Wolf-People of the World Unite! Socioeconomic Conflict and Classic Horror Creatures

Wolf-People of the World Unite! Socioeconomic Conflict and Classic Horror Creatures

Tired of emo-vampires and pathetic werewolves? It’s the Ruskies’ fault.

Let’s line these two culprits up and compare their salient features:


Supernatural Powers

Vampires: Varies depending on the storyteller, but frequent features are immortality; flight; heightened senses; psychic influence (unto the point of enslavement); super speed and strength; physical transmutation into bats, shadows or mists; and control over animals. In short: stuff people typically think is pretty cool.

Werewolves: Chomp, chomp, smash. Not so smooth at parties, but pretty useful when hunting in the woods.

Preferred Dwelling

Vampires: Typically ancient, well-guarded castles, even if not particularly well-maintained. A mansion of comparable luxury will do. But really, what’s keeping you from having both?

Werewolves: A pile of leaves somewhere, maybe a cave – pretty much wherever he passed out the previous night. The forest is his true home.

Manner of Dress

Vampires: If he leaves the crypt wearing anything but a tuxedo and at least one gold amulet, that’s a Dealbreaker, ladies.

Werewolves: In the luckiest of circumstances, a de facto loincloth consisting of the tattered remains of the previous evening’s clothes. Less fashion than function, tattered pants (and, depending on the gender, a tattered, fortunately-placed makeshift sports-bra) are the appropriate ensemble for any lycanthrope–whether you’re hulking out, or hulking in.

Average Lifespan

Vampires: Left to their own devices, eternity. In fact, it is notoriously hard for a community to completely rid themselves of a Vampire infestation.

Werewolves: Unclear. In the Underworld “Saga,” Werewolves are also immortal, but this seems to play against consensus. (And, as in all my OTI posts, by “consensus,” I mean “in Teen Wolf.”) Let’s infer that, since this is a disease which conveys its powers upon the afflicted only in short, periodic bursts, presumably an unchecked werewolf would die in accordance with the natural lifespan of its human form. An American werewolf, then, would presumably die due to complications from Type-II Diabetes at around age 65.

Cognitive Capabilities

Vampires: Formidable. A Vampire is presumably at least as smart as he/she was during life, further augmented by the impartial tactical perspective that can only be attained by removing one’s soul. They’re not lacking for time, either, which means (A) They can educate and acclimate themselves as society grows and alters, and (B) They can make plans over extraordinarily large time-frames. This also allows them to develop something completely alien to their Werewolf counterparts: an internal culture. The Vampire learns, adapts, and seizes power in part through communication with other vampires, allowing them to experience and react to the world with a breadth of complexity rivaled only in the minds of living humans. Still, relative to their non-undead human counterparts, Vampires are at a substantial advantage, having the prior experience of living among them, and the wisdom that immeasurable time has brought them. Also, they can control our thoughts and actions. So, that’s a bonus.

Werewolves: Bmmwuurrwl?

Preferred Food

Vampires: Vamps are finicky eaters, and their preferred food–the blood of nubiles and/or innocents–admittedly takes a while to prepare. Sure, they’re occasionally known to grab the proverbial ‘quick bite.’ But when given his druthers, your average Vampire prefers to ensnare his food through guile, persuasion, and the occasional assistance of a mad henchmen. Indeed, it’s the rare case where Nosferatu is forced into subsistence living; he can typically win whichever victim his long-silent heart desires.

Werewolves: The Wolves eat whatever is immediately available, and which they can kill. In film, this set is highly biased toward nubile young women in white evening gowns, but this is less diagetic and more the filmmakers’ recognition that–even when talking about dismemberment–sex sells. The point here, though, is that these unfortunate debutantes-turned-PuppyChow were not lured into the grasp of their defiler. They caught the attention of their beastly tormentors by being in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Access to Minions

Vampires: Whether or not a given Wampir will employ a cadre of servants is up to his own discretion, but his ability to acquire them is unquestionable. He can drive someone mad unto the very breaking point, literally turning them into Tom Waits. Control’s not an issue, either: even sane minds can be twisted (at considerable distance, mind you) toward the Vampire’s will. Of course, an older vamp can make a few younger vamps to do his bidding, but given their own single-mindedness (and the additional competition for resources they represent), the best bet lies in employing some crazy old Gypsies. They’ll work for next to nothing, and don’t need to be driven mad or mind-controlled. My understanding is that Carpathia is such a wanton crud-shack that even working for the blood-thirsty undead beats day-labor. Same goes for Hollywood.

Werewolves: With rare exception, employing others to do your bidding requires some form of conscious thought. So… nope. If a Werewolf wants to get something done, he has to do it himself.

How You Become One

Vampires: Again, the details vary depending on the specific story, but in most cases a person’s entrance into Vampire society is a process requiring the willful participation of a Vampire. This is a selective group, into which only the rarest of humans are considered potential applicants. The rest are food.

