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"A man who seeks truth and loves it must be reckoned precious to any human society."

- Frederick the Great

Thursday 17 May 2012

Werewolves of the world unite! Stop discrimination against lycanthropes! Fight speciesism!

When I decided to come out of the supernatural closet and admit to my friends and relatives that I am a werewolf, some were truly shocked. Of course, they already knew I was lesbian, but that seemed normal enough to most of them. However, the fact that I regularly sprout unsightly underarm hair was patently offensive to those with traditional values about personal hygiene. I lost some friends because of that, and I suspect that others broke relations out of fear that I might tempt their children to try the “alternative lycanthropic lifestyle”. I tried to tell them that being a werewolf is not a choice – I was born this way. Probably they have been watching too many Hollywood films, and think that one can “catch” lycanthropy by being bitten. Don’t they know that only works with vampires?

Anyway, one of those friends who has remained faithful is Brian, the human I have often written about. Naturally he had misgivings at first, especially when I brought some of my werewolf associates to stay in his house last year while we were hiding from the CIA (long story, see here and here), and they threatened to eat him. Nevertheless, Brian has been very supportive, especially of my efforts to find Lysandra, my one true love, who had been my Companion through many incarnations until were tragically separated during the closing months of World War II. It was his suggestion that I use modern means of communication – Blogs, Twitter, and Facebook – to aid in my search for her.

So far, I have not found Lysandra, but I have made a number of new friends along the way – friends who live “out there” in the Internet. Some of them even claim to be werewolves themselves. Since I have not gotten close enough to detect their scent, there’s no way to tell whether they really are lycanthropes, or merely wish they were.

I was discussing this phenomenon with Brian the other day. Why would a human want to be a werewolf? Being one myself, I can say truthfully that, while it may have certain advantages (such as being largely invulnerable to injury when no silver is involved), I have often suffered great loss and pain because of what I am. There are some things which are too horrible to be forgotten, like eating my first girlfriend. No one had told me that sex would be so messy. This is why I do support the abstinence movement among teenage werewolves, as I’m convinced that it will help lower the rate of unwanted mutilations. Don’t mistake this for social conservatism on my part, however, as I wholeheartedly endorse the legalisation of lycanthropic marriage and vehemently disagree with those who believe that God intended matrimony for humans only. I can’t understand why allowing werewolves to marry would diminish the value of human relationships.

Although they are obviously fearful and distrustful of us as a species, Brian’s theory is that humans are fascinated by werewolves because – at least in popular culture – lycanthropy is often used as a metaphor for certain aspects of the human condition itself. He once wrote a short essay on the subject, which I will reproduce in part here: 

My favourite horror movie genre is the Werewolf Film. In my DVD collection I have every significant werewolf movie ever made (and maybe a few insignificant ones too). What makes werewolves so fascinating? They are us.

There is the evil werewolf (Silver Bullet by Stephen King), the innocent werewolf (American Werewolf in London), the reluctant werewolf (Jack Nicholson in Wolf), the I-will-sacrifice-everything-for-the-man-I-love she-wolf-to-be (Michelle Pfeiffer in Wolf), the werewolf in psychotherapy (The Howling), the tribal werewolf (Twilight), the back-to-nature survivalist werewolf (Dog Soldiers), the Native American environmentalist werewolf (Wolfen), the religious fanatic political terrorist werewolf (Le Pacte des Loups, SPOILER: it turns out to be a trained lion), and finally the lycanthropy-as-metaphor-for-adolescence werewolf (Ginger Snaps, with best dialogue ever: “This has nothing to do with PMS – you’ve got to get this fixed!”).

In werewolf films, the roles of perpetrator and victim are often blurred. The traditional cinematic canon (established in 1941 by Lon Chaney Jr. in The Wolf Man) portrays the werewolf as the victim of a curse, losing control of his body and will when the full moon rises. He therefore cannot be held entirely responsible for the grisly murders he commits. Nevertheless, according to the moral code of the time he must pay the death penalty for his crimes, with his own father serving as executioner in a scene worthy of the Old Testament.

Postmodern werewolf films like Underworld break this canon, with “lycans” who can shape-shift at will, killing for sport day or night without help from the full moon. They are evil by choice. But at least they take responsibility for their actions and don’t hide behind curses or biology. And it’s great fun when Kate Beckinsale and other gorgeous female vampires go into battle against them.

Okay, even if Kate Beckinsale really were a werewolf-hunting vampire princess, I would still fall desperately in love with her. But I digress. Brian does seem to have a valid point. At its best, Hollywood uses lycanthropy to explore certain themes which have universal relevance. At its worst, Hollywood simply appeals to the lowest form of speciesism, reinforcing irrational fears and deep-seated prejudices.

Where discrimination against werewolves hurts the most is in the workplace. Government agencies in particular seem very allergic to animal hair. If my superiors at MI6 were to learn of my preternatural persuasion, that would be the end of my lucrative old-age pension. They would argue that since lycanthropes do not grow old (past the age of 40), we never become OAPs, and are therefore not entitled to pensions. Because of this grossly unfair situation, I have recently begun applying makeup to simulate aging, so as not to arouse suspicions at work. You can imagine the consternation at the cosmetics counter in Harrods when I asked for something to make me appear older.

Because of all the popular misconceptions about werewolves, Brian has suggested that I should dispel some of them by publishing the memoirs I have been compiling over the last couple of centuries. An added benefit, he thinks, is that Lysandra might recognise herself in print. Even if she were suffering from some kind of amnesia (perhaps induced by an overdose of silver nitrate), reading about our past adventures could possibly jog her memories.

What do you think? Is anybody interested in reading Memoirs of an Eighteenth-Century Werewolf in nine volumes? Any suggestions on how to get them published?

Kind regards,

P.S. Volume seven of my memoirs tells the true story behind Le Pacte des Loups. The Beasts of GĂ©vaudan (yes, plural) were definitely not lions.

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