10 Feb

The Werewolf Rebuttal

Posted by Bryan White | Tuesday February 10, 2009 | Guest Starring

Editor’s note: It’s been a while since I’ve featured other writer’s here but I’m warming up to the idea of it again.  I got some pretty good feedback on my vampire article for Geek Force Five and at a recent meeting of the minds for bloggers and whatnot, a rebuttal in favor of werewolves was proposed by GF5 contributor Shawn Lampron. These are his ideas.

werewolf rebuttal

I became obsessed with the idea of hirsute monsters around the age of ten or so.  I was fascinated as my usually tame local cable channels started to show me glimpses of werewolf movies made in the wake of An American Werewolf in London’s success.  With ready access to a local video store, I made my mother plunk down numerous rental charges over the course of a summer as I devoured cheap VHS copies of howling werewolves bounding through the woods, endlessly hunted by those annoying “regular” humans.

For whatever reason, the vampire mythos wasn’t as appealing to me.  I went through my Anne Rice phase in high school, but I never fully loved it as much as the idea of the werewolf legend.  Also, I was very depressed as a teenager to see that no progress had been made since the eighties, the decade of my birth.  Where had they all gone?  No books?  No movies? That original transformation from An American Werewolf in London seemed to have been the peak of a dying genre.  Zombies have become very trendy again, which I applaud, and even Frankenstein’s monster received another shot in the clumsy hands of Deniro.  Still, my werewolves were left for dead.

Before examining the evidence and theories behind werewolves in cinematic purgatory, let me just enlighten you to the varied reasons I think this mythos connected to me so fully.  Firstly, I connected with this curse.  I got it, I really did.  The parallels were so obvious to me.  Lycanthropy could double as a metaphor for an unbearable rage, hatred at the ordinary and boring so strong that one reverted to the bestial essence from which we came, an animalistic region we all possess.  On the other hand, it could function as a perfect metaphor for the trials of puberty: strange hair and uncontrollable emotions.  Your body betrays you and you find yourself in situations that are embarrassing and dangerous. Both interpretations were easily accessible to a small-town boy with social stigma.

However, where vampires are ruined continuously by overeager scribes, werewolves are ruined through inattention.  Let’s examine some of those very sources that Bryan used: the much maligned Twilight and the movie Underworld.  In Twilight, the werewolves are connected to Native American culture.  This is a recent connection, utilizing Native American legends of “skinwalkers”, shamanistic figures who could take the shapes of other animals.  Not a bad expansion upon the legend and one of the few progressions that have been made in recent years.  However, where the vampires are portrayed as cool and effortlessly and irresistibly sexy, the werewolves are seen as rage-filled and barely controllable animals.  Indeed, if I recall correctly, one of them had disfigured his girlfriend by mistake.  Oops.  In Underworld, the vampires had enslaved the werewolves and were in the process of hunting them to extinction.  In both the movies, they serve as little more than footnotes, and are again portrayed as homely, lacking basic hygiene, and barely able to control themselves from wetting the proverbial rug.

To an extent, I realize that I’m complaining about traits that are central to the mythos.  The rage is wrapped up in the legend and the growth of massive amounts of hair and a canine appearance could lead to bathing complications and issues with socialization.  However, every single time, werewolves are subjugated to second fiddle, usually to vampires.  Also, each time, they’ve gone nowhere, playing the same tired road of crazed beasts that need to be hunted down by the “cooler” monsters.  Where the vampire soup has been stirred by too many chefs to the point that it’s unbearable to eat, the werewolf’s isn’t even on the menu for horror fans.

Quite simply, the werewolf mythos needs to be overhauled.  Every lycanthrope from Michael Jackson to Michael J. Fox has gone the same route.  Ah, what’s happening to slow transformation to howling.  This led one Michael to basketball and another to a zombie dance, but I digress.  Where vampire mythology has evolved and been manipulated, werewolf mythology has stayed fundamentally the same.  So, let’s pose a few questions to shake things up: What if they retained control of themselves?  What if it were more of a mental than a physical state?  Does the full moon have to be involved?  Does it have to be transmitted through bites?  Is it a curse or evolution?  How about devolution?

