporeal creature and can be dealt with the same way as your average mange-ridden coyote (which doubting scientists believe it is). Plus, the Chupacabra doesn’t attack humans, just livestock.
    By this logic, and by the fact that it isn’t supposed to live in the Texas Panhandle, which is where I live, this shouldn’t be the urban legend that scares the crap out of me. But it is. No idea why. Maybe I do need to find out what repels it, or get a Howitzer.

  25. S_Cobbler says:

    Call me crazy, but even knowing for a fact the Goodguy is going to win, there’s still plenty of drama in the question: at what cost? What will the hero lay down to defeat evil? What did the Christ lay down to save man from sin and death? Nothing short of His life. And if the hero isn’t ready to do that, as most of us aren’t, then that itself leaves plenty room for drama in whether the hero will hold fast in the Faith that would strike down vampires.

    So… in the realm of vampire tales being done to death, are there any stories where the real drama is in the hero having to overcome his own selfishness in order to make the personal sacrifice necessary for the grace of Christ, which is only supplementally supplied through the crucifix if and in proportion to how much we accept it (my experience, by the way: they will flee before the crucifix, or any sacramental, or the name of Jesus, but they will be back, and you can bet they’ll try to catch you off guard; the internal acceptance of grace is therefore doubly paramount), [...for the grace of Christ] to apply in his life and drive the vampire out of it in the long run? If not, then there’s still something that ought to be written; albeit, not by me, as I’ve just demonstrated that my brain is not designed for modern English or any other language in which whole pages are not fit into single sentences…

    • Mary says:

      Imagine a world where vampires are frightened off by crucifixes and no other holy symbol — and they passionately, fiercely, wildly deny that it’s religious, it’s the psychological warfare that someone would voluntarily lay down His life when they know that any and every one would rather prolong life as a vampire — really.

  26. Melody says:

    Has anyone else here seen the movie Daybreakers? It’s a nice deconstruction of the newer form of vampires, and has the Nosferatu vampires as well.

    Also, nothing in Buffy made me more angry than the line where it’s explained that a person’s faith in the object that repels vampires, not the holiness of the object itself and Who/what it represents. I literally yelled at the screen when that was said.

    • “Also, nothing in Buffy made me more angry than the line where it’s explained that a person’s faith in the object that repels vampires, not the holiness of the object itself and Who/what it represents. I literally yelled at the screen when that was said.”

      The Buffyverse is heretical. I suggest the idea that it is the person, not the crucifix, who drives back the vampire is Donatism. The Donatists had insisted that a cleric guilty of grave ecclesiological sin – for example, of having surrendered the Scriptures to Roman officials during the Diocletian persecution – severed himself from the Church and therefore could no longer perform any sacred offices. Any sacrament from Baptism to or Ordination performed by a sinning priest (so the argument ran) were invalid from the start. St. Augustine argued the Orthodox position that the sacredness of the sacraments comes from Christ, not from the personal merit of priest.

      • Melody says:

        Interesting connection, considering the Donatists were overly rigid compared to the “anything goes” theology of moral relativism. Perhaps they share some common deadly sins.

        • MenTaLguY says:

          I think “Whedonism” (though it certainly predates him — look at the Doctor Who serial “The Curse of Fenric” for a clear example of the “your own belief makes it effective” trope in the late 80s) is more the mirror image of Docetism, reflected across the axis of the same, or at least a similar, fundamental error.

      • Mary says:

        Or even the grave sin of handing over non-Scriptural works under circumstances such that the persecutors would think they had gotten their hands on Scripture.

  27. lotdw says:

    John Steakley’s book Vampire$ is super-Catholic in how it treats the wards against vampires. It’s about a team of Vatican vampire killers, after all. The priest character completely SHATTERS the usual stereotypes, too, and there’s a scene where a vampire is destroyed by the mere touch of the Pope.

    It is not super-Catholic in other ways, though. I wouldn’t read it unless you have a strong stomach – the vampires are EVIL in that book.

    • I don’t even read much vampire fiction, but all the talk has made me sick of them. I never like them very much in the first place.

