Posts Tagged ‘ real vampire ’

Daddy’s Girl – a movie review

I’m a bit of a movie-fan. That’s not really something i talk about much here, as it’s mostly not relevant irrelevant to vampirism and donoring. In particular i’m into “grotesque” movies, recent examples might include “Taxidermia” or “The Human Centipede“, “Dumplings” would also fall into this category, or “Marquis“. It is really not so much a style or genre but a certain quality which makes people i tell about them say you’re weird and move a little bit away from me on their seats, with a slightly worried look in their eyes.

I also enjoy a wide range of other off-beat movies[1], and it won’t surprise you then that i’m not too fond of large productions aimed at drawing the masses to the cinema. I do enjoy horror, but not because it’s scary; if you (dear reader) are ever in a chat with me while i’m watching a horror movie (a few readers who might experience that) you might hear me exclaiming in glee and describing the most outrageous scenes in sumptuous detail. Yes i’m weird.

Vampire movies are a thing apart. Most of them are just really bad. Many are downright horrible[2]. The genre has been milked so hard that it’s very rare for a vampire movie to actually bring in something new. And then of course as donors or real vampires we get our very own reasons to rant about vampire movies. Yet there’s quite a few i like. “Let The Right One In” is an outstanding movie for any genre, which i recommend wholeheartedly to any movie fan (and i will restrain myself from going on a rant about the fucking idiots[3] who are making an american remake). I am rather fond of “Night Watch” too, both in its written and movie forms. “Vampire Diary” (the british movie, not the american series) is interesting in the way it blurs the lines between lifestyler and real vampire, and between real vampire and “real” vampire[4], and also because it centres on the donor. Romero’s “Martin” leaves the question of whether he is a “real” vampire or a human hungering for blood wide open.

And then a friend on the VCMB pointed me at “Daddy’s Girl” (“Cravings” in the US), and this is something new. This is, for all intents and purposes, a movie about a real vampire.

Lets start by dashing your hopes. The reason you’ve probably never heard about it is that it is not a good movie. The acting is stale and flat, or else ridiculously overdrawn. The shots are crude, again either flat or exaggerated. The plot is cobbled together and doesn’t really know what it wants to be, a psychological drama or a horror or a movie about doctor/patient relationships.

It also does a really bad job at portraying a real vampire. But then, it is a drama, not a documentary[5], and the vampirism is supposed to create an arc of dramatic tension running through the movie. I have not heard a single case of a real vampire unhooking a hospital patient from a blood infusion (no doubt such fantasies are common, but going that extra step and making it real?). Similarly, accounts of non-consensual feeding are extremely rare, though one assumes they would be under-reported. However, cases of nailing victims to the floor, murder, or abduction tend to get into the news, and if there’s a vampirism angle that would certainly get picked up.

So what’s actually in the movie? There’s a psychiatrist, struggling to deal with the suicide of his wife and the death of his mother. There’s the vamp, a teenaged girl, who becomes his patient after an act of self-injury misinterpreted as a suicide attempt. There’s the vampire’s mother, who gets into a relationship with the psychiatrist. Of the side characters i think only the donor-girl deserves mention, who gives us the best scene in the whole movie.

