Confession, readers: I love Underworld.
I’m talking about the first movie, not the others. They’re not the best. But the first one is seriously cool, and it has a nice romance in it to boot. Goth-punk urban fantasy + romance = the recipe to make Kristin like something.
Let’s look at the main character, Selene. She didn’t make my original Daddy Issues in Urban Fantasy list of ladies with issues, but only because I temporarily forgot her (oops).
Selene is a vampire Death Dealer hunting Lycans… In other words, she’s an assassin who finds and kills werewolves, who have been at war with the vampires for something like a thousand years.
She was turned into a vampire by the Big Bad Vampire Viktor after he told her that the Lycans killed her family, and she became a Death Dealer because she sought revenge.
It’s all lies, of course. Viktor, her pseudo-father figure, killed her family and turned her because she reminded him of the daughter he killed for becoming pregnant with a werewolf’s child. Cute, huh? The werewolves, while not exactly innocent, neither started the war nor killed her family, effectively making her whole life’s work pointless. That’s enough to mess a girl up pretty seriously.
So when Selene falls in love with a werewolf (soon werewolf-vampire hybrid), it looks like history will repeat itself. Viktor, the person she trusted above all others, wants to kill her and her lover. But instead of bowing down to male authority, Selene stands up for her newfound love and eventually kills Viktor.
The movie dances along the line between girl-power and anti-feminist. Selene and another female character spend a lot of time getting slapped around (literally) by male authority figures. Michael, Selene’s lover, is the one with the awesome hybrid powers. Women are punished for having sexual relationships outside the box, and the only female Elder dies without having much part in the movie.
In spite of that, though, Selene is the one who rescues Michael. When he’s about to die, she turns him into a vampire, which is pretty refreshing in a genre where men turn women into vampires or women save their male vamp-boyfriends by offering blood. Selene is also the one to kill Viktor, saving Michael and herself—and everyone, really.
She recovers from the trauma of losing a real family, losing a foster father, and learning that her quest was based on a lie. Her entire worldview is shaken, but she has the courage and the vision to fight for what is right.
In other words, she might puzzle Freud. She does kill her foster father, though, so I suppose that puts her pretty squarely in Electra territory.
So what do you think, readers? Is Selene a new feminist role model? Is she destined to attract violence and cause the deaths of the men who love her? Or is the the hope of strong women in urban fantasy?