      …But I keep hearing recommendations for Vampire$, so I’m going to have to check it out. I adored Steakley’s Armor. Most of the recommendations coming my way have been from Catholic readers who are happy not to see their religion getting trashed.

      I might note, on the side, that there’s another way to look at the crucifix-repelling-vampire issue, courtesy of the Catholic News Service movie reviewers whose reviews are posted at the USCCB, and who are not known for being sympathetic to science fiction, fantasy, horror, or comic book-based films. Their take on Hellboy, in which rosaries could burn demons and Christian relics drive back monsters, was that there was too much of that pesky talisman-like use of Christian religious artifacts, which they equated with superstition.

      • MenTaLguY says:

        Their take on Hellboy, in which rosaries could burn demons and Christian relics drive back monsters, was that there was too much of that pesky talisman-like use of Christian religious artifacts, which they equated with superstition.

        There’s probably a certain point at which writers need to “put up or shut up”, when it comes to the use of Christian relics. If they are brought too far into the foreground, their nature demands to be accounted for.

  28. MenTaLguY says:

    But I do notice that the same people who complain that Barbie dolls damage girls by imposing an unrealistic body image on them seem not to complain about the realism of the body image of bodies able to hurl long-fanged vampire-demons through a plate glass window, twenty yards across the street, and into a conveniently untended gasoline tanker truck filled with nitro. Not to mention able to run in high heels.

    This depends on who you talk to, particularly when it comes to the heels. That being said, versus Barbie, I do think the “action girl” would be pretty innocuous on her own. So long as girls aren’t regularly destroying their health to match Kate Beckinsdale’s apparent upper body strength in the movies, the way they are to match Barbie’s proportions, the physical unrealism of a fight scenes simply aren’t in the same league. The problem with the typical “action girl” is that she is so often written as a male thug — in a hyper-sexualized woman’s body, lest s/he be mistaken for a man.
    Really, part of the problem is the alternate embrace and rejection of a sort of caricatured, disempowered femininity. We start with the caricature of women in fiction as typically marginalized and helpless (which, I am sorry to say, had some real basis to it). The typical “action girl” amounts to a rejection of this caricature, without replacing it with anything of substance (so that it often sneaks back in again by the back door). Twilight etc. fully embrace he caricature as an antidote, to the point of glorifying its heroine’s acceptance of a profoundly abusive relationship. Thesis, antithesis, synthesis.
    What I would really like to see is female characters written with actual dignity, as women, neither Stepford Wives nor action figures acting out male fantasies. This need not preclude kicking ass when it is called for.

    In the same vein, I am not sure what message it send to thirteen-year-olds to normalize or romanticize necrophilia and bestiality and sexual congress with Unclean Spirits of the Dark (well, maybe the movie vampire boys are not that bad. Angel and Edward are clearly Unclean Spirits of the Dim).

    Well, now there is Hush, Hush, where the love interest is a murderous demon (in something a bit more like the biblical sense by way of Buffy, rather than the D&D sense). The YA “supernatural romance” subgenre is continually upping the ante.

    • MenTaLguY says:

      Bleah, sorry for the numerous typos. It’s been a long week.

      • I recently encountered another demon romance, though the title escapes me. Perhaps that’s the next move in supernatural romance, as you say. I think that interests me even less than vampire romance. I guess I’ll just have to go back to my comparatively harmless magical girl/boyfriend comics.

        ” Twilight etc. fully embrace he caricature as an antidote, to the point of glorifying its heroine’s acceptance of a profoundly abusive relationship. Thesis, antithesis, synthesis.”

        I think you’re on to something there. The butt-kicking vampire-slayeress replaced with the utterly weak heroine incapable of recognizing when her boyfriend is a creep. Interpreting Twilight as an antidote that goes too far makes sense to me. In trying to grasp why it’s such a miserable failure I focused mostly on the execution, but I think you’ve correctly identified the deeper problem.

        “There’s probably a certain point at which writers need to ‘put up or shut up,’ when it comes to the use of Christian relics.”

