What Now, Vampire?

Coble has a great post about people being tickled that the vampire and gal at the center of the Twilight books decided to wait until they’re married to have sex. And it got me thinking about how we seem to be in the middle of some big cultural shifts about what vampires are helping us work out. Early vampires, who were more like how our zombies are now, were actual reanimated corpses that emerged from the grave to suck the blood of the living and drain their lives from them, and it’s pretty widely accepted that those vampires are about our anxieties about death and about the problem of telling when someone is really dead.

Then Stoker came along and vampires became about sex and death, which were pretty closely linked for our foremothers because of the risks of pregnancy.

And since The Lost Boys, we seem to be in the middle of a grand unacknowledged discussion of vampire as abusive boyfriend–someone who appears normal, charismatic, even, but who wishes you great harm, even if he doesn’t mean to (I think you see strong strains of that on True Blood). And I know there’s a lot of discussion about the way that Edward in the Twilight crap seems to have some weirdly abusive tendencies, but Coble’s post really has me wondering about this movement from vampire as monster to vampire as superhero.

I don’t know what to make of it and I love revisionist histories of fictional beings as much as the next person, but it seems to me that the vampire is kind of blanding out. Now he’s just misunderstood.

But it’s interesting that we’ve gone back and given the “undead who will kill you” role to zombies and folks like Freddie Kruger and Jason. I wonder what other monsters will get assigned vampires’ other duties until vampires come back as genuinely scary?

(Unless “vampire children who kill you” is them coming back as genuinely scary…)

9 thoughts on “What Now, Vampire?

  1. Didn’t Anne Rice champion the misunderstood and abuser vampires pre Lost Boys and Twilight?

    I just finished reading ‘The Passage’ which has gross, evil zombie like vampires. I wouldn’t necessarily recommend the book (maybe I’d have liked it more if I’d know it was the first of a trilogy going in and it wasn’t 300 pages too long) but I did enjoy vamps who weren’t Bill or Louis or the sparkly Twilight ones.

  2. Ooo, yep, Rice totally did. Good point.

    I honestly don’t quite mind Bill as much as he deserves to be minded, but I do wish vampires weren’t so much like the Beast in Beauty & The Beast these days instead of, at the least, more like the Wolf dressed up like Grandma.

  3. Anyone remember ‘The Hunger’ from the early 80s with Catherine Deneuve and David Bowie and very charming and attractive vampires? A very stylish if somewhat dry film. Would that predate Ann Rice?

  4. I just read The Passage, too. I found it reminded me of The Stand, but I did enjoy the book except for the ending. I didn’t know until reading Crackerjackheart’s comment that it was part of a trilogy. Neat.

    But yes, I was relieved to have actual scary vampires instead of the fascinating kind.

  5. Thanks for the link!

    It just goes to show you…spend an hour labouring over a post and get crickets. Dash one off in high lather about weird double standards and boom. Everyone likes it. :)

    And man, you hit the nail on the head. I think since I’m a) such a fan of what Stoker did with Dracula and B) Still in the Kim Newman “vampires are the ultibaddies” era I just don’t get the new remodel of Vampires into sex bombs. (You summed it up nicely when you say that Vampires are now the equivalent of the Beast in Beauty and the…)

    It’s probably also why I don’t get the Zombie craze. I’m still in the place where Vampires are what Zombies have become to most people. And Zombies to me are still a Voudoun cultural cul-de-sac of curiousity as opposed to a horror movie staple. This? is what comparative religious studies does to a person.

    This also verbalises my conflicted feelings about True Blood–which I think I’m no longer watching. It seems like they can’t figure out what kind of Vampires they want. It more and more comes off as one of those stories that’s so fascinated with the idea of mythos that they snatch and grab from whatever lore attracts them and then try to mash it together. I don’t know if that’s from the books or the shift to the miniseries as I never made it past the first half of the second book. But it makes it hard for me to stay engaged in the show as it seems like they don’t commit to a train of thought other than “let’s have some bloody sex here!”

    I’ve been dithering for more than a year about the Passage. Last year at this time it was one of the Must Reads of the summer, but I was put off by the price and the universal acclaim. (If everyone says they like it, chances are some people aren’t being honest and just want to fit in with the hype.) So to those of you who read it, is it worth the time, honestly?

  6. Katherine – I was actually just writing up a pocket review of ‘The Passage.’ I was a disappointed and here’s why: the author is good in a “can build tension and make you want to turn pages” way, he writes lovely descriptions of places, but he can’t for the life of develop a character that isn’t tissue thin. He relies heavily on the same narrative structures and ‘surprises’ through out the book (many of which only work once or twice in a given story) and he desperately needed a dominatrix-y editor (editrix, I guess) to make his listen and do as he was told, because wow is he in love with his own words even when they don’t further, or even bog down, the story.

    After I read it I sought out some interviews him and really he’s pompous and obnoxious. I know this isn’t a reason to pass on a book, but it will keep me from reading the rest of the series. Plus he implied that he wrote it to put his kids for college because any dolt can write genre fiction and make cash. As a reader, lover and champion of genre fiction, it made want to punch his pompous nose.

    *ahem* thank you for ‘listening’, I was seriously waiting for someone who wanted to know what I thought of the book.

  7. I read “I Am Legend” for the first time about ten years ago, and until then I had only known Stoker’s Dracula, Anne Rice’s foppish vamps, and The Lost Boys. It was cool to read. I was sad about the movie version, since they reduced them to grey, video game monsters. Matheson did a great job of creating the tension of listening to a mob of creatures that are just outside your door and want to tear you apart, There’s also a series of books by David Wellington. Though I haven’t read them yet, I believe that his vampires are more mindless, bloodthirsty carnivores more than the seductive, silver-tongued lotharios. I also understand that there is a movie coming out with Paul Bettany (who apparently hasn’t read a script he didn’t like) that is based on a graphic novel in which vampires are brutal and bloodthirsty.

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