Lifestyles of the Rich and Undead

May 29, 2009 at 11:15 am | Posted in Book Blather | 6 Comments

How do vampires afford their lifestyles?

I know fiction is supposed to be read with a willing suspension of disbelief.  It’s just that I’ve been rolling this idea around in my head for a while now, and I haven’t figured it out.  Why are all vampires supposedly loaded?

Let me go on.  Living costs money, but being undead does too.  The undead don’t need to eat, right?  We can also assume that they don’t need haircuts or manicures.  But if they’re going to circulate amongst the still-breathing, they will still need to update their wardrobes (and do laundry), furnish an appropriate dwelling, and keep the lights on.  In some respects you’d think they would have to spend more, say, for human-tone foundation or a grill to hide those pointy canines.  The main point, though, is that if they’re going to walk the earth for so much longer than the rest of us, they’re going to have to have an even larger retirement account.

We start with Count Dracula.  It looks like he’s inherited his estate along with his title.  But really, how is it that only living nobility ever seem caught up with entailments and taxes and high overhead?  Sure, the Count is a bit of a miser, and he has investment income.  But would he still be in good shape in these troubled times?  I mean, one of my retirement accounts just lost 28% of its value.  Are we to believe vampires have a supernatural knowledge of which funds to invest in?

Let’s talk about the vampire Lestat.  He has money too.  Of course he does.  What would be less hot than a homeless vampire with only one fang?  (You know, because he can’t afford dental insurance).  But… where did he get it?  I think there’s this romantic idea that vampires have lots of gorgeous antique furniture because they bought it when it was new.  Well, sure, but upholstery wears out eventually, whether the person sitting on it is dead or not.  Ya gotta restore this stuff.

My favorite has to be the immortal (immoral?) Cullen family.  Not only are they rich, they are so rich that they can keep enrolling in universities every few decades in order to pretend to be young still.  Now that’s wealthy.  Classic cars, a steady stream of new clothes, a fridge full of food just for show… I hope they aren’t shopping at Whole Foods!  Doctors make a fairly good income, but they’re middle class, after all.  I just don’t believe that a century of being undead would allow enough of a nest egg to support an entire family with a billionaire-level lavishness.  Even in Washington State.

The crux of the wealthy-vampire myth would seem to be the principle of compound interest.  Of course he’s rich, he’s had the time to let his investments sit and gather value, right?  Well, there’s a pretty big loophole here.  How do they get around the fact of the incriminating paperwork?  “Oh, Baron von Bloodsucker is one of our best customers; he’s banked with us since 1497.”  Wrong!  I suppose the idea is that the supernatural powers of vampirism enable a person to hypnotize finance professionals into forging account details or something.  Have you ever talked with the IRS over the phone?  It’s hard to imagine any profession less susceptible to manipulation.  The vampire starts turning his pupils red or whatever, and lo and behold, the auditor just glares back, only his look more like yellow cat eyes.  Brr!

Anyway.  I like J. K. Rowling’s presentation of Lupin the poverty-stricken werewolf.  It seems more accurate.  Just because someone develops occult powers doesn’t mean he automatically understands how to build wealth and learn to interact with the upper class.  Maybe he’s just as prone to suffer the effects of inflation as the rest of us.

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