This past Sunday, The Werewolf's Guide To Life co-author Bob Powers participated in a Werewolves Vs. Vampires debate on NPR's All Things Considered, in a chat with Joe Garden, co-author of The New Vampire's Handbook. It was a brief segment in advance of this Friday's release of New Moon, but we were happy to put in a few words in support of the werewolf lifestyle.
There was one question in this debate that we wish we'd had more time to address, and it's been on our minds ever since. Moderator Guy Raz brought up the fact that werewolves have seen a recent increase in popularity, at least as far as their representation in pop culture and fiction is concerned (New Moon, The Wolfman remake, Teen Wolf coming to MTV, etc).
The question is, why now? As with most everything else, we're blaming the economy. We believe that the plight of the werewolf reflects the American economic mood at the current moment.
For the past few years the pop culture spotlight has been trained squarely on vampires. In films and books, vampires are usually portrayed as remarkably attractive, independently wealthy, and classically mannered. Vampires are the elite.
On Sunday's show, Joe Garden made a valid point explaining this. To paraphrase, he said that vampires had the freedom to be elitist. The reason so many vampires are considered classically attractive is that vampires choose who they're going to turn according to such standards.
It makes sense, then, that vampires would be the supernatural creature of the moment for the middle 00's, when money flowed like blood from a jugular and no one had any idea that the vein might run dry.
And it also makes sense that now, when unemployment is through the roof and everyone's wondering if they'll ever be able to afford to go to a hospital again, that America would look to the werewolf.
The story of the werewolf is about personal struggle over adversity. No one chooses to become a werewolf. You're afflicted with the condition as a result of dumb luck. If you're unlucky enough to be walking down the wrong wooded path when the moon is full, a hungry werewolf just might jump out and change your life forever. The werewolf has no concern for how much money you have in the bank or how many people are counting on you, and he definitely isn't concerned with how attractive you might be. Anyone can be turned.
Many Americans are dealing with a similar feeling of helplessness as they study their bank accounts and listen to the workplace rumors about more layoffs coming down the pike. The pervasive feeling is that at any moment, a little bad luck can send everything spiraling out of control.
The reality of the werewolf lifestyle is all about making do, and finding a way to keep in control. A werewolf can't just run wild on his Moons, killing indiscriminately. Not unless he wants to be hunted down and killed before sunrise. So a werewolf must expend time and money to build a restraint system and fortify a safe room to keep from getting loose.
There's no insurance to cover you in case of contracting lycanthropy. A new werewolf is not unlike one of the millions of uninsured Americans, stricken with a disease that suddenly threatens to drain their bank accounts. The money has to be spent, whether you have it or not.
Further, just as a disease or other impairment can inhibit your ability to work steadily to pay for the treatment you so desperately need, many new werewolves are forced to seek new employment, and sometimes they have to change careers altogether. When considering employment, Werewolves require schedule flexibility above all else. If you have a job that requires you to work late nights and be on call at all hours, you're going to have to find a new line of work. You need your nights free.
So not only do you have a physical condition that can't be managed without a large expenditure of funds, but you also need to find a new job, perhaps in a field for which you aren't even suited, in order to support that expenditure. With many states reporting unemployment numbers above 10%, being a werewolf is not an easy task.
Considering where the country is now, it makes perfect sense that a werewolf, not a vampire, is the star of the most anticipated movie of the fall season. The vampire is a creature from the country club. When millions of Americans are praying that the federal subsidy of Cobra benefits is going to be extended, no one wants to watch the plight of the wealthy, immortal, invulnerable vampire. The randomly afflicted, struggling werewolf reflects the American mood.
The werewolf gets what America is going through. His anguished howl speaks for all of us.