A review of the raging anti-vampire sentiment in the post-Twilight era.
It’s time to reflect for a moment on all the negative publicity and general bad feelings being directed towards something which for over a century has existed only to serve our deepest creative interests: the Vampire. This particular review leaves unchecked the particular tragedy that is unfolding, whereby the new generation of movie-goers-would-be-readers is twice as likely to think of Bella and Edward instead of Bram Stoker when the all-encompassing V-word is mentioned. Instead, the purpose of this article is to explore the deeper importance of the Vampire in our modern creative culture and to repel some of the criticism that these iconic creatures currently endure.
Stoker’s seminal work of 1897 created something truly beyond anything he could have conceivably imagined, but which any author no doubt regards with the deepest of envy: a concept which endures far past the boundaries of its original form and is reborn countless times. Over the span of more than 100 years the Vampire has been rediscovered again and again in print and in film, each time taking new features from the writers’ desires and needs. It is here that the Vampire fulfils its most glorious purpose: a vassal for creation, comparable in every way to a painter’s canvas. The vampire is today the ultimate blank sheet or uncut stone. It presents itself year after year to artists of all forms of entertainment, waiting for the next re-interpretation. Vampires appear in every possible place, from gothic cinema and trigger-happy blockbusters to teenage romance novels and children’s cartoons. They may be vicious warriors wielding guns, blades, claws or even the command of hellish armies. They may be secretive pacifists, wanting nothing more than to live alongside humans. It is their versatility, not their blood-lust, which sets them above all others on the creative food-chain.
It is here that we can look to one of the Vampire’s most unlikely allies: the Dress-up Barbie website. Most computer-literates will be familiar with the concept of the digital doll waiting to be dressed according to the player’s tastes. One click for the dress, another for shoes and so on. This metaphor is complete when we consider the vast range of features one can attribute to the modern day Vampire. It is a long list. From the list of strengths come such classics as superhuman abilities, wings, mind-control and telekinesis, to command over animals, rats and even werewolves. For weaknesses we have choices ranging from the traditional – sunlight, garlic and holy water – to the comical: an invisible force that knocks a Vampire on his ass if you revoke the permission to enter your house. Even appearance is subject to the boxes we tick on the Dress-up Vampire website. Fangs, wings, alternate beast-forms and tight leather are all possible options. The recent addition to that list is the glittering diamond-skin box. Ticked or un-ticked, its place on that list must be granted and not allowed to undermine over a century of constructive Vampire theology. New experiments, whether popular or not, are necessary if the value of the Vampire is to be maintained.
At its heart, the modern Vampire is an ongoing search for something greater than ourselves, stopping short of the unreachable level of the divine. Put simply, it is search for something that comes between us and Gods. We want to see and know creatures with power, not just through money or politics, but the power to overcome basic fears, like hurt, loneliness and death. The boxes most often ticked for modern Vampires are those we long to tick on our own dress-up websites: strength, health, immortality, seductiveness. War and conflict rank second in the list of overall Vampire themes. The first is, was and always will be, love. Perhaps something more akin to lust and wanton desire, but love all the same. It was love that brought ruin to the first Dracula: the inescapable desire to pursue Mina Harker, and the love of her husband and friends which spurred their gallant rescue. It is love that drives every page of the Twilight saga that has, temporarily, derailed the train of worship for modern-day vampirism. Other trademarks, such as health and strength, are demonstrated whenever a fine-fanged creature jumps harmlessly from a rooftop, or recovers from bullet to the head in a matter of seconds. How simple the dream of peace on earth would be if we simply couldn’t kill one another? We can therefore never truly scorn the modern Vampire, without turning our backs on those things we desire most for ourselves as humans: immortal life and unending love.
So shot the messenger if you must, for there will always be those versions of the Vampire we love more than others, but always remember that the message itself is something to be cherished. Above all else, we must never forget the immortal words of an immortal Nikola Tesla, played by Jonathon Young in Sanctuary: “Vampires are just plain cool.”