        The Hellboy comics could account for the effectiveness of Christian artifacts. If memory serves, God is sort of absentee, and not necessarily a great guy, but at least He’s there somewhere in the background. The priest characters in that comic are usually depicted as pretty good people, too. But Del Toro so thoroughly altered the Hellboy universe in the film that it didn’t even have a hell anymore, yet for some reason Christian artifacts were effective against monsters, something the movie universe couldn’t account for.

        Of course…I couldn’t find an explanation for the effectiveness of church bells against the forces of darkness and light in Mr. Wrights’s War of the Dreaming either. Still loved the books.

        “…I do think the “action girl” would be pretty innocuous on her own.”

        I’m quite fond of action girls myself (they’re kind of a Christian thing–Deborah, St. Joan d’Arc), but I don’t like it when they get turned into cheesecake characters, which seems to me a disrespectful betrayal. I see a big difference between a Miyazaki heroine (Nausicaa could take out a room of armored soldiers with a sword cane) or a Rod Espinosa heroine (any of his princesses could probably beat up Buffy) or Toph from Airbender (who could also beat up Buffy) or Loo from Little White Mouse (who could build a machine that would beat up Buffy), and Hollywood’s lingerie-clad vixens who are supposed to represent empowered women. The former are fully developed characters, obviously loved and respected by their creators. The latter are eye candy for men. I think therein lies the major difference: whether the artist respects his characters, which reflects on whether he respects women.

        It occurred to me sometime back that some in Hollywood may have trouble imagining strong women as anything other than one-dimensional hubba-hubba action girls. I thought of this when I saw what they did to Mina Harker in that awful adaptation of The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen. The comic book is not exactly full of goodness and light either, but in it Mina is a well-developed, strong character with neither superpowers nor fighting skills. Hollywood felt the need to turn her into a sexy vampiress.

        • deiseach says:

          In defence of Mike Mignola, I am rhapsodising over a recent volume he put out, “The Crooked Man and Others”, where the title story is a tribute to Manly Wade Wellman and his Silver John stories.

          The art is almost grotesque, but it’s very serious in its treatment of the folklore and the beliefs. It doesn’t mock the naive Christianity of the inhabitants, and the good guy is a preacher man.

          I agree that in the Hellboy universe, God is absent – or maybe not so much absent, as not named. I think God is a presence in the sense that we very much see Hell and demons and evil, and the question naturally arises as to “What or who, then, opposes this?” Also the presence of churches and relics and priests (and again, there isn’t – to my recall – the idea that priests as priests are knaves or fools; if one priest is evil, that’s because he’s an individual who has turned to evil, not because he’s a priest and duh, that’s organised religion for you.)

          Besides, how can I not love a character where, in the first film, the culmination of the plot involves him remembering his desire to serve good by using a rosary beads to remind him (and not just relying on ‘you love her! she loves you! amor vincit omnia!’)

          Okay, the second film had me moaning gently to myself about “That’s not how you pronounce Nuada and besides, he’s not – that’s not – oh, forget it!” but I can forgive them for that, too.

          :-)

          • I like the second film a lot more than the first myself. It stopped trying to explain everything with Lovecraft and brought the supernatural elements back into the story.

            In the voiceover commentary to the first movie, Del Toro spoke of how proud he was that he had managed to render that rosary into a not-really-Christian thing by the time he was done with the film. Maybe that’s what he thinks, but I think he’s wrong. You can’t just wave your magic wand and make people not think of Christianity when they see a rosary. Notice Hellboy has another big rosary on his belt, too. Oddly, that disappears after the first volume of the comic book, maybe because Mignola got sick of drawing all the beads.

            • deiseach says:

              I like how Mignola is straight-up that Hell is Not Nice. Even if you want to mess about with various Wisdom Traditions and do a bit of gentle sneering about Christianity, his universe is pretty clear that if Anung-Un-Rama or the Frogs or Lilith wins, then it’s the destruction of humanity and the earth, and a fairly nasty time all round.

