Is the vampire craze dying? Every year vampires get humanized more and more. The undead have never been more alive. Does this signal the end?
Vampires - that is, evil demons who prey on the living and suck their blood - are a millennia old myth. In the 10th. Century, the myth was very alive and powerful. When mysterious events occurred, believers literally dug up the corpse of someone who had been suspected of evil in his life, and mutilated the corpse in any number of ways, including driving a stake through his heart. Some living people who were suspected of being a vampire were even tried and killed. Even the philosopher Voltaire was taken in by the mythology. The exhumed corpses were said to appear alive and had blood running out of their mouths - which unknown to many people at that time can be part of the natural process of bodily decomposition without preservation. See:
The folklore and myth changed from place to place and time to time. Originally the blood-sucking evil one was thought to be a restless evil soul or demon that had not vacated the body on death. It could come out either during the day or at night. People probably projected their fear of death, the unexplained occurrences of life, and their spiritual fears onto the symbol. Life was neither kind nor knowable, nor was death. From this folklore, writers found kindling for an enduring flame.
The myth was written into 18th. Century fiction, most notably beginning with Bram Stoker's Dracula. This story became the basis of 18th. through 20th. Century stories. The bloody figure of Vlad Dracula (literally Vlad, son of Dracul), was dragged into the mythology. The bloody Vlad, and especially his son, Vlad, both of whom lived in a castle, had impaled tens of thousands of his enemies in the name of defending Christianity from the Ottoman Empire. He was just the sort of larger than life villain needed to enliven the story.
Stoker expanded the myth. He assigned the term "vampire," and in his mind they were creatures that first haunted the imagination and then the real world. The "undead" were mere shadows of living creatures, and could not have a shadow nor be seen in a mirror. They could be out in the daytime, and were indistinguishable from normal folks. But they were seductive, preying on high society women and killing their men. They often transformed into werewolves or vampire bats.
We don't know what Stoker's fertile imagination nor his readers projected onto the vampire. Vampires probably represented the allure of elicit seduction, seen most fervently in that taboo bite on the neck which is both an instinctive defensive reaction and an intimate surrender. The husband often got killed, and often the woman died and left the husband alone. It was an erotic and deadly triangle raising all kinds of emotions and unfulfilled wishes that might be typical of a sexually repressed culture... or of someone starved for love... particularly the erotic kind.
Fitting with the imaginary nature of vampires, as the myth evolved, vampires could not be exposed to the light or they would die forever. Symbolically, what represents fear is imaginatively projected at night, and in the light of day our projected fears go away. Today's vampires in stories manage to skirt sunlight and stay in the shadows, adding the convenience of daytime action to the story. Amazing how that all conveniently works in a story.
The Hollywood versions became even more romanticized as time went on. As the mythology evolved, and audiences heartily responded, it's interesting to speculate on what else is projected onto the vampire by both writers and audience.
There is that succumbing to temptation and the draining away of life blood. That's a good metaphor for what ails us. The woman who gives in to the vampire's seduction is lost herself, becoming an immortal vampire for the price of her soul - nihilism. And then she must feed on others, spreading the evil to them. The illusion of life that titillation is a grand prize, goes down in flames (not to disparage sexuality). Yet to be loved, truly loved, is a grand and essential desire.
Not a real vampire fan, I enjoyed the Buffy the Vampire series and the spinoff, Angel, in the '90s. The vampire legend continued to evolve in interesting ways. They were classic good versus evil plotlines, and full of variety. Buffy simply killed vampires. But things got complicated with Angel on the scene. Angel was a vampire who wanted to be reconciled with good... if he could just resist this biting people thing. Buffy fell in love with him. Angel became her defender and helped her kill other vampires.
Love with a vampire got complicated. Intimacy was limited to just an admiring look and a hug, and maybe a kiss. It couldn't be fulfilled in the natural husband/wife sense. Of course, vampires probably don't brush their teeth, so who would really want to kiss one. But that's a realism story detail that gets side-stepped. Angel could not become her lover - he would kill her or contaminate her. What then did vampires represent?
Again, it is probably the erotic love thing, but with this variation. Rescue. Here is the archetypal father or Christ-like figure who powerfully comes to your aid, guides you, strives for reconciliation with good, but can't marry you. Here is the romanticized figure people often see in Christ - unconditional love, not for sex, but simply for the value of themselves.
In subsequent stories, like the TV show Moonlight, the vampire morphed into an upscale social person, living among us, protectors of us, with a vampire society with complicated rules. The undead had become just like the living... with that exception of mating.
The Twilight series (which I'm not into), seems to continue this trend. The death knell may be sounding in the last movie in this series, Breaking Dawn. The characters break the last obstacle to being separate, and marry. The archetype is destroyed.
Speaking volumes about this event is the recent movie, Vampires Suck. When the parodies start, you know the end is near. This spoof is about two supernatural beings vying for the heart of a young woman. But don't worry, vampires will likely be back as the cycle of vampire movies repeats in another decade or two (unless Breaking Dawn drove a steak through their heart and cut off their head).
I get the feeling sometimes that Christians think other Christians can't tell real from make-believe. The rhetoric about the Avatar movie, the Harry Potter sorcerer movies, and the Twilight saga on TV and books, is a good example. We learn very early in life to tell real from make-believe, and it is actually a measure of sanity. Most of us are sane, and movies are much more a reflection of something in society than a purveyor of values. Movies let us project our feelings onto some symbol or archetype, like a vampire.
I was raised in the 1950s and 1960s. I have to characterize that era as a "romantic era." The high drama of WWII, with the yearning of men and women for their opposites away or at home, heightened the sense of romanticism. You could want, but you couldn't have - just like the vampire movies. You could sell your soul, so to speak. It didn't help matters any that in earlier eras if you weren't married by 25 you were labeled an old maid or a confirmed bachelor, thus the impetus to get the match made early. In the '50s and '60s, women and men were so preoccupied with finding a mate that they commonly married within a few months out of high school (June brides). Often they were pregnant even before leaving high school.
We love romantic stories. Women want to be rescued by a knight in shining armor from the tower in which they are imprisoned. Men want to be that knight in shining armor.
A strange thing has been happening. We left the romantic era behind. We ventured into realism and nihilism. "What's in it for me?" became our mantra. The average age of marriage today is 28, and people are now living at home with their parents until age 28. Sex is recreation and doesn't require commitment. People want to remain free to enjoy their youth, get good jobs, and remain unencumbered for as long as possible. Of course, we also live around 30 years longer than we did at the turn of the 20th. Century. Love today is often a selfish thing and if the sex isn't good or people don't get along - they just split.
What do people long for? Romance? Yes... someone to think they are something special, and be willing to go out of their way for them - difficult to find today. So we get this unfathomable love in today's vampire movies: there is someone who is chivalrous and thinks someone is special, but the only way to be intimate with them is to become one of them... which the chivalrous vampire will never allow. They love the person too much to bring that kind of suffering to them.
The odd thing is, this type of love is closer to the love that Christ shows, and expects us to show, than the shallow "what's in it for me?" love or the sexually based love that we often see today.
If there is a complaint here, it is that people are looking for this kind of unselfish love, but we are failing to show that to them. Movies tend to be reflections of society, so what is this telling us? That we want to know more about unselfish love?
Let's talk about it. Social Media and One Spirit Resources Blog below. - Dorian Scott Cole.