Female Vampires: Children, Villains or Servants

This is a guest post by Paul and Renee. Paul and Renee blog and review at Fangs for the Fantasy. We’re great lovers of the genre and consume it in all its forms – but as marginalised people we also analyse critically through a social justice lens.

Looking at Urban Fantasy we see a lot of vampires. A lot of vampires. Sparkly vampires, sexy vampires, daylight walking vampires, sexy vampires, magic vampires, sexy vampires, viking vampires, sex vampires – did we mention sexy vampires? Yes, lots and lots of sexy vampires.

Who are men. Nearly always men – especially when we look at Urban Fantasy on television. Men men and more sexy men wall to wall – and very very few women. Of course, part of this is because most of the human protagonists are women and Urban Fantasy is extremely heteronormative and will only pair them off with a male love interest. But looking at the few female vampires we can dig up and it’s not a great sign – we seem to have 3 models: children, servants and enemies.

Much of the models that we see in vampire stories involve an ancient male vampire and a young, often innocently virginal human female. You would think that when a relationship forms between a female vampire and a young human male that the pattern would simply repeat, but such is not the case. Female vampires are quite often infantalised, though they are at times well over a thousand years old. The best example of this is Rebekah from The Vampire Diaries. She is 1000 years old and in comparison to every other vampire on the show, she is absolutely childlike. Rebekah has thus far concerned herself with proms, dances and even becoming a cheerleader. Why oh why would a person who has seen so much history be interested in these things, especially after spending so many years trapped in a coffin?

When Bill was forced to turn Jessica into a vampire on True Blood, she was just a young teenage girl who had not seen much of the world. True to form, she was also a virgin. When she discovered that she had been changed, Jessica delighted in cursing, as this was something that she was not allowed to in her parents home. It was the act of a child rebelling against that which she had been taught. Much of Bill and Jessica’s relationship takes the form of father/daughter, based in the fact that Bill is her creator. He only reluctantly takes responsibility for Jessica, after Eric makes it clear that he will not. Jessica has matured over the years and has really begun to figure out exactly who she is; however, thanks to being turned into a vampire when she was still a virgin, her hymen reforms after each act of sexual intercourse, thereby constructing her as a perpetual virgin.

In Interview with a Vampire, Lestat turns Claudia into a vampire after finding Louis feeding from her, in the hope of forcing Louis to stay with them. In the novel, Claudia was only about 6 years old at the time she was turned, though she was portrayed to be between 10-12 in the movie. Even when Claudia has long past the age where she would find dolls interesting, Lestat continues to gift her with a doll on the anniversary of the day he turned her. Claudia is desperate to grow up and put away childish things but she cannot because she is trapped in the body of a child, though she has the mind of a grown woman. Her age means that she is forever dependent upon an adult vampire. Claudia never does achieve her freedom and dies at the hand of the theater vampires, her very existence seen as a threat.

In the Sookie Stackhouse novels, Sophie Anne was a strong powerful vampire, who was incredibly intelligent. In HBO’s True Blood, we are treated to a very different Sophie Anne. When she tried to command Eric, she quickly learns that he is stronger than her, and this results in him not only restraining her, but threatening her. Sophie Anne is unable to defend herself. She whimpers, whines and pouts for much of the time that she is on screen. Her only power comes from her title and that makes her little more than a figurehead whereas Eric who is simply a Sheriff has loyal followers, great strength and is constructed continually as a powerful vampire.

If a female vampire manages to escape the infantilisation, her second choice is that of servant. Most Urban Fantasy female protagonists are surrounded by men – they often have surprisingly few female friends and other women around them are either enemies or servants – women who exist for the greater glory of the protagonist rather than having fully developed roles of their own.

Twilight has the greatest collection of these servants – with Esme who exists to be the eternal mother, Alice the walking magic 8 ball and Rosaliee, who gets upgraded from enemy to servant when the blessed Bella falls pregnant (a ridiculous phrase that never ceases to amuse me – it’s like she tripped and staggered to her feet with a full womb).

Even True Blood’s most awesome Pam exists as Eric’s sidekick. And while she may snark about it mightily, that means being dragged into other people’s schemes for which she often suffers – both being tortured by the Magister for Eric and later being cursed to rot during Bill’s battle against the Necromancer Marnee. She has little of her own independent motives – in fact, while all the men are busy having sex every which way with any woman they can, Pam manages to only score once – an oral sex scene in which she manages to stay fully clothed and her make up completely unmussed (now there’s a rare vampire talent for you!)

Of course, we have to round off with the villains. For some reason (and this is definitely a trope that we will visit another time) an Urban Fantasy protagonist and bona fide strong woman (with lots of Spunky Agency) cannot abide the presence of other strong women. They’re like magnets, it seems, like repels. And so, with any strong female protagonist, there has to be a strong woman who hates her – and so eters the last role of the female vampire.

