Vampires – Why We Still Love Them After 100 Years

March 21, 2013 2:04 pm

I realise the above statement may not apply to everyone. But, considering it’s been almost 120 years since Bram Stoker’s pen described to us, in gothic detail, the creature we now know as the vampire, giving us what he probably didn’t realise was a fascination phenomenon to last us over a century, I thought it appropriate to take a quick look at our blood-sucking, night-dwelling friends.

Bela lugosiThough you probably know Stoker’s name very well, what you may not know is that he himself was inspired by another book from 1819, The Vampyre.  And the idea behind the being itself is based on verbal tradition, vague strands of it stemming right back to the beginning of recorded history (the Mesopotamians had many tales of demon-like creatures which subsisted on human blood) but, the main identifiable thing we know as a Vampire becoming clearest around the 1700s, mostly from myths and legends stemming from Europe.

The basics have been muddied in recent years, thanks to Twilight and a couple of other ‘Dark Romance’ style novels, but the stories about these beings, which first became real populace fears around the times of the great epidemics of consumption, are as popular as ever.

My eight-year-old sister knows you stab them with a wooden stake through the heart THEN cut off their head.  Debate goes back and forth between Stoker fans and Rice fans about whether or not you can see their reflection.  And okay, I know it’s crazy but I always have at least one whole clove of garlic in my kitchen.  Just to be on the safe side, you know…

There is still a huge market for vampires and the people who either just love them or actually want to be them. Slowly being whittled down from four groups to one, The London Vampire Meetup Group still meets at the Elixir Bar on the first Thursday of every month in Camden, where gothic music is played, vampire videos are projected in the background and the die-hard fans of the preternatural beings come in their gothy, vampy wear, from traditional to bland-into-the-crowd type vampire outfits. Most have fangs; many have contacts; and the meetup conversations range from Anne Rice to Stephanie Meyer (somewhat of a sore subject, best not to mention her) to the current political situation and the latest phone applications.

Halloween

So what is it about them that makes them so alluring and fascinating still, after a century since the craze first took off?

Well, for a start, the teenagers, young adults etc. who first start reading the books find in them a replacement for the fantastical fairy stories we had when we were children.  Having something that we can never quite comprehend is actually good for us, because it keeps our sense of wonder in the world and stimulates our creativity and outlook.  They’re perfect for escapism and let’s be honest – who doesn’t need to get lost in a book or T.V. series every now and again with stresses of modern living, coping through a recession and the general day-to-day trivial realities of life?

Secondly, the stories are routed in people’s real fears, many of them intertwined with folklore from a few hundred years ago, and are story-telling methods of coping with that which they did not understand.  A community that has a dead body which has blood draining from the mouth, continually growing fingernails and hair, and lips which peel back to give the teeth an elongated look, aren’t going to believe that these are symptoms of normal body decomposition, so stories are created: the spread of disease becomes the work of the devil and stakes to victims hearts are introduced (initially not to knock their heart out of action – just to pin them into their graves to stop them apparently walking during the dead of night).

Vampires  have also been able to become very sexy beings and frankly, we like the idea that trading life for a living death might just be that thing to take us from ordinary to a sex god/goddess!  Vampires apparently fall for humans, they fall for each other, they fall for either sex, they are ‘fluid’, one might say, with their orientation and desires… Never have I thus far read of a overly timid vampire.  And when just talking about sex is hard enough for the mere mortal, having complete sway over that area of your life sounds pretty tantalizing.  Even if your version of sex is swapping completely different kinds of body fluids to the more ‘human’ method.

But on talking with a fellow writer recently, we realized just how important the retention of the vampire myth in popular culture was, to how we deal with our own mortality.

The vampire doesn’t die, though it can be killed.  The vampire doesn’t need to spend its existence running around getting things done because God’s punched his card which makes them, for us, very enviable creatures.  Vampires, the same as ghosts, zombies, or whatever, are how we are able to, in greater philosophical methods, discuss the greatest elephant in the room of our existence – the fact that none of us get out of this alive and we are all going to die someday.  For some, they might be the representation of the kind of being strong, fast, near invincible, powerful – that we would like to opportunity to be in our afterlife, if there is such a thing.  Also, I’m sure many of us would be tempted to become immortal, if there were such a possibility.  To have sway over death itself is what so many are striving for.  On the written page, the vampires have already mastered it, leading to our own morbid fascination for beings for whom, the Reaper will never come.

This of course is the most pessimistic view of why the genre is still going strong today, and some would ask me to include that it’s also kids, feeling the need to rebel, do something different and shock that causes vampire obsession but maybe they too, as growing adults, cannot vocalize their need to understand what life really is.

Fangs

I personally still love vampires.  I love their dark, gothic nature; the fact that they too were human once; the fact that they are at the same time predictable and yet totally unpredictable.  They’re secretive; they’re easy for us to imagine;  they’re wild, exciting and sexy and you wouldn’t know, if you met one, whether you were about to have the time of your life or get the living essence sucked out of you in the next second.  Maybe both.  Most of them, especially if you care to look into the more Anne Rice and True Blood vampires, are still very human.  They just…happen…to be vampires.

By the way – shameless plug, but my first book, ‘Better Off Dead – The Story of Rosa, The Vampire Fledgling‘, starring a newly made fledgling and her first year within the vampire underworld, is published with Amazon this week =)

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