Friday, September 25, 2009

Vegetarian Vampires

So, I've never seen the movie or read any of the books of Twilight. However, it seems there is a new pop culture philosophy book about Twilight, and from it I learned that the main good guy vampire from Twilight is referred to as a vegetarian vampire. It seems there are even t-shirts that say "I heart vegetarian vampires."

Now, I know nothing about Twilight, so when I first heard about a vegetarian vampire I wondered if we were dealing with another Count Duckula. However, it seems that these vegetarian vampires kill and drink the blood of other animals, they just don't kill and drink the blood of humans. I don't honestly know what to do with this information. First of all, it seems everyone that says the world vegetarian is pretty meaningless these days might have a good point.

The other point is that this shows another way that vegetarianism enters into an economy of the sacred and the profane, the innocent and guilty, the pure and the impure. In this case the vegetarianism has obviously no real meaning, except for one -- to demarcate that the present vampire as 'good'. The concept of vegetarian is wielded in such a way as to make the vampire not a vampire. I mean this in two ways. The first is in the way that vegetarianism is stereotyped as fundamentally anti-masculine. The vampire that drinks animal blood (or the vampire that drinks true blood) is a fundamentally 'defanged' vampire (why, after all, do you think Bill drinks the blood of Sookie in True Blood when they are having sex, or when he is committing acts of violence?). This 'defanged' vampire is the sensitive, dark, brooding, vampire. (To take another example, in Joss Whedon's Angel, he is the only vampire to live on the blood of animals instead of humans, which is connected to a curse which gives him a soul. This curse, however, also prevents Angel from having sex. If he ever has sex, he'll become evil again).

But these tropes of vegetarian vampires are not just used to connect vegetarianism to virility. Vegetarianism is used in another way, too. The vegetarian is also a trope of a split within their vampirism. Not only is this connected to the questions of virility mentioned above, but there always remains a yearning for human blood. A quotation from Twilight (the movie or the book or both, I have no clue): "Drinking only animal blood is like a human only eating tofu. It's filling but never quite satisfies." Vegetarianism in this world is asceticism rather than askesis, a paralyzed being rather than becoming. Rather than being a creature whose nature symbolizes an impure and con-fused nature in thrall of all that is profane, this vegetarian vampire seeks after purity and redemption, a Vampyr Sacer. A fundamentally brooding creature, unable to embrace it's lack of reflection with all that implies (see D&G, ATP p. 416). Vegetarianism here seems to indicate nothing other than morality, but a morality of the most incoherent and sickly variety. A demon who has found religion.

Now, most of the vegans/vegetarians I know in the animal emancipation movements do not believe they are innocent. But, and this is important, they too are seeking redemption. A becoming-vegan means both that we are never innocent, but it also means that we don't have to be trapped by guilt or rituals of purity. Indeed, those of us in the animal emancipation movement see these rituals of purity everywhere we go. Welfarists vs. Abolitionists. Pacifists vs. Militants. A movement that has trouble moving because of all its fractures. A movement that has trouble moving because the question of tactics is always raised to the level of the pure and the impure. We need less vegetarian vampires and more vampiric vegetarians.