From Lorena – who manages to be both and evil sadistic murder and, far greater a sin, competition for Sookie’s man to evil, aggressive Nan Flannagan who presumes to dictate to the men, True Blood definitely has its quota. In Vampire Diaries we have the clearly antagonistic Katherine (who is set so far to be Elena’s direct enemy that she’s literally Elena’s double) and yet another antagonist who had the bad taste to dare to compete for the heroine’s menfolk. We have the ambiguous Rose who dabbles with been an enemy and an ally before being killed off to remove all doubt. Even Twilight had its collection – Victoria was a major antagonist for two of the films (fixated, of course, on the female protagonist) and Rosalie set herself up as Bella’s enemy almost at first sight (though, to be fair, I was pretty much Bella’s enemy on first read as well).

And what happens to bad guys? Yes they die. Well not Rosalie – she’s lucky enough to come to her senses and start worshipping at Bella’s feet fertile womb, saving herself from death by upgrading herself to a servant.

Of course there are some exceptions (but usually they can fit in one of these categories) but those exceptions usually die quickly before they can attempt to overturn the trope – certainly before they become long running characters. At best they get a token walk on before we return to the men and their child-like female counterparts.

And this is disturbing – in a genre that is saturated by vampires, there are so few women and those women we do have are so limited to such narrow roles – the child, the enemy or the servant.

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65 comments for “Female Vampires: Children, Villains or Servants

  1. May 17, 2012 at 9:13 am

    Queen of the Damned? She is a tragic figure though.

  2. Travis
    May 17, 2012 at 9:48 am

    While it’s not about vampires, Anne Rice’s Mayfair Witches series (Lasher, Taltos etc) has some quite compelling and unconventional female characters.

    I’d call it Urban Fantasy, and would recommend it, too. :)

  3. sorceressuprising
    May 17, 2012 at 9:58 am

    I had never noticed that pattern. But, it seems clear now that you’ve pointed it out. Even when the female vampire is the protagonist this can be seen. For example, Fledgling’s Shori appears to be 11 years old and her memory loss makes her seem childlike throughout the book.

  4. Verity Khat
    May 17, 2012 at 10:07 am

    Kim Harrison’s Rachel Morgan series does a better job with this, I think. Ivy technically isn’t full vamp yet, but she’s refreshingly complex and has clawed out a decent amount of control over her life. She’s deadly but vulnerable, utterly competent yet completely terrified of herself.

    The only vampire woman I can recall being portrayed as childish is Ivy’s younger sister…who is all of 16 years old. Other vampire (and werewolf and demon and WTFISTHAT) women have a well-rounded batch of motivations. They do tend to be enemies, not necessarily because they’re women–though there have been a few were-women who took umbrage to Rachel–but because our heroine is just EXTREMELY talented at pissing people off. And sexy vampire men scare the daylights out of her. (She does love to date men who scare her, but she recognizes that this is a problem.)

  5. R.Dave
    May 17, 2012 at 10:24 am

    The reason for this phenomenon seems pretty clear: pre-Anne Rice, vampire stories were largely traditional gothic/Dracula stories or sci-fi stories focused on power and violence and aimed at male audiences; post-Anne Rice, vampire stories are largely sex and romance stories aimed at teen and young adult women, so you get angst (and, as the OP notes, cheerleaders and prom parties).

  6. Kierra
    May 17, 2012 at 10:31 am

    I haven’t read it since high school, but Christopher Pike’s The Last Vampire series has a female vampire as the main character who is a pretty kick-ass heroine. It’s a pretty good alternative to Twilight for pre-teen readers, and has apparently been re-released in all the vampire excitement.

  7. Kierra
    May 17, 2012 at 10:41 am

    correction: meant to imply young adult when I said pre-teen.

  8. Roger
    May 17, 2012 at 11:06 am

    See, this is why I miss Forever Knight. Janette was a rival of Natalie’s for Nick’s affection, but it never made her an enemy. She was a child of LaCroix, but was never childlike. And she frequently assisted Nick, but was never his servant.

    She is the exception that proves the rule, and I fear we shall never see her like again.

  9. Roger
    May 17, 2012 at 11:10 am

    (Addendum: this is not to say that Forever Knight didn’t have its share of female vampires that did fall into these tropes. Urs was definitely the child, Francesca the enemy, Divia the child enemy, etc. Just that the primary, recurring female vampire character managed to avoid those categories.)

  10. jemand
    May 17, 2012 at 11:18 am

    Werewolf seems even more exclusively male. I have trouble coming up with *any* examples of female wolves.

  11. May 17, 2012 at 11:37 am

    Definitely Urban Fantasy

    The Hollows is one of the best series out there, by far. Ivy has some prioblematic issues (predatory bisexuality and abuse victim) but she does grow considerably

    In television I can’t think of any – but in books Carrie Vaughn and Kelley Armstrong both have female werewolves. Kitty (Carrie Vaughns) is a complicated character with ups and downs. Elena (Kelley Armstrong) is pretty determined to do her own thing but she has a very problematic husband and, like all of Kelley Armstrong’s protagonists, she has been kidnapped multiple multiple MULTIPLE times. I think they’re quite bored through all the kidnapping now

  12. Dan_Brodribb
    May 17, 2012 at 11:49 am

    @ jemand

    Ginger Snaps (movie)

    Worth checking out.

