Vampires: Variations in Modern Fiction

Not that you could tell it from my writing, but I’m a huge vampire fiend. I’ve loved the undead since I first laid eyes on Dracula (as portrayed by British actor Sir Christopher Lee) when I was perhaps ten years old. In this day and age when people are terrified their children will become serial killers or perverts if they watch the wrong movie it may horrify you to know my mother introduced me to the darkly seductive Count.

Who Could Say No to This Vamp?

Christopher Lee who first took on the legendary bloodsucker in 1958 with Hammer Films’ The Horror of Dracula at the age of 36 was the epitome of the perfect vampire. His dark mesmerizing eyes and noble features brought a sexiness to the wicked bloodsucker that had women swooning. He was savage, wicked, and seductive without straying from what most had come to know as the modern vampire.

Unlike Bela Lugosi (who vampires owe a great deal, too), he wasn’t one for chewing scenery; no pun intended. He was elegant, well-spoken, but you did not want to fuck with him. He was a traditional vampire in the sense that he flinched from religious icons, hated garlic, mesmerized his victims, drank human blood, turned to mist, called forth the beasts of the night, and lastly could be killed by a stake driven through his heart. The problem was that he would never be gone permanently because some fool would collect his ashes and call him back by feeding the ashes blood–usually that of a nubile young beauty or her unfortunate boyfriend.

Thus Christopher’s count returned numerous times until he donned the iconic cape for the final time in The Satanic Rites of Dracula (1973) at the age of 51. Even at 51 the man had the it factor that has made him, to some horror fans, the ultimate Dracula of all time even surpassing Lugosi.

Over the decades vampires have evolved in numerous ways including trading the cape for leather, romanticism for eroticism, but one thing that never changed were their feeding methods. Whether human or animal blood they still popped out the fangs and had at it. Now the mesmerism by which they controlled their victims (a snake-like quality much as the fangs are) has fallen by the wayside as a general rule. Some inject venom much as a snake and this venom is what transforms their victims into vampires themselves. One bite and your history, which is far closer to the werewolf legends.  This line of thought has left behind the slow seduction more popular in earlier romantic vampires where the creature would mesmerize the victim, drink three times from them (a mockery of the Holy Trinity) and then feed his own blood to the dying victim. Thus infecting them with vampirism and once they took their final breathe they would rise from the grave.

The idea that vampirism is a disease is not a new one by a long shot, but has appeared more often as science overtook the superstitions from which the beast arose. I could spend a couple hundred lifetimes discussing the subject and barely touch the tip of the proverbial iceberg. Folklore contains countless versions of vampires or vampire-like creatures with varying physiology. Hell, there’s one version that walks about like a normal human, but after nightfall detaches its head; the head then flies about attacking its victims. I guess that’s easier than changing to mist or a bat. 😉

What we recognize now as vampires have their origins in Eastern European folklore, yet even they only skim the surface. The original European vampires were nothing close to the romanticized version Hollywood and many fiction writer’s present to the public. They were rotting corpses, draped in burial shrouds that often ate the flesh as well as the blood of their victims. They were reanimated by demonic spirits for any number of reasons ranging from lack of baptism, excommunication from the church, pacts with Satan, and even such things as being born with teeth. These creatures were closer to what we call zombies in modern literature. Drawn to the one thing they no longer possessed, a human soul.

Which leads me to the mirror and why they have no reflection. This particular aspect of most vampires comes from the ancient idea that the reflection of the physical body is only possible because we possess a soul. So it tends to make sense if the vampire is soulless then he or she would possess no reflection. I recall an interesting conversation with an acquaintance a few years back about this precise aspect of being a vampire.

Being a huge fan of Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel its spin-off  not to mention a vampire fan in general I often required myself to

Whedon's Immortal Enemies Angel & Spike

suspend disbelief at a number of things. Joss Whedon the creator of the show treated vampires as they once had been treated in fiction. They were evil things, unnatural, that ran amuck, feeding on humanity, and needed to be destroyed. That is with the exception to the rule–Angel and then Spike later in the series. What was the exception for these two? Souls–human souls.

So back to the point. This particular acquaintance was pitching a bitch fit about how a vampire should not be affected by intravenous drugs since their hearts didn’t beat and thus no circulation. My snicker pissed her off even more especially when I said, It’s called suspension of disbelief. She was furious because she considered herself an expert and came back with, What the fuck do you know about vampires? My reply shut her mouth and there was no further bickering. What was my reply you might ask?