<Warning, there follow spoilers>
So we have a wonderful triangle of a relationship. It starts of when the vampire kills the psychiatrist’s very ill mother when she pulls out the blood infusion she’s receiving. The two develop some kind of freudian psychosexual doctor/patient relationship, which goes haywire when the psychiatrist starts sleeping with the vampire’s mother. Pretty soon the vampire is knocking at the psychiatrists front door, begging for a place to stay the night. She then proceeds to drug him up, and when he’s completely knocked out she feasts on his blood (via venipuncture). In an interlude we see the vampire butchering her pet rat, one assumes in a desire to get at its blood. In what i consider the best scene, certainly the most relevant to real vampirism, the donor girl, who bears the scars of serious self-injury, cuts herself across the arm and then lets the vampire feed from her. She is obviously rather terrified of the vampire and of the experience, leaving in a hurry. This is the only scene of which i can say that it actually mirrors many real vampires’ experience, though it is a feeding which went bad. When the donor bumps into the psychiatrist, she spills the whole story to him. Subsequently he researches Renfield’s syndrome[6] and clinical vampirism, gets into trouble with hospital administration and is suspended (from work, not by hooks or rope). The vampire kills the psychiatrist’s wee little doggy and blends him to a dark red drink (i had to facepalm). Events pick up, the psychiatrist allows himself to get drugged by the vampire again, wakes up nailed by to the floor through his hands with the vamp wanting to pierce his carotid artery with a hairpin. His estate agent turns up, giving him a moment of hope (i think they were going for comedy at this point), only for it to be shattered when the vamps mother sides with the vamp. The estate agent gets hit over the head and fed from. In the final scene the psychiatrist is chained to a bed in a basement somewhere, the mother being kind and caring from him, while the vamp blissfully drinks from a plastic tube connected to his neck somewhere.
<You survived the spoilers!>

If you read through that you’ll understand why i say that it’s a very bad portrayal of sanguinarian vampirism. The only scene which i actually consider accurate is the feeding from the donor, the rest is wild dramatisation and invention. Of course a drama does need a story-arc, suspense, resolution, etc., but Daddy’s Girl handles the whole thing exemplarily badly.

Nonetheless it is a movie about an actual real sanguinarian vampire, which doesn’t invoke any kind of supernatural or sci-fi explanation, and who is devoid of any superpowers of metaphysical gifts. To my knowledge it is the only movie around which does that, if you know of another then please let me know in the comments. By including a donor the movie also managed to do something which most documentaries fail at.

It’s just a shame that it’s such a bad movie.

[1] i’m going to refrain from making a long list, sorry.
[2] check out Jonathon8’s handy guide to vampire movies by a “real” vampire.
[3] i am very selective about my swearing, most swearwords function by othering, and if you’ve read my blog any length of time you’ll know that is something i try to be aware of. But when i call somebody stupid or an idiot, that implies uttermost scorn on my part. “Fuck” just emphasises whatever i’m saying, positively or negatively.
[4] “real” as in fictional, not actually real.
[5] and considering the quality of most documentaries out there, “Daddy’s Girl” is hardly doing a worse job.
[6] Renfield’s is not recognised as a psychiatric diagnosis. It’s symptoms, progression, and characterisation have little to none correspondence to the experience of actual sanguinarian vampires. Any time anybody invokes Renfield’s syndrome as an explanation of vampirism they are doing the whole VC a disservice. Renfield’s is garbage, and belongs on the same heap of trash as explanations of vampirism invoking Erszebet Bathory, Vlad Dracul, Kain or Lilith. Furthermore, don’t those idiots who invoke Kain (and most who invoke Lilith) realise that by doing so they are embracing a worldview which holds that the world was created out of nothing some 6000 years ago? Stupid nincompoops! *Cough* sorry, don’t know what came over me there.


Laycock on Vampires as an Identity Group – a review

Joseph Laycock has been at it again, this time with an academic article: Real Vampires as an Identity Group [1]. My regular readers will know that i’m a bit of a fangirl of Laycock’s [2], so i was quite excited when the article was announced, and already planning an eventual review here. Getting some direct encouragement from a prominent member of the VC (vampire community) decided the case and moved it up on my priority list.

In this article Laycock describes his anthropological work with the AVA (Atlanta Vampire Alliance), and the VEWRS (Vampire and Energy Work Research Survey) which the AVA was conducting. He then discusses how this survey is contributing to the construction of vampire as an identity group. It is interesting to read his description of his research, which gives a much more vivid image of his time amongst vampires than one draws from “Vampires Today” [3]. I will first comment on a few of his observations, then dig into the core of his arguments, before finishing of with some critical comments.