              And he doesn’t seem to have any opinion on God/Jesus that I can see leaking through; that is, I don’t get an anti-Christian message (of the ‘Christianity is evil and hierarchical and on the side of the colonisers but other faiths are all lovely and sweet’ kind) in his work, even though I doubt he’s a Christian himself?

        • lectorpoemarum says:

          Actually, the church-bells affecting faeries thing in War of the Dreaming is addressed: MISTS OF EVERNESS p. 188 – Titania says to Oberon that King Arthur “at my behest, drove with the Cross of Christ all Fir-bolg of the faerie-mounds and pagan imps away from British towns and hearts? Ah, how your piskies shrieked and fled when churchbells rang!” Oberon replies, “And thine as well”; so it seems to be at least partly Titania’s doing.

          • The sentence there indicates that Titania asked Arthur to drive the fairies out of England, but it is not implied that hers was the Power behind the crucifix and the churchbells.

            • As I understood The War of the Dreaming, Satan was the villain, but God had been replaced with Oberon/Zeus, presumably so his power could be limited, making Satan a more formidable villain. I assumed church bells drove off the fay for no particular reason other than because that’s what church bells do. It did appear to me to be wanting for explanation as to why church bells have such power, but War of the Dreaming was such a beautiful crazy mishmash of awesome-sauce that I didn’t pause long enough to care.

              • The War of the Dreaming was a war between Morningstar, a fallen angel, and Oberon, the King of the Fairies, who was also a pagan sky-god. The only hint of a higher god, “God” god, was in the pagan theology expressed by archangel Uriel, who was also one and the same with the Titan Hyperion, the one who rescues Lemuel from Acheron.

            • lectorpoemarum says:

              Ah, sorry; I mis-read that as saying that Titania had created that vulnerability.

    • Mary says:

      Oh, that action girl attitude does do damage:

      I warned her as graphically as I could that she was already well down the slippery slope leading to poverty and misery—that, as I knew from the experience of untold patients, she would soon have a succession of possessive, exploitative, and violent boyfriends, unless she changed her life. I told her that in the past few days, I had seen two women patients who had had their heads rammed down the lavatory, one who had had her head smashed through a window and her throat cut on the shards of glass, one who had had her arm, jaw, and skull broken, and one who had been suspended by her ankles from a tenth-floor window to the tune of, “Die, you bitch!”

      “I can look after myself,” said my 17-year-old.

      “But men are stronger than women,” I said. “When it comes to violence, they are at an advantage.”

      “That’s a sexist thing to say,” she replied.

      A girl who had absorbed nothing at school had nevertheless absorbed the shibboleths of political correctness in general and of feminism in particular.

      “But it’s a plain, straightforward, and inescapable fact,” I said.

      “It’s sexist,” she reiterated firmly.

      Full essay here

      • That’s a fine essay, certainly, but I think this young woman’s bizarre denial of undeniable reality has more to do with the relentless message that boys are no different from girls, than with the warrior woman motif.

        Of course, the warrior woman motif as it is typically embodied today has absorbed the message that boys are no different from girls. (While at the same time, paradoxically, the girls remain open to sexual exploitation.)

      • Will le Fey says:

        I daresay if you write like that, you deserve to be hung.

        • Who are you talking to, and what do you mean? You have a curious habit of inserting vague one-sentence assertions without argument or elaboration.

          • Will le Fey says:

            To whomever wrote that essay on City-Journal.

            • Okay, that answers my first question. Could you elaborate on why the journal article is a capital offense?

              • deiseach says:

                Ah, Will just likes tossing these little bons mots at us. If Dr. Dalrymple had expressed an opinion on cabbage, the weather, or flying saucers, it’d have been much the same for Will.

                And that’s “hanged”, not “hung”, Monsieur le Fey.

              • JBalconi says:

                Because no one should EVER suggest that a culture of temporary liaisons enables abusers greater access to relationships in which they can abuse their lovers. Nor that male abusers, who habitually blame their lovers for the abuse, could enjoy the added bonus of presenting the whole relationship as the woman’s choice.

                Tut, tut.

