10 Things That Made Me Happy While Taking the #100HappyDays Challenge

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Back on January 23 I started a #100HappyDays Challenge. The homepage of the site asks you, “Can you be happy for 100 days in a row?” I believe most rational people would probably say no. And, if like me, you suffer from chronic depression you’d be even more skeptical.

The second question the site asks you is, “You don’t have time for this, right?” Again, most of us would agree that we don’t have time to make an effort to be happy every single day for 100 days. But is that true? Why don’t we have time? Is it because we don’t believe we’re worth the effort? Or is it because we don’t believe that you can find happiness that easily? Or maybe, and I know this sounds a little crazy, we don’t really understand a) what makes us happy, b) what happiness really looks and feels like, or c) how to begin to find happiness in our everyday lives.

The challenge itself is simple. Each day, for 100 days, you simply take a picture of something or someone who made you happy and then follow the steps on the site.

So first you register in the challenge >here<, then choose your favorite platform for submitting pictures. Here you can decide yourself on the privacy of your participation & happy moments:

  • Share your picture via Facebook, twitter or Instagram with a public hashtag #100happydays;
  • Come up with your own hashtag to share your pictures with to limit publicity. (Don’t forget to tell us how to find your pictures though)
  • Simply send your pictures to myhappyday (at) 100happydays.com to avoid any publicity.

The 100happydays.com site claims that “71% of people tried to complete this challenge, but failed quoting lack of time as the main reason.” Studies have shown that most people are not just busy, but overwhelmed with responsibility – work, housework, school, family, and other social obligations – that keep them running nonstop and afford little time for anything else. People typically don’t make time to take care of themselves, or just check in to see how happy they are with the life they are living.

Believe me, I get it. I’m a divorced single parent who works full-time. I’m a part-time writer trying to become a full-time writer, which means I write fiction in the hopes of being published and farm myself out for freelance projects because my day job doesn’t pay enough. I’m not currently dating, but I have a fairly active social life. I rent, so I don’t have a lot of home repairs to tend to, but there’s still housework, errands, cooking, and child rearing. To be honest, housework doesn’t get done very often, but we always have clean laundry and dishes, and my son never misses a meal. My son is involved in activities outside the house, and he has behavioral/emotional issues that we manage through therapy and other strategies. I’m not going to win any awards for my parenting skills. However, I make a point of showing up and being present when my energy and own mental health issues are balanced. I’m actively seeking employment, because I’m not sure if I’ll be able to stay in my current job after June. So, yeah, I’m busy. Like mind-numbingly, soul-crushingly busy some days. Depression has been an ongoing issue for me since I was a kid. I was diagnosed in my teens and have sought the support of therapists and medication on and off throughout my adult life. I’m not just busy. Some days are harder than others. Some days I have #zerofuckstogive. Some days I consider it a win if I get out of bed, get dressed, and make it to work.

Despite all the challenges I face day-to-day, I managed to find something to be relatively happy about for almost every single day of the 100-day challenge. I chose to post my pictures, thoughts and reflections on social media – Facebook and Instagram. Each day, beginning on January 23 and ending on May 2, I posted a photo, a meme, or simply an observation about that day and what brought me joy.

100happydays.com also asks the question, “Why would I do that?” Good question. I’m sure lots of people would ask that question. Well, here are some answers.

People successfully completing the challenge claimed to:

  • Start noticing what makes them happy every day;
  • Be in a better mood every day;
  • Start receiving more compliments from other people;
  • Realize how lucky they are to have the life they have;
  • Become more optimistic;
  • Fall in love during the challenge.

Need help figuring out what makes you happy? Here are the top 10 things that brought me happiness during my #100happydays challenge (in no particular order). Perhaps, you’ll recognize some of the things that make you smile too.

