My, what big fangs you have Eric! (TM KJewls) Source
Vampire boy meets human girl. Boy likes girl. Boy shows girl how big his fangs are. Girl has fairy blood that is like crack for boy. Boy tries to glamour girl. Girl is impervious to his compulsion but not to his preternatural hotness. More supernatural hijinks ensue. Boy and girl try their hardest to live happily ever after, never mind the difficulties inherent in the boy’s ever after being eternity and his inhuman nature.
Ahh, supes and the emoteens and emoadults who love them. Not exactly the stuff fairytales are made of.
Unless of course the fairytale begins with “Once upon a time there was a telepathic barmaid and Viking vampire…”
Or “Once upon a time there was a high school girl with an identical vampire doppelganger and a vampire with mad dancing skills…”
And even then there are snapped necks in the heat of the moment and betrayals for your own good to vampire kings to contend with.
Seriously though, the term “it’s complicated” takes on a whole other meaning when it comes to love in supernatural worlds. I didn’t make up a single aspect of the “boy meets girl” breakdown above, from True Blood, and this is one of the simpler love dynamics on supernatural shows that I’ve come across.
The interplay between free will, love and supes is particularly fascinating, and enough to send an agony aunt nearly delirious with delight.
Forget flowers, candy and the simple words “I love you”, relationships involving supes include blood bonds, love spells, imprinting, glamour/compulsion and fairy blood in the Twilight, Sookieverse, Buffy The Vampire Slayer and Vampire Diaries mythologies.
So apparently not everything is about hot supe sex.
Shocking, I know!
Most of us take free will and choice for granted in our relationships. So let’s take a look at how thinks can play out a little differently in the supernatural genre.
Blood bonds in Sookieverse create a particularly complex set of rules of attraction. In the Sookie Stackhouse novels, when a human and vampire exchange blood three times in a short period of time, they become bonded to one another; they’re able to feel what the other is feeling. Sookie and Eric Northman forged this bond in the seventh book, All Together Dead, when Eric stepped in as the lesser of two evils when Sookie was about to be forced to bond with another powerful vampire, Andre.
Until the tenth book, Dead In The Family, clarified how the bond worked, there was much confusion about whether it was an emotional conduit or capable of generating feelings that didn’t already exist. However, it became evident that while this bond can accentuate sexual and physical attraction, it cannot create it altogether. So if you found a vampire repulsive in the real sense of the word, rather than the doth do protest too much way…
…you won’t suddenly develop an insatiable lust for them.
There were several instances in Dead In The Family where Sookie identified feelings of her own separate to those of Eric, for example, which highlights that a vamp can’t control the mind or feelings of the human they are blood bonded to. However, both the vampire and the human they are bonded to can try to influence the feelings of one another.
For example, in the recently released first chapter of the upcoming Dead Reckoning…
…which you can download from author Charlaine Harris’ website, Sookie actively tried to calm Eric, who was “volcanically angry” about her being in trouble, when being questioned by the local police after witnessing the bombing of the bar she works in: “I was trying, not so subtly, to send Eric a message. He finally calmed down enough to get my subtext.” You might even argue that sharing this bond gives Sookie a heightened insight into her lover’s feelings and thus makes their connection even more authentic.
Alan Ball’s television adaptation of the Sookieverse novels, True Blood, has reinvented how the blood bond works significantly. In the series, even if no prior feelings or sexual inclinations exist for a vampire, if a human has their blood direct from the source, even just once, they become sexually attracted to the vampire. Bill Compton saved Sam Merlotte’s life in the season two finale with a large “donation” of his blood, resulting in him having an erotic dream about Bill in Bad Blood (S03E01) in which he discovers the water is hard in Arkansas.
Don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed the beginnings of hot, sweaty mansex between the pair, and was disappointed when the camera cut away before they could discover just how hard the water could get. But it alters human-vamp relationships in the Sookie Stackhouse world in a way that cheapens Sookie’s connection to Eric, bringing into question whether her feelings for him have been manipulated – though I think anyone would have to be crazy not to feel at least SOME attraction to him. Kinda puts a damper on the sexy dreams…
… she has of Eric after he tricks her into taking in a drop of his blood by feigning he needed her help to suck bullets out of his chest in I Will Rise Up (S02E09)…
Ok, just a tiny, itty, bitty damper, but a damper nonetheless After all, how will Sookie ever realise she was already attracted to Eric on some level? How will she trust the feelings she has started developing if the bond is supposedly the reason for them existing? At least Bill recognises that it “is more than that” when confronting Sookie about Eric in Fresh Blood (S03E11).