Laycock remarks that one vampire told him he would prefer to be like everybody else, as a demonstration that vampires see the vampirism as inherent, and not a choice. In my experience this attitude is far from unique. Quite a few vampires have expressed the same desire to me, and i’m at the point where i tend to be at least a little doubtful of vampires who do not express a certain ambivalence towards their vampirism.

I enthusiastically agree with the observation that vampires (and other members of the community) are quite comfortable talking about vampirism in public, at least when we’re in a group. The “dessert” story took place in public, and when recently at a public conference the speaker greeted his “special guests, the vampires” we all cheered loudly [4].

If the relationship between real vampires and roleplayers is quite strained in the US, my experience with the german VC so far indicates a much more relaxed attitude towards roleplaying. I know several vampires in the german VC who enthusiastically participate in vampire LARPs, and some describe meeting other vampires there. When at the WGT we got a chance to participate in a LARP many of us wanted to go.

Laycock also notes how there is quite some antagonism between the more occult vampire groups and the dominant discourse which describes vampirism as inherent; i might even go farther and say that they are incompatible. A sanguinarian who used to be an active member of the temple of Set described to me how they found very little of interest to them in the order of the vampyre, and preferred to pursue advancement in other orders. Similarly in conversation with “father” Todd i found almost no common ground between his conception of vampirism and that of the vampires i usually frequent, and his discourse denied their identity as vampires.

Now though the subject of Laycock’s anthropological research was the vampire community, the argument he makes in this article is only incidentally related to vampirism. So we need to make an excursion into the theory of identity construction.

A long-standing argument in social sciences is whether social categories are socially constructed or based on objective criteria. The later says that (to use an overly exaggerated example) boys and girls are objectively different (at least anatomically), and their differing interests in toys results from this. The former say that children are basically all pretty similar, and their differing interests in toys results from social conditioning (pink toys for girls, blue ones for boys) [5]. Both sides of this argument aren’t really satisfying intellectually, but the concept of dynamic nominalism allows the two to be joined. When a concept of a kind of person comes into existence (in this case vampires) that kind of person starts identifying as that kind of person. Those people exist independently of the category, but without the category the objective criteria which includes them in that category cannot be understood in that way.

There is an ongoing sociological debate in europe on whether class still exists as a meaningful social category which i think illustrates this concept quite well. French citizens tend to have a keen and detailed understanding of their socio-economic class, while german citizens tend to all consider themselves “middle class”. When presented with pictures of people of different socio-economic status and asked to group them, they create very similar groups, even though they aren’t given any instructions on how to group them. When the experimenters then explain that they are doing a study on class, and ask the subjects if they wish to change any of their groupings accordingly, the french make a few adjustments, resulting in groupings which correspond very precisely with the socio-economic class of the people on the photographs, while the germans leave their groupings untouched and don’t see what adjustments might even make sense. The french can also explain why they created the groupings they made, while the germans can’t. Now france, in a bid to pursue “égalité” (equality, one of their revolutionary ideals) officially keeps track of socio-economic class, and has laws aiming to equalise chances for kids of differing class, while germany since bismarckian times (well over a century) tracks status as “beamter” (functionary, a state-employed person), employee, or employer/owner. Germans, lacking the categories to describe class, still group people according to class – despite strong discourse against it, class still exists in germany. However, class does not constitute an identity group, unlike in neighbouring france, as there is no category with which individuals could identify.