With a few simple tweaks on the legend, perhaps werewolves could become as sexy and hip as the undead.  As aggravating as it can be, dear readers, it may be better to see your favorite monster experience this pop boom every few years than have to suffer for a quarter of a century without an iconic interpretation!

7 Comments 

  1. February 10, 2009 4:12 pm

    E. Christopher Clark

    Interesting thoughts, Shawn. Makes me think I should try writing a werewolf story someday and see what I could do with the mythology. You’ve made some neat suggestions.

  2. February 10, 2009 4:55 pm

    enemy

    Check out “the astounding wolfman” comic by Robert Kirkman. It revolves around a guy who gets bitten by a werewolf while on vacation and uses his new powers to become a superhero. Its only 12 issues in so far but they introduce some new ideas into the werewolf genre.

  3. February 10, 2009 11:49 pm

    Shawn

    I have checked out “The Astounding Wolfman” as I’m a huge Kirkman fan. I’m devoted to “Invincible” and “The Walking Dead”. However, I never really got into it. While a few changes have been made, I wasn’t a big fan of the art and became distressed when vampires immediately had to be introduced as well. I’m just very tired of seeing werewolves being forced into a package deal with vampires.

    Chris, I tried my hand at doing some werewolf fiction when I was younger and I’m tempted to give it another shot. I’ve got a few really good ideas for changing up the mythos that I’m keeping close to the vest. :)

  4. February 11, 2009 9:22 am

    Bryan White

    Anyone know where vampire/werewolf rivalry stems from? It seems like it’s just sort of assumed these days and if you need some kind of central conflict in your vampire movie, you add werewolves because it’s convenient, but I’ve seen absolutely no intersection in either legends. The cultures that spawned wolfmen and vampires are separated by thousands of miles, anyway.

  5. February 11, 2009 7:17 pm

    Jeremy Couturier

    I haven’t seen a decent werewolf flick since the 80s (Dog Soldiers was good enough though recently). Maybe it’s some gap in the new generation of directors who feel this subject isn’t worth tapping into. I feel this can hold its own without the introduction of other monsters. It certainly worked in the past with Dante and Landis…

  6. February 12, 2009 1:10 pm

    thebonebreaker

    For an awesome werewolf book, be sure to check out the novel Ravenous by Ray Garton [in his mythos, lycanthropy is spread through sex...]
    Its sequel [Bestial] is going to be coming out on April 1st, I belive.

    Great write-up Bryan!

    P.S. I would rather wait than see werewolves become “hip & sexy” Ai!

  7. April 23, 2009 10:24 am

    flintstone

    I agree totally with a lot of what you have written in this article. Like you, as a kid growing up, i was more enthralled with werewolves than vampires; I was fascinated by the ability to change into something other than I was (I also thought that werewolves would easily kick a vampire ass!).
    I have said for years that the transformation from man to wolf in An American Werewolf in London is the best ever screened. However, I think it is totally unacceptable that this transformation has yet to be bettered (the movie came out in 1981 for God’s sake, and since then we’ve have photo realistic gorilla in King Kong, dinosaurs in Jurassic Park and all many of beasties in Lord of the Rings). Technoology is at the point where it is only limited by our imagination.
    Also, I agree that werewolf appearances in TV shows and/or movies is always lazily handled, whereas vampires are continually overhauled and revamped (pardon the pun).
    I am currently writing a screenplay for a movie that will hopefully progress things for our nocturnal hirsute friends. It will involve vampires, but this time, vampires will be second tier and werewolves, the humans they are and the psychological effects of lycanthropy will be explored more. (Just hope i can sell the screenplay and get the thing made).


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