Werewolves: You get bitten by a Werewolf, plain and simple. There’s no seduction, no deep-emotional entanglement, no exchange of souls and blood. As a consequence, becoming a Werewolf is–compared to becoming a Vampire–fantastically easy. It could happen to anyone at anytime. Well, assuming “anytime” means “at night, during a full moon.” You catch my drift, though.

How You Kill One

Vampires: We’ll get to the killing in a moment, but let’s cast a broader net and look at the most famous Vampire weaknesses.  Anything vaguely religious seems effective–crosses, holy water and the like (Ankhs might do if you’re one of those people)–and of course Vamps hold a famous grudge against garlic.  Note that none of these items are particularly difficult to come by, especially for lowly villagers.  To wit, religious artifacts, after food, clothing and some sort of adorable thatch-roofed hut, were among the only possessions you’d expect a poor person to have during the last ~2000 years or so.  Likewise with the garlic; one doesn’t even have to roast it to be effective, though I thoroughly advise it.  It’s delicious.

That said, if it’s time stop warding-off and lay the ole’ hammer down, there are many perfectly reasonable ways to kill a vampire.  Sadly, the most easily attainable of these–sunlight–is pretty difficult to implement.  In films, it’s most often used against waking Vamps who are lured against their will into it.  This requires tricking the Vampire, not a trivial task (see above under “Cognitive Capabilities.”).  In theory, one could always cart a sleeping vampire out into the open with some sort of dolly system, but then, if you had access to a sleeping Vampire, you’d be able to end it right then and there.  The preferred implement, of course, is a wooden stake, applied through the heart.  Like garlic or crosses, not that hard to come by; if you’re a farming peasant, you probably have some on hand already, but in a pinch you could whittle one yourself for free.  If you’re feeling luxuriant, here’s a 25-pack for ~$8.53 US (not including shipping and handling).

Werewolves: Unlike their Vampiric brethren, the Wolves don’t give a dime about your God or his/her desires.  Wood’s cool with them; they’ve often seen smashing through or inhabiting in it.  No, other than heart worms, the only thing a Werewolf’s known to dislike is silver, not the sort of thing that a peasant can easily acquire. In fact, the preferred method of killing a WolfMan is gunshot with silver ammo, requiring not only access to silver, but a silver smithy, ownership of a gun, and the 5-7 day waiting period that entails.  Even if we assume that the “gun show” loophole in most state laws allows you to purchase a 0.40 Smith & Wesson from a meth addict in an alley somewhere, there’s still the issue of ammo.

I personally know nothing about guns, but this guy recommends using 140 grain (~0.32 ounces) bullets with the above gun, though he’s calibrating on copper shot, not silver.  As of the time of this writing, silver stands at ~$16.35 US/Oz, meaning that each bullet will set you back a whopping$5.23 (!) After taxes, that’s roughly an hour’s work at minimum wage, hence the sort of weapon more commonly wielded by the gentry class.

Incidentally, the price of silver seems to be dropping, so monitor your investments accordingly.

Are Gypsies a Knowledgable Resource?

Vampires: Yep, Gypsies work for them.

Werewolves: Yep, Gypsies hunt them.

Life is hard when even Gypsies see you as a pest.

So, if we take all these aspects together, what does the Vampire/Werewolf dichotomy represent?  Follow me…

17 Comments on “Wolf-People of the World Unite! Socioeconomic Conflict and Classic Horror Creatures”

  1. stokes OTI Staff #

    This was rad as hell.


  2. testington #

    that Buffy article was written by a Yale professor? That is baffling, truly. That is probably the worst article/disseration I’ve ever read on Buffy, and I once wrote a 10 page analysis of the third wave feminist politics of Buffy so I’ve read more than my share of articles on the topic…they tend to have sources


  3. shechner OTI Staff #

    Thanks, Stokes! It was a lot of fun to write.

    @testington – well, he’s a *former* Yale professor. Though I believe his tenure renewal issues were less a result of his poor annotation, and more the result of his being an anarchist. Still, the dude gives *fantastic* lectures.


  4. shechner OTI Staff #

    Hey, Texas. This, was written by me, but inspired by a lecture given by a Yale professor in 1999. I’m merely an MIT grad biochemistry student. Though, if Yale’s hiring…


  5. testington #


    YOUR piece is a great read though! Really fascinating and quite funny to boot!


  6. shechner OTI Staff #

    @testington Aww.. shucks. Thanks!


  7. Gab #

    Thumpin’ good read!

    I couldn’t help but notice how Legosi was in the trailer for _The Wolf Man_, too.


  8. Matthew Belinkie OTI Staff #

    There’s a lot of good stuff packed in here. The idea that middle class Americans in the 1990’s were “tourists in the upper class” is a phrase that’s useful outside of vampire articles.