Technically, both Angel and Spike should have reflections since they both possess human souls although for different reasons. Yes, I went there. I love you Joss, but if people want to nitpick then there you go–souled vampires should technically have reflections.

Now the Goddess knows I’m all for variations on a theme. The quantity of material out there on vampires at a writer’s fingertips is tremendous, but there is one vampire (and I use the word lightly) mythos that I cannot abide–Twilight.

I’ve mentioned Twilight a couple of times in my blogging, but my dislike of the series has nothing to do with what some may believe. After all, I’ve babbled about how there are numerous types of vampiric creatures out there. None of which by the way fit  Meyers’ vampires completely. They are immortal, they drink blood (Ms. Meyer, dear, they are not vegetarians if they consume any part of a living breathing creature), they have enhanced abilities (strength, speed, etc.). That’s pretty much where it ends.

Look at that! A virgin vampire!

Her creations do not possess fangs an essential part of a vampire in modern fiction, but then that makes sense to an extent. The fangs were always a part of the sexual nature of the modern vampire and frankly her vamps are sexless. The puncturing of the carotid artery or even femoral artery is symbolic of sexual penetration as was the need for the vampire to exchange blood with its victims. Meyer wiped out all sense of sexuality in her characters which I find hilarious considering the state of  teenagers and sex in modern society. After all Edward Cullen is a virgin whose held on to the whole Wait until you’re married rigmarole for–what?–a hundred years. Yeah…right…

Her claim is that their very normal looking teeth are so strong they can bite through metal if they want. Excuse me? Hold on…I have to stop laughing before I start writing again.

I have nothing against the entire We don’t drink human blood since that’s nothing new. Sorry, Twilight fiends, been there done that and no Meyers the Goddess did not come up with it. Hell, Joss Whedon did it with Angel. Angel drank animal blood as well and thank the stars above he didn’t say he was a vegetarian since he had more sense than that. Moving on now…

I don’t even have a problem with the walking in sunlight thing. There are vampires in both folklore and fiction that move in daylight going back to at least the Middle Ages. Some vampires were affected by sunlight though in a number of ways i.e. blindness, loss of enhanced abilities, etc. What I have a problem with is what I’ve affectionately started calling the Glitteratti. The reason her creations do not go out in full blown sunlight? They sparkle. That’s right kiddies say it with me The vampires sparkle like diamonds!

Seriously, Ms. Meyers? Why in the name of all that is unholy do they sparkle? *head desk*

Enough said.

Well, to each his own I suppose. To be honest I look on Ms. Meyers’ creations as not vampires, but rather emo-teenage-20 something-goth-vampire wanna be-kids and that’s an insult to the Goth kids. Edward isn’t scary or menacing in the least even when he’s trying to be which makes him even less of a vampire, if the sparkles didn’t make you think that already.

The two most important things that make a vampire a vampire were kicked to the curb by Meyers. The danger and the sexuality–after all vampires are killers. Like I said before I have no problem with variations on a theme, but there’s variations and then there’s just turning deadly killers into pussies that couldn’t scare a mouse.

On that note I bid you a found fair well and a good evening.

Dinner Time!

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9 comments on “Vampires: Variations in Modern Fiction

    • I do get the vampire as a modern dark erotic hero. After all we have an innate fear of aging and death, so immortality on the surface has a broad appeal. He rescues us from death, promises eternal love, but that is simply on the surface. Having read your article I have to agree that the vampire is still a monster.

      Of all modern vampires I enjoyed Joss Whedon’s version because he treated them as monsters while still coming up with an interesting explanation for Angel (his dark hero) to be something different. Angel aka Angelus was the most evil of all vampires and chose the wrong girl to kill, a young gypsy girl. This led to him being cursed by her father. The curse? He rips the human soul Angel once possessed from the ether and put it back in the vampire. Thus he was forced to look at a hundred years of evil acts through the eyes of his human soul.

      At least he had a reasonable explanation why he was a dark angst riddled hero.

      Thanks for sharing your blog on the subject. 🙂

  1. Good article – the thing with vampires of course is that you can have fun ‘bending’ the rules surrounding the myth. In my series My Vampire and I, Marcus the Master Vampire has no fear of religious icons, but still can’t go out in the sunlight – dreary days are OK – and he has to drink human blood but leaves the donor with the memory of something sensual instead of a pain in the neck. The glittering like diamonds in the sunlight bit was a stretch – though Pattinson looked pretty!

