Vampire Obsession Part of Our Bad Boy Complex

December 7, 2009 by  

Bill-Compton-bill-compton-2907451-1024-768People want to know what is in the public consciousness that gets our blood pumping for vampires. Psychologists and sociologists have studied it, trying to get at the causes of this cultural phenomenon. According to the UK’s Fabulous Magazine, what they discovered is that it isn’t a phenomenon at all. Rather, our love for vampires is just the newest form of expression for our attraction to the brooding bad boy.

Sure, vampires have taken brooding to a new level. They are in a constant struggle with their vampiric nature, and part of the bad boy danger to them is the fear that they might stop fighting their darker instincts. We’ve seen this in many vampire stories, with antiheroic characters who exist in the moral gray area between good and evil. Stephen Moyer’s Bill Compton in True Blood, Robert Pattinson’s Edward Cullen in Twilight, David Boreanaz’s Angel in Buffy the Vampire Slayer–all tortured souls, and all undeadly sexy.

Yet, they are not a new brand of male. They follow classic archetypes seen in literature for centuries. Women were swooning over brooding bad boys like Heathcliff from Emily Bronte’s Wuthering Heights and Mr. Darcy from Jane Austen’s Pride & Prejudice long before fangs were considered attractive.

Heathcliff is a wild, untamed character whose love for Catherine is so strong that it consumes his life. Circumstances do not allow them to be together, but readers are left with the impression that they are together, even in death. Pride & Prejudice has a happier ending than Wuthering Heights, with Mr. Darcy and Elizabeth Bennet getting married. For the first half of the book, however, Darcy comes across as the strong, silent type. He is completely drawn to Elizabeth’s charming wit and strong personality and, without intending to, falls in love with her. With both Heathcliff and Darcy, the love they feel seems to transcend that of an ordinary love story, as if it’s in their very soul.

Psychologists identify our attraction to men like Darcy and Heathcliff as a natural inclination:

“Ultimately, brooding men are quite scary and women’s attraction to dangerous men goes back to the evolution theory. If your partner was dangerous or aggressive, it meant you and your family were more likely to survive.”

Part of it is also the challenge of catching the heart of a man like that. It takes a special woman to inspire such passionate feelings in one who is deep, withdrawn, and battling inner demons. It adds another challenge if the guy is a vampire who will feel the perpetual desire to drain your blood!

Alan Ball, executive producer of True Blood, has likened Bill to Mr. Darcy before, and the comparison makes sense, beyond just the obvious gentlemanly manners that both possess. In Pride & Prejudice when Darcy first meets Elizabeth, he shows her his bad side. He is proud and conceited, until he recognizes how special she is and tries to gain her affection. Only when he proves how selfless he can be, helping Elizabeth’s family without taking any credit for his generosity, does she realize how much he feels for her and how much she also loves him. On True Blood when Bill is first getting to know Sookie, he scares her by how violent he can be, like when Malcolm, Liam, and Diane come to visit, and when the police officer questions them in the car after going to Fangtasia. This darkness in Bill reemerges from time to time because, as a vampire, it’s always a part of him. But he sees how special she is, and experiences feelings he didn’t think he could have since he was turned over 140 years ago. He cares for her so much that he is willing to sacrifice himself to protect her, from Longshadow, Rene, or whoever else would try to hurt her. Sookie sees the goodness in him, and it makes her love him.

The brooding bad boy, with all of his deep thoughts and conflicting emotions, is so attractive to women because they hope to be the one to make him want to be good. Vampires are giving us a new way to fantasize about this kind of character.


(Photo credit: HBO Inc.)

  • Mikayla Rose

    In theory it all makes sense, but my problem is that I am not attracted to the brooding vampires that they talk about in this article. When I watched Buffy I always liked Spike better than Angel, I found him much more appealing and hot. I find Eric much more appealing than Bill, always have, always will. Also, Edward Cullen makes me wanna barf. I prefered James, Caius, and Aro.

    See my problem is I love the evil guys. In anime I prefereder Sesshomaru to Inuyasha, and Zuko to Aang. It has just always been that I like the guy that might one second rip your throat out.

  • Ok, on second thought (and fifth read through), it’s more than just a “bad boy” complex. It’s also a love of what vampires ARE: creatures, that if turned young enough, are eternally youthful. Living in an area with a lot of filming, I see up close the desperation to stay young that some actresses go through as they continue to naturally age. In a way, that NEED to cling to youth is the ugliest thing I’ve ever seen. In other ways, though, I understand. Everyone wants to grow up faster then they are naturally, and once they hit around 29, they want to slow down the aging process and be more youthful again. As a vampire, there’s no worry about that. You’re going to be forever the age you were when you were turned. Different versions of the legend say that you’re either the way you were eternally when you died (see the Queen Betsy series by MaryJanice Davidson for that), or your body becomes the perfect version of what it should be (see Lynsay Sand’s vampire series for that).

