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Why are so many Vampire protagonists self-hating?


Clephas

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This is a question I've asked myself on any number of occasions (and despite my own thoughts below, I'd like to hear your thoughts on this as well).  For some reason, most vampire literature with a vampire protagonist has that protagonist hating him/herself and his/her condition (switching to 'his' after this sentence, for the sake of brevity). 

Let's be honest with ourselves... if we could gain immortality, immense strength, and the ability to control people's minds in exchange for having to suck human blood and stay out of the sun, the greater majority of us would probably leap at the chance.  Humans are selfish creatures, and the advantages seem to far-outweigh the disadvantages on the face of it.

One common answer to this is morality.  To be honest, I think this is the second worst answer of them all.  Yes, in the case of a vampire setting where the vampire has to kill the subject or infects anyone he bites, it makes sense for there to be a moral issue.  However, if that is not the case, this one doesn't pan out.  Sure, drinking blood sounds evil in and of itself... but if you aren't human, it isn't cannibalism, now is it?  Hedonism?  Is there anyone in a first-world nation that isn't at least a little hedonistic?

Another one is a sense of isolation.  Now this one makes a bit more sense as a negative for vampirism... but not for sucking blood.  Sure, it might be hard to make friends with your food, but it wouldn't be the first time.  No, the issue here is lies.  By nature, vampires need to hide themselves, since they are well... scary.  I mean, if something essentially eats a part of you to survive and looks similar to you, how can that not be scary in a visceral sense?  So yes, the isolation is a good reason to be afraid of your own vampirism if you are a vampire.

A sense of normalcy.  This is the one you see the most in VNs, and I honestly think that it is an abomination.  It is the worst answer.  Almost every vampire protagonist in a VN wants to regain their 'normal life', and this often results in them taking their anger out on the people who saved them and/or love them.  Sure, you pay a price for your vampirism... if you can't go out in the sun (a rarity in VNs), then it is hard to go to school.  If you have to suck human blood, then you can't really be called normal.  However, that sense that normalcy trumps everything (no I don't mean the president) is ridiculous.  I honestly find this kind of attitude annoying as hell in a protagonist, and it is only the ones who don't linger on it constantly that I'm willing to forgive.

Violent instincts... now this one is laughable.  'Vampires have violent instincts!!!'  Umm... hello?  What race goes around killing people for stupid reasons like religious affiliation, what side of a line on a map they live, and who has a better cow in their barn?  *snorts contemptuously*

In the end, vampirism in fiction is a trade-off... and self-hating vampires who stay that way without a good reason always strike me as fake (Toshirou from Vermilion has good reason, but most don't).

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I guess the trope is just as well and alive in the Western media, but I wonder if it doesn't still have a bit to do with Japanese culture - there praying on others and being an outcast from the society, who can't live by the same rules as everyone else could be a slightly bigger deal than it would be from American/European perspective. Plus, concealing your true identity and knowing that everyone else considers you an abomination is not a minor thing - some people could accept it without much of a problem (ex. sociopaths such as me :meguface:), for others it would be a constant torture. It also depends whether there's some kind of Vampire community they can rely on or if they're, as you've mentioned, feeling isolated and vulnerable.

You wrote once that it's also very rare for a VN protagonist to become a non-human on his own volition... But now that I think about it, it's also a thing in Western media? Trying to transcend humanity is usually the villain's path, while the hero clings to it with everything they have. Still, I find the dedication to "normalcy" as an automatically positive value very Japanese.

The "violent urges" part is more important than you made it seem though, in most mythos vampire's thirst is something that has to be always kept in check and can turn you into a mindless beast if not taken care of properly. A Vampire in this sense is akin to a drug addict, who constantly struggles to keep any semblance of normalcy and stability in his life and know that failing will probably cost him his life. Plus, depending on the setting, there might be a danger of even losing your human form and the ability to mingle with the human society.

But TBH, I've seen very few depictions of vampires where becoming one didn't seem like a pretty good deal from my perspective. Not sure what this says about me. :P

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I presume a lot might actually depend on how each author describes "vampirism" in itself. Is it supernatural, or strictly scientific? An ancient curse, some sort of an unknown disease or a symbiotic virus? That sort of context alone has huge impact one many different smaller details, including how other people might perceive vampires and as such, how vampires see themselves.

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Let's be honest with ourselves... if we could gain immortality, immense strength, and the ability to control people's minds in exchange for having to suck human blood and stay out of the sun, the greater majority of us would probably leap at the chance.  Humans are selfish creatures, and the advantages seem to far-outweigh the disadvantages on the face of it.

That's not how... that's not how it works.

Immortality is, in itself, a contentious philosophical topic since it's completely out of our condition as humans. If vampires could write books, they might have a differente sense of philosophy and a different understanding of morality, but they can't since they don't exist. Humans write about vampires and, as such, we'll invariably draw from our own understanding of these topics, even if it's to defy and spite on common sense. It's not a question of advantages and disadvantages since "immortality", "immense strength" and "ability to control people's minds" aren't so much advantages as much as they are a completely different league.

Your question comes from the assumption that evolution is linear, which it isn't. So as much as we discuss and envy the freedom of a bird because they can fly even though the birds themselves don't even consider this concept, vampires might be able to hate themselves and exalt humans as an example of a concept they, themselves, don't intimately understand but can discuss. There's nothing wrong with that, especially because they're stories written by humans, for humans.