  13. Marle
    May 17, 2012 at 12:00 pm

    This article is spot on. I’m a huge fan of Buffy the Vampire Slayer and True Blood (and I know enough about Twilight and Vampire Diaries to have a conversation about them), and even though this article doesn’t cover BtVS, everything applies to it as well. I was always frustrated that BtVS didn’t let Darla and Drusilla redeem themselves and become good guys like it did Angel and Spike. Well, technically Darla became good, but it was for about 5 seconds when she staked herself to save her and Angel’s baby. Blah.

    I always hate the lack of vampire female-human male relationships compared to vampire male-human female relationships. BtVS and its spinoff Angel never had one. True Blood finally got one with Jessica and Hoyt, but, as this article points out, the woman is still the virgin even when the vampire/human pairing is reversed. I also hadn’t noticed before this article that Buffy, Sookie, Bella, and Elena are all virgins. What kind of BS is that?

  14. DonnaL
    May 17, 2012 at 12:16 pm

    “Let the Right One In” is an example of a relationship between a female* vampire and a male human (actually two different male humans). Although she is a child vampire, of course, partially dependent on having a human servant/protector/procurer.

    *True regardless of the plot twist, which is explicit in the book, hinted at in the Swedish movie, and, I gather (I haven’t seen it) excised entirely from the US remake.

  15. seisy
    May 17, 2012 at 12:32 pm

    Books tend to do better, that’s true- or at least, there are more exceptions.

    @Fangs for the Fantasy – Kelley Armstrong has Cassandra, the council vampire representative, an old vampire with a lot of power and a younger lover. It’s been awhile since I read the book, but I think (and I could be wrong) she’s the one that turned him when he was a young man.

    There’s also Anno Dracula, which I just read recently, where the female protaganist is an old vampire.

  16. May 17, 2012 at 12:34 pm
  17. sorceressuprising
    May 17, 2012 at 12:51 pm

    For strong female werewolves, there is always Pat Murphy’s Nadya.

  18. Tersa
    May 17, 2012 at 1:04 pm

    @Marle Wasn’t Hoyt a virgin too?

  19. liz
    May 17, 2012 at 1:55 pm

    I haven’t watched beyond the first season of True Blood, but in the books there are several vampire women who are not villians (or at least not more so than their male counterparts). Like the Queen of Louisiana, for example.

    And there are many many women were-animals in the books as well.

  20. Marle
    May 17, 2012 at 2:23 pm

    @Tersa – I can’t remember if Hoyt was a virgin or not. But the show has her potrayed as the eternal virgin. Which is also icky because it defines virgin as having a hymen. Male vampires on the show may have been turned before having sex, but if they were, they are clearly not eternal virgins. Also, the dynamic between Jessica and Hoyt is nothing like the paradigm with male vampires and virginal human women. Though reflects larger sexism about gender roles in (heterosexual) relationships. Female vampires with human men reverse the gender roles about men being stronger, and the protector. They would also often reverse the roles by having the woman be older and more experienced, but with Jessica and Hoyt, they avoided that by having Jessica be a newbie vamp just turned at age 17 (I believe, she’s definitely supposed to be a teen) while Hoyt is in his 20s. If they weren’t going to pander to heterosexist gender roles, they’d have more experienced female vampires hook up with human men, like say have Pam hook up with Jason. But actually the only sex Pam has gotten has been with a human woman who Eric (her maker and boss at Fangtasia) was also having sex with. Which isn’t exactly independent and empowering.

  21. Lweydd
    May 17, 2012 at 2:44 pm

    Another exception: Anne Rice’s Pandora. If I remember well, she’s portrayed as a grown, mature woman, with wishes, opinions and impulses of her own. I think in one point she becomes kind of a slave / servant, but in the end we can see her on her own.

    I know this is just another exception, but when I read the novel she struck me as a great character… I was searching for some literary bases for my characters (I play Vampire: The Masquerade, a roleplaying tabletop game), and she was honestly the only non-scapegoat / sexslave / immature babysitted / symbol of lost innocence female vampire I could find.

  22. Eve
    May 17, 2012 at 2:45 pm

    I’ve always thought Being Human is great… but tihnking about it this is pretty true.

    I did love Daisy, since it was kind of cool to see a woman who used her sexuality as a weapon (is that the right phrase?) but wasn’t sexualised by the camera?

    And Nina (though a werewolf) was mega-awesome.

    But though they’re great I do think more diveristy in characters would be even even better.

  23. Eve
    May 17, 2012 at 2:52 pm


    Young Dracula!

    Okay I get Magda is pretty awful, but the Count is JUST as bad.

    But we DO have Ingrid – now she is very nasty to Vlad, but there is a lot of reason to it what with the Count just hating women all the time.
    And it’s talked about – although the Count doesn’t change Ingrid is constantly shown to be awesome/evil.

    Oh, by the way, THIS IS A KIDS SHOWWW!
    Which is pretty cool.

    Sorry I love that show too much :L

  24. May 17, 2012 at 3:20 pm


    I wouldn’t really hold up Sophie-Ann in the TV series – apart from what happens to her (which I won’t spoil), she is highly infantilised. Hundreds, if not thousands of years old and she plays yatzee and whiles away hours playing with scratch cards, all to peals of child-like delight

  25. SaraC
    May 17, 2012 at 4:23 pm

    I don’t think anyone has mentioned Carmilla, which is definitely not urban fantasy, but it’s one of the older literary vampire stories. Carmilla, while definitely a problematic character, was portrayed as something more complex than an enemy or servant or child, and the story has undeniable lesbian undertones. Also, I want to point out that the vampires of Charlaine Harris’s Sookie Stackhouse series are not heteronormative at all. Many of the characters are gay or bisexual, and this is seen (in the vampire community) as perfectly permissible.