    You definitely made me think about how the depiction of vampires has changed pretty radically over time. On the most basic level, vampires aren’t bad guys anymore. In a lot of cases (Angel, Twilight, Underworld, Blade, True Blood) the primary vampires DON’T EVEN KILL PEOPLE. They have chosen to live via blood banks, animal blood, or synthetic blood. And even in the movies where the vampire does kill people, they’re often depicted sympathetically (Interview With the Vampire, Let the Right One In).

    In fact, I’m trying to think of a vampire movie which fits the mold of “group of people band together to kill an evil vampire,” and all I can think of is Van Helsing (shudder) and Dracula 2000 (which I remember liking a tiny bit, but only a tiny bit).

    So while vampires are huge in our culture right now, the vampire HORROR movie is close to extinct.


  9. Gab #

    @Belinkie: True that, about the horror aspect leaving vampire lore as of late. I *am* highly intrigued about this upcoming Ethan Hawke movie, “Daybreakers.” Humans being the minority adds an interesting horror twist. The main vampy looks like he wants to convert, though, so maybe that still goes along with the turn vampires have taken lately.

    That book/movie _Blood and Chocolate_ has been brought up on other threads before, and I’d argue it’s a very good werewolves ONLY book; and as its own entity, the movie was entertaining enough (but if compared to the book, total bollocks, completely different and more like a “suggested by” than a “based on”).

    I’d also like to point out the observation that while vampires don’t play much of a role in it, the Harry Potter universe has a werewolf as one of the main protagonists.


  10. Martin #

    The second Wolfman trailer (the most recent one) looks amazing.

    Lycans won’t remain as the werewolf’s worst case scenario for long… you mention it in the next sentence. In Twilight: New Moon not only do you have to fight vampires for a vain human girl’s affections, you be shirtless the whole movie (something to do with body heat, apparently).

    It also incorporates your True Blood point, if I’m not mistaken, in that they’re Native Americans.

    Yeah, I know too much about Twilight.


  11. Matthew Belinkie OTI Staff #

    Let me amend my own point. I didn’t see it, but I believe 30 Days of Night is about regular people fighting evil vampires. So that’s a recent movie in which vampires are straight-up evil. HOWEVER… that movie was a box office disappointment, not even breaking 40 mil domestic. So that proves my (and Shechner’s) point. Nowadays people IDENTIFY with vampires. We don’t want to wipe them out.

    (Although of course, 30 Days of Night might have underperformed for a variety of reasons. Correlation does not equal causation.)


  12. Gab #

    30 Days of Night played out a lot like a modern zombie movie in a few aspects: survivors holing up and hiding out, and the vampire state spread the same way, i.e. through biting/ infection. And they were by no means sexy, these vamps- they may have been fully clothed, but they were definitely intended to look grotesque like zombies. But they also kept a few of the more “classic” vampire characteristics, like using mortals as slaves, sunlight=death, uber strength, and using their intelligence to lure in victims. There was also an established rule system and hierarchy among them. I could say and debate (with myself)(read: ramble) a lot more, but it would get spoilerific.


  13. Lisa #

    Harry Potter does in some ways have a vampire–Voldemort. He has to use Harry’s blood to sustain his physical form. (As far as we know, he doesn’t ever need to eat anything else again.) He has incredible powers and has at least split his soul into teeny-tiny pieces. He’s more into darkness than sunlight, and he definitely has a lot of willing minions.


  14. Valatan #

    It’s not American, but isn’t Night Watch a vampire horror movie? though I guess you could read that one as being about eth rise of the oligarchs in the aftermath of the collapse of the USSR.


  15. Emily #

    This is a cool theory, and I think it holds true for a lot of the monster genre, but I wonder how some of the recent urban fantasy series fit into it. Jim Butcher’s Dresden Files, for instance, portray vampires as literally inhuman monsters, while the werewolves are actually pretty cool – a group of college kids who learn to shift into werewolves and do retain their intelligence in wolf form. Maybe that just shows the way society’s sympathies are shifting, or that we view our future hopes in a new, up-and-coming form of power and not in the old worn out system.


  16. garciad #

    A super-clever thesis and fantastic read. I’m getting high off all your cultural references! It’s potent stuff, and hilarious.

    By chance my vacation this summer spanned Twillight country, Port Angeles to Forks, WA on the upper western peninsula of WA. Everyone was bonkers for it up there. Businesses proudly displayed banners declaring they sold “Twillight” this and that (t-shirts, postcards, hamburgers, etc.). Twillight tourists came in all ages and socioeconomic statuses. I was just glad to see the boon for businesses in some of these economically very depressed areas.

    You’re an MIT grad biochem student, eh? For my science blog I’m looking for someone to review a new paper coming out soon, D.S. et al. I’ve also been looking for someone to profile their transformation from the world of structure to non-coding something or other, and you know, make it funny. You recommend anyone?


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