    Considering how vain some of the vampires are (look at Diane and Lorena), they’re always trying to make themselves more sexy to the humans that surround and nourish them. Just by being what they are, to the women around them, they’re flaunting eternal youth and high energy. Who wouldn’t want that?

  • Victoria D

    I don’t really hate Twilight, but I don’tr like, I believe is a bad imitation of Buffy and Angel. But True Blood has something different, is more about the vampire’s history with more sex, has a lot fans and I am one of them and I respect that. TRUE BLOOD/BUFFY/ANGEL TEAM!

  • Janie Logan

    Thanks for all your comments! Bill is definitely a complicated character and one that inspires a lot of discussion and emotion.

    Nia, I completely agree with you about Eric! I think he’s fun to watch, and very much like a kid sometimes. A different kind of “bad boy” from Bill, who faces more struggles both internally and externally as he tries to be better. I see him as more of a romantic hero for Sookie because of how they have both grown through their relationship.

  • Antonio

    As for Me, I think it has more to do with Bill being “misunderstood” as opposed to being a “bad boy”. Eric Northman certainly is that..a bad boy/rebel type.
    To Me Bill Compton is more of a misunderstood/wounded tormented guy. Eric is a bad ass vamp because he chooses to be. No Doubt that Alex Skarsgard plays the character very well! Bill,on the other hand,is troubled and despises what he is. Sam and Jason are troubled because of being perhaps “victims of circumstance”?
    Sam is a shifter and keeps his guard up and Jason is thought by many to be “bad news” or just trouble.

    • Nia

      Hello antonio, Long time no talk, how are you??
      Well said, well said.
      Bill does not mean to be a “bad boy” but once turned it is so hard to come back. His bad boy comes from his tortured troubled past. Just being a vampire is bad enough but to have been bound by the evil Lorena……..My heart goes out to Bill.
      So we will see our bad boy come out every so often.
      The most important part of Bills character is that he is trying to change, to be a better man. Call it mainstreaming if you want, but we saw what a good man he was. I hope he continues in his quest to find his way back.
      That attempt at change, to be MORE than he is, is what distinguishes him from the rest, and sets him above.

      Eric is happily, charmingly, the real “bad boy”. Not evil, just BAD. Almost childlike in his actions (there were times when he needed a big “TIME OUT”). Why would he want to be any different? He does wnatever he wants and usually gets whatever he wants. I hope he does not change much. His character is fun the way he is.

  • pbartteacher

    Loved the article Janie about our True Blood “bad boy” Bill. So true about his dark brooding nature, his cannibalistic attacks of the 1920’s couple, the killing of Uncle Bartlett and list goes on. Yes, the character is so layered in his vampiric nature. Yes, vampires are violent as witnessed in Episode 3, Season 1 with Liam, Diane and Malcolm. Can’t wait to see where Alan Ball takes our “bad boy” Bill this season. Here’s hoping we see a little of Club Dead storyline this season. Oh the drama that will unravel this season.

    184 days until the v-ddiction continues.

  • Nia

    Absolutely loved the article Janie.

    Bills character is so layered and deep. Even though he is the brooding good guy, he still has a dark bad boy to him. As you mentioned above, the “Malcom and gang” encounter, and the “policeman” encounter (one of my favorite DANGEROUS Bill moments, his eyes were to DIE for, literally!)). There is also the “breaking down Jessicas door” encounter, and how about the backflash to the 20’s with Lorena (chilling in its dark, dangerous, vicious intensity).

    Bill is a good man and hero with a tortured past that we have been seeing slowly unravel and still surfaces. The vampire in him is not so easily vanquished. It is constantly at war with his “good” side. Perhaps as his love for Sookie grows so will his humanity take over more and more. I fear for him should he possibly lose his miracle. How will it affect him? Will he lose his hard won humanity? Revert back to Lorenas monster? I hope not, I hope he just fights harder and harder for what he wants, needs, and deserves.

    I love every aspect of Bill. His good and his bad. It gives his character so much dimension and makes him so much more interesting. You sometimes do not know how Bill will react in a situation…..makes watching him hurt so good!

    Team True BLood!!!!!! The wait is killing me!

    • rclaurel

      great post Nia

    • CrazyforBill

      Nia, no one says it better than you. Right on, girl! Bill is such a complex, layered character and there is much more there than simply good and bad. That’s why we love him so much. Go team TB!

      • Nia

        rclaurel, CrazyforBill!!!!!! Great to see my fellow Bill girls!!
        Bill is an incredible character and Stephen plays him so beautifully.
        Season 3 will have us all crying, and loving our man all the more.
        Team TB!!

    • NanaVamp

      Nia, you rock. Great post.

      • Nia

        Hey Nana!!!!! Great to see you. Thanks!!!!

        As always, my posts speak from the heart.

  • Isis Nocturne

    Totally have to agree with that analysis! We all love a “good” bad boy!