Vampi res (& Why they bite!) Early
The ‘V’ Factor: from Monster to Heart-throb
Vampire stories pre-date the Bible! (which was allegedly written and compiled 1450 - 1410 B.C.). In our popular culture early representations of the Vampire depict a tortured soul, alone, lonely and isolated from communities. They used to stalk us in our beds at night, but now the undead walk our streets, live in our communities, maybe even live next door – (see Twilight or Buffy – The vampire Slayer). In both film and television we are seeing an invasion of the undead into our mainstream culture.
Bram Stoker’s Dracula (1897) set the ground rules though (the formula for the and tapped into the fears of Victorian England which was very much an island – where people very rarely left their own countries. The threat of invasion or contamination was very real. Most people F.W.Murnau Nosferatu
In early Western representations of the Vampire, the Vampire was ‘Othered’ – he/she looked physically different , walked differently, even stared differently – he could be easily recognised and was often something to be feared, or wary or unsure of, victims were often ‘frozen in fear’ at the mere sight of the vampire. Consider how Frankenstein was ‘Othered’? The Hunchback of Notre Dame, King Kong, Zombies, the Wicked Witch of the West, the bad guy in the Bond films is often disfigured or disabled for example.
society feared sexual liberation especially among women – in Dracula Lucy is a frustrated, romantic creature (a sexualised creature). The character provided readers with a release for women, they could transcend and become sexual creatures themselves - it also kick-started a billion dollar industry! Lucy was decapitated in the end – that’ll teach her for becoming sexual!! Her behaviour went against dominant values at the time, she had to be brought to book.
Stories of the undead and Vampires had been flooding out of Europe for decades. In the early 18th Century Serbia 17 bloody corpses were found. They expected corpses to decompose quickly and that rigor mortis was permanent, these bodies had steaks through their chests and groaned (which was most likely due to gases escaping the body). Dracula and cinema were born at roughly the same time.
The vampire myth is always full of symbolism. It has stood as a metaphor for everything from disease to addictive behaviour. Every generation finds a different meaning as it mirrored our ugliest fears or prejudices of the time. Vampires emerge during periods of anxiety, early representations like Nosferatu – were anti Semitic. In the 1930s Hollywood reflected the wave of immigration of Eastern Europeans to America, Bela Lugosi often played characters that represented this unknown and the foreign, he was the archetypal outsider. Toby Whitehouse, creator of Being Human suggests vampires are useful for supposing societies fears and prejudices and reflect our moods and fears. Anne Rice, author of Interview With a Vampire says it’s insecure horror given a secure voice. The vampire myth allows us to confront taboos. In Gay communities it (Francis Ford Coppola’s) Dracula represented HIV diseases. The vampire is a metaphor in the book. The Lost Boys, 1987 was an alternative vision of what vampires are like. The vampire had turned into a teenager and reflected a worry of parents fears of a post punk anarchic period– it reflected youth kicking against the establishment – a desire to belong and the supposed horrors of gang initiation. The vampire Slayer stood for good. A Vampire nightmare needs a hero and this representation has commonly taken the form of a male, middle-aged (and white) historically around the world
Twilight – represented an ultimate modern society and its fear of sex – abstinence / chastity was applauded and now represented as aspirational
Modern vampires live amongst us rather than are outsiders. Vampires reps the outsider/ minority. We? Live in an increasingly fragmented society – representing evil living amongst us
Harris – history of hiding/how humans treat them (True Blood). Bristol – Britain’s most recent reincarnation
Eternal youth – it’s a curse and blessing – fighting aging knowing loneliness