In a roundabout way my own experience as a dragon might also help to illustrate this relatively complicated concept: i have known for almost two decades that “dragon” is a large part of my identity. I experienced mental and emotional shifts and the sensation of phantom limbs long before i ever heard of otherkin or therians. It was always “interesting” to try to explain these experiences. At a time i was in very intense psychiatric treatment, which contributed to regular and powerful shifts; here my experiences were quite positively treated as a kind of meaningful self-narrative, however that never really covered the “realness” of my identity. Later, when i grew close to several people with DID (dissociative identity disorder) i began identifying dragon as an alter [6]. This was already much closer to how i perceived myself, as this allowed me to perceive dragon as part of myself. It was only when i started exploring the vampire community that i encountered the concepts of otherkin and therian. One could understand that as being the moment those categories came into existence for me, and my identification as dragon was almost instant. Whereas before i was “some kind of crazy”, afterwards i was a dragon.

Laycock argues that the vampire community forms such an identity group. For vampires, vampirism is an inherent condition, while the identity and social category of “vampire” has been emerging mostly since the seventies and eighties (though Laycock traces the beginnings of this back into the 19th century) [7]. But the vampire community does not have any central leadership, its members are joined in small groups or not affiliated with any group, many don’t even use the same vocabulary [8]. Laycock calls it an acephalous entity, literally “headless”. Furthermore, vampires have had very little control over how they have been represented in media and academia (try finding an article in press which doesn’t somehow sensationalise vampirism).

In this situation the VEWRS fulfils two obvious functions. On the one hand it makes it much harder for people to claim things about vampires. We now have actual data on who and what vampires are. On the other, it creates a mirror for vampires to see and recognise themselves in. But though the AVA members state that they do not intend to, through the survey, create a definition of what a vampire is, it is quite inevitable that the VEWRS does influence the definition of vampirism. The data from the VEWRS is the only available quantitative data on vampires [9]. I only joined the VC when much of the preliminary data published was already available, and i find it difficult to imagine not having this data to fall back on. In this sense the VEWRS is actually a very strong defining force; it and the people behind it (analysing and publishing the data) have become knowledge creators, participating in constructing the social category of vampire.

There is no doubt that the VEWRS constitutes an important contribution to constructing the category of real vampire, and it is remarkable in that it is vampires defining themselves. I also totally understand that other groups, e.g. otherkin or therians, express a desire for such surveys in their own communities. Personally i would love to get my grubby little fingers on the data of those non-vamps in there who are donors [10].

But i can’t help but feel that some of Laycock’s thoughts on the impact the VEWRS has are overly optimistic. He claims that it de-otherizes vampires, but i can only partly agree with that. Again a short excursion into theory is necessary, as the “other” is a major concept in social sciences. An “other” is created when a perceived or actual difference is used to construct not just differing social categories, but when one of these categories is designated “normal” and the other “different”. In this process it is always the more powerful category which designates itself as the normal, and enforces that normality, while the “different” category, even if it is numerically superior, is punished in various ways for showing its otherness.

Imagine for a moment, if you’re a vamp, that nobody would think it unusual if you stared at pulsing veins, the shops were all open at night but tended to close during the day (assuming that you’re nocturnal), and you could get away with assaulting and feeding from non-vamps (but judge, s/he was asking for it, going around with their neck uncovered like that). That’s what it’s like when you’re the dominant category, when you’re “normal” [11].

When you’re the “other”, well, it’s less fun. If you’re lucky you just don’t get taken seriously and labeled a roleplayer. But you might also get kicked out of your church when somebody outs you, in a divorce proceeding your ex only has to hint at the v-word and you’re lucky to even get visitation rights with your kids, and if blood-drinking is legal at all in your jurisdiction then it still is fraught with risks, and people will assume that you’re certainly guilty of something.

De-othering happens on two or even three levels. The individual and the community can come to understand that they are actually quite okay, and don’t deserve to be treated that way. They can come to understand themselves as different, but not other [12]. However, as long as the dominant group continues to otherize and more or less systematically disadvantage you, having de-othered yourself internally at best gives you a limited advantage. Perhaps importantly, it can help in allying with other othered groups, as exemplified in the witches vs. vampires softball match which Laycock mentions [13].

