Tuesday, October 6

Guest Post: Vampires in Pop Culture and What it Means About Society

I would all like you to give another warm welcome to my guest here at CRR's!

Maria is a writer interested in comic books, cycling, and horror films. Her hobbies include cooking, doodling, and finding local shops around the city. She currently lives in Chicago with her two pet turtles, Franklin and Roy. You can follow her on Twitter @MariaRamos1889.

Vampires in Pop Culture and What it Means About Society

No creature of the night has been met with as much media attention and controversy in the past century than the vampire. There is no "right" way to portray a vampire, though many fans of this blood-sucking mythological creature would argue that vampires need to be scary, not sexy, while others insist that one of the main things that make vampires irresistible is their natural, mysterious sensuality. Either way, vampires have evolved in many ways over the past 100 years - from frightening to sexy, from silly to misunderstood - and continue to delight horror audiences. Currently, vampires have found a creepy, comfortable home within FX's The Strain, based on Guillermo del Toro and Chuck Hogan's novels of the same name, which brings these monsters back to their frightening roots.

Vampires have been popular film subjects ever since the early 1900's. Some of the earliest horror films, including Dracula and Nosferatu, portrayed the main villain as the vampire (and both were based on Bram Stoker's novel). While the vampire in Nosferatu is ghastly, with elf-like ears and long claws, the titular vampire in Dracula is austere and debonair, greeting his guests with regality. They're both based on the same subject, but their appearances and personalities couldn't be more different. It all depends on how the filmmakers want others to see the vampires. Should victims be lured into his lair through charm or coerced with fear?

By the end of the millennium, vampires suddenly started being sexy instead of scary. In 1987, the teen scream Lost Boys transformed vampires into hunky oddballs with earrings and cool hair, and 1994's Interview With a Vampire portrayed vampires as romantic and tortured. The late 1990's TV series Buffy the Vampire Slayer brought some of the creepiness back into vampires, making vampires out to be hideous monsters. And few vampires have been scarier than the black-eyed demons in the 2007 horror film 30 Days of Night.

But nothing could prepare the world for the rise of the brooding, gentle vampire heartthrob, embodied by Twilight's Edward Cullen and The Vampire Diaries' Salvatore brothers. While horror fans scoffed at this change, teenage girls flocked to fill theater seats and tune in on weekday nights to swoon over these bloodsucking bad boys. They represent the ultimate romantic dream - a man who has had all the time in the world to learn about love and is ready to practice it with a beautiful, mortal woman.

Despite this eroticism of the vampire, the most current take on vampirism is best embodied in the TV series The Strain, which will end its second season on October 4th. Rather than having vampires as an unthreatening romantic presence (in fact, they don’t even have any genitalia), this show views them as the downfall of the human race and society as we know it. The Strain's vampire "virus" is transmitted through parasitic worms, bringing an eerie realism to vampirism that mirrors real-world concerns of illness and epidemic, such as in third world countries. However, this is not all that the story is commenting on.

Although we haven’t seen it in the series yet, the third book in the trilogy, The Night Eternal, tells of a post apocalyptic New York in which the sky is constantly dark and the rain is a black liquid. Many people argue that climate change and global warming could bring forth these scenarios - unless we humans do more to avoid the worst. We will have to be more aware of our consumption of fossil fuels, and gas companies and energy providers will have to make sure their resources are more sustainable. Of course, we will have to make use of some common sense practices such as recycling but in many cases, we seem too ignorant to pay attention. In the end, that's what makes vampires scary - not the fangs or aversion to sunlight. It’s the way they reflect humanity as a whole and how we ourselves are capable of destroying the whole world like an infectious disease or a natural disaster without even putting in much effort.

Even though their popularity comes and goes, vampires will always be a staple figure in horror, science fiction, and fantasy media. Where they'll appear next (and how) remains a mystery and is up to our current fears at the time.

As for me, I tend to stick more on the side of “scary” vampires like modern portrayals in 30 Days of Night, The Strain and even Nosferatu. To be honest, I have never even seen any of the Twilight films or romantic vampire television shows like Vampire Diaries or True Blood. Now, this may be due to my bias towards the horror genre but “sexy” and “sensitive” hundred year old creatures just never appealed to me. Nonetheless, it’s interesting to watch the constant evolution of this creature throughout time. Whether it be a threat to the human race or a love interest for our protagonists, vampires are most likely here to stay and constantly transform to suit our world views.

**Note from Carole**
You all know me and I had to throw my two cents in with a subject like this. Vampires are an interesting milestone in the world of fiction. Vampires have been around since the dawn of religion. People have always had a fear of death - including the undead. I do love my scary vampires, but I am a sucker for a good story with vampires being a love interest. If I had to pick between the two...I'd be so unsure of who to keep and who to rid of. In the end, I'd probably pick the scary vampires as well.


Carole Rae said...

Thanks Maria!

Melliane said...

Thanks for the interesting post, it's true that vampires changed a lot over the years.

Blodeuedd said...

I do like changes to vamps, not the same old same old

Anachronist said...

A great essay! I love vampires in my fiction but not those 'too handsome to be left alone' bad boys. I also agree that all humans could be perceived as vampires. Don't we suck up all the earth's resources? Don't we kill and maim both animals and other people? Aren't we greedy like hell, most of us? BTW on my blog I wrote a four-part essay about the beginning and the development of the vamp myth. I don't want to provide a link and be considered a spammer but if Carole agrees I might. ;p

Carole Rae said...

Ana! Please do!. :)

Anachronist said...

History of the vampire myth in literature:

Concise history with fangs (part 01)
Concise history with fangs (part 02)
Concise history with fangs (part 03)
Concise history with fangs (part 04)