I was immediately attracted (no pun intended) to the cover of the teen manga title Vampire Cheerleaders, partially because of the macabre image of a young cheerleader licking blood off of her hands, and partially because I am in love with the title. There’s a certain gothic charm to the words “vampire cheerleader” thrown together. But as you can probably guess from the title alone, this title was wrought with sexism, misogyny, and slut-shaming (for more information about slut-shaming, check out the growing number of “Slut Walks” in Canada and the United States over the past year).
However, the book is a bit misleading. This title is a double issue, containing another series called Paranormal Mystery Squad, which, while a bit more palatable than Vampire Cheerleaders, is still chock-full of sexist jokes. If anyone has complaints about Starfire’s character in the new 52 Red Hood and the Outlaws, they should compare it with this and see just how women are grossly misrepresented. Vampire Cheerleaders’ first story is called “Fang Service,” and Paranormal Mystery Squad’s is “So My Sister’s a Bitch in Heat.”
Both titles are filled with pop culture references, from Ghostbusters and Twilight to Battlestar Galactica and Supernatural. The only other saving grace in these titles are the slightly deeper relationships in Paranormal Mystery Squad (or P.M.S.—hardy har har), and the fact the characters have more on their minds than cheering for their high school and having sex. While the artwork is nice to look at and everyone is well-proportioned and anatomically correct, it doesn’t add any subtlety to the story.
In a freak accident, one of the senior vampire cheerleaders is killed in a fiery explosion, which forces Lori, the Team Captain and Vampire Queen to hold tryouts. Heather, junior, is chosen and inducted into the ranks of senior cheerleader and vampire. She is guided through her changes by the rest of the senior team and runs into problems every step of the way. Besides the rampant sexuality, slut-shaming and homophobia, even the basic facts about high school cheerleading are incorrect— just like with any other sport in high school, the main players are “varsity” players, and everyone else are “junior varsity.” At least in the United States, there is no such thing as a “senior cheerleader” or a “freshman” cheerleader.
Paranormal Mystery Squad follows three young women (Stephanie and Katie, sisters, and their friend Charlotte) as they hunt down monsters. Their jobs are threatened by the restrictions of PETM (People for the Ethical Treatment of Monsters), causing them to get in lots of trouble when they keep killing monsters. But when Katie is infected by a werewolf, Stephanie must learn that not all monsters are inherently evil. While the story has more depth to it than Vampire Cheerleaders, it is still full of distasteful period jokes, written by author Adam Arnold, someone who I have a feeling has never actually experienced any of the above from a woman’s perspective.