  1. Booze. Let’s face it, adult beverages are delicious and when they are drunk responsibly, they can have amazingly curative properties. When I was younger, I was hell-bent on self-medicating. I drank too much and too often. I also was careless about mixing drugs with alcohol, and usually in questionable company. That’s a story for another day. At this point in my life, I don’t drink very often. I keep some booze at home, typically bourbon, which is my favorite liquor. Occasionally, I’ll drink rum. Booze appeared in my social media feeds on Day 1 of the challenge. It was a rough day. And, booze played a role in bringing me happiness 4 out the 100 days, 5 if you count the codeine cough syrup I drank when I was sick. Fun fact: Because of my love of bourbon and booze in general, I gained roughly 20 new followers on Instagram who are either bars with specialty cocktails, bourbon aficionados, and distillers of small-batch spirits. So, I guess you could say that booze has the ability to make me popular and interesting.
  1. Coffee & Tea. I don’t know about you, but caffeine is 90% responsible for keeping me conscious most days. It’s no secret how much I love coffee, but I also enjoy drinking tea. Coffee and tea have been staples in my life since childhood. I grew up in rural Pennsylvania in the 70s and 80s, and my grandmother didn’t see a problem with putting iced tea in my bottle when I was a baby. I drank my first cup of coffee when I was five. But don’t worry, she cut the bitterness by adding a tooth-decaying amount of sugar to it. Essentially, my grandmother was my first drug dealer. She hated alcohol. Most likely because her father and one of her brothers were alcoholics. People who drank alcohol pissed her off, but she was the poster child for coffee, sugar, and cigarettes. When I was a poor college student and couldn’t afford to maintain my cigarette habit (I smoked between the ages of 14 and 35), my grandmother would either give me money or buy my cigarettes for me. By the carton. In fact, when I was a junior, studying abroad in England for a year, her biggest concern, aside from my safety, was that cigarettes were so much more expensive there. She sent me care packages on a regular basis, and I could always count on finding at least one carton of Camel Lights in the box of goodies. In a related story, after my first week of living in England, I discovered that I was getting headaches almost every day and was feeling lethargic even though I was drinking between 6 – 10 cups of tea a day. Eventually, I realized that I was suffering from dehydration. Basically, I lived on tea, beer and cider, scones with clotted cream, packets of cheese and onion crisps, and Camel Lights. Once I figured out what was wrong with me, I kept a plastic cup near my sink and I would drink 2 – 3 cups of water before going to bed and upon waking. By the way, I had purchased the cup with Camel Cash, and the cup featured an image of Joe the Camel wearing a leather biker jacket, circa early 90s.
  1. Food. I love food. I love to cook it. I love to eat. I see food as something beyond a means of nourishing my body. Food conjures memories of childhood. Food comforts me. Sharing a meal with family and friends is one of my favorite ways to interact and be social. Learning a new recipe is akin to learning a new spell. Food is a perfect marriage between magic and science. Cooking allows me to express myself, get creative, and heal myself through healthy foods. During the #100happydays challenge, food appeared in my social media feeds 34 days out of 100. Foods that appeared the most were fruit salad and tacos. A lot of the foods were healthy and involved my crockpot and meal prep that allowed me to cook once and eat for several days in a row. Some of my most popular posts dealt with food and the recipes I featured, and these posts got some of the most comments, including requests for recipes. Food is the glue of cultural and social interaction. The healthier I eat, the happier I am.
  1. Friends & Family. I have a small family. For the most part it’s just my mom, my son and me. I also have aunts, uncles, and cousins. For the most part, I am close with my cousins. We’re all around the same age, grew up in the same generation with access to the same elements of popular culture. I saw my cousins during the summer at family picnics most of the time when I was a kid, and now I make time to see them when I can. I spend a lot of time with my cousin Tara. I think of her as a best friend and sister, not just a cousin. She’s 1 of 4 kids and I’m an only child. Her sister and I are the same age and get along well too, but we don’t hang out as often as I’d like. Tara and I have similar tastes in music, movies, television shows, art, food, and enjoy mean jokes at the expense of others. She’s a talented artist, a supportive and loving person, and she can always make me laugh or think more clearly about something happening in my life. I will happily tell you that I am blessed with an amazingly diverse and interesting collection of friends and acquaintances. One of my best friends, Pat, has been my friend since we were 14 or 15 years old. He has an uncanny ability to zero-in on what is at the source of the negative feelings I might be feeling about any given situation. Sometimes it’s spooky how well he knows me, but I don’t know what I would do without his friendship. His ability to make me laugh never ceases to amaze me and he is always brutally honest with me when I find myself in crappy situations. He’s usually the first to tell me that I can a) overcome the problem, and b) if I look at a situation a little differently and take full responsibility for my own actions, 9 times out of 10, things will be just fine. I have other amazing friends, like Sarah and Isabelle who have been in my life as long as Pat has, and I have newer friends, like Stephanie who I feel like I’ve known just as long. And, I can’t forget my friend Danielle. She always has a way of making sure I’m taken care of, even if it’s just getting together to talk over dinner. Friends and social occasions really make a difference in my life. Typically, I prefer one-on-one interactions or small gatherings, but every now and then I attend larger events. I have a touch of social anxiety, so that’s where my good friend Booze comes in to play again. Out of 100 days, 31 of my posts were about friends and family.
  1. Film & Television. I’m obsessed with popular culture and have long-loved the escapism of watching movies and TV shows. My preferences for genre tend to be Fantasy, Horror, Science Fiction, Black Comedies, Historical Dramas, Mysteries, and Romance, but usually the Paranormal variety. I love vampires, werewolves, demons, ghosts, and other things that go bump in the night. And, I love superheroes. Marvel’s film franchise has provided me with hours and hours of happiness. And, I’ve been known to fall in love with fictional characters. Here’s a short list: Loki, Magneto, Wolverine, Captain America, John Constantine, Elijah Mikaelson, Hannibal Lecter, Francis Dolarhyde, Damon Salvatore, Simon Bellamy, Lucifer, Preacher, Lawrence Talbot, Rupert Giles, Spock, John Mitchell, Captain Ross Poldark, Spike, Doctor Who…well, you get the idea. In fact, if you’ve read my blog before, you’re familiar with my obsessions and may even share some of them. 12 of 100 posts referred to films or TV.
  1. Books. Reading is important to me. I don’t remember a time in my life when books were not available to me. Bookshelves filled with books, trips to the library and used books stores, talking about new books that a favorite writer had written – these were all common occurrences in my childhood. Before I could read, family members and teachers read to me. Once I could read on my own, I read as many books as I could get my hands on. Stories bring a certain richness to my life that I often can’t find anywhere else. My love of stories, books and words led me to become an English major in college. Why? Because I love to read and write (I’ll get to that shortly). I’ll read just about anything, but like my preferences in film and television, my taste in genre and to a certain extent literary fiction, are the speculative genres – Horror, Fantasy, and Science Fiction. I also enjoy nonfiction. Over the past few months, I have been consuming Roxane Gay’s books, An Untamed State, Difficult Women, and Bad Feminist. Her writing speaks to me in so many unexpected ways. Not only does she show me the different parts of myself that would normally seem disconnected, but she also shows me how they relate to each other to make me a whole and complicated person. And, more importantly, she makes me want to be a better writer. Books appeared in at least 12 of my posts.
  1. Writing. Writing has been a part of my life almost as long as reading. Narratives have always been an important part of my life. Whether I was watching a Hitchcock film or favorite Western with my grandfather, an epic Romance or Soap Opera with my grandmother, “Creature Double Feature” or “Dark Shadows” with my mother, “King Fu Theater” or “The Prisoner” with my father, or enjoying the ridiculous premises you’d find in 80s music videos, and later an obsession with foreign language films, I consumed a lot of narratives in and out of books growing up. Stephen King’s books lined the bookshelves in almost every house in my immediate family. A year or so ago, my aunt bequeathed her Stephen King collection to me. I hadn’t read a lot of his books, but I had seen film adaptations of them. In the last few years, I took the time to read Carrie, The Shining, The Gunslinger, Misery, Salem’s Lot, and I just finished listening to Doctor Sleep as an audio book in my car. I tried reading IT at one point, but I couldn’t get past the clown. It’s weird. I can watch the film starring Tim Curry and I can’t wait to see the remake with Bill Skarsgård, but the book scares the shit out of me. One day, I will read that book cover to cover. Today is not that day. As much as I love Stephen King’s fiction, my favorite Stephen King book is On Writing. It is the only craft book that ever brought me to tears. I have two copies. A copy I bought to read while earning my MFA in Writing Popular Fiction from Seton Hill University, and the copy I found on my dad’s bookshelves after he died. My dad was a writer. He wrote a lot, but never finished writing his novel. I finished writing my first novel after his death in 2015. I’ve since started writing 2 more novels, and I’ve been writing poetry and short fiction since I was 12. I’ve only had one short story published, but I will have more of my work published, damn it. I owe that much to my dad. And, I can’t talk about writing without talking about Anne Rice. She is probably one of the biggest influences on my writing, and I must give her at least partial credit for why I write about vampires. Her novels gave vocabulary to some of the things I thought and felt as a teenager, and her vampires made me feel more alive than any characters I’d find in the fiction geared toward teenagers at the time. Thanks for all the good books, Anne. Your work gave me the courage to write about taboo subjects in a way that allowed me to talk about the beauty I found in them.
  1. Self-Care. Technically, participating in the #100happydays challenge is an act of self-care itself. Taking the time to pay attention and make note of the things that make you happy really is an enlightening exercise. In doing so, I found myself seeking out more ways to care for myself. I ate healthier foods. I spent more time in the company of people I love. I tried to develop better habits, like exercising regularly, getting enough sleep, and scheduling downtime so that I could do the things that recharge me and fill my brain with creative ideas. Don’t want to take my word for it? Try the #100happydays challenge for yourself and see what I mean. Self-care and self-love are not selfish acts. Doing nice things for yourself, taking care of yourself, enables us to care for the other people in our lives without killing ourselves to do so.
  1. Art. I’ve talked about several art forms/crafts in this post, namely writing and visual media. I’d also include culinary arts in that list. However, I also like to go to museums and galleries to check out the work of mixed media artists – painters, sculptors, ceramicists, collage makers, and several other mediums. During my 100-day challenge, I visited two galleries, CALC in Carlisle, PA, where my son had a drawing in one of the local student art shows, and Metropolis Collective in Mechanicsburg, PA, as well as The Mütter Museum in Philadelphia. In each art space, I got to see some wonderfully beautiful, disturbing, and thought-provoking art. I need to go to more museums, and I need to create more of my own art. Perhaps there are projects I can work on with my son this summer to get us both creating and spending more quality time together.
  1. Michael Fassbender. Laugh if you must, but Michael Fassbender’s work as an actor brings me happiness on a regular basis. I had enjoyed his work in films prior to last summer when I went to see X-men: Apocalypse, but for some reason, his portrayal of Magneto in that film struck a chord with me that caused me to not only revisit X-men: First Class and X-men: Days of Future Past, but I also rewatched Inglourious Bastards, and then began making my way through his entire body of work. I’m particularly fond of Shame, 12 Years a Slave, A Dangerous Method, Jane Eyre, Jonah Hex, Macbeth, Prometheus, Slow West, and I loved him in the TV show “Hex”. His characters make me laugh, cry, think, feel shame, and I’m not going to lie, ignite my desire. He is a beautiful and talented man. Eventually, I will see all his film and television performances. His Magneto breaks my heart, and makes me question right and wrong. After watching 12 Years a Slave, I went through a period of deep meditation and self-reflection based on my confused feelings of repulsion and attraction for his character, Edwin Epps. His Carl Jung left me feeling sexually frustrated, and his Rochester made me realize how many toxic relationships I have been in and examine why I keep returning to those doomed relationships. He is a master of his craft, not just a handsome face.

