Vampiric Love Through the Ages
A love for the undead
The undead; vampires, ghosts, zombies; they have in the past incited fear in many generations, first as folklore and then as cultural icons. Tales of the undead can be found in many of the world’s cultures, but none as more prolific as in Western societies. In the recent years a trend has begun amongst the undead, the broodingly sexy vampire. From the Twilight Saga’s Edward, to Being Human’s Aiden, the vampire for the new millennia is sexier than his Bram Stoker counterpart of the nineteenth century. Although the vampire, who has been known for sensuality in the past, has become sexier, or is it the culture around him that has made him a sex symbol for modern media and in turn craves vampires.
The beginning of the vampire
The vampire, creature of the night, has captured the imagination of the young and the old since the conception of the vampire myth. “There is evidence which links vampiric beings in prehistory in all corners of the world, from ancient Babylonia to India, but Greece, Rome, Egypt and Eastern Europe are the most significant when tracing the vampire’s roots.” (Beresford, 2008, pg. 19) The vampire was a necessary evil in a way for many civilizations, to teach about human interactions and behaviors. “As living dead, vampires and stories about them often inculcate important social lessons, reinforcing social solidarity and responsibility within the family and the community.”(Hallab, 2009, pg. 33) It was not until the eighteenth century that the creature was labeled with the name that would instantly bring to mind fangs, pale skin, drinking of blood, and rising from the dead every night. “The word ‘vampyre’ entered the English language in 1732, its first appearance (in a London periodical) occasioned by a rash of vampire sightings documented in several parts of central and eastern Europe.” (Day, 2006, pg. 18) From that point on, the creature was given a name that would be recognized in households across many cultures.
The first popular written account of vampires was by John William Polidori titled The Vampyre. Created in the same weekend as Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, Lord Byron first planted the seed of the Vampire for Polidori and those who followed. “Indeed, Polidori’s The Vampyre was influenced by an earlier poem of Lord Byron’s entitled ‘The Giaour.’” (Breseford, 2008, pg.115) Prior to the literary villain, the vampire lived in myths and legends in Eastern Europe. “Throughout much of the later seventeenth and eighteenth centuries there were reports of vampire epidemics in Eastern Europe, the first in Istria in 1672, followed by Prussia (1710, 1721, 1750), Hungary (1725– 30), Silistria (1755), Wallachia (1756) and ending in Russia in 1772.” (Beresford, 2008, pg. 99) Yet, it was in the world of literature that the vampire would thrive. In 1897 a new novel about the undead vampire appeared and shocked the quite Victorian culture of England and soon the rest of the world. This novel was Bram Stoker’s Dracula. “The result of Dracula was a renewed scholarly and public interest in the vampire.” (Beresford, 2008, pg. 141) From Stoker’s Dracula to Le Fanu’s Carmilla, we are given a hit at the sensuality that the vampire myth can portray.
Interview with a sexy vampire
With Ann Rice’s Interview with a Vampire, we see how the vampire radically evolved from a monster to a symbol of sensuality. “In the hundred years or so post-Dracula the vampire’s transformation has been like a star turning into a supernova; after the gradual evolution of the vampiric being over thousands of years this final chapter in the evolution has progressed rapidly.” (Beresford, 2008, pg. 140) The vampire is also being treated like another type of star. Vampires have fans, people who worship and adore anything that can be related to vampires. “They may focus their interest on particular fictional representations (for example, Anne Rice’s vampire books, Dracula, Buffy the Vampire Slayer), or more broadly on all vampire-related material.” (Day, 2006, pg. 128) How did a once creature associated with death and the devil become something akin to a brooding sex object? I do not believe that it is the vampire who evolved as much as it is Western society that has evolved sexually and taken not only the vampire, but the werewolf, ghosts, witches and other creatures of the night along for the ride.
21st Century vampire
One possible explanation could be the need to associate fully with all that is in our world and ‘humanize’ what we do not understand. “The modern media vampire is an attractive, sexy creature, often used as a metaphor for human anxieties around issues such as sexuality and addiction, and this may explain its ongoing appeal.” (Day, 2006, pg. 129) Another is that after a few millennia of living with the vampire myth, maybe it is time to shake the myth up a bit and turns the bad guy into the unlikely hero. “By the late 1990s, all of that began to change. As Gary Hendrix of Slate pointed out in his review of San Diego’s 2009 Comic Con, ‘bloodsucking is so yesterday ... the modern vampire stalks, seduces, sleeps with, and cries over us. They don’t eat us’.”(Parke & Wilson, 2011, pg. 57) With media vampires becoming bolder, sexier, and more human; culture is embracing this change and replacing dreams of a white knight with those of a dark prince. “Vampires were no longer the subjects of horror stories and cult classics; they were teen romance fodder, which led them to become the barometer for measuring the ideal romantic leading male partner for the pre-adult set.” (Parke & Wilson, 2011, pg.57) With the inception of such vampires as in the Twilight Saga, True Blood, and The Vampire Diaries, Western media is not letting go of the new and improved vampire.
The Vampire Craze
One thing is for sure, the vampire has come a long way since the creature of the night that children were told to fear. Now children are counting along with the Count on Sesame Street, young girls are dreaming of a vampire like Edward to love them until the end of time, and adults are entranced by Sookie and her exploits each week, proving that modern media is not ready to give up their addiction to vampires.
Beresford, M. (2008) From Demons to Dracula : The Creation of the Modern Vampire Myth.
London, GBR: Reaktion Books. Retrieved from http://site.ebrary.com/lib/ashford/Doc?id=10382995
Day, P (Editor). (2006) At the Interface/Probing the Boundaries, Volume 28 : Vampires : Myths and Metaphors of Enduring Evil. Amsterdam, NLD: Editions Rodopi, 2006. Retrieved from http://site.ebrary.com/lib/ashford/Doc?id=10380176
Hallab, M.Y. (2009). Vampire God : The Allure of the Undead in Western Culture.
Albany, NY, USA: SUNY Press Retrieved from http://site.ebrary.com/lib/ashford/Doc?id=10574050
Parke, M (Editor); Wilson, N (Editor). (2011)Theorizing Twilight : Essays on What's at Stake in a Post-Vampire World. Jefferson, NC, USA: McFarland & Company, Inc., Publishers Retrieved from http://site.ebrary.com/lib/ashford/Doc?id=10497528&