                It’s simply UNTRUE that the rise in temporary liaisons has anything to do with a rise in abusive relationships or the lack of healthy relationship models for young men and women. Detroiters who decry the 70%+ illegitimacy rate as having something to do with that city’s “lost generations” – why, they’re simply holding onto a MYTH that the destruction of the black family has led to greater poverty and violence.

                • What astonishes me and continues to astonish me is that souls devoted to evil are not merely wretched, but are self-righteously wretched. Will le Fey, at least in his online personna (I assume in real life he is a normal and decent fellow) not only despises a prison doctor who tells a self-abusive and delusional young lady the plain truth about her weakness in the face of her abusers, Will is (or pretends to be) mortally outraged — telling the truth is not merely a sin in the universe of Will, it is a mortal sin, a felony that merits capital punishment.

                  All of the commandments of the religion of the antichrist are the opposite of the commandments of God. Where God’s commandment is that thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor, the commandment of antichrist is that thou must commit false witness against thy neighbor, and lie with gusto, zeal, and enthusiasm. Where God commands that thou shalt no do murder, antichrist command thou shall commit abortion, and fund abortion, and encourage abortion. Where God command that thou shalt not commit adultery, antichrist commands that thou shalt desecrate and desanctify marriage so that there is no sexual act remaining which is either chaste, or natural, or within the bounds of matrimony.

                  The slaves of the Dark Lord have their fasts and vigils and riots, and they shed innocent blood of unborn babies as a ritual or rite which has, for them, a magical meaning, in the same way that those faithful to God have our vigils and fasts and feasts and Eucharists: so why should their zeal be any less? Why should the self-righteousness of the unjust be less than the righteousness of the just?

                  • Will le Fey says:

                    No, he’s not helping anyone, he’s using it as an excuse to say that women are inferior.

                    • MenTaLguY says:

                      If you really think that the idea that women are, as a practical matter of biology, generally physically weaker than men, means that women are inferior, you may be beyond help. Is the measure of superiority in your mental world mere brute strength?

                    • Will le Fey says:

                      Since I can’t reply to your post directly, I don’t know, ask the writers at City Journal.

                    • Well, Mr. le Fey, I suspected that was what you meant when you made your comment, but I wasn’t quite willing to believe it. Note that the man you want hanged is a medical doctor. It is his job to be able to make authoritative statements about the human body. It is his professional opinion that the man’s body is generally physically stronger than the woman’s. And he ought to know; observing bodies is his job.

                      Of course, you don’t have to be a medical doctor to know this. You don’t even have to be particularly observant. Even though I’m skinny and underweight, back in high school I could bench-press 200 pounds, and I knew men only a little larger than myself who were pressing significantly more than that. I have never met a woman who bench-presses 200. They exist, certainly, but they’re rare. Men who can lift that kind of weight are a dime a dozen. It’s no good to make-believe that women are just as muscular as men simply because the fact that they aren’t isn’t PC, especially when women are getting their heads rammed into toilets or through windows because they don’t take men’s superior strength into account when choosing their boyfriends. Nothing in the article suggests that men are “superior”; it only states that they’re stronger, which is undeniable, the most mundane of observations.

                    • Mary says:

                      No wonder he’s willing to kill Dr. Dalrymple: he’s perfectly willing to slaughter women in savage ways in order to keep his eyes closed and continue to maintain the liberal shibboleth that women really could be exactly like men if they worked at it and can not be equal without it.

                    • deiseach says:

                      Will, can you explain to me how trying to convince a silly girl of the physical truth that men, on average, are stronger by virtue of biology than women, on average turns out to be the same as “women are inferior”?

                      As a woman myself, I’m curious. My brother is stronger than I am, even though I’m the eldest. I would certainly not get into a fist-fight with a man (I’d also do my endeavours to avoid getting into one with a woman, but if I was forced to it, I’d fancy my chances with one of my own sex more than I would facing a man or boy).

                      This has nothing to do with equality or fairness. Unless you’re saying that strength = superiority in a moral, cultural, educational, emotional and every other way sense, which would be nonsense if Dr. Dalrymple was saying such a thing.

