Fuck, Kill, Eat: Werewolves and the Death of Love

I’ve been thinking about werewolves a lot lately.

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No, really, like a lot.

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I recently listened to the audiobook of Glen Duncan’s The Last Werewolf, which is probably one of my favorite books of all time. I own a print copy and have read it twice, but decided to listen to it in my car on my way to work over the course of two weeks. I have a 40-minute drive to and from work Monday – Friday, and when I don’t feel like listening to music I listen to audiobooks that I download for free through an online service provided by my local library.

Over the past several months I listened to two Joe Hill novels, Heart-Shaped Box and NOS4A2, and the first two novels in the Vampire Diaries series by L. J. Smith. I had to stop listening to the Vampire Diaries novels, because I was getting pissed off at the fact that there are no people of color in the stories, and Elena Gilbert is a spoiled rich white girl who doesn’t deserve the love and attention of either Salvatore brother. I prefer the TV series to the novels mainly because of the diversity of characters and well…Damon Salvatore is a beautiful monster.

I would happily listen to more Joe Hill novels in my car, but I’ve either read or listened to all of them and last summer I even listened to Doctor Sleep and got my Charlie Manx fix through the world(s) shared between Joe Hill and Stephen King. I got very excited while listening to NOS4A2 when Charlie Manx talks about the different “inscapes” and the people he’s met that use them — Pennywise’s Circus (IT), the True Knot (Doctor Sleep), Christmasland (NOS4A2), the Treehouse of the Mind (Horns), the Night Road and Craddock McDermott (Heart-Shaped Box). Seriously, NOS4A2 is an Easter egg treasure-trove for readers of King and Hill. Treat yourself!

Reality has been kicking my ass, so my goal when choosing entertainment of any kind is to get as far from reality as possible. I often jokingly tell people that if a TV show, movie, or book doesn’t have vampires, werewolves, demons, witches, ghosts, or other paranormal characters, I’m not interested. But, it’s not really a joke.

I have been feeding my brain a steady diet of paranormal romance and dark speculative fiction. I binge-watched seasons 12 and 13 of Supernatural recently and now I’m suffering from Winchester withdrawal. Fox decided to cancel Lucifer, so I watched the last two bonus episodes and now that’s over and done. I started rewatching season 2 of Preacher to psyche myself up for season 3, but I’m not 100% sure of the date of its return to AMC. Then, on a whim, I decided to finally watch Lost Girl on Netflix. It has a Buffy vibe that I really enjoy and it is loaded with sexy, interesting, and often hilarious supernatural creatures. I like the dynamics between the Dark and Light Fae, I like the slow unfolding of the long cultural and political histories of this dual society, and I like the relationships that form between the characters. But, I’m not going to lie, the main reason why I’m watching right now is because of a certain werewolf.

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In the first season of Lost Girl, Dyson and the main character, Bo Dennis, become lovers. Because he is a werewolf chock full of Id and raging sexual energy, he is the first lover she’s ever had that didn’t die after having sex with her. Which, you know, is kind of a big deal when you’re a succubus.

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I mean, imagine if you had spent most of your adult life making love to people you’re attracted to or have strong feelings for, and each time you follow through on your sexual attraction, they end up dead. Sex with you is literally deadly. You are the embodiment of the death of love. Then, one day, you not only discover what you are and why your partners are dying, but you also find a mate who can provide you with what you need — companionship, acceptance, answers to your questions, finger-licking mega-boost sexual energy, and death-free sex. Death-free sex that is totally mind-blowing for both of you. You’d be tempted to think that love might still be in the cards for you.

I mean, love is still in the cards unless the person you love loves you so much that they inadvertently sacrifice their passion for you in an effort to save your life. Hence, the death of love. I mean, what’s more tragic than loving someone so much that you sacrifice everything for them with the consequence of never being able to love them again?

I’ve been on a werewolf kick for a while. Like I said, before I started watching Lost Girl on Netflix roughly a week ago, I listened to Glen Duncan’s The Last Werewolf, read by the late Robin Sachs, who lent his uber-sexy deep British accent to the first-person narrator, Jake Marlowe. Jake is a 200-year-old British werewolf who is facing the certainty of extinction of his species.

