How vampires took a bite out of pop culture

November 8, 2010

This post was a joint effort by: Gillian Shewaga, Megan Ganey, and Will Parsons.

The legend of the Vampire goes back centuries (mainly beginning in Eastern Europe) but was brought to life in Bram Stokers famous novel Dracula.  Depictions of the undead however can be found in medieval manuscripts and painting as beings awaken from death not to drink blood from young virgins, but to feast on the flesh of the living.  These stories originated in the 14th century during the height of the Black Death in Europe where bodies would pile up and for the first time many people began to witness the decomposition process up close.  Some of these bodies became bloated with gas from the decay of the organs leaving many superstitious minds to conclude that they had awakened and were feeding.  Blood oozed from the mouths of the dead which we now know to be a relatively normal part of the body breaking down, but again the people of medieval Europe became convinced that the person had reawakened and was drinking the blood of the living.

Stokers’ novel was a romantic piece of literature ripe for its time but shockingly the inspiration for Dracula himself was based on a 15th century Wallachian Prince named Vlad Dracula.  The name Dracula itself comes from his father who was inducted into the Order of the Dragon for his defense of Christian Europe against the Turks.  Vlad was one of the cruelest and most sadistic Princes in history giving rise to his nickname Vlad the Impaler.  It was said that Vlad dined with his impaled victims and drank their blood as they hung dangling and dying on steaks high above.

Although Stoker never visited Transylvania the home of the mythical Dracula he used his imagination to create an icon symbol of darkness that would permeate the shadows of culture throughout the twentieth century and beyond.  Anne Rices’ Vampire chronicles of the 1980’s were a hit series that combined vampire culture with sexuality before anyone every heard of Twilight. Ever since, there has been a mainstream push for vampires in movies and TV shows in pop culture. The image of the vampire has changed so much, that it has penetrated its way into a vast audience. Now, everyone can choose the “type” of vampire they like: the cold-hearted killer, the over-sexualized predator, or hopeless romantic that is trapped in a cage of immortality.

The Twilight Saga by Stephanie Meyers, a series of books adapted to the big screen, have received the most notoriety. Anyone from girls as young as nine to their grandmothers have dove into the forbidden love story. HBO adapted the Southern Vampire Series by Charline Harris into TrueBlood, an ultra sexed up version of the vampire genre. Whether it is the sex appeal, the fantasy, or the overwhelming chivalry, vampires have found their place in the 21st Century.

Fascination of the vampire comes from people of all ages, but specifically, the obsession is most predominate amongst young adolescents and teenagers. Many have questioned why this age group idolizes these super natural creatures, but the answer really lays behind emotional constraints.

Vampires represent certain aspects that young teenagers desire to have. The element of sexuality is the most obvious factor as frustration and control come into question. As adolescents start to undergo hormonal changes, they often look for some outlet to relate to- that is ideally away from the embarrassment of parents. The vampire, on the other hand, has been sexually portrayed as a being in full control by having a odd power over their victims, or opposite sex. Through this, teens grasp the idea that sexual relationships are far more effective, and less awkward,  if the other person shared the same desire.

But this same idea of control also applies to general situations. The pre-adolescent/ early teen years can be an extremely awkward time many kids. In contrast, the vampire is always confident because it knows it has the ability to control a situation; or to transform (into a bat) and leave the situation if needed. This unsaid sense of coolness, is something that teenagers would love to have- thus, making the perfect role model for unsure teens.

Furthermore, the teenager can also relate to the vampire in terms of feeling alienated and outcasted. A vampire struggles against immortality, sunlight, and a sometimes conflicting thirst for blood. The common teenager also has developed various addictions to cope with issues, including drugs & alcohol, to video games and social media. An extreme example is with the recent phenomena of “teen wolf” packs forming in High Schools. These groups of kids dress in Gothic attire, simulating the look of both vampires and werewolves.  Once labeled as “different”, these kids are now banding together as a support network.

KENS5 interviewed one member who stated “We’re not a gang at all, gangs are posers. They just want attention … The pack, like, we’re a family and we go to each other for our problems.”

Overall, supernatural figures such as vampires and werewolves represent something that is different, but in control; something that is an outcast, but is strong and feared. For these reasons, males too fall for the lure of the vampire, not just the stereotyped female longing for a romantic happy-ending.


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