A paper I wrote for an English final that I thought you guys might enjoy. Just a little fun thought.
Do you fear a chilling vampire lurking in your bedroom in the late hours of the night? Probably not, because in today’s culture we are taught that vampires simply want to watch us while we sleep. From the 1900’s to now vampires have made the biggest transformation in pop culture, and that is simply brought from the fact of our constantly changing views on how they should be portrayed to mortals. In fact, if you ask most people what they think vampires are they would ask you to refer to Twilight with the gallant Edward Cullen, or maybe even the True Blood’s vampires mainstreaming to be a part of humans’ life. Society has shaped vampires throughout the decades to fit them to the needs of that specific culture.
In the early twentieth century, people feared leaving their houses after darkness because of what lied in the shadows and wished to feast upon their blood. One of the foes people dreaded running into was Nosferatu, he embodied what their culture thought of vampires: hideous and frightening. One of the few ways to be saved from this creature of the darkness was daylight, and the safety in one’s own home. Some of the myths that could protect citizens from vampires were holy water, garlic, and wearing a crucifix around one’s neck. When it came to killing vampires the protagonist could stake the monster in the heart, trap them in sunlight, set the vampire on fire, or shoot the vampire with a silver bullet. Even more well-known than the haunting Nosferatu was the legend he was loosely based around, Count Dracula. Dracula is the most famous vampire of all time; the story that surrounds him is a classic and is constantly being reworked for every generation so each will gain a similar understanding of what a “true” vampire is (Stoker). The most chilling aspect of Dracula was his ability to compel others to do as he wished, which resulted in them wasting away till their death. The only person who could save us from these formidable immortals was Abraham Van Helsing, a vampire hunter who roamed the country teaching others how to protect themselves and searching for the Count; it was widely believed that if you were to kill the Count, all vampires would also perish since he was their creator. But as people started to get bored with the legend, it adapted to keep the population constantly guessing on what prowled behind them.
The next philosophy on vampires was that they still were monsters of the night, but they could seduce and enchant their prey. Although vampires where seductive, when transformed into their true vampire form they were as hideous as before. This is probably the most common thought of vampires, in fact the myth on vampires only changed recently. These beasts would charm the innocent into becoming obsessed with them, allowing them to feast on them whenever as long as they could be a part of the vampire’s legacy. Many stressed over venturing into their local tavern because the beautiful stranger glancing their way could either be their fun for the night, or a predator looking for their next meal. Many film directors attempted to remake the Dracula series to fit this new image, making him more appealing to the female audience, and making the women the epitome of seduction. One interpretation of this is Quentin Tarantino’s From Dusk Till Dawn where they have Salma Hayek dance with a snake provocatively, when suddenly she transforms into a horrific monstrosity due to the scent of blood and attacks all who were in the bar. This image was but a stepping stone for a more human like vampire; one that would have a soul.
Once we started yearning for a new image for the vampire, we started to attribute more human characteristics to them. One legendary vampire who exhibited these traits is Lestat de Lioncourt, bringing about the belief that a vampire could indeed have soul (Rice). Although he is very vain character, he is constantly questioning his motives and plan in life. With this newfound knowledge we are treated with various interpretations of this version of vampire in both film and television with Interview with a Vampire and Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Both of these adaptations show vampires who go through the transformation to become more of a living creature, experiencing the humanity that was robbed from them as they regained a soul. In Buffy the Vampire Slayer the characters Angel and Spike both underwent this transformation, and to do that they had to undergo punishments for the crimes they had committed during their entire existents as vampires. Although it still comes with the price of being trapped inside till darkness comes and feasting upon human/animal blood, it is a fair trade in order to still be able to comprehend human emotions, and question their place in the universe. As vampires transpire into more of what society sees today, they see more of a shift in how vampires become more humanized.
As people have become more infatuated with vampires, vampires have evolved to feel emotions towards their prey that they had not felt before. Vampires would be more than alive; they could love as well. The first interpretation of this was brought in a book called Twilight which let us explore the world of an ordinary girl who becomes entangled with a vampire, and his vampire family. The book though did change all vampiric myths; vampires could walk in the sun, holy water and garlic did not intimidate them, they could only be killed by being beheaded, and the color of their eyes reflected what they feasted on (golden eyes meant animals, red eyes meant humans). The movie adaptation of this book series sparked a rapid turn of events, and overnight every female became obsessed with Edward (vampire protagonist of Twilight). As this epidemic continued to spread, soon television providers picked up on the hint and developed two of the most popular television series on any network, True Blood (2008) and The Vampire Diaries (2009). Both of these shows have built upon the vampire legend, by taking their own twist on of the story. In True Blood, we get the original vampires, and then we have the mainstream vampires (hipster vampires); mainstream vampires drink synthetic blood created to help wean vampires off human blood. The series uses some of the traditional preconceptions of vampirism, things like a stake to the heart, silver bullets, blood sucking seductresses, and going into the sunlight have stayed, while myths such as vampires having no reflection, garlic, holy water, and even crucifixes are revealed to be clever lies vampires created to conceal their identity from humans. At the turn of the century people discover that vampires are real, and the lies used to conceal them are forgotten superstitions. In The Vampire Diaries, the same traditional rules carry over, but they are able to walk into sunlight provided they wear a magical ring that protects them. Besides the similar theories to the original vampires, they go along with Twilight with allowing vampires to feel human emotions. This emotion helps humans trust these creatures by allowing them to establish relationships where they both understand the other. These four vampire types represent society’s views throughout the years.
The relationship between humans and vampires show society’s obsession with the supernatural, and exploring the unknown. Since 1900 till now we have seen this creature constantly change to match up what society yearns for. In 1922 we were looking for something to fear, in 1960 we started looking for something to seduce us, around 1980 we started developing vampires to carry human attributes, and in the late 2000’s we wanted something to love. The world is constantly changing and to keep up with modern trends pop culture projects this image for all of society. Since we are able to keep track of all of the trends, we can go back and explore each decade and what fascinated them and how it has changed from today. Without vampires in our cultures, we would not be able to have a creature to relate our problems to and to fantasize about in our world, whether to make us fear or to give us something to love.