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For most of the novel, he accepts the fact that death is coming for him. In fact, he welcomes it. After 200 years, 147 of which he’s spent as a monster killing and eating humans, he’s done. He believes he’s seen it all and there are no new mysteries awaiting him. And then, the Universe has a few more laughs at his expense.

I suppose that most werewolf stories are really about love and it’s loss when you examine them closely enough. Lycanthropy is typically viewed as a curse that ruins the lives of the people who contract it. In most cases, lycanthropy is passed from werewolf to human through a bite. Unless lycanthropy is inherited through a family bloodline, or achieved through magical means, like wearing a belt made from a wolf’s pelt with a little black magic for good measure, werewolves are usually the survivors of violent attacks. And, once their physical wounds heal, the psychological ones are usually just beginning. If the werewolf has a conscience, they will most likely experience the early stages of a mental collapse after the first full moon when they turn into a homicidal maniac in wolf form.

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Jake Marlowe became a werewolf because he was bitten by one and during his first transformation he killed his wife. After killing and eating her, he read her journal and discovered that she was pregnant. His first act as a werewolf was to literally kill and eat love. For 147 years, he spent his life observing the sacred rites of werewolves: Fuck, Kill, Eat. He never found love again. At least, not until he realizes he’s about to be extinct. The Universe likes to laugh at us, but it seems to be especially jovial where monsters are concerned. At least romantic monsters who cling to their humanity in the midst of an extreme identity crisis. Jake assumes he’s the last living werewolf on Earth until he meets his female counterpart, Tallula Demetriou. So, not only is Jake no longer the last werewolf on Earth, but now he has a reason to live: Love.

So, what’s the deal with werewolves and romance? Well, who doesn’t want a passionate lover driven by their Id with superhuman strength, stamina, and a biological need to mate for life? A werewolf mate will literally kill people to keep you safe…or as an insane response to their unbridled jealousy.

At the heart of all werewolves is murderous rage and rapacious sexual energy. Left unchecked, they commit atrocities like Jake Marlowe killing his wife and unborn child, and while in human form they are often slaves to their libido. Without love, werewolves are basically fucking, killing, and eating machines.

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Typically, werewolves are portrayed as strong, handsome men suffering from some sort of identity crisis, or extreme guilt over becoming a murder once a month, and possibly an unbearable, soul-crushing melancholy brought on by unrequited love.

What I like most about Glen Duncan’s Last Werewolf Trilogy is the fact that we see the lives of werewolves from two perspectives, both male and female. Jake Marlowe’s acceptance of his true werewolf self — the good, the bad, the ugly, and the murderous — makes him an oddly likeable character. He has sex with prostitutes and somehow manages to not be a misogynist. He kills and eats humans once a month and somehow manages to be endearing in his descriptions of his own psychology. He’s a conundrum of horror, repulsion, intellect, cynicism, and raw sex appeal. Werewolves are mythological bad boys and they make excellent romantic characters when making terrible choices is your raison d’etre. I probably mentioned this before, but falling in love with monsters is usually a bad idea, regardless of what popular paranormal romance tells us. Whether you join Team Jacob or Team Edward, you’re essentially signing up for assisted suicide.

But, what if the werewolf is female?

If the 2000 cult horror film Ginger Snaps teaches us nothing else, it teaches us that female werewolves are dangerous monsters (and super-fucking cool). Their danger lies not only in the physical power that comes with their transformations each month, but in the empowerment that comes from shedding all the bullshit societal expectations of femininity. Female werewolves embrace their sexuality and engage in the mental gymnastics required to deal with the implied duality of being vessels for the creation of life and choosing to murder to satisfy the bone-rattling hunger for human flesh.

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But hey, don’t most women deal with similar dualities in every day life? Women are expected to be attractive to appease the ever-present male gaze, but only if they maintain the illusion of virginity. Women who ignore the male gaze and express their unique brand of sexuality or lack of interest in sex all together are accused of being sluts or hags. Let’s face it, there’s nothing more monstrous than sex-positive women who take full ownership of their bodies and decide who can and can’t have access to them.

Female werewolves choose their own paths. They embrace their sexuality. They choose multiple partners or mate for life. They become mothers or remain childless. They give the middle finger to societal expectations and rip out the patriarchy’s jugular.

