The Evolution of the Vampire in Culture.Posted: January 2, 2013
Before we look at Vampires in culture, we have to realise that literature is not inspired only by other literature, for in the culture of our time- a book can be inspired by a film, and a film can be inspired by the preceding culture. Nothing wrong with that. That’s how things have always been, essentially. Stephenie Meyer (‘Twilight’ author) herself states that she wrote the series whilst seeing it in her head as though it was a movie.
However, the first vampire of the screen, and perhaps one of the more horrific, was the ultimate and grotesque ‘Nosferatu’- a terrifying and silent presence that was the immediate benchmark for scaring the good grief out of people in the audiences around the globe. This was Vampirism’s, and indeed Horror’s, most remembered early film pieces.
But let’s go right back to the beginning of vampires in literature. Not so far back as to take note that they were born from the mythology of a people telling tales of unholy beast-like things, but I guess I’ve just done that, so we’ll carry on into literature.
This is important, owing to where the genre of vampire fiction has ended up, particularly considering Twilight. Lord Byron, of literature, mythology and the side of a can of ‘Relentless’, is considered to have been the inspiration for the original vampire of literature- ‘The Vampyre’ specifically, making the nocturnal neck biters an utter ink-incarnation of romanticism. Unbearably beautiful, withdrawn and brooding, moonlight-pale (ironically owing to ‘cure’ of blood-letting), the panache vampire was short-lived in popular culture, till something similar rose from the pit in the form of that iconic identity; and it had a cape.
This is the vision of a vampire indulged in by the Halloween-ers each October, the standard of Vampirism: slick hair, cape, fangs and, of course, pale. This is all thanks to the hugely popular cultural offering of Bram Stoker. And so from there, Vampires have become an aspect present as a character or metaphor in mass culture, rather than mere mythology.
Here, the evolution to ‘Twilight’ becomes clearer in its roots, but it is still a great leap from the evil and emotionless character drawing blood from the throat of a (typically) white-dressed virgin on a cold night in an alleyway, all the way to the high-school setting being the transformed castle of a misfit that no-one can possibly understand and isn’t good at sports.
By this, I am referring to the manner in which the teen-drama has penetrated the genre like nothing else has ever been, even to the extent of spawning near-identical television series such as ‘True-Blood’ and ‘Vampire Diaries’. Though all these share the same teen-focus that fuels them, and makes the box-office intake immense. It is the latter point that is most important here, as its box-office success is of such substance owing to the inspiration it received from movies.
Take, for example, ‘Lost Boys’, in which pretty boys go through the trials of teenage life, avoiding social situations and stakes. Modernised. Appealing to the young. A perfect breeding ground for what would follow a few decades later.
But why teenagers? Thinking led me to the revelation that the link between the vampire and teenagers is what might be the most blatant aspect of them both. Nothing can ‘brood’ quite like a teenager. The need to stand out/away from the crowd of people being ‘pathetically’ happy is in abundance with the teenage population of every population. The premise of the idea is that most teenagers actually have no reason to be outside of the norm- they are very average owing to being essentially still children and therefore rather dull- the opportunity to escape from the awkward reality of adolescence and for an hour and half just pretend that there is a good reason to be moody is…bliss.
And this, noticed by the regrettably talented people that write and produce these new vampire stories, is only too easy to achieve, particularly when this idea is twinned with another of being able to have a beautiful cottage for absolutely no reason (see the latest ‘Twilight’ movie.
But ultimately, I must note that the reason that Vampire literature and films are the way they are is owing to very simple key business equation. Find the audience that is similar, or make the product similar. And now here we are. But it’s not a bad thing- as the culture is simply extending, though more for profitable reasons that artistic, but then the greatest films and books of all time wouldn’t have been made if they hadn’t had an invested interest.
So now we have Twilight, enjoyed by millions, but as well as this we have another aspect added to the culture. We now have something to mock, hate, and hold as a standard of what we don’t appreciate in culture. If it weren’t for this we wouldn’t have a low-point to keep ourselves from.
I’m not going to watch it again though; no matter how much she wants to.