    • Oh, I agree that it’s definitely fun to play with the rules. As a matter of fact I’m writing a short vampire tale right now that twists the rules. It’s my first original vampire story and I do some definite bending, but am keeping it real.

      The thing is that for a writer getting into the mythology of vampires is like being a kid in a candy store. There are so many variations on the myth. Creating your own version is easy while still keeping within the realm of the mythology.

      Honestly, I don’t get the attraction of Pattinson. *shrugs* He just seems average in the looks department to me, but as I said to each their own. 😉

  2. lol when Edward was on the mountain top with Bella saying, he could be frightening, a monster or whatever and then started jerking up tree limbs, I nearly wet my knickers from laughing so hard. I thought, is that the best you got? So, it was good that I am not Bella…and I can’t see any tween freaking out over that one (nor did Bella lol)

    I LOVE Christopher Lee. I also thought Gary Oldman rocked as Dracula. Vampires to me are the wild animals–the top predators–who we peek at and WANT so much to touch…but we know chances are they might make us lunch if we do lol. What some consider monsters, I consider obsession—I so love the Supernatural.

  3. Yeah, that scene was painfully funny to me. Some of the lines in the movie are so cliche and just sad. I don’t blame the actors though to be honest. You can take the best of the best, the Oscar winning of Hollywood, and if the material sucks it sucks.

    Chris Lee was it for me until I saw Gary Oldman on the big screen in the 90’s. He was wicked, evil, and still managed to make us feel for him. Your description is apt. Everyone loves going to the zoo and seeing the big cats. They’re beautiful, powerful, and a part of us wants to reach out and pet them. Of course if we did they would rip our throat out.

    Yeah, the supernatural is wonderful subject and I will definitely continue to play in it. 😉

  4. I haven’t seen Angel but I did get to watch some of Buffy. Fact is everyone has their own ideas about what a vampire is. I loved the movie and the book of Twilight, but i wondered how long Meyers was going to go without something being said about her idea of vampires.
    They’re supposed to have an erotic eluring about them, the fangs. I can see bringing them out in to sunlight. I’m not sure what I really think of the whole “he glitters” thing. I think it’s weird. Had they spruced up Pattinson a bit more and gone outside of the core of the book, I think he’d have been more successful than he is now when playing the role of Edward Cullen. I agree, no vamp is a vegetarian or no where near it even if they raid blood banks to get their food for the night. Blood is Blood

  5. Frankly, Angel was better than Buffy IMHO although it was a spin-off. I think really what has gotten a great number of vampire fans’ panties/boxers in a bunch are some of the things Meyers has said in interviews. She has openly admitted she doesn’t watch horror movies or other vampire literature. Her reaction is it’s too scary or yuck. That’s when people then say Why write about something you obviously don’t like or know anything about?

    Like hardcore fans of any genre people are protective of what they love. Meyer stepped into a world where the basic rules were set from the moment Bram Stoker set pen to paper over a hundred years ago. She had no knowledge of that world and at times vampire fans feel as if she’s disrespected the genre by thumbing her nose at “the rules”.

    I’m a huge fan of the vampire genre, but I could not for the life of me read her books–I tried. It had nothing to do with consuming animal blood or even the angst. Hell, I could even let the fang thing fly or the glittering thing, but the thing that bothers me most is the relationship between Bella and Edward. It comes off as unhealthy and twisted, not romantic in the least, and that worries me.

    The last thing teenagers need is an unhealthy relationship (fictional or otherwise) sold to them as romantic when it borders on psychologically unhealthy. I’m not the only one who sees that either. I’ve spoke to a number of people about that aspect of Twilight who agree that it’s sending a bad message to young girls about what a healthy relationship is like. I have to say if I were a mother, my daughter would not be allowed to read the series unless we sat down and talked about this issue in particular.

    Having read a bit of Meyers’ writing (as I said I tried) I also feel that for an English major-grad her writing is appallingly sub-par. My editor would have my ass in a sling if I sent her something like that young-adult or not.

    *gets off soap box*

    • I started watching Buffy because of SPIKE. My niece was watching it one day and I walked into the livingroom. There Spike was saying something evil, hilarious, and well, just sarcastic as hell. I fell in love RIGHT then and there. I never did dig Buffy herself but I thought the supporting cast was way awesome.

      And then, yep, I followed Spike to Angel. I admit to not watching that show until Spike arrived on the scene. lol. I figured if the end of the world ever came, Spike would be the last one standing…doing shots and reciting his poetry to the rest of the cockroaches lol.

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