  26. May 17, 2012 at 6:21 pm

    Let’s be blunt: Urban fantasy is written by (mostly) heterosexual women for (mostly) heterosexual women. They write their fantasy. And their fantasy is “I want a sexy Creature of the Night boyfriend who is rich and eternally young.”

    It doesn’t leave a lot of room for other women, especially not for vampiric women, or for non-heteronormative relationships, because that is not the writer’s fantasy.

    Is it problematic? Sure, if you poke at it. Everything is problematic if you poke it.

    Some of us are out here writing UF with QUILTBAG characters, but we’re all in the small press, and not getting picked up by HBO (dammit).

  27. May 17, 2012 at 6:24 pm

    I definitely see this pattern here.

    However, I’d like to point out Gabrielle in Anne Rice’s Vampire Chronicles as an example against this. The moment she becomes a vampire she gets to live a life that she was denied as a human. She does the opposite of sexy vampire (to the chagrin of Lestat) and travels the world in dirt-covered khakis. She plays by her own rules and doesn’t like being around other people. She’s a pretty cool cat, in my opinion.

  28. Brennan
    May 17, 2012 at 7:02 pm

    Yes. And as much as I love BtVS, it occurs to me that that show may have played a big role in setting up these archetypes. Buffy gave us Drusilla, the infantalized villain who will chain you up and torture you in front of her doll collection, Darla, the servant villain who was basically a mook for the Master Vampire, and Harmony (the only female vamp to be a regular cast member). Harm got a hat trick: she was a vampire secretary who kept a unicorn collection and would hatch wildly ineffectual evil plans every few months. And in the end, she wasn’t even important enough to stake. Ouch.

    @jermand: There’s a female werewolf in Sparklepire land. Meyer goes out of her way to make you hate her. She’s a jealous harpy, she’s not as good as the boys in a fight, she’s spiteful, she’s breaking up the pack by her mere presence, blah blah blah. She quickly became my favorite character in the whole cursed series.

  29. Rei
    May 17, 2012 at 7:54 pm

    @ SaraC
    Carmilla’s pretty fascinating. She predates Dracula, although she’s been mostly forgotten. But in a lot of respects, she’s the classic current romantic vampire: ancient, powerful, upper-class, emotionally needy, and hyper-focused on an innocent young virgin girl. There are two main differences. She’s female, and she’s definitely a villain, though a sympathetic one. Her romances take the form of extremely intense friendships with awake-to-lesbianism sexual overtones (like Edward, she appears to be 17). Unlike Edward, she’s a serial monogamist. After she has secured an intense emotional connection with her prey (she tends to find excuses to temporarily board in houses containing gently-born teen girls), she eats them and moves on.

    I sort of wish Carmilla had more cultural staying power. Not only is she a female and the central vamp of her story, she’s a romantic vampire with real teeth. That is, she loves you, in her way, but that doesn’t mean she won’t destroy you. I understand why we have neutered vampires- who doesn’t want to be ravished by a privileged, predatory force while somehow maintaining personhood- but come on, guys. Sometimes the blood-sucking aristocrat who sweeps you off your feet is a really bad idea.

  30. Yan
    May 17, 2012 at 8:13 pm

    @jermand: it’s a coming of age story, so the were-character is young and not yet turned, but the protagonist of this new series has potential, IMO: http://www.amazon.com/Raised-Wolves-Canidae-trilogy-ebook/dp/B00704HKE8/ref=sr_1_3?ie=UTF8&qid=1337302777&sr=8-3

    As for Being Human, yeah — vampire, ghost, werewolf, and the ghost is female and reasonably ineffective. I’m really enjoying Lost Girl so far, but it’s not entirely problematic.

  31. Lara Emily Foley
    May 17, 2012 at 8:53 pm


    Ummm Buffy isn’t a virgin.

  32. librarygoose
    May 17, 2012 at 9:04 pm

    Buffy lost her virginity to Angel, she went through that weird phase where she thought him becoming Angelus was her punishment for having sex.

  33. PrettyAmiable
    May 17, 2012 at 9:04 pm

    I’m actually a big fan of your blog – but I have a question. In this article and in others (usu. the Vampire Diaries posts), you really seem to dislike the idea that someone who is hundreds+ of years old would not be beyond trivial human indulgences. What do you think they should be doing instead if they’re going to live forever? I’m not saying prom is the most interesting undertaking, but if you’re not going to die, you need something to fill your time, right?

  34. Lara Emily Foley
    May 17, 2012 at 9:23 pm

    Buffy lost her virginity to Angel, she went through that weird phase where she thought him becoming Angelus was her punishment for having sex.