The VEWRS is certainly very useful for the internal and individual de-othering. But when the community is so thoroughly othered that not even its way of understanding itself is recognised (Laycock calls the concept of “subtle” energy “subjugated knowledge”, and the sangs who believe that they suffer from a physical condition are hardly closer to recognition by doctors), it is going to be a long and arduous process before the community achieves a “different, but not other” status.

Similarly, when Laycock says that by calling the non-awakened folk “mundanes” or “muggles” we are creating an oppositional outsider, i get the impression that he is speaking from the position of the dominant normal and failing to understand the position of the “other”. The concept of “oppositional outsider” comes quite directly from studies on deviance, which are extremely marked by dominant “normal” people studying and even creating new categories of “others”. When we use cis-gendered in the trans community we’re not trying to create an opposition, we just need a different word than “normal” to be able to stop othering ourselves whenever we talk about cis-gendered people. Whenever we say “normal people” we participate in othering ourselves, we need a designation to which makes both us and them different but normal. Mundane does the job nicely [14].

Finally, i think that Laycock misses the point when he says that, as vampires become an established identity group, everybody else becomes non-vampires. The members of the dominant group are by default not conscious of the privileges which being normal constitutes, after all it is normal to have them. The othered group however is usually acutely conscious of the ways in which not being “normal” disadvantages them. Perhaps the biggest privilege of belonging to the “normal” group is that you can be blind to the privilege you receive, you are never confronted with it. As such, all the others consider themselves “normal”, and will continue to consider themselves “normal” even after vampires become well known.

If the above sounds rather critical that is not supposed to diminish the importance of Laycock’s work for the vampire community. He is the only scholar so far who has approached the VC with an open mind, willing to see what is actually there instead of what he wants to see [15]. His work is consistently respectful of his subjects, which is very gratifying to experience.

In this article Laycock calls the members of the AVA knowledge creators, giving the community – through the VEWRS – an image of who and what they are. It seems to me that he has himself become a knowledge creator, that his work has also become a significant contribution to how vampires perceive themselves. Seen not as an academic, but as a member of the VC, this is perhaps the most important aspect of his work.

In any case i will continue to follow his work. I understand that he has an article on otherkin and therians in the pipeline, which i am eagerly awaiting, and certainly intend to review here when it is published.

[1] Laycock, Joseph; “Real Vampires as an Identity Group: Analyzing Causes and Effects of an Introspective Survey by the Vampire Community” Nova Religio – The Journal of Alternative and Emergent Religions; August 2010, Vol. 14, No. 1, Pages 4-23
[2] Idea: maybe i could interview him someday for this blog?
[3] This article was almost two years awaiting publication, so it’s writing pre-dates “Vampires Today”.
[4] “Dessert” is an earlier post on this blog, and the speaker was Dr Benecke, whom i still owe you an entry about. It is mostly written already, but i’ve been rather distracted.
[5] This example is almost a caricature of the issue, i am fully aware of that.
[6] Alters are the various personae of a person living with multiple identities, i.e. with DID.
[7] Incidentally, this approach neatly answers the recurrent question of “where are all these vampires coming from, and why weren’t there any half a century ago?” The people with the vampiric condition were there, but there was nothing they could identify with.
[8] Laycock says that the basic categories of sanguinarian, psi-vamp, and hybrid are generally agreed upon, but in my experience even these are still disputed (never mind the vocabulary: he uses “psychic vampire”).
[9] The vampire sarasvati is currently compiling the data from her own survey of vampires, but the scale of her project is much smaller and as of yet no data has been formally published.
[10] We’re not an obvious candidate for an identity group, at least not one based on inherent criteria. But nobody knows who we are, and we too would like to be able to say “this is who we are“.
[11] And i think that’s one reason quite a few vamps i know like Daybreakers. Because there the vamps are the normal ones.
[12] An example from a slogan for lgbt-rights: heterosexuality isn’t normal, it’s just common.
[13] I wonder if they had rules about “no magick, no draining”, or if it was more freestyle…
[14] cheshirecatman, whom i must thank for proofreading this article, comments that: “I think this is a form of empowerment too. Not so much creating an opponent but creating a term for them just as they did for us.”
[15] I still wonder how different Laycock’s experience would have been if his first experience with vampires had been with e.g. the strigoii vii and their very narrow and mystical definition of vampirism instead of the AVA.