As it turns out, Jake Marlowe is not the last werewolf. Tallula, his lover, his mate, his salvation, the love of his life (no pressure), makes the inevitability of extinction less likely. In fact, he gains strength in knowing that she is a better werewolf than he could ever hope to be. Tallula struggles with internal chorus of right and wrong that developed from her American upbringing and the expectations that women can only occupy certain roles — maiden, mother, and crone. And possibly, harlot. Tallula likes sex and engages in murder with the same ardor. She and Jake kill together and then have sex over the corpse in werewolf form, which ironically brings them closer together as a couple in their human guises. Essentially, their a serial-killing couple. Murder mates. Even monsters need love, right?

So, if female werewolves are more powerful and scarier than male werewolves, that might help explain how male werewolves have become sexually-charged eye candy in a lot of paranormal romantic fiction. I’m just stating that as a fact. It’s not a criticism in the least, because that would make me a hypocrite. There’s nothing I enjoy more than objectifying sexy werewolves…and examining the potentially dangerous ramifications of sexualizing monsters.

Peter Rumancek of Hemlock Grove, the Netflix original series based on Brian McGreevy’s 2012 novel by the same name, is an interesting monster. While he is physically appealing, his real attraction comes from his delightful irreverence and cynicism, and while his Romany upbringing predisposes him to criminal activity, his internal struggles are more geared toward keeping the people he loves safe rather than his guilt over killing and eating people.

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Then we have Alcide Herveaux, who could possibly be the sexiest werewolf ever in paranormal fiction. Charlaine Harris has kindly given us countless fuckable fictional characters, but Alcide is in a class all by himself.

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In Alan Ball’s adaptation of Harris’ Sookie Stackhouse novels for the HBO series True Blood, Alcide gets a much broader story arc than he does in the novels and his flirtations with Sookie Stackhouse got much further. He’s an interesting character who embodies strength and loyalty to a fault. And jealousy. Let’s not forget jealousy, which is essentially Alcide’s kryptonite.

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I have a soft spot in my heart for Alcide because he makes worse relationship decisions than I do. I mean, this guy has TERRIBLE luck with romance and his choice of partners, including Sookie Stackhouse, are pretty much all bad ideas. Plus, there’s the added bonus of him being naked a lot of the time.

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So, in the process of writing this blog post I realized that I have a lot more to say about werewolves and this post might be the jumping off point for a short series of posts. I definitely feel like I have more to say about female werewolves vs. male werewolves, and I’d like to talk more about Glen Duncan’s trilogy. But, I need to think about the subject a little more deeply.

Which reminds me, while I was listening to the second audiobook in the trilogy, Tallula Rising, I was able to solve or at least recognize the solution to an issue in my own writing. Tallula talks about her feelings in relation to motherhood and the acceptance of the terrible things she does and that are done to her. It was a moment of clarity that confirms the idea that in order to become a better writer, you need to read more books. I’m not going to talk about that moment of clarity in this post. I’ll save it for a future post. But, I will say that the irony of finding clarity about my own identity, my own writing, and the world I live in through stories about monsters is not lost on me. My own otherness has made me feel connected to monsters since childhood and I have always felt empathy toward characters who have no control of who or what they are. I suppose, I feel a kinship to monsters and the older I get, the more I take pride in that fact.

I’m going to keep up the ongoing process of self-discovery through writing in the hopes of becoming not only a better writer, but hopefully, my best self. And, I’m going to keep thinking about werewolves.

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I mean seriously, can you blame me?

Fur, Blood and Revenge

A few days ago I wrote a blog post in which I stated that I would be writing at least three blog posts in this series relating to characters portrayed by Jason Momoa, or simply referring to Jason Momoa himself. He appeared in my first post in the series, in which I suggested that he and Chris Hemsworth audition for the role of Gallowglass de Clermont by wrestling each other a la Greco-Roman style. Today, however, I will be talking about one of the fictional characters he currently plays in the Netflix Original series, “Frontier.”

If you haven’t watched “Frontier,” it’s an exciting and somewhat educational series that depicts a period of history, during the late 1700s, when the British Hudson Bay Company (HBC) had its fur-trading monopoly that it stole from Aboriginal peoples challenged by French, Scottish, and American companies. The ruthless and often brutal fights that occurred to control the wealth associated with the fur trade make for entertaining television. And, the excellent International ensemble cast (America, UK, Canada), with Jason Momoa as it’s anchor makes this rather dark period of history come alive.