    I always saw it way more as a condemnation of how boys can quickly change their personalities after they have sex with their girlfriends (especially high school age)

    It’s definitely still a bit problematic but I also think it’s more then just “Buffy had sex, Buffy got punished”

  35. May 17, 2012 at 9:26 pm

    Wouldn’t Selene from the Underworld movie series be a fairly significant exception?

  36. Lara Emily Foley
    May 17, 2012 at 9:26 pm

    And by condemnation I mean metaphorical.

  37. librarygoose
    May 17, 2012 at 9:35 pm

    t’s definitely still a bit problematic but I also think it’s more then just “Buffy had sex, Buffy got punished”

    The character of Buffy went through that weird phase, but I agree that the whole thing was more. She came to the realization that Angelus isn’t her fault, her “weakness” wasn’t to blame. But for a bit she had some guilt connected to her having sex. That’s why I framed it more from her characters perspective, not from Joss Whedon.

  38. JamieF
    May 17, 2012 at 9:49 pm

    Cherie Priest has a vampire series (2 books so far) with a main character who is a ass-kicking female vampire with an ass-kicking former navy seal / drag queen side-kick, and a sort-of boyfriend who is a vampire, blind, and mildly dependent on her. It’s very good.

    Thank you for the criticism of True Blood for what they did to Sophie Ann. In the books she’s totally in control and more than a little scary. I was so irritated when Eric overpowered her in the series. In the books, he’s slightly terrified of her.

  39. Emie
    May 17, 2012 at 11:44 pm

    R.Dave, that may be stereotypically true, but it’s kind of a lame excuse. That’s still no reason to not have good female vampire characters. You can have a romance/sex genre “aimed at young girls” but still have a strong, and awesome female vampire. You can have an awesome female vampire even at the ones “aimed at men”. Although I find the whole “aiming at specific genders/sexes” to be really stupid. There are lot’s of females that love sci-fi and the classic Gothic/horror genre. And lot’s of males that love sex and romance books.

    Anyway, has anyone ever read Gail Garriger’s series “The Parasol Protectorate”, or what about Melissa de la Cruz “Blue Bloods” series? Both of those have to do with female vampires, but I have not read them, are they any good?

  40. Serad Anon
    May 18, 2012 at 12:34 am

    Gilda of The Gilda Stories by Jewelle Gomez doesn’t fall into any of the trope, but then again it’s a lesbian romance from a publisher known for it queer content.

  41. librarygoose
    May 18, 2012 at 12:53 am

    Gilda of The Gilda Stories by Jewelle Gomez

    Reading this for a class led to the only screaming match I had in class in college.

    Good times.

  42. Colin Reid
    May 18, 2012 at 12:58 am

    Re female werewolves, there’s Angua from the Discworld novels. She is neither evil, childlike nor subservient from what I recall.

    Re Being Human, I am disappointed that they have done a full cycle of the main trio but still kept the ‘female ghost, male vampire, male werewolf’ setup. We never see any female vampire control her urge to drink blood for any significant period (those who try and fail just seem to be there to demonstrate to the audience the amazing willpower of an abstinent male character), and female vampires in the show never seem to be older than the male vampires around them. (Do they have a shorter life expectancy or something?)

  43. Tapetum
    May 18, 2012 at 1:04 am

    The head of the local vampire seethe in Patricia Briggs, Mercy Thompson series is female, and while not exactly friendly, isn’t an outright villain. Marsilia is often hostile to Mercy, but generally for understandable reasons. She’s also shown as being both capable and ruthless when she’s got her head in the game.

    Side note: Patricia Brigg’s other series in the same universe (Alpha and Omega) centers around a female werewolf, who while not the classical badass, still manages to lay down quite a bit of mayhem when the situation calls for it.

  44. Crys T
    May 18, 2012 at 4:27 am

    As someone who was actually around when the Anne Rice novels first took off in popularity, can I say that the idea that they were “written for” women or even more popular amongst women is a pile of crap?

    In fact, pretty much up until the past 6-7 years or so (maybe slightly longer), although there were vampire stories aimed at women*, the genre itself was by and large the preserve of male geeks and nerds. At least as on the surface. All you need to do is look at most vampire films made pretty much up until the Twilight series (or post-Buffy at least) to see that their target audience is young men and boys. In fact, it’s only post-Twilight that young men have come to see vampire fiction as “girly.”

    Not saying there hasn’t always been a large female audience for vamps, but like so many other types of nerd-dom, this has only been recognised on any large scale by the media recently.

    People’s memories are really damn short.

    *and certainly there were women/girls who were fans of vamp fiction

  45. Eve
    May 18, 2012 at 7:33 am

    I totally agree on all the BH points made.

    Although I agree that having another woman for the ghost (particularly after what I’m about ot say) is a bit… blehhhh… I did like that Annnie was shown to be pretty awesome at being a ghost – and lots of other characters noticed that.

    But because of that Alex WILL be inneffective and everything, because Annie was really special for a ghost.
    Hopefully we’ll get some more interesting women next series?

  46. Marle
    May 18, 2012 at 7:56 am

    Let’s be blunt: Urban fantasy is written by (mostly) heterosexual women for (mostly) heterosexual women. They write their fantasy. And their fantasy is “I want a sexy Creature of the Night boyfriend who is rich and eternally young.”

