Things have not gotten any better in successive years. Case in point: one of my co-workers had the Life & Style section of the Arizona Republic sitting on her desk today, and the whole top section was covered with a photo montage of the latest "vampires" from Twilight, True Blood, and such. The title of the article was "Undead Dreamboats".
There are so many things wrong with that title... I don't even know where to begin.
Those of you who know me well, know that I'm a goth girl deep in my black little heart. (How that reconciles with my Christianity is another blog post for another time.) Those of you who know me especially well, know my interest in all things vampiric. Dearest friends of mine... I'm warning you in advance... make sure you're sitting down and brace yourself, as I hit you with the following revelation...
I'm really sick to death of vampires.
Have you picked yourselves up off the floor? Shocked? I guarantee you that wasn't a typo. Yep, it's true. I think vampires should crawl back into the dark grave they came out of... or at least the so-called "vampires" of our current culture. Vampires started out as monsters. Yes, there is an element of empathetic sadness one can feel for vampires and their plight, but on the whole they are not and should not be considered "dreamboats" or love interests. I'd like to borrow a quote from Berni Wrightson, horror comic book illustrator, who echoes my view so succinctly:
Funny thing about vampires: I don't especially like them. They're too cold, inhuman. I've always favored monsters who didn't want to be monsters. Frankenstein's monster, werewolves - I felt for those guys - but vampires... pfui! All we are to them is dinner. However, every time I sit down to draw one, at first I keep my distance, show them for what they are: filthy, bloodsucking devils. But little by little I find myself empathizing with them. What would it be like to be laid to rest but never resting, losing your taste for ice cream and hamburgers and everything, only to be replaced by a need for blood. Crawling up through the cold, wet mud every night, hunting, clawing back down to a moldy, rotting box before sunrise. It's horrible. Nobody wants to be a vampire!*
But today, everyone wants to be a vampire. I don't get it. Vampires are monsters. Even if they are tortured, sympathetic monsters, they are still monsters. I have always found the vampire/horror genre intriguing, because of the discussions of good and evil that are always contained within them, and how cursed vampires can reflect the dark side of the human condition. But I can't help but admit that I have a deep concern that our culture has blurred those lines so much, that we now find ourselves rooting for the monster, and no one wants to be the good guy. The evil of vampires has been stripped or lessened considerably, and all that's left is a cool sexy aloofness, the promise to live forever, superhuman strength, flight. Sounds great, right? I guess I shouldn't be surpised that our literature and movies reflect the morals (or lack of them) of our generation. We want to have all the carnal fun - sex, violence, whatever - and we strip it of any of the sin-implications so that we don't have to feel guilty and can sleep at night. But I digress...
I humbly suggest that anyone who is enamored with the recent crop of so-called vampires, go back and read Dracula by Bram Stoker. Dracula is what started it all. He is a corrupt, manipulative, unmerciful, unrelenting, diabolical predator. Not someone you'd want to date. Yes, evil can be attractive, but it is a lie wrapped in a pretty, deceptive package.
This blog post was prompted because friends of mine have asked me to comment on the Entertainment Weekly magazine's all-vampire issue that was just recently published and, more specifically, their list of Top 20 Greatest Vampires. I will close this post with a quick critique of that list, but I would hope you already know my stance, from what I just discussed. Read on, if you are curious. Otherwise, feel free to leave me a comment about the vampire genre, your favorite vampire movie, etc.
1. Lestat, Interview With the Vampire
2. Christopher Lee's Dracula (Movies)
Yes, I agree with this one. Not sure I'd rank him at two, but he definitely should be on the list.
3. Bela Lugosi’s Dracula (Movies)
Why is he number three? Bram introduced Dracula, but without Lugosi and this film, I'm tempted to say that the vampire genre wouldn't exist in our pop culture.
5. Bill and Eric, True Blood
I haven't read the Sookie Stackhouse mystery books that this TV show is based on, so I can't really comment on this one. One of the books has been loaned to me, I just haven't gotten around to reading it yet. I'm a little more willing to try these ones out, to see what the author does with the genre.
6. Asa Vajda, 1960’s Black Sunday
7. Angel, Buffy the Vampire Slayer
Meh. See my comment about vampires not being something you would want to date.
8. Mr. Barlow, Salem’s Lot
This one needs to be higher than number eight. Stephen King re-imagined Dracula with bone-chilling success when he wrote Salem's Lot. I had to sleep with the lights on days after reading this book.
10. Gary Oldman’s Dracula (Francis Ford Coppola's Dracula)
No. No. No. Don't get me wrong; Gary Oldman is one of my favorite actors. But this movie was ridiculously awful. I was so jazzed about seeing this film, I stood in line for hours to get into the midnight premiere... only to find myself wanting to get up and walk out about 20 minutes into the film. Bad acting, bad dialog, just an overall bad interpretation of the book.
11. Klaus Kinski’s Dracula (Nosferatu the Vampire)
12. Zoey Redbird, in P.C. and Kristin Cast’s House of Night series
More vampire romance... set in a vampire finishing school... uh, no. I think I'll pass.
13. Jean-Claude, Laurel K. Hamilton’s Anita Blake, Vampire Hunter series
Yet still even more vampy romance, only with gratiuitous sex scenes. Whatever. Pass.
14. David, 1987’s The Lost Boys
This movie is near and dear to my heart. Even though this movie might have started the whole "vampires are cool" movement, David was cruel, manipulative and a monster to the end, so he deserves to be on this list. Even he knew there was a downside... "You'll never grow old, Michael, and you'll never die... but you must feed..."
15. Miriam Blaylock and Sarah Roberts, 1983’s The Hunger
Meh. This movie is mostly style and atmosphere. Not sure they are good examples of vampires. I suspect they only made this list because of the raunchy sex scene they have in the movie.
16. Blade, the Blade trilogy
He's technically not a full vampire, but I'll allow this one, because this comic book and series of films have done a lot of fun things with the vampire genre.
17. Eli, 2008’s Let the Right One In
YES! This one needs to be much higher on the list. This film haunted me for days after watching it. And Eli is a perfect portrayal of what it really means to live forever. Her manipulation of mortals is so subtle, so artistic... which makes it all the more sinister.
18. Countess Bathory, 1971’s Daughters of Darkness
Believe it or not, this is one vampire movie I haven't actually seen, so I can't comment on this one.
19. Selene, the Underworld trilogy
No. No. No. Wearing skin-tight black leather does not qualify you as a vampire, and that's pretty much all Selene does. Oh, and her eyes turn blue. The werewolves are much better than the vampires in these films. Even Marcus and Victor are more convincing, scary, intimidating vampires than Selene. She just runs around looking hot, shooting weapons. Whatever.
20. Caleb and Mae, 1987’s Near Dark
There are two glaring omissions on this list. One is Max Schrek as the vampire in the 1922 silent film, Nosferatu. That movie still gives me the creeps, even without sound, and it paved the way for Dracula and all the other movies to follow. The other one is Willem Dafoe as Max Schrek in Shadow of the Vampire, the movie that gives a fictionalized account of the making of Nosferatu. Dafoe should have been nominated for an Oscar for his performance.
*Quote taken from "The Stephen King Companion", Edited by George Beahm