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14 hours ago, Plk_Lesiak said:

The "violent urges" part is more important than you made it seem though, in most mythos vampire's thirst is something that has to be always kept in check and can turn you into a mindless beast if not taken care of properly. A Vampire in this sense is akin to a drug addict, who constantly struggles to keep any semblance of normalcy and stability in his life and know that failing will probably cost him his life. Plus, depending on the setting, there might be a danger of even losing your human form and the ability to mingle with the human society.

But TBH, I've seen very few depictions of vampires where becoming one didn't seem like a pretty good deal from my perspective. Not sure what this says about me. :P

I can see your viewpoint on the violent urges.  In particular, seeing bloodlust as being similar to drug addiction is a comparison often made... though not wholly accurate.  From what I've seen, it is an issue of how fast a vampire falls into a starvation state (the state where the need to feed completely overwhelms the ability to think).  In Western literature, this tends to be a few days to a week (often varying either mildly or drastically from individual to individual), and in Japanese literature it tends to vary from 'every night' to 'once a month' (a much wider variation, depending on the setting, than you generally see in the West, but most tend to edge toward the 'every once in a while' end outside of horror or chuuni stuff).  The issue here is whether the individual in question is intelligent/clever enough and strong enough of will (a questionable idea, I know, considering current understanding) to feed quietly and with restraint or is a messy glutton.  A glutton who leaves drained corpses in sewer drains is going to get himself killed fast, whereas a man who sips from a dozen different people in the shadows or uses a ruse to become alone with a target is more likely to survive.  Most settings where vampires look less human the more they feed are ones where this happens with age, rather than as a 'youth'.  You generally won't see that in a Japanese-made VN (exception is a few individuals in ones like Vermilion, who don't bother to hide what they are since they only show themselves to their own kind), but in the West's literature and media, that is more likely.  Older vampires don't seem to age precisely in most settings... it is more that their body language alters drastically and they become less capable of hiding their true nature behind a facade. 

No, it makes perfect sense that you would feel that way.  Even if you logically understand the downsides, the fact is that humans learn their lessons most effectively from experience, not from intellectual/rational understanding.  I understand that I would probably come to hate the limitations in a rational sense, but my gut thinks it looks like a great deal.  I am pretty sure why I feel that way (I don't like people in the first place, so...)

@PalasI can also see where you are coming from... but the fact is, when it comes to these issues, people don't think rationally or philosophically.  There are plenty of people out there that would reject the idea purely on religious or moral grounds, outside of fiction (the greater majority, probably).   However, a lot of modern humans don't think that way anymore... at all.  I never really considered vampires to be an 'evolution'... more like a mutated predator whose existence is entirely reliant on a much larger population of herd beasts (lol).  I also don't necessarily see anything wrong with vampires exalting or even being envious of humankind...  aesthetically, if you don't look at us on a macro scale, humans can be beautiful in some ways.  However, that seems to me to be something that would come up after you'd been one a while.  I can see one like Toshirou, who saw his beloved become a victim then became one to be at her side, hating/despising vampires and exalting humans (though in his case, it is more a denial of vampiric transcendence).  It makes a lot of sense... but it makes little sense to bewail your own survival to the extent a lot of protagonists do (since most are of the type that would have been dead otherwise).  Or rather, I dislike the way they start bewailing it immediately in so many cases.  In the case of the protagonist of Vampyr (the video game), it makes sense because he has to kill any human he drinks from, and it also makes sense to resent it in the anime Shiki, because they are basically a vampiric swarm of locusts mass-producing their own kind.  However, these are extreme examples... and it makes less sense in the examples that are less extreme (such as Yaneura no Kanojo, where the protagonist would have been dead otherwise, blood-thirst is relatively infrequent and doesn't require killing, and vampiric reproduction requires an act of will). 

My objections are more focused on those less extreme examples... in fact, entirely so.  In VNs, the ones that bothered me the most were Libra and the aforementioned Yaneura no Kanojo, where the protagonist in both refuses to recognize the inevitability of his own needs and obsesses over returning to a humanity that is most likely never coming back for reasons that make very little sense.  In Western literature, I've encountered dozens of examples of urban fantasy settings where the vampire protagonist is either young and self-hating or old and self-hating.  Some of those were well-justified (SM Stirling's Shadows series, considering the vampires were inherently and actively sadistic as well as predatory) and others were less so. 

I suppose, looking over what i just wrote, what bothers me most is holes in even the gut-level emotional reactions of characters in these situations.   The chain of reasoning and emotion is often full of massive holes.  Also, I hate being behind the eyes of whiners.  I especially hate vicariously experiencing someone who spends most of the story whining on one level or another...

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9 hours ago, Clephas said:

Libra

Just a quick question - is it like throughout the whole thing, or just briefly after the protag is turned? This may affect my desition whether to buy it after they finish fixing the translation. ;]

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It depends on the lore of each specific setting.  In some lore, a vampire is essentially doomed to be a serial killer--their prey is destined to die or be bound to them either as servant vampires or as mindless ghouls.  If you're the type of vampire that cannot blend into human society at all (e.g., due to physical deformities), and there is no vampire society to speak of, then the isolation problem becomes acute.  In some lore, the infection might be progressive, eventually causing one to lose one's self entirely.  These are all valid reasons to regard the condition as a curse to be cured at all costs.

Edited by sanahtlig
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7 hours ago, Plk_Lesiak said:

Just a quick question - is it like throughout the whole thing, or just briefly after the protag is turned? This may affect my desition whether to buy it after they finish fixing the translation. ;]

The protagonist hates being a vampire for all of the common route (though he enjoys some of the perks, like getting to indulge in his sexual fantasies) and he resents having to drink blood through a lot of the heroine routes. 

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