    @Angelia Sparrow – I agree that they’re writing their fantasy, but isn’t their any room for any other women’s fantasies in vampire fiction? Also, maybe their fantasies would be better if they thought outside the box. It’s a fantasy, why can’t the woman be the one who’s rich and powerful? I know that’s what I want in my fantasies. Also, it doesn’t really matter (from a female perspective) that the vampire boyfriend is young forever, because you never, ever see in these stories a middle aged women with her eternally young vampire boyfriend. What does it matter if he’s eternally young if you can’t see yourself with him in 20 years? Of course twillight dealt with that by having Bella become a vampire, but like everything else about twillight that was creepy and twisted. This is why I like the character of Jessica so much though. Despite the problems detailed above, she’s the most relatable female vampire I’ve seen on TV (I’ll have to read some of those books people have brought up). She was just a normal girl, and then suddenly she’s powerful and strong and she can do anything she wants. Of course, that’s a metaphor for anyone becoming an adult, you suddenly have so much more power and can do more than you realize you can. And like so many people, Jessica sells herself short. She becomes a waitress, she moves in with the first guy she ever dated, she settles when she’s so much more than that. But she’s slowly learning her potential, and what she wants, and I’m enjoying seeing that.

  47. May 18, 2012 at 8:50 am

    The character of Buffy went through that weird phase, but I agree that the whole thing was more. She came to the realization that Angelus isn’t her fault, her “weakness” wasn’t to blame. But for a bit she had some guilt connected to her having sex. That’s why I framed it more from her characters perspective, not from Joss Whedon.

    This. I think that Giles is supposed to be the moral voice (in this season in particular and in other seasons in general, though he’s not always right). And when Buffy is saying that it’s all her fault, he’s right there saying that he doesn’t blame her and she shouldn’t blame herself. Oh, do I love season 2 of BtVS.

    Laurell K. Hamilton’s series is also pretty devoid of strong-but-not-evil women characters in general. Anita also constantly presses that she’s not like the other women, she’s not a victim, she can run with the boys, etc. Gag. I read the first 6 books in the series before my eyes got exhausted from rolling too much.

  48. May 18, 2012 at 9:38 am


    We’re not against 100s year old vampires having petty human indulgences – in fact, I think sensual experiences would be a prime activity. But we are against the idea of centuries old vampire behaving like teenagers – having pouting tantrums, obsessing over proms, etc. Apart from anything else, a being 100s of years old is unlikely to worry about missing an annual event, since it’s scarcely a wait until the next one.

    It’s not the doing – it’s the getting so upset and so worked up about things that, to a creature that has lived a thousand years, I can’t imagine would be this vital to them. A casual amusement, yes. A major life event, no.

    @emie we have read and reviewed the Parasol Protectorate on the site. Female vampires rule “hives” of vampires and are the only ones that can produce progeny – but at the same time they’re bound to their lairs and don’t take up a major part of the book

  49. Athenia
    May 18, 2012 at 9:46 am

    Hm. I’m never really thought of this before.

    Although wouldn’t Bella herself fall outside of these categories? In fact, the whole process of her turning into a vampire is about her not being virginal, about attaining power (abit through having a kid) and being the hero that saves everyone.

    As for Pam—I kinda love how Pam upholds these stereotypes, but at the same time, I feel like she transcends them as well.

  50. R.Dave
    May 18, 2012 at 10:19 am

    Emie wrote: “R.Dave, that may be stereotypically true, but it’s kind of a lame excuse. That’s still no reason to not have good female vampire characters. You can have a romance/sex genre “aimed at young girls” but still have a strong, and awesome female vampire. You can have an awesome female vampire even at the ones “aimed at men”. Although I find the whole “aiming at specific genders/sexes” to be really stupid. There are lot’s of females that love sci-fi and the classic Gothic/horror genre. And lot’s of males that love sex and romance books.”

    Agreed, but, since we live in a society steeped in gender stereotypes, the audience for such counter-stereotypes is smaller. And I think the audiences for vampire fiction are particularly drawn to the stereotypes because the genre grew out of the Bram Stoker / Dracula tradition in the first place, which obviously was full of the “angsty love/stalking and seduction of innocent, virginal woman by powerful and mysterious male vampire” stereotype. Everything just followed from that.

    Also – “strong, and awesome female vampire”? Total Mary-Sue. ;)

  51. librarygoose
    May 18, 2012 at 11:30 am

    Dracula tradition in the first place, which obviously was full of the “angsty love/stalking and seduction of innocent, virginal woman by powerful and mysterious male vampire” stereotype.

    Except Dracula was a disturbing creep, romanticizing vampires came after Dracula. The main romances are human.

  52. joe
    May 18, 2012 at 2:05 pm

    Check out the Dresden Files (books, not the show) for some counter examples.
    It’s told in the Male voice, by a somewhat retrograde male character. But there are three and a half types of vamps.
    Black Court: Main baddy is female and about as non-sexy as you can get. Has nameless minions of both genders.
    White Court: Sex vampires. Incubus/Succubus style so ‘sexy’ is required. Leader is female, smart, and physically tough.
    Red Count: Drink blood, has 2 female villains. One ran a brothel, other was attractive but not much with the sexy.
    Partial red Court: Main female character was one of these. She was the protagonists love interest for a while. Sexy, but also shown to be smarter and eventually tougher and sort of more competent than the protagonist.

