Escaping the Vampire: The Allure of Darkness
- Thursday, November 05, 2009
What I learned is that vampire mythology has existed for millennia. Ancient cultures including the "Mesopotamians, Hebrews, Ancient Greeks, and Romans had tales of demons and spirits which are considered precursors to modern vampires."2
Clearly, this is not a new phenomenon. I think Solomon said it best when he wrote, "There is nothing new under the sun" (Eccl. 1:9 NIV). The same applies to vampires, too.
"Throughout history, vampires have been known … to be dead humans who returned from the grave and attacked and sucked the blood of the living as a means of sustaining themselves."3 Wow. That's not a pretty picture! But it certainly matched the image in my head.
I read further. From the sixteenth century onward, the myth of vampires became ngrained into cultural belief systems in eastern Europe. Story after story spread to cultures around the world. Eventually, the idea of vampires "came to the vampire attention of both the scholarly community and the public in the West because of such creatures in Eastern Europe in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries."4 Vampire films gained popularity in the twentieth and twenty-first century, the most prominent of which was Universal Pictures' Dracula (1979). Well-known actors and actresses rose to fame in vampire-themed TV shows and movies: Alex O'Loughlin in Moonlight, Sarah Michelle Gellar in Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Kiefer Sutherland in The Lost Boys, Brad Pitt and Tom Cruise in Interview with the Vampire. Most recently, the HBO drama series True Blood has captivated millions of viewers (3.7 million watched the second-season premiere).
The end of the twentieth century and beginning of the twenty-first surged with interest in vampire books, movies, TV shows, magazines, and Web sites—the Vampire Academy series, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, The Morganville Vampires series, True Blood, and Blade, to name just a few.
And then came Twilight. Since 2005, Stephenie Meyer's breakout series about a family of morally upright vampires living in Forks, Washington, has sold more than 42 million copies with translations into thirty-seven languages around the globe.
These upright vampires are a part of the most recent portrayal of "good-guy vampires" established in fiction literature and media over the last fifty years.
And what exactly is a good-guy vampire? Margaret L. Carter, a scholar of vampire literature, defines them as "vampires who act morally when dealing with mortals, and, as a whole, conform their moral perspective to a human ethical perspective."5
Many readers and moviegoers have become even more intrigued by this new image.
Just breathe …
So what do you think about this "new image" of good vampires? Does it change the way you see them in your head?
At this point, I felt like I had a basic understanding of vampire mythology's roots and its rise in popular culture. The problem was, I still didn't understand why it was such a hot trend today. I had to know more.
I got my answer from an article quoting Ken Gelder, author of Reading the Vampire: "‘America has taken the vampire story and tied it to teen romance.' Rather than being attracted to the darkness of the vampire, the female leads love their fanged paramours for their essentially decent personalities—along with their bad-boy allure—and are able to get beyond the whole lust-for-blood thing."6
This, finally, made sense to me. After all, good girls attracted to bad boys is an old story. The promise of excitement and the allure of danger is an appealing combination, particularly if there is a chance for redemption.
It also explained how something so obviously evil as a vampire could become the hero of a love story. After all, what could be more impossible—or irresistible—than a devastatingly handsome, reformed vampire? Right there is the formula for a captivating love story. It's Romeo and Juliet (plus fangs) all over again.
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