From Jacob Black in “Twilight” to Alcide Herveaux in “True Blood,” werewolves (and their physique) seem to be having a new moment (not their first, and surely not their last) in popular culture. So what draws us to these creatures that freak out during the full moon? We asked Andrea Cremer, bestselling author of the young adult “Nightshade” series to tell us why lycans are so darn lovable. Here’s what she said:
Werewolves are on the hunt. Or so it would seem should you turn on your television, flip through a magazine or browse the latest book titles. Though the first incarnations of lycanthropes’ current popularity might be found in Harry Potter’s Remus Lupin and Twilight’s Jacob Black, werewolves have long appeared in legends and stories across cultures. Histories of lycanthropy link myth and magic with science, diagnosing “werewolves” as victims of physical and psychological disorders marked by violence, cannibalism and excessive hairiness.
So how did the humble werewolf become top dog? For the past several years vampires have worn the crown of “it” creature in literature and film — but werewolves have started nipping at their heels. From Glen Duncan’s “The Last Werewolf” to MTV’s “Teen Wolf,” a lycan lurks in every corner of pop culture, even on vampire-centric shows like “True Blood” and “The Vampire Diaries.” Has the sun finally set (or perhaps risen would be more appropriate) forever on the day of the vampire?
Probably not — but vampires aren’t quite hitting the mark of our cultural needs and desires the way they used to. Whether monstrous or sparkly, vampires’ allure lies in their beauty, power and eternity. Even the most wicked among them seem to have fine taste in design and fashion and command a powerful bank account. Though often isolated and violent, vampires live out their endless days in material excess. The tragedy of their lot is that while they appear to have everything, they lack the sublime gift of mortality. With an economy that can’t seem to recover, and wars that go on without end, vampires — in all their remote, isolated, protected luxury — no longer offer the kind of escape we need.
The werewolf, on the other hand, has a striving, earthbound appeal that’s much more in tune with our current culture. It’s not hard to imagine a werewolf clocking nine-to-five, suffering through days of banality, then finally breaking free to run wild and howl at the moon. They run in packs, reminding us that we aren’t alone. They are human, but never helpless, able to lash out against the constraints of society. The beast within gives voice to the frustrations we humans feel but can’t find a way to fight.
Traditional werewolf lore depicts lyncanthropes as utterly carnal, so in thrall to passions of the flesh that they often lose control of their minds, given over entirely to the rule of their transformed bodies. But without this transformation a werewolf could walk alongside us, work with us, befriend us and remain undetected. Werewolves don’t have to build mansions or castles to hide from the sun. They don’t sleep in coffins. They are very much human — but when the beast within is unleashed, they are deadly. They are other, without being otherworldly.
Werewolves offer a walk on the wild side when we need it most. They play out our human class struggles in the “Underworld” film set, show family loyalty in the Twilight series and uninhibited sexuality in “Being Human.” Fulfilling our secret hopes, battling our enemies, werewolves are a reminder that there’s a little animal in all of us.