Speaking of Bill when it comes to the blood bond, well. Sookie drank Bill’s blood the night the Rattrays beat her up, and we later discover he had WATCHED while this happened so that he could force a bond that would make exploiting her easier.
Because our Sookie has something that makes vamps want her in more ways than one: fairy blood.
You know how we have natural pheromones that attract the opposite sex? Fairy blood is the Chanel No.5 of pheromones for vamps.
Bella Swan, she of the freesia and lavender scented human blood, is a special snowflake who has a similar effect on vampire Edward Cullen in the Twilight Saga.
As Aro puts it to Edward in New Moon, she is “La Tua Cantante” (your singer); her blood “sings” for him. This is a rather poetic way of saying what Edward admits in Twilight, her blood is his own personal brand of heroin. So even though supes have free will, it appears that they are not exempt from factors that can predispose them to falling in love with someone too. I must admit I get a great deal of glee out of this fact. Plus pure bloodlust goes a long way to explaining Edward’s love for Bella, when she is really a cipher of a character with little to recommend her apart from being an adoraklutz. I think her doubts in Eclipse that he won’t love her if she turns into a vampire and is no longer warm and smells tasty are actually quite reasonable, despite Edwards denials to the contrary.
Not that Bella’s obsession for Edward is any less disturbing than his for her. I haven’t *HEAD DESK DESK DESKED* in my life as hard as I did with what Bella told werewolf suitor Jacob at the end of Eclipse:
“The worst part is that I saw the whole thing – our whole life. And I want it bad, Jake, I want it all. I want to stay here and never move. I want to love you and make you happy. And I can’t and it’s killing me. It’s like Sam and Emily, Jake – I never had a choice. I always knew nothing would change. Maybe that’s why I was fighting against you so hard.”
To give a bit of context for the three people left in the world who don’t know the basic storyline of Twilight, Bella falls in love with sparkly vampire Edward…
…who leaves her for her “own good”, leaving Jacob enough time to establish a relationship with her, before Edward swoops back into her life to claim her as his again.
What drove me crazy is that, as author Stephenie Meyer claims herself, the Twilight Saga is meant to be about free will. And in many ways, choice really is a powerful force in the series. Bella decides to leave her mother and live in a new town with her father because it will allow her mother to pursue a relationship with a man whose career means he is constantly on the move, and thus pursue happiness. Edward tries his hardest to choose to keep his distance from Bella. When they are coupled up, PAGES AND PAGES are dedicated to choices about the level of physical affection to share, such as whether or not to have sex because Edward might accidentally crush Bella, or in the early days whether they should even kiss because he isn’t sure that he can control his bloodlust.
In fact, Edward constantly has to make the choice not to harm Bella in her presence and drink the blood that sings to him. Because unlike other vampire mythologies, where vamps can drink a victim’s blood and leave them alive and well, once a vamp has broken the skin of a human in Twilightverse their venom infects the human’s bloodstream and will turn them unless it is sucked out like snake poison. So for Bella to say she had no choice with Edward, and that their love was an inevitable force she couldn’t fight, seems incongruous to the rest of the story.
Meyer contradicts the notion of free will in terms of love in an even more horrific way: imprinting. Even now, the word provokes this reaction in me:
How to describe imprinting to newbies? Well, it is kind of like love at first sight for werewolves, but an even more powerful force than that, which the werewolf has no control over. When werewolves see their imprintee or “soul mate” for the first time, that person becomes their centre of gravity.
Naturally, it is one of the most controversial aspects of the Twilight mythology, because aside from the werewolf having no control over who they imprint on, the person who gets imprinted on has no choice in the matter either. Jacob says “it’s hard to resist that kind of love and devotion”, but what this basically amounts to is, “bad luck, imprintee, you are stuck with some werewolf stalker for life”. As in the passage above, Sam had imprinted on Emily, despite being in love with another character Leah at the time, who would later have her werewolf gene activated too.
