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What Is A Vampire?

Irregardless of what my previous blog entry may have implied, I am not in fact a preteen girl. Thus it should come as no surprise that I'm not a big fan of the Twilight Saga. I tried reading the first book, found it amazingly poorly written and lost interest halfway through.

Don't get me wrong, though: I don't hate Twilight, I just think it is underserving of all the attention it gets. That includes the people who actually hate the franchise, mind. I've seen entire essays written on why Twilight sucks, no pun intended, and people give all sorts of silly reasons for why these stories are a sign of the End of Times. (As if the unholy prose wasn't more then enough.)

One thing in particular that keeps being brought up by these people is the sparkling, and I'm honestly a bit puzzled about that. Apparently there is a lot of people who find the idea of vampires sparkling like diamonds in the sun, rather then bursting into flames under the life-giving gaze of Apollo, to be directly offensive and some sort of great insult to the vampire myth in general.

edwardcullenphoto.png

This is not a real vampire.

I find this to be utterly ridiculous. The fact Edward Cullen sparkles in the sunlight isn't the problem. The problem is that he lives in Forks, Washington and still attends high school at the age of 110. There is just no way I can respect that.

Sometimes I fantasize about writing a screenplay. I probably never will, mind; partly because I don't write screenplays and partly because I know enough about how things are done in the movie business to realize it would never reach the silver screen the way I imagine it, but whatever.

This imagined screenplay would be titled 'Castle Dracula' and it would contain everything I love about adventure movies, gothic romance and vampire mythology. It would feature a group of young men and women, each with their own special talent, on a quest to undo the terrible curse of Vlad the Impaler: a quest that would take them into the very heart of darkness! There would be ancient journals with maps and mysterious riddles, giant portraits with the eyes cut loose for mysterious figures to spy through, huge chandeliers with dripping candles and cobwebs, hidden doorways behind every bookshelf leading to secret rooms, forgotten catacombs, forbidden laboratories and towers where someone -or something- was once imprisoned to be forgotten forever. There would be a giant castle reaching towards the night sky like a dark hand! There would be a dark countryside both gloomy and beautiful, with sleepy hamlets populated by superstitious villagers, dark woods where only boldness and folklore will keep you safe, and misty graveyards where the children of the night howl at the moon which is always full.

And it would have vampires who act like real vampires, dammit. I'm not even sure what would happen if they were exposed to sunlight - perhaps nothing. Maybe they're just naturally nocturnal and that's it? It's not important.


angelvampireface.jpg

No, this isn't a real vampire either.

We can all argue what is an appropriate vampire weakness and what isn't, what kind of powers the vampire should or should not have, the exact nature of vampirism, whether or not they should be scary monsters or someone you might actually like hanging out with/date/marry, etc, etc. Everyone has their own idea of what a vampire should be. Now me, I don't really think the fine details are that important - they can simply be modified to fit the needs of the story. What matters to me is the trappings; the style of the whole thing.

Here's how I see it: Vampires - at least as we know them in in modern times - are literally monster nobles. I suppose this aspect of vampirism easily gets lost in this age where nobility is no longer considered important, but my personal viewpoint is that the vampire is an allegory of corrupt and abusive feudal lords of ye olde times, back when you payed your taxes and did what you were told if you didn't want to get the pole. The classic vampire lives in a ludicrously elaborate castle, has an excentric taste in fashion and speaks in a sexy European accent. He's a cruel predator, but at the same time affable and charismatic. In some ways, he's even admirable: Something mortal men look upon with some respect and quite a bit of jealousy. But he is also arrogant and prideful even as he sustains his undead life from the blood of his underlings.

In short: Vampires represent what a person becomes after enjoying undisputed power over others for long enough to start taking it for granted.

dracular.jpg

THIS is a real goddamned vampire!

I should add that vampires are also closely tied to gothic horror, a style built on "a pleasing sort of terror" that puts so much importance on atmopshere that the setting and backdrop is almost considered a character in its own right. Hence the castles and moonlit graveyards, and so on.

Does all this mean that the only way to write a real vampire story is to repeat Bram Stoker's Dracula over and over? Well, no, of course not. That would be silly. To begin with, this is just my personal feelings on the matter, and I absolutely don't expect everyone to agree. What I mean is simply that just writing about some immortal guy who lives off blood, and then obsessing about what his powers and weaknesses are, or whether he's a monster or a love interest, is rather missing the point. I think that if one wants to tell a good vampire story, the important part is to try to graps their mystery and allure, to consider the atmosphere and set the right mood, to figure out how to best present them.

Pull that off well enough and I bet nobody is even going to care that your vampires sparkle.

Comments

I totally agree with the third picture. That's a vampire alright, with the ruffles and the long coats. :thumbl:

There are still a lot of mainstream, or at least modern, novels and other media that depict the vampire as the noble one. Underworld was one of those movies that I think nailed the vampire image quite well. They even added a sort of family mix, a la Godfather, if you will, which, compared to Stoker's original, was absent.

And for the record, I am not a fan of Twilight. It looks more like a fan-fiction story created by a teenage fan-girl than a legitimate novel, at least in my view.
 
The vampire-as-nobility trope of course stems from Vlad Tepes, who got mingled with the eastern European vorwalaka idea through some interesting temporal foreshortening and sleight-of-hand. Stoker got some of that going, but most of the confusing bits stem from the Hollywoodization of the character.
I'm not sure that the royalty angle adds anything to the archetype. Sparkly sure doesn't. Vampires aren't as scary as they once were, due to overexposure and the dilution of the original conception. Those writers should all be bitten and ushered to their own private beaches, where they could count the grains of sand forevermore.
They've killed what was once one of the more fearsome creatures in horror. I fail to see anything romantic in a decaying animated corpse, festooned with graveyard dirt, drooling maggots and carrying what is probably a Komodo Dragon kiss.
 
moderan;bt1125 said:
The vampire-as-nobility trope of course stems from Vlad Tepes, who got mingled with the eastern European vorwalaka idea through some interesting temporal foreshortening and sleight-of-hand. Stoker got some of that going, but most of the confusing bits stem from the Hollywoodization of the character.
I'm not sure that the royalty angle adds anything to the archetype. Sparkly sure doesn't. Vampires aren't as scary as they once were, due to overexposure and the dilution of the original conception. Those writers should all be bitten and ushered to their own private beaches, where they could count the grains of sand forevermore.
They've killed what was once one of the more fearsome creatures in horror. I fail to see anything romantic in a decaying animated corpse, festooned with graveyard dirt, drooling maggots and carrying what is probably a Komodo Dragon kiss.

Seeing as we're talking about literature here, I'm not sure I even consider the early folkloric vampires as much more then proto-vampires. To begin with, "vampires" as a literary concept are actually a relatively new idea. With that in mind, I'm honestly curious: What stories are there of this "original conception" of vampires you speak of? I can't say I've ever heard of any.

I ask because the "vampires aren't scary anymore" complaint is another thing that I keep hearing all the time these days and I always wonder at what point vampires were genuinely scary to begin with.
 

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Anders Ämting
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