This was not my first #100happydays challenge rodeo, so I can attest to the fact that most of the claims made by the folks at 100happydays.com are true. Are they true every single day of the challenge? No. I don’t think anyone is happy every single day of their life. However, I will say that by taking the time to notice the things that do make me happy, I have a better understanding of my own happiness (or lack of happiness). I understand that happiness is a choice, and we are responsible for creating it for ourselves. And, like me, you might be surprised to find that happiness is all around us. All we need to do is take inventory and remind ourselves that happiness is not completely out of reach. In fact, it may be closer than you think.

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Battling Our Demons: Fighting the Influence of Evil

The other day, while looking through some of my folders of old writing and abandoned projects, I stumbled across an essay I wrote back in May 2015 for my Readings in the Genre: Contemporary Mysteries course at Seton Hill University as part of my MFA in Writing Popular Fiction program. Of late, I’ve used this blog as a way of kick starting myself into writing on a more regular basis; something I struggle with on an almost pathological level. My friends will tell you that I’m writing all the time. This year, since February I have written a total of 27 blog posts about fictional characters I find sexually appealing, and since around May, I’ve written over 120 haiku poems. I’ve drafted chapters in a novel I’m writing, and I’ve written a few short pieces of fiction here and there. So yeah, I guess I have been writing. But, I don’t feel like I’m writing enough.

And, although I had a short story published in an anthology back in November 2014, I haven’t been able to sell my first novel, Invisible Chains, acquire an agent, or get any other bites on the poetry I’ve been submitting. I currently have poetry out to three publishers and I’ll be submitting three short stories within the next month to different publishers. I’m going to participate in NaNoWriMo 2016 in the hopes of completing that second novel I mentioned, A Marriage Made in Hell. I WILL finish the first draft of Marriage by November 30, come Hell of high water.

Anyway, if you’re interested in reading some of my writing that doesn’t involve lewd comments about my favorite fictions characters, read on…

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Battling Our Demons: Fighting the Influence of Evil in Charlaine Harris’s Dead Until Dark and Stieg Larsson’s The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

In his famous study on human behavior, Beyond Good and Evil, German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche warns us to take care to not be influenced by the intrinsic and often seductive nature of darkness when confronting our demons. He proposes, “Whoever fights monsters should see to it that in the process he does not become a monster. And if you gaze long enough into an abyss, the abyss will gaze back into you” (Section 146). Sage advice, but is it possible to confront Evil and not be somehow changed by it? Can you keep company with monsters without becoming like them? This is the dilemma faced by both Sookie Stackhouse in Charlaine Harris’s Dead Until Dark and Lisbeth Salander in Stieg Larsson’s The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. Each character must face her demons. Tempted as they may be, each character still manages to avoid becoming Evil.

Evil can be a very subjective concept. Each of us defines it a little differently based on our own personal experiences, but we can usually agree on the difference between “right” and “wrong.” The mystery genre uses this dichotomy as one of its central themes or plot points, and while an amateur sleuth or police inspector may be driven to solve a crime in order to uphold the law, at the heart of most mysteries is the desire for Good to win out over Evil. “Crime fiction in general, and detective fiction in particular, is about confronting and taming the monstrous. It is a literature of containment, a narrative that ‘makes safe’” (Plain 3). The battle between Good and Evil has been fought in fiction since before written communication. In the oral tradition, people told tales of epic battles between men and monsters – Beowulf, The Epic of Gilgamesh. With the advent of writing, the popularity of monster tales never waned – The Odyssey, The Iliad, and The Inferno. Monsters have always been with us. They are creatures of myth and legend, and they often stand in as metaphors for the less palatable human behaviors and emotions. Judith Halberstam suggests in her book, Skin Shows: Gothic Horror and the Technology of Monsters that even though our desire for stories about monsters and villains never seems to fade, the appearance of those monsters evolves to meet cultural needs. She says, “The body that scares and appalls changes over time, as do the individual characteristics that add up to monstrosity, as do the preferred interpretations of monstrosity” (8). Monsters change as our society changes, and the monsters of our current fiction, which is especially true in the mystery genre, tend to be humans more so than the beasts of Homer and Dante’s creations.

Like Sookie and Lisbeth, we sometimes find ourselves in less than ideal situations and come face to face with monsters. For some of us, the monsters we must face are people we thought we could trust who later betray us, or worse, cause physical as well as psychological damage in the form of abuse, rape, and ultimately murder. In her essay, “Vivid Villains,” Sandra Scoppettone tells us that “the nature of the villain, and how absorbing a character he or she is, will affect the flavor of the whole rest of the story” (86). The nature of the villain should definitely determine the nature of the protagonist. Whether we’re talking about a serial killer, someone seeking revenge, or jilted lover who commits a crime of passion, as we gain a better understanding of human psychology, we also understand that we are the monsters represented in the fiction we read. Darkness lurks within all of us, but for most people, it will continue to lie dormant until some violent act or traumatic experience awakens the beast within. The real challenge then for any protagonist facing such a worthy opponent, as Nietzsche warns, is to avoid becoming a monster. Sookie and Lisbeth are sexualized others who both fall victim to violence at the hands of human monsters.

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“Forty-six percent of women in Sweden have been subjected to violence by a man” (Larsson 139). In his novel The Girl with Dragon Tattoo, Stieg Larsson wishes to make it very clear to his reader that violence against women is a cultural reality in Sweden, and to most Swedish women, much like his protagonist, Lisbeth Salander, the threat of violence, sexual or otherwise, is an expectation if not an inevitability. Lisbeth is a ward of the state and becomes the victim of rape at the hands of a man assigned to her case. She is an adult, but due to her designation based on a history of aberrant behavior as a youth, she is treated like a child, mentally deficient, and then taken advantage of due to her abuser’s belief that she is somehow stupid. While Lisbeth has experienced quite a bit of emotional and psychological trauma, some of which is not revealed to us, she is far from stupid, and definitely not mentally ill. In fact, she is uncannily smart and more than capable of looking out for herself, except at the hands of the sadistic monster Advokat Nils Bjurman. Over the course of several meetings, Bjurman makes it very clear to Salander that she is at his mercy if she would like access to her bank accounts. Each encounter with Bjurman becomes more and more inappropriate until he forces Salander to perform oral sex on him in his office. Larsson reinforces his point about the violent nature of Swedish society by making Salander another statistic. “In her world, this was the natural order of things. As a girl she was legal prey, especially if she was dressed in a worn black leather jacket and had pierced eyebrows, tattoos, and zero social status” (249). Later, when Salander seeks revenge for this assault, Bjurman restrains and rapes her at his apartment. It is this second act of violence that pushes her to her limits and flips a switch that begins her own transformation. She falls prey to the desire to do monstrous things herself. “Bjurman felt cold terror piercing his chest and lost his composure. He tugged at his handcuffs…He could do nothing to resist when Salander bent over and placed the anal plug between his buttocks” (282). Salander reverses the tables on Bjurman. She assaults and humiliates him much like he did to her. She attempts to restore balance through an act of revenge, pushing her closer to the edge of the abyss. Lisbeth unleashes her darkness to reclaim her power and walks a fine line that could easily transform her into a monster worse than Bjurman. She threatens Bjurman with blackmail and bodily harm to prevent him from hurting her again—an act of self-preservation. By marking him, she hopes to save other women from becoming his victims. Justice is served.