                      But he’s not. He’s saying that violent men use their superior strength to abuse women, and if that girl tries to live with the attitude that she’s as strong as a boy her own age and so she can hold her own in a fight and therefore need not worry about cohabiting with a violent male, she’ll get badly hurt.

              • Will le Fey says:

                Because it makes Dan Simmons’ time traveler story look compentently written. It uses the term slippery slope. It’s didactic. It has “reiterated firmly.” It’s depressing because I’m a far better writer than that guy and yet he’s the one who’s being published.

                • It’s didactic? You mean it makes moral observations and teaches you something? That’s a problem?

                • It’s depressing because I’m a far better writer than that guy and yet he’s the one who’s being published.

                  Just going by what we’ve seen on here as a basis for comparison (as it’s all we have to go on), I’m not convinced that is true.

                  • Will le Fey says:

                    That’s because I don’t write paragraphs and paragraphs of philosophical nonsense in the hopes that someone will see it and assume “he’s smart because he uses a lot of words.”

                    Examples of my prose:
                    There was an abandoned and rotting villa on a now flooded and swampy plantation with a few twisted trees growing out of dry hillocks. The door to the entry hall creaked open when I pushed it, revealing a grand foyer covered in creepers and lianas, plaster walls rottting and curling off in patches of water lilies and scales and leaves, the fantastic waterscapes enhanced by blue and green molds, porcelain tiled floor stripped of all decoration except for a few marble statues and carved blackwood benches that were too heavy and awkward to take with them. There was a scent of putrefaction; the grand stairway curved downwards to another level flooded with murky green water with pipes dripping effluents. Long vines with fat crimson blossoms arced downwards like tram catenaries. A dining hall was to the side, the walls intricately carved and moss-covered garuda statues in the four corners supporting the vaulted ceiling, a marble table surrounded by the mouldering remnants of chairs. There was a partially indundated kitchen and servants’ quarters beyond, the equipment rusting away and no longer functioning, cans corroded and the food within reduced to an unidentifiable mush, fungus everywhere but none of us willing to take the risk in eating it.

                    It was indeed enchanting, like Alisara said. Ava, Marciana, Chao-Fah, Alisara, and Sua waited on a surface of reflective black material, with railings of tangled birch on the cliffs’ edge, and a small metal platform sticking out, flanked by carvings of elephants and apsaras, and lamp poles topped with luminescent globes, moths orbiting them in jerky motions.
                    Ruins claimed by nature and time were built into the island’s cliff face, elaborate stonework carved with repeating kbach phñi designs in interlocking rings, lianas, and snail shells, overgrown with luminous fungus, moss, and fig trees. Above it was the city of Isanapura, the middle tier of cargo bays and spaces lit with the same phosphorescence and glowing red and green tubes, small compared to the vast Lanxang, an unearthly green with the occasional red or yellow. Below were the waters of the Lake of Dreams, luminescent jellies and featherlight soft-bodied things floating on the surface. Behind the trees, the sun was setting.

                    I’d put some dialogue here, but I’m afraid the filter will eat them.

                    • For future reference, a link will suffice.

                      That’s because I don’t write paragraphs and paragraphs of philosophical nonsense in the hopes that someone will see it and assume “he’s smart because he uses a lot of words.”

                      No, that’s because you only tend to write a sentence or two of philosophical nonsense. The author isn’t using a lot of words to “bedazzle” his audience. He’s making a claim and doing the legwork to show the logic of and support of his claim. It’s something you might want to try now and then as it would lead to less confusion from other commentators like… well just look up a few posts.

                    • Will le Fey says:

                      And you have nothing to say on the actual prose…

                      Once again, replying to myself because I can’t reply directly for some reason.

                    • This prose is not bad. Indeed, I would say it is quite good.

                      Why do you waste your time littering my comments boxes with sneers? You were meant for more.

                    • I’m reluctant to make sweeping judgments on prose without a larger context. Now if you mean as a comparison between you and the author, that seems unfair as he’s writing a realistic/factual article and your pose seems to be more of a fictional bent so comparing the two would be like comparing apples and oranges. One should not use the same prose to write non-fiction that they do to write fiction.