The even more squicky aspect is that imprinting on underage imprintees is rampant in the Twilight series. Jacob’s friend, Quil, for example, imprints on a toddler in Eclipse. Here is how Jacob rationalises this:
“It’s not like that, you’ve got it all wrong,” Jacob defended his friend, suddenly vehement. “I’ve seen what it’s like, though his eyes. There’s nothing romantic about it at all, not for Quil, not now.” He took a deep breath, frustrated. “It’s so hard to describe. It’s not like love at first sight, really. It’s more like… gravity moves. When you see her, suddenly it’s not the earth holding you her anymore. She does. And nothing matters more than her. And you would do anything for her, be anything for her. You become whatever she needs you to be, whether that’s a protector, or a lover, or a friend, or a brother.”
But even Jacob can see some of the detrimental aspects of imprinting. As he says to Leah in Breaking Dawn:
“You really want to imprint, or be imprinted on, or whichever?… What’s wrong with going out and falling in love like a normal person, Leah? Imprinting is just another way of getting your choices taken away from you.”
Which is all fine and dandy to say until JACOB IMPRINTS ON BELLA’S HALFLING VAMP BABY!
I mean, seriously. ACK! I like the Twilight series despite my snarkage, but even I can’t handwave the creepiness of it all.
By imprinting on Renesmee, this basically means that Jacob wasn’t really in love with Bella all that time, but really her ovaries and what they would later become. Or it is possible that it was Edward’s sperm he was joansing after – I mean, they fight for much of the series, but as Katherine Pierce would say, there is a thin line between love and hate.
Also controversial is vamps’ ability to control humans like puppets in certain mythologies, such as through glamouring in the Sookieverse world and compulsion in the Vampire Diaries mythology. Although I don’t recall a single instance of a vampire compelling someone to fall in love with them in either series’ canon, it would be interesting to know whether this feeling can be entirely fabricated through these forces. What we do know, however, is that a vamp can force someone to be attracted to them or engage in sexual acts with them in the absence of armour like telepathy or vervain. Some would even argue that sex under compulsion is rape, and the ultimate removal of free will.
Stefan’s present of a vervained necklace to Elena in Vampire Diaries episode Friday Night Bites (S01E03) is a symbol of his deep respect for her free agency, which his crazy vamp ex didn’t give him back when he was human.
Things get a little bit muddier with vamp brother Damon, particular when it comes to his relationship with Caroline back when she was human. When Caroline sets eyes on him, it is clear she is willing to sleep with him, but right when she is in the throes of sleeping with him for the first time, he reveals his true vampiric self, terrifying her. The morning after, she tries to escape, but he stops her and compels her to be fine with what happened and continues to compel her for some time after.
So in this case the actual act of sex is consensual, but there is a disturbing element of brainwashing that even a huge Damon fan like me has to acknowledge. But part of what makes Damon so interesting is that he is always teetering on the brink of the moral abyss, and now on the path to redemption.
Twilight vamps can’t compel, though as Bella repeatedly bleats like the vampire groupie she is, Edward dazzles those around him. No joke, one quote from the first book in the series about Edward is “He was both dazzling and dazzled”. It is more than just the seraphic good looks Meyer fixates on, Edward emits a supernatural allure that ordinary humans find attractive.
Sometimes though, as Damon says, it is just impossible for women and men alike to resist the good looks, charm and wit of certain vampires.
Finally, we come to humans channelling supernatural forces in ways of the heart and hormones. Witches are capable of conjuring love spells in most mythologies that I have come across, with the most attention paid in Buffyverse. For example, Buffy’s friend Xander tries to cast a love spell on Cordelia after she breaks up with him on Valentine’s Day in Bewitched, Bothered and Bewildered (S02E16), only to have it backfire spectacularly in his face when every woman in Sunnydale EXCEPT Cordelia is affected by the spell.
The commonalities with love spells I have seen depicted is that they not only take away free will but are highly dangerous – uncontrolled obsession can lead to things like the angry female mob that goes after Xander’s blood when he rejects them.
A person’s free will to make choices can also be affected by supernatural spells that take advantage of pre-existing love. In Becoming Part II, vampire Drusilla puts Buffy’s watcher Giles under a trance where he thinks she is his lost love Jenny Calendar, using what is in his heart to get him to confess the key to a spell that has the potential to bring forth the apocalypse.
All things considered, love in the human world is suddenly looking much simpler.
So what do you guys think?
Would you sacrifice free will for a chance at the EXTREMELY hot vampires that populate these tales? I’m still on the fence on this one.
Are there other ways free will can be compromised in the supernatural genre that I didn’t mention?
Does Alan Ball’s screw up of the blood bond bring you to boiling point?
What is ickier: compulsion or imprinting?