On the surface, Sookie Stackhouse and Lisbeth Salander couldn’t be more different as protagonists go, but when you take a closer look at these two strong female characters, you’ll begin to notice some commonalities. First, they are both amateur sleuths with unique abilities that allow them to have access to information others aren’t privy to in the narrative. Salander’s abilities are half-heartedly explained through the eyes of Salander’s lover, Mikael Blomkvist, who assumes that the young hacker has a form of Asperger’s. Since Sookie’s world has paranormal elements, she has the benefit of being able to hear other people’s thoughts. Calling this ability a benefit is debatable, as Sookie herself sees it as a handicap.

Second, both women often find themselves at the mercy of men who threaten them with violence. Or, at the very least, objectify them sexually. Although they come from very different cultural backgrounds, they both have “zero social status” (249) in the economy of sexuality and gender equality. In Dead Until Dark, a serial killer targets young women who seek out vampires as sexual partners. Sookie not only shares this in common with the victims, but she also fits the profile with her high school education and minimum wage job.

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Monsters exist in Sookie’s world – vampires, weres, and shifters – all of which can be quite dangerous. In fact, her boyfriend is a vampire. Despite the fact that there is trend in fiction romanticizing relationships between vampires and humans, vampires are still monsters. Even if they don’t kill you outright, there is always the chance that things might get out of hand, and a moment of passion may end with the human’s funeral. Even if the vampire poses no direct threat to his partner, the secret lives of vampires seem to be violent by nature – ancient enemies, unresolved love affairs, power struggles with other supernatural beings. All of this adds up to danger for any human who meddles in the affairs of monsters, much less falls in love with them.

Sookie could literally become a monster if she continues to drink vampire blood. Bill Compton gives Sookie his blood several times to speed up the healing process. But when Sookie is recovering in the hospital after her encounter with the serial killer, she refuses to accept Bill’s blood for fear of losing her human qualities. “‘I’ll heal you,’ he offered. ‘Let me give you some blood.’ I remembered the way my hair had lightened, remembered that I was almost twice as strong as I’d ever been. I shook my head” (Harris 310). Sookie resists the urge to become monstrous by refusing to act like one. Sookie reclaims her power by maintaining her humanness.

Sookie and Lisbeth are victims of violent crimes. Both women fight back to protect themselves. They are survivors and each play an important role in vanquishing the monster, or at the very least, identifying the villain. They both realize there are too many villains in the world to fight. Even though they have temporarily restored the balance in their worlds, they know the fight between Good and Evil will continue. Not only externally, but internally as well. Each time you gaze into the abyss, the abyss changes you. So, to answer my earlier question, is it possible to associate with monsters and not become Evil? Yes, but only if you remain vigilant to protect your humanity, and in Salander’s case, the humanity of others.

Works Cited

Halberstam, Judith. Skin Shows: Gothic Horror and the Technology of Monsters. Durham: Duke University Press, 1995. Print.

Harris, Charlaine. Dead Until Dark. New York: Ace Books, 2009. Print

Larsson, Stieg. The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. New York: Vintage Crime/Black Lizard, 2009. Print.

Nietzsche, Friedrich. Beyond Good & Evil: Prelude to a Philosophy of the Future. New York: Vintage Books Edition, 1989. Print.

Plain, Gill. Twentieth Century Crime Fiction: Gender, Sexuality and the Body. New York: Routledge, 2014. Kindle.

Scoppetone, Sandra. “Vivid Villains.” Writing Mysteries: A Handbook by the Mystery Writers of America. Ed. Sue Grafton. Cincinnati: Writer’s Digest Books, 2002. 86-90. Print.

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Fuckable Fictional Characters: Will Graham

I’ve mentioned several times before in this series that I have a special place in my heart for the insane – or, at least, the people society deems insane. Some people I have cared deeply about throughout my life suffered or continue to suffer with mental illness and the stigma that comes along with these often-misunderstood medical conditions.

My father made a living as a mental health professional. He cared a lot about his clients, and sometimes developed strong attachments to them. I’m aware that there are ethical issues associated with client/therapist relationships that cross the boundaries established by the profession. Despite his role as therapist and healer, he was only human and felt deep sorrow when one of his clients relapsed and hurt themselves or someone else. More than once, my dad received phone calls about the death of a client at his/her own hands. I remember one client’s suicide very well, because my dad cried when he hung up the phone and slipped into a deep depression that lasted months. He felt responsible for that man’s death. He believed that he had somehow failed. My dad was really good at what he did, but he felt too much to be able to distance himself from the very real struggles his clients faced. He cared too much.

Caring too much sounds absurd to people who don’t understand what that can be like. When you feel things so strongly that you can’t seem to separate yourself from the grief experienced by others around you, people you’ve never met, people who died long before you were born, any form of suffering that you can empathize with creates a sense of the suffering inside you. When therapists who have a strong sense of empathy cross boundaries with their clients, sometimes inappropriate or even dangerous things happen, placing both client and therapist in jeopardy.

An excellent fictional example of this kind of situation is the relationship between Will Graham and Dr. Hannibal Lecter in Bryan Fuller’s television adaptation of Thomas Harris’ novel, Red Dragon, “Hannibal”. Dr. Lecter is a psychiatrist and Will is a profiler for the FBI. Both work under Jack Crawford, the director of the BAU, who investigates serial murders. Will has a unique set of mental quirks (illness) that gives him a nearly supernatural level of empathy, which enables him to place himself in the minds of serial killers and recreate their actions and thoughts while examining grisly crime scenes. Will solves serial murders and puts serial killers behind bars…unless they end up dead. Which happens quite a bit on “Hannibal”. If Will doesn’t kill them, Dr. Lecter will, or they end up killing themselves. Although Jack has asked Dr. Lecter to observe Will to keep track of his fragile mental state as he investigates one horrific murder after another, he never officially becomes Will’s psychiatrist. In fact, they become friends. Well, they become connected by a series of unfortunate events that blur the boundaries and behaviors between them, and a bond of sorts is formed. Friends? Colleagues? Murder husbands? You decide.

Crazy Is As Crazy Does: Will Graham

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However you choose to define the relationship between Will Graham and Hannibal Lecter, it is a cluster fuck of lies, deceit, manipulation, murder-spree fantasies, and some occasional inappropriate touching. From where I’m sitting, I see a lot of sexual tension between two men who are intellectually turned on by each other in a submissive/dominant dance of morally questionable professional encounters that ultimately lead to serious injury – mentally and physically.