                    • You can only reply to yourself because we’ve nested too many comments.

                      I second the opinion that your prose is good, and I also wonder why you make so many one-sentence comments conveying nothing but disdain.

                      Of course, I also think Dr. Dalrymple’s prose is good, if perhaps too bitter in tone, so you might not want my opinion on the subject. Of course, the good doctor is writing an essay that makes personal observations followed by general observations, followed by an attempt at an explanation for what he’s observed. The purpose of his essay is “didactic,” to make moral observations and to teach. I don’t see how you can criticize it for doing the very thing it’s designed for. He wrote a personal essay and you’ve blamed him for not writing a short story instead.

                      I don’t know how things work for you, but for myself, when after I read an essay I start grousing about the prose, it’s usually a sign that I’ve found the author’s arguments more persuasive than I want to admit.

                    • Mary says:

                      When you are consulted by a battered woman every day of your professional life, as he describes here, many of whom suffer the same wilful blindness, a little bitterness is not surprising.

                    • Oh, I didn’t mean to say that the bitter tone surprised me, nor did I mean to claim that I think I could have a better attitude than the good doctor. On the contrary, he’s clearly made of stern stuff. If I did his work, whatever I wrote on the subject would probably be not just bitter, but despairing and downright nasty. I meant it as only a faint criticism, but perhaps it was misplaced; he clearly deserves commendation for the work he does. In particular, I commend him for stating forthrightly in this very article that it is his duty to treat the medical problems of all who come to him regardless of their behavior or how their wounds were received.

                    • JBalconi says:

                      Of your prose, I find myself wondering why someone would describe that place as “enchanting”. It sounds like a derelict house with a leaky watermain. At first I thought the narrator and company were explorers, but the comment about considering eating from ruined cans of food – is the narrator’s group a band of refugees?

                    • Will le Fey says:

                      Errr, I should have seperated them somehow. The villa and Isanapura are around 50 chapters apart.

  29. The one thing we haven’t covered here is what exactly this will mean for “Lightning Swords of the Nosferatu of Kyoto.” How easily will Ninja Van Helsing be able to drive back the hordes of vampire samurai with his crucifix throwing-stars? What use will the pope have for her machine gun? Will the vampire samurai still still angst over his girlfriend and rescue her from Chinese pirates? Will there still be wire-fu? Will there still be a guitar solo?

  30. CPE Gaebler says:

    You know, I was thinking. How much of an advantage IS cross-based-repulsion, anyway? I mean, it’s not like as long as you just got a cross in hand, you’re A-OK on the vampire front.

    The Power of Good can be still be used to fight evil in good writing; it works much better as a Deus Ex Machina than as a superpower. A Good Guy charging into the vampire’s lair with a cross in hand, allowing him to off the bogey with impunity, is annoying. It demeans the Cross and the Power of God over Evil into the level of a weapon or cheap advantage, and worse, it’s really bad drama. Harker’s life being saved by a symbol of God that he wasn’t presenting on purpose not only is the sort of thing you can’t expect to count on (what, an ancient evil vampire’s only method of harming you is going to be walking right up to you and going for a nibble?), but the fact that the repulsion of the demon is not based on an act of will of the protagonist enforces and makes clear the fact that our protagonist has been thrust into a struggle beyond his ken. It is a struggle that is decided, to be sure, but mortal protagonists are still in mortal danger.

    To put it more clearly: If your life is saved because Evil hates and fears the Cross to a degree you were unaware, you have been saved by a writer with good theology. If you then charge confidently towards the vampire’s lair with nothing but cross in hand, you are attempting to use the power of Good towards your own ends, to make God fight your battles, to purchase the Spirit for the price of a ha’pence piece of carved wood. This is quite simply magic, in the pejorative sense. If your writer continues to apply good theology, it will probably fail. Perhaps the vampire can prepare for the terrible sight of his slain Enemy. Perhaps he will merely set up a trap to drop a ceiling on your head from afar. Personally, I’d hope the writer would be a smart-alec and realize that it never says the vampire’s PETS are repelled by crucifixes, and you will be summarily eaten by the children of the night.

