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Today’s vampires, not about capes and bats

Today’s vampires, not about capes and bats

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Everybody’s talking about vampires these days.  Those that aren’t enamored by them, like I am, are always asking me, “What’s the fascination”?  Those doing the asking are not fans of the latest TV shows and movies that include vamps and don’t realize that vampires aren’t what they used to be.

NosferatuShadowSince Halloween is less than a week away, and our children are about to go out in their costumes and we head to Halloween parties where some of us will even be dressing up as our favorite vampire hero or heroine, it seemed like a good time to think about this recent change in the perception of vampires.  With all of this talk, it got me thinking, how has the image of the vampire really changed?  Most of what I know about vampires I got by reading books or watching films and TV, but I guess that would have to be since vampires only exist in these created worlds.

I have never been a huge vampire fan before experiencing True Blood, although I admit to watching Dark Shadows with Barnabus Collins and loving the campy soap opera. However, recently, with films like Twilight and TV shows like Vampire Diaries and most importantly, our favorite TV show, HBO’s True Blood, I have a new attitude about these blood suckers then when I grew up.  This started me wondering about the history of vampires and how this transformation has taken place.  And, although I must acknowledge the written word is probably the geneses for this transformation from monster to love interest, especially with Ann Rice’s, Interview With a Vampire and Charlaine Harris’, Sookie Stackhouse Mysteries,  I’m more of a “visual” thinker, so I decided to focus here mainly on how vampires have transformed in films and TV.

Frank Langella’s version of Dracula

Vampires have quite a history going back to ancient times in folklore.  They began appearing in literature in the 1720’s. The German poem “The Vampire” was among the first, published in 1748 by Heinrich August Ossenfelder.

The Vampyre, written by John William Polidori in 1819, was a short story in New Monthly Magazine, and it was the first to take the folk-tale vampire and make him a suave operator who preyed on aristocrats.

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Nosferatu

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Bela Lugosi as Dracula, 1931

However, since Bram Stoker unleashed “Dracula” in 1897, vampires have long been a part of the world’s pop-culture scene and this character epitomizes our impression of what a vampire is.  All we know about him is that he is one who possesses and was only interested in victimizing those who are human in order to drink their blood.

Early in the twentieth century, the film medium embraced horror and especially the vampires.  The first really famous vampire film was Nosferatu. This film made in Germany in 1922, by the famous German Expressionist filmmaker, F. W. Murnau is now legendary.  Clearly, Nosferatu (Dracula) is a monster, misshapen and hunchback, and could not be mistaken for a heartthrob in any way.

Bela Lugosi’s version of Dracula

Then, in the 1930’s, American film went crazy about monster films which were made popular by Universal Film Studios.  Bela Lugosi is the image of what we think of as the classic vampire.  However, he, and later Christopher Lee, were more in the “traditional model” which shaped our generation’s impression of what it was to be a vampire.  These films never characterized them as anything other than monsters and, although there was always the suggestion of sex, it was still a bad thing for someone to be bitten.  However, they did manage to open the doors for later films that depicted the more “likeable” vampires such as Frank Langella whose portrayal of Dracula in the 1970’s is probably the first truly sexual portrayal of the character.  Then, in the 1980’s, Hollywood started hyping a new, sexier angle. The film The Lost Boys, with its slogan “Sleep all day. Party all night,” helped turn vampires into guys you’d want to hang out with. This approach, with a twist, really took off with Buffy the Vampire Slayer, a television series that ran from 1997 to 2003, featuring a California town crawling with vampires.  Then, Tom Cruise and Brad Pitt in “Interview With the Vampire” and later with Francis Ford Coppola’s version of Stoker’s classic, we were even more aroused.

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The Lost Boys
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Brad Pitt and Tom Cruise, Interview with a Vampire
The Lost Boys
Interview With A Vampire
Bram Stoker’s Dracula

So, what is the difference in today’s vampires vs. those of the past. In my mind, there is a big difference.

