Why has the vampire so consumed the fascination of people for all these years, even spawned a subculture that imitates and nearly worships the Vampire mystique? We love her. Sometimes we fear him. Sometimes we hate her. Sometimes we pity her and sometimes we want to be her.
How has the Vampire transformed from a universal figure of despair and evil to a shadow of our own broken selves—a representation of our own duality? The savage, aristocratic outsider, perched on a castle battlement, sleeping in a tomb and feeding on the innocent, has become lonely, misunderstood creature, troubled by her own demons that must do the unthinkable to survive and for it, she hates herself. Like Jekyll and Hyde, she battles against this dark side of herself and struggles to keep sight of her own humanity.
It is those Vamps who have embraced what they have become, taking it as their birthright that become the dark creatures of old—that take us back to Varney and Dracula and a hundred other creatures of the night.
But why are the Vampires so special, and the werewolf, who carries a similar duality, not viewed with the same reverence? Oh to be sure, the lycanthrope has its own group of dedicated followers (as does the zombie), but the Vampire obsession, the Vampire culture, is universal and massive, a true international phenomenon.
Perhaps these ideas have something to do with it:
- Their physical similarities to humans make them great stand-ins for psychopaths and lunatics, creating an effective tool for casting evil humanity in a different shell, a demonic or semi-demonic shell.
- Their almost universal beauty (although there have been authors [and filmmakers] who have not portrayed these creatures as beautiful) and charisma makes them frightening villains that can easily manipulate our minds, empower us to commit atrocities (that we may secretely desire to commit) and cross lines that we would not normally cross. They are the ultimate in scapegoats—the devil made me do it. And those Vamps that struggle against this power, and overcome the corrupting nature of it are true Heroes indeed.
- Not only is their beauty unmistakable, but their sexuality (or if you will, their corruption of human sexuality) is one of their greatest hallmarks and powers. Their draw becomes a draw to the seedier needs in us. We mere humans struggle against the desires of the flesh (and all the nastiness that comes with breaching social norms in this area) and sexual taboos every day, and the Vamp is demonstrably the stand-in for this need—the demon against which we struggle, and oh so often fail. She is our darkest desire.
- From The Gothic perspective, the Vamp is a great literary tool for extending many of the themes, whether of virtue, or the outsider or a vision of some decaying past come back to overtake us. He is the ultimate villain against which to thrive as he encapsulates all of the significant themes in one simple package. (This is wonderful, but sometimes it lends itself to laziness on the author’s part who may let the Vamp [and the reader’s preconceived feelings about bloodsuckers], and not the story, do all the work.
These are a few of my ideas. Over time I will be exploring these and others. If you have others, let me in on your ideas. I’d love to discuss them in these pages.
Keep a lantern lit. The shadows are known to bite in these parts.