The Zombie Vampire Continuum Hypothesis

Following up on all the great comments from yesterday’s post, suppose we take as a working model the idea suggested by Alec’s comment — that our instincts toward the nearly-human “other” are not merely influenced by our past history with Neanderthals, but in particular both by warring with them and by mating with them.

This model would suggest that our instincts about monsters are informed by both a joy in killing them and a sexual attraction toward them. Which leads to what might be called the “Zombie Vampire Continuum” (ZVC) hypothesis: Because of our prehistoric relationship with Neanderthals, we have both a blood lust toward “nearly human” monsters and, well, the other kind of lust. A monster will therefore lie on a continuum between “a being that I want to kill” (Zombie) and “a being that I am sexually drawn to in a way that scares me” (Vampire).

Note how this parallels the repulsion/attraction that adolescents feel as they approach sexual maturity, which is generally reflected in archetypical fairy tales: Little Red Riding Hood wants the Wolf to be killed, but she also finds him seductive.

Perhaps our species’ unique relationship to sexuality is informed by instincts we acquired while interacting with rival sentient species, most recently the Neanderthal: We think of sex as dangerous, and at the same time we find killing sexy.

3 Responses to “The Zombie Vampire Continuum Hypothesis”

  1. Sharon says:

    Mating with a group that you’re warring with is not necessarily a sign of sexual attraction, right? It can be another way of showing power and conquest. (Unfortunately we hear about this among warring human groups way too often.)

    Assuming that the desire to kill “nearly-human” others has a genetic basis (required if it is an evolved trait), it doesn’t seem that hard to imagine that it would have both survival value (for natural selection) and an attraction for mates in one’s own species (for sexual selection).

    But your hypothesis is fun too. I imagine any theory in this area is going to be pretty much untestable.

    I have to confess that I don’t really get the whole sexy vampire thing myself. I managed to make it through the first Twilight book, but every description of Edward as pale and cold left me, well, cold. I seem to be in the minority, though. Maybe I’ll understand it if I ever get around to watching the Buffy TV series, which I missed when it aired originally. I’m tempted since it is Joss Whedon.

  2. admin says:

    I understand what you mean about Twilight. I am a long-time student of the Buffyverse. At the moment I’m almost done viewing the complete seven year series for the second time through — I enjoy revisiting the classics from time to time.

    And I sincerely believe that the seven years of Buffy will live on in history as one of the literary classics of our time (this will make sense only to those who have seen the series in order from beginning to end). Whereas Twilight will be remembered as one of those strange little fads, like eating goldfish in 1939.

    For example, there is no comparison between a perpetually dour and pained Edward Cullen, and, say, Spike, the cheekily irreverent and multilayered antihero of Buffy. Sure, Spike understands the tragedy of it all, but he’s got a great sense of gallows (post-gallows?) humor about it.

    Then again I suspect the brilliant ironic wit of characters like Buffy or Spike would have been completely lost on Bella and Edward. The best summary I’ve ever read of how those two fictional universes might interact goes like this:

          And then Buffy staked Edward.
          The End.

    :-)

  3. Sharon Perl says:

    :-)

    Perhaps it is time for me to lose my Buffy virginity. I actually did watch the pilot not long ago and I enjoyed it, but I wasn’t sure that I was ready to commit to the series. I’ll have to go back for another taste. Your endorsement is encouraging.

    I loved Firefly, which I’ve seen through more than once.

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