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I think I made it abundantly clear how I feel about Dr. Lecter in an earlier post, but now it’s Will’s turn. Thomas Harris wrote him as an exceptionally strong character that rivals the serial-killing monsters in Red Dragon, and Hugh Dancy has taken this character to whole new level of psychosis.

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There is beauty and pain in his gift of empathy, he is gloriously crazy, and his insight and intellect, as well as his extreme awkwardness make him very appealing to this long-time nerd fetishist.

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I often make passes at men who wear glasses.

I don’t know about you, but the smarter a man is, the hotter he becomes in my opinion. Will is a successful criminal profiler, but due to his delicate psychological make-up, it is safer for him to share his wisdom and experience in a classroom rather than in the field.

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Intellectual hotness.

But, Jack Crawford convinces him (against Will’s better judgement and Alana Bloom’s recommendations) to leave the safety of the classroom and return to the field where his expertise can have a positive outcome in solving crimes and catching serial murderers.

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I have a collection of bloody antlers just like this at home.

Will Graham is an incredibly fuckable fictional character, despite the fact that his friend and colleague, Alana Bloom, thinks a relationship with him is too risky. Initially, when Will shows an interest in becoming more than friends with Alana and she turns him down, I was angry. I mean, if I worked with someone as intellectually creepy and hot as Will Graham, I’d probably be making not-so-subtle hints about my interest in him.

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Seriously. What the hell is she waiting for?

But, in retrospect, I realize that I have more in common with Alana than I’d readily like to admit. Alana spends a lot of time inside her own head. I do too. She tends to overthink things. Ditto. In fact, she thinks herself right out of potentially pleasurable and possibly ideal situations, like entering a romantic relationship with Will Graham. Sure, he’s cute and sweet, but he’s also kind of unstable and may require a lot of care giving in the long run. So, she rejects him. He doesn’t take it well, but respects her decision and doesn’t continue to push the issue. He occasionally makes snide comments, but then acts like an adult and treats their relationship as strictly professional.

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We’ve all made the mistake of choosing the wrong guy before.

Seeking refuge from the pain of unrequited love, Will dives back into his work. Because Will enters the minds of the killers he profiles, the field work begins to take its toll. With each episode, Will gets a little stranger, his bond with Dr. Lecter grows tighter, and heads in a weird direction.

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In Thomas Harris’ novel, Red Dragon, Lecter is behind bars and the relationship between him and Will is mostly speculative. We know that Will worked with Lecter to solve a crime, and later discovered that Lecter himself was a serial killer. Will nearly loses his life at the hands of Lecter, but ultimately is the one who puts him behind bars. In “Hannibal,” we see Bryan Fuller’s vision of their relationship prior to Lecter getting caught. Fuller’s artistic vision creates not only some of the most beautiful murder tableau, food porn, and uncomfortable interpersonal interactions, but also adds a level of competition between Will and Hannibal that slowly becomes a homoerotic murder fantasy man crush. (It’s totally a thing.)

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Before.

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After.

And don’t get me started about the visual references to David Lynch’s body of work (that’s a different conversation for another day).

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Yep. That’s a human ear alright.

While watching the first season, I questioned not only my theories about Fuller’s references to David Lynch’s work, but also the homoerotic nature of Will and Hannibal’s relationship.

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Yeah, I’m just imaging…wait.

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I soon discovered I wasn’t the only one in the Hannibal fandom (Fannibals) who saw what I was seeing. The sexual nature of their relationship became clearer with each episode. Social media (Tumblr, Deviant Art, Pinterest, Twitter and Facebook) provided an outlet for fans who wanted to explore the possibilities of that relationship even further, and coined the term Hannigram. “Hannibal” has some of the most creative, twisted and hilarious fans. If you ever find yourself bored and want to entertain yourself, just Google Hannigram and let the good times roll.

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I know, right?

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Disturbing, yet somehow hilarious.

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This is the humorous side, but there is a darker and more sexually-charged side of the fandom as well.

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As far as fan art goes, the Hannigram inspired work found on social media may cause you to blush or shift in your seat a bit. Given the nature of the fiction it is drawing its inspiration from, this shouldn’t come as a surprise. Neither should it surprise you just how closely violence, eating, and sex are related. But, what might disturb you about that connection is how titillating it can be when presented to us in a gloriously perverse artistic expression through such mediums as film or literature.

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But it is. And so is this.

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And, especially this.

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I mean, that’s like a total effing Romeo & Juliet ending! I know I’m not imaging that. But ironically, it takes Will the longest to catch on to that aspect of his relationship with Hannibal.

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I mean, even the tabloids alluded to the weird and kinky nature of their relationship.

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Any way you look at it, Will Graham is clearly Hannibal’s object of desire. The lines between his murder fantasies and his contracted work with the FBI to observe Will’s behavior blur while the empathetic profiler spirals deeper into mental illness. And while we feel sympathy for Will, the bizarre elements of the fiction lend themselves to even more disturbing humor. Let’s face it, Fannibals are sick, twisted, clever perverts. And I love them dearly.

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Fuckable Fictional Characters: Lawrence Talbot

Human behavior is often weird and scary. And, unless real monsters actually walked the Earth in days of old, all monster myths are most likely inspired by some truly terrifying things people did to their fellow humans. Rape, torture, murder, cannibalism and trophy collecting are not just products of the imaginations of horror writers. People have been brutally killing each other since the dawn of time. Violence is part of the natural world, no matter what the new age hippies try to tell you. Humans are animals, and no matter how many civilizations we erect, how many Starbucks we build, or how many PTA meetings we attend, the truth is humans are the scariest things on the planet. Humans like to kill things and each other, and whenever possible, they like to blame these icky feelings on someone else. Scapegoating is a national pastime in many cultures around the globe and it has been that way since before the Romans started nailing Christians to crosses.

On October 31, 1589, Peter Stumpp, the Werewolf of Bedburg, was executed for killing and cannibalizing 18 people. Stumpp’s trial and execution is one the most famous cases of reported lycanthropy in European history, and it has fed the imaginations of writers ever since. Werewolf trials occurred simultaneously with witch trials, but the sheer volume of executed witches places these atrocities at the forefront of our dark past, and often overshadows the werewolf hunts that also took place in Europe and colonial America. Peter Stumpp was caught, sentenced to death, brutally tortured and executed after he confessed to killing 14 children, two pregnant women and their fetuses, which he later described as “dainty morsels.”

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He admitted to killing and eating parts of his victims, but claimed that he only did these terrible things while wearing a magical belt given to him by the Devil. When he wore the cursed object he transformed into a wolf-like creature with sharp teeth and super-human strength. When he removed the belt he would revert to his normal human form. This type of werewolf, one changed through the use of a magical belt, is called a Boxenwolf, and doesn’t require the bite of another werewolf to achieve transformation, but it does require a pact with the Devil.

Stumpp was a cannibal and claiming to be a werewolf may have made it easier for him to deal with his own insanity. Blaming the Devil makes it easier to sleep at night I suppose. Stumpp also had sex with his daughter and a female cousin, and claimed that he had sexual relations with a succubus, which was another gift from the Devil. Is it just me, or was Peter Stumpp batshit crazy?

Clinical lycanthropy is a rare form of mental illness in which the patient believes himself to be transforming into something animal-like, and is classified as a form of schizophrenia due to how it manifests, with the first criteria being delusions.

