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Why Vampires Haunt Us
Underneath Vampire Fixation is the Psyche of Lust
Ten years or so in global marketing did not prepare my husband for Twilight's second movie titled New Moon. Apart from the screaming teenagers, the involvement of the audience was a cultural experience in itself. The success of this franchise is resounding inside the movie house.
We were seated between two gushing 16 year olds and a middle aged man, who I gathered was gay. Before the movie began, we talked briefly about his fascination to vampire fiction and movies. He was a man who devoured every vampire piece of pop culture he could get his hands on. He was watching New Moon by himself amidst couples on a date and roaring teenage fans. But he was not alone, there are many people who are fascinated by vampires to an extent that some of them live this life, dressing like one and even drinking each other's blood. Count Dracula is one of the most enduring fictional figures since the 19th century. From Anne Rice's work, to True Blood on TV to the Twilight Series, it seems the fever for vampires knows no saturation point.
When a male vampire feeds on its victim, he holds her in an intimate embrace, bites her neck and squeezes her body for more blood. His face is animalistic and eyes blind with hunger, then he drops his prey on the floor as he expresses relief and satisfaction. Then, he hunts again. Female vampires usually come in packs and teases their male prey with gyrating dances until they start biting him in different parts of his body while he screams in terror. Why on earth do we want to watch this? Yet the monstrosity of being fed on have plagued our television and movie houses as early as we can remember.
However, our relationship with vampires have changed over time. The early vampires in movies are very different from the ones we have on screen now. A vampire in the 1930s is ugly, creeps in the night and hides in dark crypts. The victim is usually a beautiful fragile woman who normally just screams in terror as the monster approaches her in the woods. This vampire is defeated by a stake plunged at the heart and by morning light. In the 60s the vampire became enigmatically handsome, now visits women in their bedrooms and is usually easily warded off with a crucifix AND a stake plunged at the heart.Though this vampire burns in sunlight, it is hardly ever seen in the morning. In the 90s, vampires became more and more overtly interlaced with sex. The snake dance that made Salma Hayek famous in Quentin Tarantino's From Dusk till Dawn had even women lusting after the Latina. Though the vampires were still monstrous in this movie, they are now part-time humans. Anne Rice's Vampire Chronicles humanized the vampires even more. It was through her portrayal of vampires that the concept of a vampire that can fall in love began. Anne Rice made the vampires fall in love with each other. They still lurk at night and are burned by sunlight, but now they live and mingle among human beings at parties and actually live in human dwellings. They have rules of survival and are not afraid of the crucifix. No human bothers to kill vampires anymore. It is vampires who kill vampires.
Stephanie Meyer's vampire is even more beautiful than a human. It does not burn when touched by sunlight but shimmers like a beautiful diamond. It loves and worries about its soul. It is trying to exhibit self control. It is wiser and kinder and amazingly, it is the beautiful woman begging to be bitten!
The archetypal connection of death to transformation has long been established by Jungian psychologists. When you first have sex, you in effect die as a child and become reborn as an adult, now aware of the transitory and addictive pleasures of sex. Until sex becomes a medium for the expression or creation of new life, it becomes like a curse of insatiable hunger. The more you have it, the more you want it. Many people lose themselves in the pleasures of the flesh. They lose sight of the purpose of sex and thereby turn themselves into dead people seeking life in the short moments of climax. There is something about sex that gives us a sense of transitory vitality. It is in extreme states of arousal that we feel as if we are feeding on life itself to feel alive. And yet, if it is sex for sex alone and not to unite souls with a significant other, it becomes a quest for one transitory feeling of vitality to another. This is how sex addiction happens. Californication dramatizes this very well. Sex can be both terrifying and liberating. It is this dual face of sexual love that plays on the concept of life, death and immortality, putting the Vampire lore in the exact soft spot needed to communicate this aspect of consciousness to itself.
This evolution of vampire stories parallels our attitude towards lust. In the 1930s, to sleep with a man before marriage is considered one of the most scandalous thing to happen to a village. Lust, like the vampire in those times is a thing that is ugly and that live in the dark crypts of the psyche. It was only men who had this guilt and women were just victims of it.
In the early sixties, religion played a huge part in discouraging sex before marriage. I remember stories of aunts who couldn't focus on their honeymoon because there was a crucifix in their bedrooms. The image of the Virgin Mary drives away any desire for sex. Though there was a sexual revolution in the 70's, the human psyche still was in conflict with sex and religion. So the vampire as a monster persisted, this time though looking like a handsome man. At this stage however, beautiful women can be vampires too, showing that the feminine movement provided equal opportunity for monstrosity.
In the nineties, it became norm for people to have sex before marriage, religion no longer played an important role in the dynamics of lust and sex. It was an altogether different matter.In the same way that the vampire in the 90s began engaging each other,men and women who lost their "chastity" interact with each other and negotiate power with each other. There is no desire to end the lust, nor an ultimatum to drive a stake at its heart and kill it. Because of the Aids epidemic however, it is still something that lurked in the darkness. However, since it mingled with the ordinary, it was a welcome experience, a natural part of adulthood and knowing.
Stephanie Meyer's vampire mirrors today's attitude towards sex. Sex like Edward, is a beautiful shining diamond hidden in the cloudy weather of Forks. It can be tamed by an internal choice. It can be a philosophical experience and a gateway to love. This means that we now understand that sex is not a thing to be rejected but a thing to be tempered, not because of religion but because of its promise, when taken seriously, to show us the wisdom of immortal concepts. It bears with it the connection of sex to the mystery of life.
One thing guards the innocence of Bella, the personification of our innocence--the wild nature and protective eye of Jacob. Jacob epitomizes how friendship, true friendship can protect you and watch over the potential dangers of lust more than your father or any religion can.
A statement from the Vatican denounces New Moon as:
"...combines a mixture of excesses that, as ever is aimed at young people and gives a heavy esoteric element.... this film is nothing more than a moral vacuum with a deviant message and as such should be of concern."
Though I am a huge fan of all religions, I really think sometimes that the leaders of the Catholic church should bother to learn Jung's work. New Moon is but a mirror of a revolution of the collective consciousness, expressed as the screeching teenagers when Taylor Lautner took of his shirt for the first time. By denouncing it, instead of giving it a moral dimension, they only wedge a wider gap between them and the new generation. Losing their grip on their minds and putting them farther and farther away from relevance. I don't want it to happen, but by being so archaic about their understanding of human consciousness, the only mirror our children are left with are the movies created in the new church of Hollywood.
Just to demonstrate how deep and primitive the vampire consciousness is understood by the psyche, I want to share a personal experience. My daughter, at five for some reason is fixating on a particular boy in school. The only vampire she's seen is the wacky one in Scooby Doo. I half gagged when she said, "Mom, Jessie is a vampire." I told her, understanding what she meant deeply. "Yes he is honey. But don't let him bite you okay? You're only five years old, don't you want to be my baby girl anymore?" She looked at me happily and said, "Don't be silly mom, it's just pretend."
Do you prefer Edward's cold hard perfection or Jacob's hot animalistic charm?
NEW MOON POPULARITY
- \'New Moon\' sets midnight showing record - CNN.com
The second installment in the "Twilight" saga, starring Robert Pattinson as vampire Edward Cullen, Kristen Stewart as his star-crossed love and Taylor Lautner as the wolfboy who loves her, has already ripped through a box office record.