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Just a heads up, while this is a well-acted TV show with a great plot, script, loads of inappropriate humor, and beautiful locations that delves into an interesting period of history, this probably isn’t a show you want to sit down and watch with the kiddies. It is violent and bloody. A great deal of that violence is sexual in nature. Not all of the sex is violent. In fact, there are a few romantic scenes that are down right chaste. And, there is a decent amount of profanity thanks to the Scottish characters. But, beyond the violence, the type of violence runs toward torture, it is violence in the extreme, and the people doling it out enjoy what they do. Oh, and there’s a cross-dressing homosexual serial killer, so…yeah, you probably want to watch this after the kids go to bed.

Jason Momoa’s character, Declan Harp, may not enjoy doling out violence as much as some of the other characters, but he is damn good at it. In fact, he is notorious for his ultra violence and creative methods of obtaining information from his enemies. He is an outlaw. An enemy of the Crown. And the smoking hot antihero of this binge-worthy series.

Fur, Blood and Revenge: Declan Harp

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ENTER AT YOUR OWN RISK, SPOILERS AHEAD

The opening scene of the series features Declan Harp raiding an HBC outpost with the help of his men in the Black Wolf Company, a fur trading company made up of mostly Natives. Three soldiers in red coats are on their knees begging for mercy, and Declan Harp slits the throats of the first two and then brutally stabs the third. He then sets a fourth man free as a message to the HBC to let them know he’s coming after them and their money.

Declan Harp has revenge on his mind. He is the son of an Irishman and a Cree woman. His father worked for the HBC and after his death, he was raised by his mother until he was taken in and raised to adulthood by a high-ranking official within the HBC, Lord Benton. Lord Benton taught Declan everything he knew about the fur trade and how to be a brutal bastard and a shrewd businessman. Disgusted by the treatment of his mother’s people, his people, by the HBC, Declan left the company and went into business for himself. Pissed off by the betrayal, Lord Benton killed Harp’s wife, son and unborn child. They are now sworn enemies and live to see the other one dead.

Lord Benton hires an Irish thief who stows away on his ship, Michael Smyth, to befriend Declan Harp and report back to him so that he can capture Harp and hold him responsible for his crimes against the HBC and Crown. Michael Smyth is coerced into his role as a spy due to the fact that the girl he loves is in prison in London. Benton has promised to free the girl for Michael’s service. Michael’s introduction to Harp makes it clear that the man he is to spy on can be rather terrifying if he can’t trust you.

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Michael ends up proving himself as a valuable addition to the Black Wolf Company and earns Harp’s trust. Michael is no fool. While he wishes to save the life and virtue of the girl he loves, he also knows that Harp is a better man than Benton. His loyalties change as he gets to know Harp and his people better, but especially Harp’s wife’s sister, Sokanon. Sokanon and Harp are close and mourned the loss of her sister together. She is a strong woman, skilled in hunting, killing, and living off the land. She has turned her back on her duties to her tribe, including the arranged marriage she has yet to accept in order to fight at Declan’s side. She and Michael spend a lot of time together and eventually fall in love.

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Harp is consumed by his desire to become an economic power within the fur trade so as to ruin the HBC’s stronghold in Canada, as well as his blood lust to kill Lord Benton. Yes, he is a brutal bastard. His favorite weapons are knives, hatchets, and well, just about anything with a sharp edge that you can use for slicing, stabbing, and throwing. He takes killing very seriously, and likes to get up close and personal with his victims. There’s a scene in episode three that’s reminiscent of Reservoir Dogs, in which Harp questions a man who killed an innocent Cree youth and took Michael hostage. Declan asks the man if he works for one of his competitors, Malcolm Brown. When the man not only refuses to answer, but also spits in Harp’s face, he slices off the man’s ear, holds it close to his mouth, and says, “Perhaps you didn’t hear me. I asked if you work for Malcolm Brown.” Then he continues to speak into the ear to make sure his point is clear. God bless me, I laughed out loud.

