It’s that time again when I talk at length about clichés that drive me nuts.
Today I want to look at a horror creature that has been done again and again and again, to the point where if I tried to list all the clichés I would write a book. I am of course talking about the vampire. What with it being Halloween and all.
Like with all the previous clichés that I’ve spoken about, these are caused by writer/creator laziness. Instead of trying to put a unique spin on a character the writer/creator will have a standard vampire acting in the standard vampire way. While this might be alright for a side character, as a quick and easy way to establish them without having to spend ages dwelling on a non-critical character but still giving your readers/audience a good idea of what to expect from this character, it won’t work for the main character.
The way to make your vampire character stand out is to make them different than the norm.
Take the Twilight, for example, I am well aware of the hate this series gets but when you look at the figures you’ll see that it worked very well despite the stigma. This book series sold millions of copies, got made into a series of films and made the author an absolute ton of money. All because she took vampires and put her spin on them, and while many didn’t like the new spin many did, in particular, Meyer’s target audience did.
Anyway, I feel that I’ve rambled long enough, so without further ado, let’s jump into my top three hated vampire clichés.
They are crippled by romantic longing
This is possibly one of the most overused clichés known to man. It is getting beyond tiresome.
However, that being said, I do understand that this is usually done for one of several good reasons. This tactic can make your character vulnerable, give them a soft spot as it were, or make them more relatable to the reader, give them thoughts and emotions the reader can identify with, and lastly make them more human, less like an irrelevant monster.
But knowing the reasons why something is done, does not make it any less overdone and cliched. There are other ways to accomplish all of the above mentioned. There are other vulnerabilities to give a character, other relatable emotions, other ways to make a monstrous character more human.
A good example, though admittedly not a horror example, is the videogame God of War. The relationship between the two main playable characters is a familial relationship between father and son, not a romantic one and it ticks all the above-mentioned boxes. To go into it in slightly more depth, Kratos, the main character from God of War, is a serious badass. To the point where he’s almost inhuman, he’s an angry unstoppable force of rage, who at this point in the story has wiped out the entire Greek pantheon including Zeus and a bunch of Titans, he is a literal monster. He is not an emotional character. His relationship with his son opens up his character in a multitude of ways, it makes him relatable, makes him vulnerable and touches the audience in a deep and meaningful way. It clearly shows that you don’t need a romantic relationship to make a character accessible.
They are killed by a stake through the heart
“Well who wouldn’t get killed” – Dracula, Hotel Transylvania
This is more of a technicality than a cliché and to be fair this used to make a lot more sense in the past. It used to involve staking, decapitation, burning bodies, and scattering of ashes, there was a whole rigmarole needed to successfully put a vampire down for good. But the idea has slim-lined itself down to simple staking being enough. But this doesn’t make sense, why would a wooden stake work while a metal one won’t? I know it’s probably a silly point but it irritates me, there are many far more practical ways to destroy a heart other than close up wood stabbing. I know if I wanted to fight a vampire I certainly wouldn’t want to get within arms reach of one, it would squish me like a soft squishy thing. Also, tell me, why does staking work but wooden crossbow bolts are walked off? Does the vampire heart scoff at slightly thinner bits of wood?
Need for a human servant, in particular, a really weird one like Renfield
Ok so this overpowered creature somehow cannot manage to do anything without the assistance of a half-mad, but somehow competent henchman. Really? Really!
I understand that you can’t do everything yourself and that not being able to mobilise in sunlight can be debilitating but why either choose or create a servant who is so obviously in need of some help that they all but scream vampire slave.
This worked in the original Dracula story as it was new, and fit with the tone and atmosphere of the story, so much so that it was creepy rather than ridiculous. Sadly I have seen this duplicated in other stories where it simply doesn’t fit.
Modern stories or rather stories set in the modern-day make this even more ridiculous, there is no need to have weird servants now when you’ve got Google. You simply don’t need the hands, you can do it all yourself, or employ competent people over the internet to sort this for you.
The internet had truly benefited vampires 😊
Do you have any particular vampire clichés that you hate?