    Not saying the Dresden files are great feminist work or anything but the author does a better than average job of putting in characters that aren’t white dudes.

  53. Tina
    May 19, 2012 at 2:20 am

    I’m surprised no one mentioned House of Night or Vampire Academy. Plenty of strong female vamp characters in there who aren’t killed off. In Vamp Academy, Lissa is admittedly slightly needy because she was a slave to her unusual gift, but she got over it because of the homosocial relationship with her best friend, the narrator.
    If someone did mention these….my bad. Anyway, it does show that strong female vamp or supernatural characters are definitely within the realm of possibility if these writers would give it a shot.

  54. LilyR
    May 19, 2012 at 11:19 am

    Definitely wouldn’t dispute the pattern, but I’ve got one more counterexample (and book rec) for anyone who’s counting: And Falling, Fly, by Skyler White. The vampires are actually exclusively female, and while some of them are childlike the protagonist definitely is not.

  55. RicG
    May 19, 2012 at 11:34 pm

    I’m not quite sure what you’re trying for in this articleIf it was only about those vampires shown on tv you would have more of a point, pigeon-holed tropes but you complain about tv and then use movie/ book characters to describe it. You talk about how there are few Urban Fantasy vampire characters and then switch back to only television examples, ignoring the growing quantity of Urban Fantasy novels out there.

    Maybe you aren’t familiar with the genre outside of the novels providing source material for the tv shows, but that’s not to say it’s either rare or invisible:
    Nancy A. Collin’s Sonja Blue & Mary Janice Davidson’s Undead and Unwed are series featuring very different protagonists who are neither of those things. Richelle Mead, P.N. Elrod, Barb Hendee, Kim Newman, Barbr Hambly, Gail Carriger & Lilith St. Crow all have characters that don’t fit your mold. I’m pretty sure there are even some in Laurel K. Hamilton’s books, even though almost every character exists to antagonize or have sex with it’s main character as the series has gone on.
    Rob Turman’s Leandros novels and Jim Butcher’s Dresden Files both feature female vampire allies.
    EveTerry Pratchett’s Discworld series has female vampires of formidable intent; Black-ribboner Lady Margolotta in the Fifth Elephant and Maladict of the Monstrous regiment, a character deliberately trying to avoid the cliches.
    If you want to swap to movies you have Innocent Blood, Razor Blade Smile, Ultra Violet, the Underworld Trilogy and even Vampirella (as underwhelming as any of those movies may be) with leading Vamps as heroines. In League of Extraordinary Gentlemen Mina Harkness can be listed, as extraordinarily unfaithful to the comic setries she is.

    Which brings up the problem of your arbitrary 3 tropes: Of course the majority of female vampires are villains, the entire concept of vampires of either genre who aren’t is small. It’s in the nature of their fiction.

    The most famous example of infantalized female vampire yuo mention is of course Claudette, but the next most famous are the boy Homer from Near Dark or the sexually ambiguous Eli from Let The Right One In. It’s not a large subset and versions of both genders litter Urban Fantasy and Horror, almost always as barking mad sadists to be dispatched.

    As the lore of the Vampire novel as expanded and exploded the concept of one raised being the servant of whoever turned them has followed from the original Dracula so, again, it’s a bit shooting fish in a barrel to say it’s a trope common to females only. One common storyline from the tv versions is the male character who struggles against the female who sired him centuries ago. Sometimes they’re sympathetic, notably Janette DuCharm of Forever Knight, but most often obstacles. Darla from Buffy/ Angel probably being the strongest example and even she was given more depth than mere villain.
    My point here is that in the vampire world everybody is somebody’s servant until you go right back to the ancients ones who, whichever sex, are villains.

    I see in the comments above other examples that have been listed, including the brilliant Gilda Stories by Jewelle Gomez that shatters all the tropes, so I’m pretty sure of saying that if you’re only finding these three very limited roles in the wide variety of vamp-fic out there in any medium, then those are the only ones you’re looking for.

  56. Epiphany!
    May 21, 2012 at 4:39 am

    Damn G. Are you a real vampire?

  57. May 21, 2012 at 9:05 pm


    Totally seconding everything you said.

    Also, Riley Jenson from the Riley Jenson, Guardian series.

    Pretty much every female Dark-Hunter from the Dark-Hunter universe (which is problematic re: sexualities and gender essentialism related to sexuality, but otherwise pretty decent).

    Also, if you’re into urban fantasy from anywhere other than North America, you have many, many kickass female vampires in manga and anime…. Saya and Lulu from Blood+, Yuuki from Vampire Knight (though she takes a while to get to being kickass), Seras from Hellsing, Augusta from Trinity Blood… so on and so forth. And I don’t even seek out vampire fiction much, so this is pretty much off the top of my head.

