The Problem With Vampires Part 3: When Vampires Started to Suck

(This is the last of a three part history of popular culture vampires. It is not a good history, but it’s free. Feel free to read Part One here, and Part Two here).

At first, the change isn’t bad at all.

In 1976, Anne Rice published Interview with the Vampire. This book was breathtaking. Rice 


 

is such a powerful writer that she manages to create vampires that can be both empathized with and reviled at the same time. Louis is a tragic figure, and Lestat his murderous, black-hearted mentor/tormentor. We had no problems at all with this book.

In 1985, The Vampire Lestat is published, and Anne Rice does the impossible: she transforms the maniac Lestat into an equally tragic character as Louis was in Interview. Yes, sex and sensuality are beginning to step out into the front, but Rice gets a pass since, while not the first to think of it, she successfully rolls it into a great story.

 


1987: The Lost Boys. Just the best. Horror and comedy combined to create a fun, but still acceptable vampire tale. And before you start saying something about hot, good-looking vampires, the movie stifles the love story side of things pretty fast. None of the vampires are looking for love. Not even the head of the family. His desire for a bride had nothing to do with love, but more with a blind, brutal need for a mother-figure for his murderous offspring. He didn’t love his intended bride. He wasn’t looking for a soul mate. All the real vampires were out for blood and cruel sport, so the formula worked.

1988: The Queen of the Damned. (WARNING, minor spoiler ahead for those that haven’t read this book) This, in our opinion, is where vampires “jumped the coffin.” The first half of this book is one of the creepiest, best vampire tales you can read. The second half is easily the worst. We’re not going to spoil it for you, in case you haven’t read the books. But we will say this for those of you who have: all we could see was a vampire Justice League of America, or maybe Avengers. Awful.

The 1990s were a battleground of sorts between the undead sexual revolutionaries and the vampires that were really scary. On the big screen, you had From Dusk Till Dawn and Blade, which at least kept vampires as the horrifying creatures they were intended to be. On the other hand, the movie Bram Stoker’s Dracula came out, which was anything but Bram Stoker’s Dracula. The movie had some intense parts, but Dracula is essentially evil because he lost the love of his life, and we see glimmers of “goodness” when he tries to tell Mina he didn’t want to turn her because of how terrible being a vampire was (but Mina’s in love, so she was fine with it). Plus the biting love scene/orgasm was a bit heavy handed. In sum, it was vampire trash.

 

C'mon, man. What was this?

There’s plenty more movies, but after Bram Stoker’s Dracula, and the dull, Tom Cruise-infested adaption of Interview with the Vampire, we abandoned hope for the growing genre. Plus, in 1992 Rice came out with Tale of the Body Thief, the fourth installment in the Vampire Chronicles. When we finally mustered the strength to read it, it was a solid “meh.”

Vampires are officially superheros.

So in the 2000s and on, the vampire transforms almost completely into a sexual beast. Kate Beckinsdale donned skin-tight leather and became an all-out vampire superhero (Underworld, 2003).  Plus, she nearly drowns in the movie. Did anyone else have a problem with this? The werewolf dude performed CPR on her. She’s a VAMPIRE. She’s DEAD. She doesn’t BREATHE.

Instead of embodying the terrifying and the unknown, they became bad boys/girls. The struggle between light and darkness became the struggle between “forbidden love” and puritanical social mores. In other cases, perhaps it represented a commentary on the trials of puberty. Or else, the stories center on the quest for eternal love. Maybe the trials of teenage acne too, who knows. As more and more heroes become undead (remember, these are animated dead bodies that feed on blood to survive), the vampires have become too familiar. Too boring.

In the end, the vampire has lost all mystery. The sexy vampire has become an object of desire, or a literary mechanism to manipulate the personal desires of the reader/viewer. In other words, the vampires are the protagonists. Once, they represented the forces that we as humans (readers/viewers) had to unite against to survive. And part of what made that so terrifying is that the vampire was so cloaked in darkness that we had no idea the extent of the threat. Once, when the vampire first appeared on the stage, the mind reflexively recoiled, desperately looking for rational explanations for the supernatural events that roiled around the protagonists. But deep inside, we knew that something sinister had infected the world, and that tension between what the mind wanted to believe, and what it secretly knew but couldn’t face, is where the terror and tension came from. But today, that terror isn’t there. Everybody is a vampire. They’re hot. They’re desirable. The fundamentals of the genre (if that's what it is) have changed: instead of blood sucking, they just suck.

Oh, one last thing: Mister Burns is one of the best. That’s just science.

The best.

 

 

 

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