The Appeal of the Fictional Vampire

It's no secret that I am fascinated by vampires. I have been ever since I picked up Anne Rice's Interview with a Vampire at a yard sale when I was 11 or 12.

Vampire popularity rises and falls in media but true vamp lovers remain loyal even during low times.

During the reign of Twilight's popularity books, television and movies wanted to cash in on the fad. TV shows like The Vampire Diaries and True Blood played on the small screen while the big screen was all about the Twilight franchise though many low budget films tried to copy cat or even parody the sparkling blood drinkers. Vampire romance novels filled bookstores and listings online. Romances and urban fantasy books were filled with fanged heroes and villains.

But why the everlasting obsession with these fanged creatures?

Many vampire scholars think they give us what we need.

The strength to fight the bad guys, the smoothness that gets the girl, the sexiness that grabs the guy, forever young, beautiful, powerful… 

Vampires cheat death- the one thing we all fear, the one thing we know is coming.

Vampires also offer us a way to live vicariously through them- we can fulfill all of our fantasies. Vampires become extensions of ourselves, a way to deal with the monster inside, accept it and enjoy it. To be seductive, to be seduced, to be extravagant, to be eccentric, to be sexy, or for some- to be violent.

Consider this quote from Richard Dyer that appears in the book The Lure of the Vampire by Milly Williamson.

“If the vampire is an other, he or she was always a figure in whom one could find one’s self…the despicable as well as the defiant, the shameful as well as the unashamed, the loathing of oddness as well as pride in it.”

The image of the vampire, everything that the vampire represents, is a way to accept and revel in everything that makes us odd and everything that we would love to do and to be.

In the book Blood Read this quote graces the introduction written by Joan Gordon and Veronica Hollinger:

“An ambiguously coded figure, a source of both erotic anxiety and corrupt desire, the literary vampire is one of the most powerful archetypes bequeathed to us from the imagination of the nineteenth century.”

And now, in the twenty first century the literary vampire is still one of the most profound archetypes of any literary character or monster that we see today.

The vampire on the page still reigns supreme as he (or she) embodies more universal feelings of desire, empathy, and oneness than any other creature. The literary vampire lets us fully live out that wild existence and forbidden experiences in our way, vicariously through the words on the page. And even though the author leads the way we still use our own imaginations and desires to come up with an image that is each uniquely our own-not those pushed onto us by Hollywood.

But the image of the romantic vampire seems to have faded in popularity, for now. The once popular TV shows have run their course, with The Vampire Diaries spin-off, The Originals ending after this season. The books have shifted towards other supernatural creatures or to other fantasies like the billionaire or the sports hero, the firefighter. More realistic but still steeped in fantasy.

There are new vampire shows popping up. But the new shows seem less romantic and more horrific. Like SyFy's Van Helsing and Netflix's upcoming V Wars. 

What shifted?

Has our taste for blood just grown up?

Or does it reflect upon society?

Things have shifted tremendously in the past decade since the first Twilight movie hit the big screen.

Instead of being seduced by the other we are frightened of the beasts. Every day the news is full of more horrifying drama. Economic crisis, societal unrest, people don't feel safe.

The horrific vampires give us a chance to see the embodiment of pure evil and fight it. They also give us a look at our darkest selves. The violent monsters within.

What vampire do you prefer?

I'll stick to my vampires that are sexy even if they are bad boys. The Lost Boys, Dracula, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, The Vampire Diaries, The Originals, the Anita Blake novels...

I see enough horror in the real world, I want my entertainment to be entertaining not an extension of the real world's pain.

But to each their own.

There are so many vampires in books, movies and TV that everyone can find their own personal fantasy or nightmare in fiction. You can be seduced by the darkness or find the tools you need to fight the monsters.

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