Gothic Vampire Fantasy Part Three
Addictive Love and the Byronic Hero
Alright, we’ve already gone into how some women are culturally primed for this fantasy of Gothic love, but what about how this Gothic love fantasy fits into their needs? Our culture tends to suffer from a lack of family ties, especially in comparison to other cultures, which stress close kinship networks and family ties. This hits young women especially hard at adolescence, when many of them suffer from a whole host of modern problems, such as bullying, finding friends, etc. It hits especially hard because most young females are attempting to find and discover their own identities, in a world where gender and identity remain constantly in flux.
Because of these difficulties, most adolescents, male or female remain prone to what psychologist Stanton Peele terms “addictive love.” Addictive love is a type of love which encourages young people to behave poorly, cast off the light of reason. It has been compared to drug addiction, a desire for the beloved which reaches unhealthy levels. Individuals with low maturity levels, or individuals who have a desire to escape some negative forces in their life-abuse, etc, remain particularly prone to falling into patterns of addictive love.
We have already set the stage for fantasies of addictive love, appealing to young people, but why then, does it appeal so much to young women? Several philosophers have theorized on this topic. Heidegger, mentioned in Deborah Lutz’s Dangerous Lovers, asserted that through finding a relationship with the addictive lover, we try to find a piece of ourselves, lost fragments of our own identity. This addictive lover allows to take whatever parts of the self, whatever parts of our identity we have kept shamed or locked away, and bring them into the light.
This idea of the addictive lover, typically also ties into the Byronic hero, a concept also held in great esteem. The Byronic hero is the typically brooding lover of the Gothic novels of the late 1800′s. This hero typically embodies the deep desire to find a man, who fulfills two basic purposes: who allows the heroine to transcend boring, ordinary everyday life through her deep love and concern for him, and to give her a type of transcendental home, a man who will, no matter what, always be there for her. The Byronic hero provides safety and adventure, love and desire, all in one delectable package.
Now take this dynamic and transplant it to modern times. The modern girl, with her frequent lack of social support, her fear that her friends might leave her, that they might dump her, can find in this vicarious fantasy of heroes like Edward Cullen (who, no matter what his other faults may be, is always devoted to Bella) . She can also find in this fantasy a type of adventure, a type of escape: for as other authors have pointed out, we are currently living in a fin de siecle time period, mostly noted for its forces of industrialization and the amount of stability (almost too much stability) it provides its citizens. This remains doubly true for the high school girl, who does not have as many chances for adventure as her counterparts in previous time periods may have possessed (rigidness of school schedules, etc). Through her vicarious fantasy of loving the Byronic hero and the addictive lover, she is provided with both a permanent sense of home and a wonderful sense of adventure, of living vicariously through Bella’s Gothic love story.