Why housewives love vampires
Something mysterious is afoot in my New Jersey suburb. Around the town pool, at the local library, along the climbing wall at the playground — pasty-faced, sharp-fanged creatures of the night lurk to prey on innocent housewives.
Or maybe not so innocent. Let’s face it: it’s not as if any of us are virgins.
I could take or leave vampires, myself. But I am very much in the minority among the stretch-mark set. Moms are abuzz about Edward Cullen and Bill Compton. Stephenie Meyer, not Stieg Larsson, is the name I see on book spines cradled by women in skirted momsuits patrolling the baby pool. Even my Ivy-educated, mother-of-three sister-in-law is a fan. My sister got her an Edward body pillow.
And Hollywood is cashing in. “The Gates” on ABC is basically “Twilight” for the Tide-buying demographic. Here’s how the New York Times describes it:
“The Gates” is a satire — a cheaply enjoyable one — of suburban lust and maternal anxiety, psycho-social forces that delivered previous generations of women to the pages of Betty Friedan (or Redbook) but that today send a certain kind of young matron to the perverse romance of vampire media.
Why do housewives love vampires? I’m calling it now: the question will launch a hundred doctoral theses over the coming years. In this 2009 article, Newsweek interviews a scholar who teaches a college class (holy elective!) on vampires in pop culture:
It may be an excellent balm for bigger issues, says Donovan Gwinner, assistant professor of English at Aurora University. In Gwinner’s class “Got Blood? Vampires in Literature, Film and Popular Culture,” students were required to read several vampire-related books, including Stoker’s Dracula and popular literature by Rice, Harris, and Stephenie Meyer. “We talked a lot about how things suck,” jokes Gwinner. “But in times of economic contraction, fear of job loss, and war, the vampire myth really speaks to people. What’s so bad about being powerful, almost immortal, always in control, and incredibly desirable?”
Nah. It’s not that. I’d agree more with John Devore on The Frisky, who muses:
Women love bad boys – they’re exciting, and the chance to change him, to break him like a horse, must be an irresistible challenge. If self-destruction weren’t seductive on some superficial level, then no one would ever need rehab.
As for us housewives, the formula’s pretty simple. You take an intelligent, capable woman in her prime years performing an endlessly repetitive cycle of maddening and exhausting chores with the huge yet unrecognized goal of raising citizens who will stay out of jail. Add the escape of a world in which the woman’s top concerns involve a hot man’s very sharp teeth. We want the blood and the danger and the sex without having to Clorox up the mess. Simply put, vampire stories are porn for housewives.