book announcement

this is the first time i do this, mention specific community-wide “news” elements. i reckon most of the interested people in the vampire community will learn these things through the grapevine or by the people who spread news wide in the community. but i liked this one in particular:

Vampires Today: The Truth about Modern Vampirism” by one Joseph Laycock.

it is an academic book about real vampires and the communities they (we!) have formed. the writer is a scholar of religion and (apparently) an ethnographer, the book is certainly a work of ethnography. in an interview (here) about the book he mentions his approach and the basic ideas (including a reference to foucault, which tickles me) he was pursuing. of the various reviews etc. that i’ve seen on the book the interview is definitely the text which most makes me want to read the book.

from what i’ve understood of the content (by what others have mentioned) the author concentrates on the offline vampire communities, and seems to have (as so many others) utterly ignored us donors. i have not seen the word “donor” mentioned once in association with this book. if that is indeed so, then it is a huge shame. the other subject which he actually wanted to include was therianthropy and otherkin; again a shame, because we are present throughout the community, but this seems to have been a decision of his editor.

nevertheless this is potentially a fundamental work in the scientific study of vampirism, and i for one would very much like to read it.

p.s. i wish i had a possibility to shop online. is somebody looking for a gift for me? *bats eyelashes all prettily*

stats and stuff

hey, i’m allowed to post navel-gazing blog-posts about blogging as much as the next guy, no?

i seem to have found some peak in relative popularity. until last week my stats were dumpling along with at best few views per day, obviously because i’d been neglecting this. previously there had been much more outside attention, but then i had slowed down with posting. then a week ago i got ~150 views in one day. totally insane. the next day was two thirds less, but still above the previous best day. a few days slowdown, and yesterday was again a huge day (not like the 150 day, but second-highest number of views).

and i wasn’t even posting anything particularly eventful.

i’m not ruling out that this is pure randomness. but still, i’m curious as to what happened.

one element which can explain part of it is that i’m now the “featured” blog for the wordpress tag “real vampire“. (i’m quite sure that “featured” in this case just means that whatever algorythm wordpress uses to create those listings has decided that i should come first; if it’s actually a human decision, then i’m honoured). there’s now a few referrals per day from that page, but it can’t explain the huge peak a week ago.

the funny thing here is that i’m not even a vampire, i’m just writing about vampires because of my involvement with them. and i’ve only used the tag “real vampire” twice (three times now, hah!). *shrug*

okay, that’s enough navel-gazing for now. in other news, i’m fairly far along with another piece of vampire fiction. it’s going to be a bit more gritty, a bit more dark than “intermission” was. i’m looking forward to being able to post the finished piece.

how i became a donor

(note: i’m a bit feverish, i’m not sure how coherent the following will be)

in a previous thread my friend Willow commented on how my revelation to her that i am a donor came out of the blue to her, and surprised and shocked her. and indeed, my desire to be a donor is not something that i used to talk about – to most people it is not exactly an anodyne subject. i guess in some ways it is comparable to coming out as gay to somebody who never suspected it of you. and i suspect others who have known me longer might also be surprised if/when they find out.

for those, and for myself, i think it is important to know that this is not some new lark, soon to be forgotten. this is a desire which has been with me for most of my life, the only thing which is new is that i’m actualising my desire now. here is how i came to this point:

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a beginning

i am about to do something which could legitimately be described as unusual. in about ten days or so, i am going to step on a train, ride it for twelve hours or so, into a different country. there i’m going to meet a person i have never met before, and allow them to drink from my blood. i expect it to be a great experience.

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