Of all the creatures that we see in horror films, vampires have always been the most like us, and in True Blood, we identify with them more then ever, since they are now able to “mainstream” or become part of society. This new crop of vampires have similar desires as we do — except drinking blood, of course. So, with their good looks, we have turned them not only into sex symbols, but we want to be like them. Bill Compton of True Blood wants to live among humans and with the aid of synthetic bottled blood can do just that. And, with the additional powers vampires possess in strength, speed and yes…a very active libido, humans are fascinated. And when you add the aspect of eternal life, which has always been a human desire, the vampire becomes an incredibly powerful metaphor for sex, escapism and the promise of a better and longer life. Just like other super heroes, they show us how we can become something more than we ever dreamed and they provide a means to achieve our goals.

So, this vampiric transformation makes perfect sense to me allowing the forbidden to be something we can now embrace.  We  can love them without guilt, shame or fear, and besides, look at them, they are hunks!

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Lynnpd
Written by Lynnpd

Lynnpd has an avid interest in the entertainment industry from classic movies to all things True Blood. With a background in art, she enjoys creating in Photoshop, running web sites and finds the internet an exciting place to be. Lynn lives in the LA area and attends as many Hollywood related events as she can. She has covered events for the both websites in the LA area; read all about it at http://lynnpdexclusives.com.

11 Comment responses

  1. Avatar
    October 29, 2009

    Well written, Lynn. With their heightened senses and abilities, their potent sex drive and their immortality, vampires promise a world of dark delights. Getting to know them on screen and in books has been pure pleasure. I feel somewhat like Dickens’ Oliver who holds out his empty gruel bowl and says “please may I have some more.”

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  2. Avatar
    October 29, 2009

    Hee, he’s grabbing her boob

    OK, sorry, I will read the actual article now

    Reply

  3. Avatar
    October 29, 2009

    Great article Lynn, you put a lot of work into it with fangtastic results!

    Reply

  4. Avatar
    October 30, 2009

    Lynn you did a great job on this article and you are so on target. As we boomers look to the years ahead, you can understand why being immortal with none of the usual issues associated with aging makes the present day Vampires so appealing. I think that in part is why the demograpic audience of TB spans such a vast age range. That and Bill Compton being hottest vamp ever. I had to throw that in. :)

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  5. Avatar
    October 30, 2009

    Lynn, I had planned on looking up that clip from Langella’s Dracula today and you saved me the trouble! It’s my personal fave (and how can you not love the John Williams’ score?). This was a great feature that hit on the highlights of movie vampires, with plenty of handy and “useful” videos (wink wink). I’m off to share it with the Facebook fans of “How to Catch and Keep a Vampire”!

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    • Avatar
      October 30, 2009

      Diana, thank you so much and I appreciate the link on Facebook. It was fun writing it.

      Reply

  6. Avatar
    October 30, 2009

    What a very Insightful,Lucid and Thought Provoking Article.
    I would suppose that Today things like the Vampire are No Longer seen as bloodthirsty fiends Like Bela Lugosi or Christopher Lee Rather sort of Tragic,Troubled Anti-Heroes…This certainly seems to be the case with True Blood and Twilight!

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    • Avatar
      October 30, 2009

      Thank you Tony, I appreciate it and glad you liked it.

      Reply

  7. Avatar
    October 31, 2009

    Lynn, this was a superb, fascinating well written article. The in depth comparisons of the different Vampires that we have encountered over the years was enlightening and very interesting. I do love that Vampires have “developed” through time into a species of beings that we can love and lust after without fear surging through our bodies. Like you, I never had any interest in Vampires before True Blood. Now, I absolutely adore them. I am so completely hooked on TB as well as Vampire Diaries. The intenseness, seductiveness, and mysteriousness of Vampires is the perfect lure to attract us into their world of undying (no pun intende) sex, lust, coolness, and edginess. With all of that to offer these days from a Vampire, who would not want to utter the words, “Bite Me”? I know, I would beg to be bitten……

    Excellent job Lynn…as always, you bring such a uniqeness to your writing that leaves us completely satisfied after reading it. Keep up the great work!!

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  8. Avatar
    May 27, 2010

    I love Hammer Horror. Been a big fan since I was a kid. My bro and I loved the Dracula and Frankenstein movies. I highly recommend some of the more obscure vampire titles such as Vampire Circus, Twins of Evil, and Kiss of the Vampire. They are very enjoyable movies and shouldn’t be missed by Hammer fans even though they don’t star Cushing and Lee.

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