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The Vampire Diaries 2012

I’m not officially back until tomorrow but I wanted to re-post my thoughts on the evolution of vampires in film and literature today. It was sparked by a conversation at GVU on the notion of ‘if we can imagine it, it can exist‘. Vampires and LOA? How does the recent surge of popularity (very ‘Neptune’ for those curious) fit into deliberate creation? If like attracts like, why do we like them so much? Whatever the reasons, our attraction is not only increasing, it’s changing.

Take the 1930’s for example. Nobody dreamed of hot sex with Nosferatu, nobody I know, anyway. But Eric Northman? The Salvatore brothers? Edward? That’s a whole different story. So what happened in the decades between Bram Stoker’s fear and loathing to our modern-day infatuations? How different now are the denizens of the night and why did they get that way?

Nosferatu - 1922

The curious thing is, aside from increased hotness, the basic tenets of these creatures are the same. Vampires are still a blood drinking, super strong, fast and intelligent predatory species who generally find humans beneath them. They have a hunger and lust that’s hard to control; and plenty of necks still snap. Bodies are drained of blood. Yet, we are swooning for them. Head over heels! What gives?

Some say that vampires have always had an erotic quality and that film and TV have simply amped this up by putting a new face on an old ‘devil’. The claim is our art and stories have changed the image of the vampire over time, from ‘pure evil’ to dangerous erotic to heroic heartthrob. But is it really the media that is changing social concepts, or is it the other way around?

I vote for the other way around. To me, the evolution of the vampire is not simply a trend generated by contemporary literature and film. These new images aren’t responsible for the shifting views of society; rather they are a reflection of them. And here we get to the crux. As our perception of Self changes, our monsters must change as well. Ultimately, the evolution of the vampire reflects the evolution of the human soul.

The vampire as a representation of our inner darkness was once powerful beyond control, a force of nature we could not reckon with. Now we dialog with these creatures, are intimate with them and in the case of LJ Smith, Stephenie Meyer and other authors, we walk with them in the daylight (the sun is a symbol of consciousness).

Originally, the vampire had no soul—‘In this chest beats no heart,’ Bram Stoker’s Dracula says, but now that’s changing. We are learning compassion for the beast within, and because of that, the beast is free, sometimes, to love us back. In this way, our new relationship with the vampire reflects the growth of human consciousness and our ability to love the darker aspects of ourselves and others.

What do you think? How have vampires changed for you as readers, viewers of film and writers? I’d love to hear your thoughts!

This article appeared originally in Supernatural Underground Nov 16, 2011

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