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Vampire: A History Through Pop Culture

Updated on July 19, 2014
The Master, Buffy the Vampire Slayer (TV Show)
The Master, Buffy the Vampire Slayer (TV Show)

Since the dawn of time, humans have been obsessed with the lore of the vampire the same way the vampire has been obsessed with the taste of human blood. Nowadays, the public has the same general idea of the vampire resembling something similar to that of Bram Stoker’s Dracula: a highly sexualized, demonic being that drinks human blood and has a lure over bats. But the myth of the vampire goes back much further than the birth of Dracula. There are clear foundations of the myth in every culture and it is impossible for historians to pinprick exactly where the blood sucker originated from. However, there are suggestions that the demon was born out of sorcery in ancient Egypt.

The word vampire first appeared in the English language as vampyre in the early 1700s, almost two hundred years before Dracula was published. And in 1819, the being rose into fiction for the first time by John Polidori in The Vampyre. While Polidori’s story brought the vampire into modern fiction and was arguably considered the most influential vampire work of the 19th century, it is Bram Stoker’s Dracula that is given the most credit and has spawned the distinctive vampire culture that is still alive today.

Dracula, Bela Lugosi
Dracula, Bela Lugosi

In 1922 the vampire bit its way on screen in the German silent film directed by F.W. Murnau, Nosferatu. Nosferatu was based on Stoker’s Dracula, but names and part of the storyline had to be changed due to Stoker’s widow not allowing Murnau to the rights of her dead husband’s masterpiece. But, in 1931 Universal brought the undead to life when the studio released Dracula and then later Dracula’s Daughter, making the character even more well-known throughout the human world, than he was before. The movies hatched a whole new era of vampire themed horror movies through to the 1970s. The vampire became diversified throughout the years as creativists constructed their own idea of how a vampire should be. The 1970s saw the conception of vampire films such as the horror movie, Count Yorga, Vampire (1970), The Vampire Lovers (1970) which dared you to “taste the deadly passion of the Blood-Nymphs”, and Blacula (1972) about an African count. June of 1966 aired the first episode of the soon to be hugely popular TV Series that would air through the 70s, Dark Shadows; which was soon followed by the book series, based on the show, written by romance author, Marilyn Ross. Barnabas Collins, the hero of Dark Shadows, exposed to the world that vampires could be tragic heroes and not just the pure embodiment of evil.

In 1992, seventy years after the phenomenon started on film, the obsession of the vampire erupted again with the movie Buffy the Vampire Slayer, created by Joss Whedon. This time, instead of the story being about the vampire, the movie focused on a valley girl cheerleader who discovered it was her fate to fight and rid the world of vampires. The movie was followed five years later with the TV series of the same name. When Buffy ended in 2003 the world hardly had time to mourn of the loss of the classic vampire action and romance because in 2005 Stephenie Myer released the controversial Twilight series sending fan-girls everywhere swooning over the books’ main character Edward, the sparkling vampire. The books were immediately followed by the Twilight Saga movies. The Twilight series again changed the world’s viewing of vampires. Myer’s books show vampires as, yes, blood sucking fiends, but not all evil. Her main characters in the book are vampire vegetarians who do not drink human blood, only the blood of animals, and who hide from the sun, not because they could combust from the inside out (like classic lore), but rather because the sun showed their true supernatural nature by making their pale skin sparkle.

Buffy the Vampire Slayer Comic Book Series, Released by Dark Horse Comics
Buffy the Vampire Slayer Comic Book Series, Released by Dark Horse Comics

The vampire has clawed its way into the comic book world as well. Graphic novels such as Vampirella (1969), Tomb of Dracula (1972), 30 Days of Night (2002), and Dracula Vs King Arthur (2005) show vampires as both the superheroes and villains. After the ending of Buffy the Vampire Slayer in 2003, Joss Whedon launched Buffy Season 8: The Long Way Home, in comic book form. After the ending of the show’s spin-off, Angel, Whedon launched the comic book series Angel Season 6: After the Fall, keeping the show which had gone down in vampire and human history well alive.

Vampires have been a part of human culture for centuries, and show no signs of ever going away, despite the uprising hype for zombies and other supernatural creatures. Stories like Dracula and Buffy the Vampire Slayer have been dubbed classic for a reason. The drama of the vampire is timeless and will continue to thrill and entertain humans for centuries to come.

© 2014 Sckylar Gibby-Brown

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