I have a special place in my heart for the mentally ill. My father was a therapist, but before he earned his master’s degree in counseling, he started at the bottom of the crazy ladder by “driving the van of retards” (his words…and my mother’s), then he lived in a group home, then he worked nights at the hospital doing crisis intervention, and then he worked on the psych ward, and then he became a licensed therapist with a specialty in hypnotherapy. No shit. My dad was a hypnotherapist. Guess who was one of his early test subjects. Yep, me. In grade school. I was a great test subject, because I suffered from night terrors, and he used hypnosis and basic relaxation techniques/meditation to help me fall asleep at night. My nightmares were so bad that I was afraid to go to sleep, and had panic attacks when confronted with bedtime.

Because I was taught to respect as opposed to fear mental illness, and view it as a medical condition that can be treated with medication and/or therapies, I gained an appreciation and a simultaneous fascination with madness. I grew up in a small town where everyone knows everyone’s business. And, the town crazies, at least the ones with a diagnosis, were very familiar to me because of what my dad did for a living. They liked my dad, so they would talk to him when they saw him in public. They liked me too. Sometimes a little too much.

When I was about 13 or 14, a man who I knew to be a schizophrenic, and who preferred to medicate himself with booze as opposed to taking his prescribed medication, followed me home from school one day. I’m not sure what his plans were, but he would always try to engage me in conversation when we would see him around town. I liked him. And, I had done some reading about schizophrenia in the school library and knew it was something he couldn’t control. Like I said, I have a special place in my heart for the mentally ill. Anyway, once I was safely inside the house with all the doors locked, I called my dad. He called the police, but made sure to get there before they did. While I watched from inside, my dad tried to talk to the man and explained the situation to the police. He never followed me home again.

Although I was genuinely afraid that afternoon while that man stood outside the house pacing back and forth, as if arguing with himself about what to do next, there was a part of me that still felt compassion for him. His illness had taken control. An illness without a cure. Would he have hurt me? I don’t know. I’m also glad I had the sense not to find out.

Sigmund Freud, the father of psychoanalysis, theorized the existence of libido, “an energy with which mental processes and structures are invested and which generates erotic attachments, and a death drive, the source of repetition, hate, aggression and neurotic guilt.” Lawrence Talbot is Freud’s wet dream. A truly tragic character, he is a textbook example of how repressed memories and emotional abandonment in childhood can lead to mental instability that manifests itself in inappropriate behaviors in adulthood.

What could be more inappropriate than allowing your rage to transform your id into a monster that rampages through the countryside (and London) ripping, tearing, murdering, and eating everyone unfortunate enough to find themselves in your path? If you had the ability to control this transformation and continued to kill people, that would make you a true monster. But, if like Lawrence Talbot, you were cursed with this terrible illness and not only despised your own actions, but sought to put an end to the curse, would you still be considered a monster? Not in my opinion, but I’ve been called crazy a few times, too.

Crazy is the New Black: The Wolfman

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There are several versions of Lawrence Talbot’s story. The first time I encountered Lawrence (Larry) was in the 1941 Universal film, The Wolf Man starring Lon Chaney Jr. I loved this movie when I was a kid. A Gypsy curse, fortune telling, lycanthropy, Claude Rains, Bela Lugosi, pentagrams, and a werewolf transformation involving nothing but makeup and lap-dissolves. What’s not to love? I mean, seriously this film set the standard for 20th century werewolf tales and inspired writers, filmmakers, and TV producers to take the legends of old and turn them into the iconic monsters we love so much.

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Modern audiences would most likely find this version kind of cheesy and not very scary. To be honest, I enjoy watching The Wolf Man now because of its canonical importance, nostalgic value, and the fact that it makes me laugh hysterically. Besides, CLAUDE RAINS and BELA LUGOSI. We’re talking Universal monster movie gold here.

Here’s the basic premise (I stole from IMDb):

When his brother dies, Larry Talbot (Lon Chaney Jr.) returns to Wales and reconciles with his father (Claude Rains). While there, he visits an antique shop and, hoping to impress Gwen (Evelyn Ankers), the attractive shopkeeper, buys a silver walking cane. That same night he kills a wolf with it, only to later learn that he actually killed a man (Bela Lugosi). A gypsy (Maria Ouspenskaya) explains that it was her son, a werewolf, that he killed, and that Larry is now one himself.

While we feel sorry for Larry for finding himself in the wrong place at the wrong time…although the fortune teller might say otherwise, Lon Chaney Jr.’s Talbot doesn’t inspire a whole lot of empathy. I mean, sure I feel bad for the guy, but the level of tragedy he experiences pales in comparison to the 2010 Universal film, The Wolfman, starring Benicio Del Toro.

Here’s another basic premise (I stole from IMDb):

Though absent from his ancestral home of Blackmoor for many years, aristocrat Lawrence Talbot (Benicio Del Toro) returns to find his missing brother at the request of the latter’s fiancee, Gwen (Emily Blunt). He learns that a creature has links to an ancient curse turning people into werewolves when the moon is full. To save the village and protect Gwen, he must slay the bloodthirsty beast, but he contends with a horrifying family legacy.

Sounds a bit more compelling, doesn’t it?

In this version, which takes place near the tail end of the Victorian Era (post Jack the Ripper), Lawrence Talbot is a celebrated actor who has lived in America since childhood. When we first meet Lawrence he is performing Hamlet on the stage, which we later find is part of a London tour, conveniently placing him near his ancestral home, Talbot Hall in Blackmoor, Northumberland.

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Why do I never see men who look like this when I ride the train?

After receiving an unexpected visit from his brother Ben’s fiancée, Gwen Conliffe, he returns home. Lawrence learns of Ben’s disappearance soon after he goes missing, but by the time he makes the train ride from London to Blackmoor, his brother’s corpse has been found in a ditch near Talbot Hall. He arrives too late to save his brother, and memories of his dark past are stirred up when he must face his father for the first time since childhood.

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Victorian werewolves are un-fucking-believably cool.

Like most people confronted with the mysterious and violent death of a loved one, Lawrence wants answers. But that’s not all he seeks. He is also desperate for the love and acceptance of his father, an emotionally crippled man full of dark secrets and brimming with alpha male testosterone. Lawrence never fully recovered from his mother’s death. When he meets Gwen, who not only looks remarkably like his mother, but also seems to embody many of her rare feminine qualities, he finds himself almost immediately attracted to her. Ben and Lawrence are emotionally and sexually attracted to a woman who reminds them of their mother. While Lawrence has repressed the exact details of his mother’s death, he still blames his father and hates him for sending him away at the age of nine.

Poor young Lawrence witnessed something so terrible that he had a mental collapse. He was sent to an asylum, presumably after he recounted what he saw the night his mother died. Due to the fantastic nature of his story, he was believed to be insane and treated as such until he accepted the story that was fed to him over and over: His mother committed suicide. She did not die at the hands of his father, who killed her because he is a monster. Once Lawrence was “healed,” he was shipped off to live with his aunt in America. Much like our dear friend Oedipus, Lawrence desires to be back in the arms of his loving mother and wishes his father were dead in her place.

