Fritz Leiber is a creative and highly praised science fiction writer. He wrote “The Girl with the Hungry Eyes” in the 1940’s, when he would have been about 39 years old. Being a writer in the 1940’s means Leiber was likely to have some influences from the times. That being said, he constantly was changing his writing style and message to reflect his own difficulties in life (https://www.fantasticfiction.com/l/fritz-leiber/). The messages, as discussed here, contained in this particular short story, reflect an interesting dynamic between society and the perception of media in that age.
“The Girl with the Hungry Eyes” tells the story of a photographer trying to make his way through rough times, when a woman bursts into his residence and demands that he make her a model, under some very specific conditions. He is not impressed by her looks, but takes some photos anyway, and is amazed at the response from his customers looking for an advertisement. All of the customers are quickly infatuated with this girl, and their success skyrockets. Of course, society takes notice of this girl with “a hunger [within her eyes], that’s all sex and something more than sex (Leiber)” and are attracted to her, causing business to boom and people to be drawn ever more to The Girl. Eventually, the narrator’s attraction wins out, and he steals away with her, but something she says scares him away for good. The uneasiness he had during their entire partnership is brought to a fearful point, and he finally understands what she is, and why she is unholy.
Multiple times he refers to her ads as poison being swallowed by the population, and after reflecting on the incident, he explains what she is: “you know how modern advertising gets everybody’s mind set in the same direction…. Suppose the identical desires of millions of people focused on one telepathic person. Say a girl. Shaped her in their image (Leiber).” “There are vampires and vampires, and the ones that suck blood aren’t the worst.” After she tells him she is hungry for his life, and after he sees her spirited away by young men who turn up dead two separate times, he realizes that she has had some sort of power of the world, over him, this entire time, and he was about to pay for it with his “blood on the cobblestones”.
What’s interesting about this story is that Leiber opens it up with the narrator saying that he’s not going to talk about the “evils of advertising and the glamor-girl complex” but in the end, the allegory stands for just that. Having a literal soul-sucking vampire as the symbol of the short story is a creative way to redefine succubi, seductress vampires in a modern, urban setting (http://quillandkeyboard.blogspot.com/2010/09/review-girl-with-hungry-eyes.html)
In the 1940’s women were the subject of many advertisements, although not like today, where we see empowerment; they were sexist and derogatory. All of the advertisements portrayed women as subservient, their husband’s property, and a subject to objectify. This likely played a role in Leiber’s thought process behind the short story as he considered its effects on society.
Allegorically, The Girl represents the vampiric side of capitalism, making everything seem desirable so that people throw themselves and their money at it. (https://vampiresinthemist.wordpress.com/tag/the-girl-with-the-hungry-eyes/) Throwing away their hard earned resources for something they can never fully attain. “She’s the being that takes everything you’ve got and gives nothing in return. When you yearn toward her face on the billboards, remember that. She’s the lure. She’s the bait. She’s the Girl.” Advertisers use the appeal of their products to hypnotize their customers and drain their wallet of everything they have worked for.
Specifically using women to achieve this purpose was exceptionally common in the 40’s, and while it has decreased due to the outcries of feminists, you still see Carl’s Jr selling their newest burger using busty women in short skirts. These days, we are able to see the convergence of advertising across many media platforms, where “every consumer gets courted across multiple media platforms” in advertising. http://henryjenkins.org/2006/06/welcome_to_convergence_culture.html This contributes to the spread of the advertisements, and how consumers are exposed to the many vampiric methods of the spread of capitalism.
Calling The Girl a vampire added to the image of seducing customers, sucking the life, drawing them in with her beauty and raw sex.
Interestingly, the image used for post-production advertisement for the film adaptations do not portray the gaunt woman with striking eyes and thin arms as I expected from the short story, but instead a woman with no eyes at all, nearly blind. Perhaps this emphasizes how the advertisers are blind to what they are doing to the consumer, or how they choose to be.