It’s no secret that I have a special place in my heart for monsters. And men like Declan Harp can be driven to do monstrous things. He is not driven by greed or the desire to subjugate others. He is driven by emotional and psychological pain. He was turned into a monster by men who do far worse things in the name of greed and power. Declan Harp is a monster we can easily feel empathy for, and cheer on as he battles against true evil. I want Declan Harp to win. And, in most cases, he’s justified in the extreme amounts of violence he uses to deal with his enemies and the enemies of people he believes to be treated unjustly.

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Declan is not a fan of oppression. Perhaps, this is because he is half Irish and half Cree. He is not considered white by Europeans, and even though he was raised by his mother’s people, some of the Cree do not trust him and view him as being more European. He lives between worlds, which I believe gives him the ability to see the true nature of people more clearly. It pisses him off when the British, or any white people for that matter, treat brown people badly. Brown people and women of any color. Yes, he’s an outlaw. He’s poisoned by his own desire for revenge. But along the way, he is also a champion for the rights and freedoms of people who are treated like garbage by white capitalists. He’s no saint. He’s killed a lot of people. But he is not the animal the HBC and others try to make him out to be. He genuinely cares for the people under his command, and he cares for a woman who is a friend and ally to him, Grace Emberly. Grace owns and operates an ale house and has access to information that she trades to maintain and acquire power within the small community. As the proprietor, she employs women, but does not allow them to prostitute themselves. She’s a business woman at a time when most women earned a living on their backs with their skirts raised. She is living a very dangerous life in the Canadian frontier, playing forces against each other while trying to keep Declan safe.

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There is no shortage of strong female characters in this show. Harp, unlike most of the other men, finds that strength to be a positive thing. He likes strong, smart, resourceful women and treats them like equals. Which, by the way, is super fucking hot in my opinion. Harp’s relationship with Grace is unclear at first. We know that she knows him well enough to worry about his safety. She knows about his wife’s murder. She knows about his vendetta against Benton. And, she knows he makes her girl parts get all tingly when he walks into a room. When we first see them together, Harp goes to her for information about a kidnapped Cree boy. She tells him she hasn’t seen him in months and she’s upset that all he wants is information. There is obviously something else going on between them, and it is clear her feelings are hurt.

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There is a bounty on Declan’s head and he is hunted day and night throughout the series. He is beaten, tortured, and almost killed time and again. Grace gives him shelter and it seems that she has a history of nursing him back to health. Because she helps him and enables him to get closer to his goals of ruining the HBC and killing Benton, Grace finds herself in a lot of trouble on a regular basis. Unlike Harp, the other men in her life betray her and refuse to accept her as an equal. And, despite whatever feelings she may have for Declan, she’s backed into a corner and forced to marry Capt. Chesterfield in order to keep herself and Harp safe.

When Declan finds out that Grace married Chesterfield to save him, he is initially angry at her. We’ve seen proof that he cares about her, but this is the first sign we get that his feelings for her go beyond friendship. OK, so one of his faults is irrational jealousy over the fact that a woman he loves essentially sacrificed her own freedom so he could have his. His anger seems to be over the fact that she has given herself to another man, despite the fact that she has refused to consummate the marriage with Chesterfield. She only has eyes for Declan, and he doesn’t seem all that appreciative of the fact that she’s just saved his ass.

Eventually, he realizes that he’s been a dick and apologizes to her for his shitty behavior. It’s at this point that we are no longer in the dark about his true feelings for Grace. When they kiss, I was like FINALLY. Each time they were alone I couldn’t figure out how the hell she was keeping her hands off him. Her control was commendable, but I was thrilled when she finally climbed up the front of that mountain of a man to suck face.

When Grace is kidnapped at the end of season two, Chesterfield and Harp will most likely have to team up to save her. It’s one hell of a cliffhanger, and I cannot wait for season three. Despite the spoilers, I still encourage you to watch “Frontier.” It’s a great show, with memorable characters you will love as much as I do. The Brown Brothers are absolutely fucking delightful. And hey, Jason Momoa looks great in that leather coat, wrapped in fur, covered in blood, murdering greedy racist assholes, making a fire, skinning a deer, hell, he even looks good while being tortured. Seriously, what the hell are you waiting for? You could probably binge your way through season one and two this weekend.