Soon after Lawrence arrives in Blackmoor, he begins his investigation into his brother’s death. Against his father’s wishes, he examines the body, which is so terribly ravaged that…well, it’s worth watching the film just to see the look on Benicio Del Toro’s face. It’s one of those moments in horror where you know something really awful has happened, but instead of reacting the same way the character does, your brain interprets the horror as something inappropriately comical and despite how gruesome the situation might be, you laugh out loud.

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Get ready to laugh in 3…2…1.

After the shock of seeing his brother’s mangled corpse, Lawrence seeks refreshment in the local pub, which immediately made me think of The Slaughtered Lamb in An American Werewolf in London (1981).

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That’s Rik Mayall in the turtleneck if you never noticed before.

Apparently, pubs in the UK are a great place to learn about werewolf lore. And the locals will most likely interpret your lack of knowledge as a sign that you’re going to be the werewolf’s next victim.

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Maybe it’s just my hormonal pre-teen self talking, but David Naughton was a totally fuckable werewolf, and he was the first werewolf I ever lusted after.

Despite the intentional humor of American Werewolf, there are still some pretty chilling scenes that bore deep into my subconscious mind, where fear and sexuality meet up in some very weird ways.

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I had a lot of dreams about this monster. Not all of them were scary.

ANYWAY. Lawrence hears the local bumpkins talking about werewolves, their hatred of Gypsies, distrust of Sir John Talbot, and their belief that Lawrence’s mother was not only a Gypsy, but a whore to boot. You know, pointing fingers and making wild accusations. Scapegoating. But, in this case, they aren’t too far off the mark. Except for their beliefs about Gypsies. Oh and, the rumor about the late Mrs. Talbot having questionable morals. Because, as everyone knows all of Victorian (and our current) societal problems can be directly linked back to foreigners (and anyone who isn’t White) and overt female sexuality.

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Nothing upsets these dudes more than Blacks and vaginas.

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And, apparently the same things upset these dudes.

Truly, nothing warms the heart or makes you feel more at home than when you overhear some local jackass talking shit about your dead mother as you mentally prepare for your brother’s funeral.

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Remember that moment when you first realized that Victorian funerary garb is totally a fetish? No? Me neither.

After the funeral, and again, against his father’s explicit instructions to stay in the house, Lawrence continues his investigation into Ben’s death by visiting the nearby Gypsy camp. Shortly after he arrives at the camp, so do some of the local bullies. They threaten the Gypsies and blame Ben’s horrific death on an elderly trained bear. Lawrence isn’t an idiot. He doesn’t think the bear hurt anyone, but he’s sure that something is up and the Gypsies might have some insight. As he begins questioning people in the camp, some major carnage happens. Did I mention there’s a full moon?

Unlike the men from the village, Lawrence grabs a weapon, protects women and children, and chases whatever has been slashing its way through the camp with a shotgun. He’s a pretty good shot, but the creature is too fast. He stalks the beast to a misty stone circle where he quickly loses his bearings due a complete lack of visibility. This is a really intense scene that keeps you on the edge of your seat. You feel Lawrence’s fear and adrenaline mounting as he tries to find the creature he’s been chasing. When the beast attacks Lawrence, you anticipate it with your nerve endings, but you don’t see it coming until it’s too late. Just like Lawrence.

Almost mortally wounded, Lawrence receives battlefield surgery Gypsy style in a scene that always sends chills through me. Watching someone getting stitches is one thing, but watching them get stitches in a bacteria-ridden Gypsy vardo with a hooked needle to essentially reattach their head to their neck and shoulder takes you to completely new levels of body horror, Mysophobia, and trypanophobia. Realistically, even if he survived the injury, the ensuing infection would have probably killed him. But that wouldn’t be a very satisfying end to this story, would it?

Lawrence not only survives the attack, but over the course of a month he has a complete recovery that raises some questions for his doctor and an Inspector from Scotland Yard, Aberline, who comes to Blackmoor from London to follow up on Ben’s murder. Aberline is aware that Lawrence spent time in an asylum as a child and insinuates that his ability to portray so many characters on the stage may stem from a deep-seated mental illness like schizophrenia or multiple personality disorder. Without coming right out and saying it, he suggests that Lawrence may have had a hand in the carnage at the Gypsy encampment. Again, Lawrence is no dummy. He knows what Aberline is getting at and asks him to leave.

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Hugo Weaving in a psychological pissing contest with Benicio Del Toro? Is it getting hot in here?

After Lawrence’s miraculous recovery, he and Gwen get to know each other a little better.

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Fig. 1 – Victorian Flirting 101: Devise clever excuses to press your body against a lady’s.

So, I mentioned that the doctor is a little more than concerned about the fact that Lawrence not only healed quicker than medical science could explain, but also, he doesn’t seem to have any scarring, disfigurement, or signs of an injury that should have permanently crippled if not killed him. Those darn Supernatural Forces laugh in the face of Science. Which apparently, the villagers don’t find funny. They show up to a) prove that he is a werewolf, and b) kill him once they have their proof.

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Fucking nosy neighbors.

When the lynch mob shows up outside Talbot Hall demanding blood, Sir John Talbot comes to his son’s rescue and threatens to kill anyone who trespasses on their land again. Before Sir John comes outside, the villagers grab Lawrence (it takes three to subdue him), and in the struggle he sustains a minor injury. A cut on the lip that sends Gwen into nurture mode.

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Fig. 2 – Victorian Flirting 101: When seeking a man’s affection, dab blood from his sensually open mouth with a pristine, white handkerchief to metaphorically suggest that you’d like him to violently shove the candles off that table and deflower you in the most face-flushing, bodice-ripping way he knows how.

Clearly, there is mounting sexual tension between these two characters. But, since there is a lot of taboo wrapped up in their feelings, and this story is set in Victorian England, they dance around each other as if they are made of glass. Psychologically, that may not be far from the truth. Especially for Lawrence. His brother’s death has forced him to return to his childhood home that he has avoided his entire adult life. His chosen profession is as an actor, a career in which he literally pretends to be someone he is not. The ghosts of his past still haunt Talbot Hall. He’s attracted to Gwen, but he must be experiencing some level of guilt for having lustful thoughts about his brother’s fiancee. And, he is aware of the physical changes in his body. He is freaked out about the fact that all signs of his injury are gone. When Gwen administers first aid and they are only inches away from each other, he recognizes that his appetites have become heightened. His yearning to touch her is palpable, but he’s afraid he might do something to hurt her.

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Does she really want me to tear off her clothes and fuck her on this table, or are the voices just messing with me?

Lawrence’s fears continue to mount. He knows something terrible is going to happen. He’s experiencing an increase in what Freud referred to as libido. He’s had sexual relationships with other women, so he isn’t afraid of touching Gwen. What has him concerned is the weird connection his brain is making between fucking, fighting, killing and eating. As the full moon rapidly approaches, Lawrence’s sense of propriety is quickly eroding away. The werewolf is about to emerge, and it terrifies him. Fortunately for Gwen, Lawrence truly cares for her well-being and sends her away before he or anyone else has the chance to harm her.

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I’m sorry, but I can’t stop thinking about tearing open your throat to gulp down hot, coppery mouthfuls of your blood, and it’s making me insanely horny. Seriously, pack your shit and go.

Soon after, Lawrence goes through his first transformation. He basks in the light of the full moon in all his skin-flaying, tendon-ripping, face-biting werewolf glory. I mean, he tears the shit out of all those nosy neighbors and leaves a trail of carnage through the forest and onto the property of Talbot Hall. When he awakens with a murderous rage hangover, he has no memory of the atrocities he’s committed, but fortunately his father is there to get him up to speed and let him know that he’s done “terrible things.”

