Thursday, April 26, 2012

Why we Love Vampires

For some the “vampire novel” is just a fad sparked by the ‘Twilight Craze’ that will die out as soon as a new fad takes over, such as “dystopian novels” maybe? But vampires have been around in literature for a long time and while their popularity may dwindle as something like “dystopian novels” flood the market, I don’t think they will ever die out. Vampires have been used to represent different things throughout history, from misogyny to homophobia, to addiction. But why have vampires stuck around and, what is it about vampires today that makes them so alluring? Why have authors like Bram Stoker, Anne Rice, Stephen King, and Stephanie Meyer all found an interest in vampires and written about them differently? I think it has something to do with the diversity of what the vampire can represent.

Christina VanMeter
 
Things vampire’s represent:

Immortality: We fear death; we wonder what happens to us after we die, so the idea of vampires, creatures that live on after death is in a way comforting. Vampires have beaten death. In a way they represent the afterlife, or at very least the idea that death is not the end.
Transformation: Vampires start out just like us, human. They’re weak, mortal, they have faults and imperfections, and then they transform into something greater. They become strong and powerful, beautiful and seductive. Vampires can represent our want to be better than we are, or maybe the want of being someone else. They can represent change and growth. This is a major theme in Stephanie Meyer’s Breaking Dawn where the meek and victimized Bella Swan finally has the ability to be the hero and not the damsel in distress. It’s empowering to think that we can grow and change in the same way.
Belief: Stakes, holy water, crosses, vampires are repelled by these otherwise ordinary objects. Myth turns a piece of wood or a glass of water into a deadly weapon. Belief makes the ordinary extraordinary. Vampires often show how belief can overcome terrible odds. This is a major theme in Stephen King’s Salem’s Lot. We like to have things to believe in and vampires give us that.

Sex: Penetrating fangs, stakes through the heart, exchanging of bodily fluids; vampire myths are filled with phallic symbols and sexual undertones. This may be the reason why Vampire Romances have become so popular. The very nature of vampires is sexy.
Love: Vampires may come across as stalker-ish, obsessed, pedophiles, but there is something about the idea of a person not only willing, but able to, love another person forever that is captivating. Despite the evil these killers represent they also can represent eternal love, and maybe even the idea that love is stronger than evil. Also, the idea that a person may search the earth for eternity to find the person they love is endearing. Louis’s love for Claudia in Interview with a Vampire by Anne Rice is a good example of this. I would dare to argue that Claudia was more evil then even Lestat and yet Louis loved her regardless.

Dark Desires: Vampires are essentially guilt-less. They’re soulless, they lack a conscious. This means that they’re able to do the things they want without regret. Vampires indulge themselves in their desires, they give in to their cravings, they allow themselves to be selfish and enjoy every minute of it. Vampire’s live outside of society’s rules, yet benefit from everything society has to offer. They can explore taboos un-judged and seek thrills without consequence. This idea is freeing, as is the idea of losing oneself in something as deeply as vampires do, of being free of responsibility. Vampires often represent the things we wish we had the courage to do, and the things we wish we even had the courage to admit we wanted to do. Bram Stoker’s Dracula for example looks at female sexuality, particularity the emergence of repressed female sexuality, a major taboo in the 1800’s.
Youth: Not only immortal, but eternally beautiful vampires seem to have found the fountain of youth. Everyone today is striving to be younger, and to stay young longer. Vampires perfectly represent this concept of agelessness that we seem to be seeking. What Hollywood actress wouldn’t love to be a vampire with perfect skin and perfect hair, and to never grow ‘too old’ for a part?

Tragedy: Vampires are by nature tragic. Especially when we look at a vampire/human relationship, we find that there can be no happy ending (at least not an easy one) vampires live forever and humans age and die. This is what makes a vampire/human relationship star-crossed, because it can’t work. Like Romeo and Juliet this pair is destined to die. Granted there’s always the whole ‘just turn the girl into a vampire too’ trick, but it doesn’t escape death. The girl, or guy, still dies. Even in Twilight’s fourth book Breaking Dawn, when Bella finally becomes a vampire, the transformation is bittersweet. The angst of vampire novels often makes for an intense read.

Unlike the “dystopian novel” which will always focus on the breakdown of society and a disastrous future, the “vampire novel” can be adapted to represent a number of issues from a feminist re-awaking of female desire, to exploring discrimination, or the power of addiction. Vampires are metaphors for losing one’s virginity, or the wealthy 1% feeding off the %99. Not to say that “dystopian novels” will die out when the “vampire novel” remains, just that the vampire can be used to represent a wide range of ideas. Because of this I think the vampire novel will stick around as well as grow and change as we use vampires to express or represent different things.

For a look at some of television’s favorite vampire shows like “Buffy” and “True Blood” check out this link that talks about why vampires entertain us on film as much as they do in books. How do Vampires from Twilight, Buffy, and others Compare?

If you liked this post check out "Why we Love the Supernatural"