  58. May 21, 2012 at 9:12 pm

    Ugh, I clicked “post” too soon…

    Just wanted to add that urban fantasy’s a little wider than the scope of True Blood, The Vampire Diaries and Twilight (which I personally consider to be the lower end of the genre), on which your article focuses. (I don’t want to discuss Rice, because the excellent representation of female characters whose personality does not fit into the three archetypes you’ve offered is fairly self-evident to anyone who’s read beyond the first novel.) If you wanted to write an article about popular TV/film series and how awful it is, sure. But then popular films/TV series are fairly awful relative to the high art of the genre no matter what genre that is, where gender relations and women’s roles are concerned.

  59. May 21, 2012 at 9:20 pm

    Oh, and, and!

    Rayfell from Vassalord.

    Devona from the Matt Richter series.

    And because you dragged Anne Rice’s name into this, I do have to point out:

    Gabrielle (introduced in The Vampire Lestat). Main character, not dependent on anyone, least of all the gloriously emo hero, not a child, not a villain.

    Akasha. (Queen of the Damned.) Less a villain than a tragic heroine, certainly not a child or a servant.

    Maharet. (Queen of the Damned.) Fucking kickass, really.

    Pandora. (Queen of the Damned.) Even more kickass. Both are on the side of the good guys, but if being one of a team is being a servant I think your threshold for servitude’s a little high.

    Also Jesse qualifies, I think.

  60. Henry
    May 21, 2012 at 11:33 pm

    While technically not vampires, old school Elvira and Mortisha from the Adams family hardly qualify as servants, children or enemies, though I always suspected they might be vampires, as they were never out in daylight…hmmm. I might point out vampires are supposed to be monsters, but I digress as the “good” vampire *pukes* has now been firmly entrenched in modern fantasy literature.

  61. Annaleigh
    May 21, 2012 at 11:43 pm

    Werewolf seems even more exclusively male. I have trouble coming up with *any* examples of female wolves.

    I don’t remember the author’s name, but in the book Pagan, the main character, Pagan, who’s human and a vampire hunter, is in a relationship with Marie, a werewolf. Not a bad book, but has some “benevolent” patriarchal attitudes on both Marie and Pagan’s part.

  62. Chiara
    May 23, 2012 at 8:37 am

    Thank you for the criticism of True Blood for what they did to Sophie Ann. In the books she’s totally in control and more than a little scary. I was so irritated when Eric overpowered her in the series. In the books, he’s slightly terrified of her.

    Um yeah but what’s hot about that? The whole point of the Eric guy is that he’s meant to be blond and has muscly and stuff.

  63. May 23, 2012 at 6:34 pm

    Genevieve Dieudonne!

  64. Angela
    May 25, 2012 at 5:30 am

    General agreement, but stopping by to shout out for Caroline Forbes on The Vampire Diaries. Caroline is a warm, caring, independent character who goes off and does her own thing, and also happens to be a lady vampire. She’s not infantilised, she has agency, and she even gets her own plot and story arcs!

    I was annoyed when she referred to “Rebekah the Evil Blood Slut” though. What were you saying, girl who in Season 1 got denigrated as “Vampire Barbie”?

  65. Emily R.
    June 15, 2012 at 1:12 pm

    I’m so excited to have discovered your blog!

    With the examples you’ve discussed in this post (Twilight, Vampire Diaries, the Anne Rice film adaptation and True Blood) I think you’re spot on in your evaluation. As some of the commentators before me have observed, UF novels seem to have a slightly broader take on gender than the TV/film adaptations. I am interested in why the medium may make such a difference in how gendered power dynamics are portrayed.

    1. I’m increasingly intrigued by the character of Alete in Vaughn’s Kitty books, and the cast has diversified significantly in the last few novels and short stories with many of the secondary female characters (most of whom are vampires) getting fleshed out.

    2. The Sookie-verse’s Pam and Sophie Ann are developed differently in the novels, I was disappointed in their portrayal on the TV series. Sophie Ann enjoys a multi-book trajectory, even if her end can be read as a narrative punishment, and while Pam’s relationship with a woman doesn’t get much face time in the novels, it is present (which interestingly puts her at odds with Eric, complicating her role as his servant). I give the TV series points for portraying male bisexuality though (even if the portrayal is problematic so far).

    3. I haven’t read the new Anita Blake novel out this month, but last year’s release dealt with exactly this problem of female-female relationships, and worked to dramatically expand the female cast for Anita. According to the author, at least part of this decision was based on fan feedback about the lack of female roles / allies for Anita. While the novel was, at times, somewhat over the top about girl power and teamwork, I was glad to see this change nonetheless.

    4. Ilona Andrews’ Kate Daniels series may be one of the better ones I’ve come across for gender representation. The role of Kate’s best friend has evolved to the point that Andrea’s story IS this year’s installment in the Kate Daniels narrative.

    That said, your observation that these novels tend to be testosterone saturated does stand. As one of the early comments said, some of that can be attributed to the literary lineage of the genre, which has roots ultimately in the 18th C. Gothic, but incorporates several genres that derived from that period. I think the pastiche aspect of this is fascinating, but most of these contributing genres ARE hypermasculine, like the detective novel, its more recent installment of the police procedural, noir, post-apocalyptic / dystopian, horror and fantasy genres. While I’m excited to see women taking up traditionally male narratives, and in the process subverting those narratives, urban fantasy certainly has its hang-ups, and the heteronormative patterns are often disappointing as well as concerning.

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