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Maybe some coffee and a long hot shower will help…

Next stop, the asylum.

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Hydrotherapy: the waterboarding of the 19th century.

If this film were a history of mental illness in European cultures, it would fit perfectly with Freud’s theories of mental illness. However, it’s a horror film and we’re talking about literal monsters. In the world of The Wolfman, werewolves are real and when left to their own devices, they kill anyone who happens to be in their path of destruction. It doesn’t matter if you believe in them or not. They are a fact and a very real threat to modern living in 19th century England.

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This is not a manifestation of a disturbed mind. This is a fucking werewolf.

Several characters refuse to accept the truth that werewolves exist, even when they are witnessing their manifestation. Unlike Peter Stumpp’s neighbors who wanted to believe that the Devil was at work, and supernatural forces made him kill and eat 14 children, science and logic are at the core of the accepted belief system in Victorian England. The doctors and staff at the asylum and Inspector Aberline refuse to believe that werewolves can exist in their world. That’s pure nonsense, crazy talk, tales of superstition shared among backward cultures. These men only believe in what they can see and quantify.

One of my favorite scenes in the film takes place in the asylum, when Lawrence is able to exact revenge on the people who tortured him. After Sir John Talbot visits Lawrence and finally tells him the truth about the night his mother died. The repressed memories are unleashed, and Lawrence relives that night in his mind. Everything he believed was true. Sometimes, having your beliefs confirmed isn’t a good thing. Lawrence’s father is much worse than he ever imagined. Not only is he the monster that killed Lawrence’s mother and brother, he’s also responsible for turning Lawrence into a werewolf.

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Men of Science.

Lawrence is so overwhelmed by this information that his mind shuts down and he falls into a deep sleep. When he awakes, he finds himself strapped in a wheelchair by the orderlies of the asylum and prepped for a demonstration prepared for his doctor’s colleagues, the police, members of the press, and other community leaders to prove that werewolves don’t exist. He insists that Lawrence suffers from a mental illness, delusions that are related to the trauma he experienced as a child.

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Caring more about the plight of his fellow humans than the asylum staff, Lawrence attempts to warn them that they are in danger. The moon is full and he will transform at any moment. When the doctor and Inspector Aberline finally see Lawrence’s transformation they are unable to completely process the facts before them, and they are momentarily crippled by their mind’s desire to shut down. The doctor meets a well-deserved violent end at the hands of the creature he refused to believe in.

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Told you so.

Aberline is made of stronger mettle, because he forces himself into action to deal with the reality of a werewolf running amok on the streets of London. And I suppose you could consider him a hero of sorts in this tale, but I was too busy rooting for Lawrence to care.

After Lawrence kills most of the asylum staff and escapes from the mental institution, he whoops it up and kills a whole lot of people in London. Aberline is committed to stopping him, but soon realizes traditional methods won’t work.

The next morning when Lawrence wakes up hungover again, he has a better sense of his Fate. He knows he has to put an end to the curse. He has to return to Talbot Hall to avenge the deaths of his mother, his brother, and ultimately himself. But, before he resigns himself to an untimely death, he goes to the one place he knows he can hide, regroup, and find a little human compassion.

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Holy shit, finally!

Yes, it’s true. I am a monster sympathizer. Judge me if you must, but Lawrence Talbot is an excellent example of a monster we feel sorry for and wish we could help. Fate has dealt him a terrible hand, and no matter what he does, his story will have a tragic end. Traumatized as a child, he witnessed the murder of his mother at the hands of his father, the true villain of this tale.

As an adult he seeks the love stolen from him when his mother died, but doesn’t find it until he meets Gwen. Even if Benicio Del Toro didn’t play Lawrence Talbot, I would still feel sorry for this character. However, I’m a sucker for a handsome man in Victorian garb, especially if he transforms into a tragic monster of myth and legends.

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Seriously, werewolves are hot.

If by the end of this tale you don’t feel sorry for Lawrence Talbot, there is seriously something wrong with you. Yes, he’s a monster, but he did not choose his fate. And, all he ever wanted was to be loved and accepted. Who can’t relate to that? A life of hurt, betrayal, and tragedy is bound to end badly. Lawrence never had any hope of a happy ending.

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Hot and tragic.

I waffled over talking about yet another version of Lawrence Talbot. I’m not going to talk about him extensively, but I think I should at least mention him in this post. For those of you who haven’t seen a single episode of the Showtime masterpiece, Penny Dreadful, SPOILER ALERT.

One of the main characters has a secret that we don’t find out about until the final episode of the first season. In hindsight, there were plenty of clues, but when all the pieces fell into place, it was a glorious revelation. Prior to this wonderful surprise, this character has a lot of other personality quirks that make him incredibly interesting, mysterious, but totally likable. If he chooses to befriend you, you have a reliable friend and ally. Unless you betray him.

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Victorian clothing should totally make a come back.

Like I said, I’m not going to talk about him too extensively because I will probably write about him in another post. I’ve considered dedicating an entire post to the cast of Penny Dreadful. What I will say is this, when we’re first introduced to this character he’s working as a sharp shooter in traveling wild west show like Buffalo Bill Cody’s. I thought that was pretty cool considering that Penny Dreadful is like porn for people obsessed with Victorian literature and culture. And monsters. First and foremost, Victorian monsters.

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Fuck yeah, werewolves!

Anyway, we are led to believe his name is Ethan Chandler all through season one and two. It’s not until near the end of the second season that we learn his true name. When I heard it spoken, I literally raised my hands over my mouth in a gesture of mock surprise with my mouth forming a perfect O. I felt pure delight. Actual giddiness. The revelation that the mysterious Victorian werewolf character, who I already adored, is actually one of my favorite werewolves was like an extra special treat. Think what you will, but stories about werewolves in Victorian England make me happy. And Lawrence Talbot’s story is one of my favorites. Penny Dreadful‘s take on the story is fascinating and fresh. And I love the fact that when Ethan/Lawrence is in his human form, there is no doubt that he is one of the good guys. His relationship with Vanessa is a complicated one, and their sexual tension is maddening.

Outwardly, they seem like a great couple. They trust each other, care deeply for one another, accept each other’s flaws, and let me tell you, their flaws aren’t things you could easily ignore. But hey, he’s a werewolf, and he’s trying to deal with the guilt of killing a whole bunch of people and yeah, eating them. And she is a witch coming into her true powers and, oh yeah, Lucifer wants to make her his bride. A relationship would be difficult at best, and sometimes when Vanessa has sex it brings out the demon in her. Literally. Like I said, the sexual tension between them is pretty intense. So much so that sometimes Ethan has to channel his energies elsewhere.

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Chopping down trees keeps your mind off having sex with witches possessed by the Devil.

Afterward

For those of you who have been following along with my series, “Fictional Characters I Would Totally Fuck,” this is the first installment of my now monthly blog series. If you haven’t been following along, back in February I challenged myself to write a blog post a day about some of my favorite fictional characters and why I think they are totally fuckable. That was no small task. Out of 29 days in February, I managed to write 21 posts. Still not too shabby if you ask me. Anyway, I hope you enjoy this post and have a chance to read others. I’m having a great time writing them and look forward to your feedback.