    • deiseach says:

      That’s why you have a Renfield :-)

      And that’s why the sensible vampire hunter always (as advised by Professor van Helsing) does not rush off in a headstrong manner all on his or her ownio to the crypt, lair or crumbling edifice where the mysterious foreign nobleman has just moved in last month, the day before all those strange murders started happening, but instead prudently tools up and takes his mates with him.

      “Dracula”, Chapter 19, when our band of fearless vampire hunters are preparing to break into the Count’s lair:

      “Having passed the wall, we took our way to the house, taking care to keep in the shadows of the trees on the lawn when the moonlight shone out. When we got to the porch the Professor opened his bag and took out a lot of things, which he laid on the step, sorting them into four little groups, evidently one for each. Then he spoke.

      “My friends, we are going into a terrible danger, and we need arms of many kinds. Our enemy is not merely spiritual. Remember that he has the strength of twenty men, and that, though our necks or our windpipes are of the common kind, and therefore breakable or crushable, his are not amenable to mere strength. A stronger man, or a body of men more strong in all than him, can at certain times hold him, but they cannot hurt him as we can be hurt by him. We must, therefore, guard ourselves from his touch. Keep this near your heart.” As he spoke he lifted a little silver crucifix and held it out to me, I being nearest to him, “put these flowers round your neck,” here he handed to me a wreath of withered garlic blossoms, “for other enemies more mundane, this revolver and this knife, and for aid in all, these so small electric lamps, which you can fasten to your breast, and for all, and above all at the last, this, which we must not desecrate needless.”

      This was a portion of Sacred Wafer, which he put in an envelope and handed to me. Each of the others was similarly equipped.”

  31. Boggy Man says:

    I remember the exact moment Buffy lost it’s appeal in my eyes. When I was told that the show had a Wiccan consultant to make sure the theology was correct. This was the same show that proclaimed that crosses only work because they are ancient symbols. So it was ok to imply my religion was a sham, but gawd forbid we should offend practitioners of a faith invented in some hippie’s basement in 1967. Blade lost me when Whistler proclaimed that “Crosses don’t do sh*t”. (The series cemented that of course when they re-imagined Dracula as a pork roast with adenoids.) The less I’m reminded of Milla Jovovich, the better.
    Oddly enough, I love the movie Night of the Demons 2, in part because the forces of evil are undone by a badass ninja nun.

    “Massachusetts has had a much more severe Vampire infestation problem than Maryland, not to mention the Deep Ones at Innsmouth, Witches in Salem, the Horror at Dunwich and the Joker incarcerated at Arkham.”
    You forgot puckwudgies. Thick as flies round here come autumn.

    • JBalconi says:

      Buffy lost me a few years before the end. It was the 5th or 10th time that Buffy’s “friends” turned on her because she was keeping secrets or feelings from them and/or she had dared to tell them her secrets or feelings. It was while Willow was still useless in a fight and Zander’s hormones rendered him stupid much of the time.

      I still watched once in a while with a couple friends, but they bailed because of ideological reasons, too. The last went after the death of Willow’s girlfriend. She said, “She was the only grounded, honest character left on the show. Because she was deceiving anyone or secretly evil, she naturally had to be killed as a plot point.”

      Frankly, I liked Firefly a lot because Whelan didn’t have time to ruin it with his hobbyhorses. Not that he didn’t try. There’s one episode that I always think of as “The Crucible Meets Stargate” because strangers decide to burn a crewmember for witchcraft. In his DVD commentary, he said that the concept of “sin” is wrong because it stops you from pleasure in life. I immediately thought, “What if those peeps get off on burning people at that stake? Who are you to say it’s wrong for them to enjoy their culture?” Then again, these many years later, the obvious retort is that he needs to explain that to people who are upset with Wall Street and various bankers for being GREEDY. They were legally trying to maximize their pleasure in life, no?

  32. JBalconi says:

    That should have been “because she WASN’T deceiving anyone or secretly evil”

  33. Pingback: Roundup for Noontime Reading « The Anchoress

Leave a Reply