VAMPIRE CULTURE - A PERSONAL ESSAY
Chiselled cheek bones, abs of steel, piercing eyes and gelled hair. No, I am not talking about Calvin Klein models. Creatures of the night, fangs, skin pale white and ice cold. No, I am not talking about Lady Gaga. I am talking about the most desirable fantastical creature in today's society, Vampires. Vampires are creatures of great beauty, emotion and romance…. Well, the ones we know today are.
"Teenage fan girls, have totally changed the concept/image of vampires. Vampires don't sparkle. Society's obsession is a bit overrated because of the misconception."
Traditional vampires slept in coffins, couldn't walk in the sun, lived in dilapidated mansions and had no superpowers. From Bram Stokes' Dracula to the latest in the Twilight Saga, vampire culture has seduced fiction lovers all over the world. The main victims of this craze are teenagers. So what is it about vampire culture that is so compelling to teenagers? Are they simply lusting after what they can't have? Eternal youth and beauty is something humans can only wish for. Do they delight in reading about the sexual tension between star crossed lovers? The forbidden relationships and desire for true love make vampire culture alluring. Or is it simply their yearning to be invincible? Vampires live a mysterious and dangerous lifestyle.
"Vampires have become recognizable with our generation."
To answer this question, I have studied four influential texts in vampire culture, The Vampire Diaries (TV show produced by Kevin Williamson), Interview with A Vampire (novel written by Anne Rice), Vampire Academy (Novel series written by Richelle Mead), and of course, the Twilight Saga (film and novel series written by Stephanie Meyer).
Eternal youth is an idea that is highly compelling to teens who feel that they never want to grow old and leave their adolescence behind. Traditionally in vampire culture, when a human is changed into a vampire, they remain the same age that they were turned for the rest of their existence. Vampires do not age physically, although the extent of their existence allows them to be far more knowledgeable than their physicality would suggest. Another positive of this eternal beauty is the indestructibility of their bodies. For example, any scratch or wound will not become a scar. They are immune to any form of physical change.
"It's cool not growing old, I like being the eternal stud." Damon Salvatore revels in the fact that he will always have sex appeal. This is exactly what seduces teenagers into the lifestyle of vampires… they are eternally gorgeous. Our society is obsessed with anti-ageing creams and ways to look younger. This obsession is not just with older people but has caught on to younger people aswell. Ageing is a major concern in today's society and we often find comfort in the idea of immortality. Damon Salvatore in The Vampire Diaries is not only a sex symbol, but also an icon for eternal beauty. He has been 19 for over 100 years and hasn't aged a day.
"I'm the world's best predator, aren't I? Everything about me invites you in - my voice, my face, even my smell. As if I need any of that." In this quote Edward makes it clear to Bella that his physicality is a natural asset to his predatory nature. In Twilight, when a human becomes a vampire, all of their imperfections are perfected. This is almost a form of natural selection, I suppose. Their beauty is an adaption to help them survive, to hunt. Everything about Edward is alluring, and don't we know it. Hormonal teenage girls are only too willing to look past the fact that he is a dangerous monster. I think this also relates to consumerism in the world today. We are naturally drawn to things that are visually appealing, and that desire overrides the potential danger/consequences in what we seek.
"You will never grow old. You will never die."
"It means something else too, doesn't it? I shall never grow up."
In Interview with a Vampire, Claudia is turned when she is just a little girl. As with tradition of vampires, she stops physically developing, although her mind has not. Technically, she is an old woman in a pre-pubescent little girl's body. Creepy, I know. Throughout the story we are compelled to sympathize for Claudia as she mourns her lack of physical maturity. In this conversation between Louis and Claudia, readers are persuaded to see a negative side, or a consequence of this evidently glamorous lifestyle. Claudia's desire to change her physicality drives her to become a vengeful character who despises Lestat for turning her into a vampire. This hate almost leads her to self-destruction. The media in society today has captured a natural affinity with the supernatural and capitalized this obsession. Vampire culture is highly appealing to teenagers as it flaunts the idea of being able to be young forever.
Sexual tension is a recurring theme that captures and engages the hearts of vampire culture fans. The romance associated with these TV shows, novels and films lures and entices teenagers.
"Juliet had it easy, she never had to kill Romeo." The confliction of romantic choices between main characters plays a huge role in making vampire culture so enchanting. This is a quote from Vampire Academy where Rose is sent to kill her one true love, after he has become a monster and a threat to her loved ones. The final book in the series, Last Sacrifice, is the heartbreaking story of being torn between love and selflessness. Richelle Mead has captured the hearts of her readers and kept them on edge. I personally love reading these sorts of stories and have quite often become emotional when reading about these tragic romances.
"And so the lion fell in love with the lamb." This is one of the most recognisable quotes from Twilight, both the novel and the film. It pretty well sums up the precarious relationships that we are faced with in stories related to vampire culture. The love interest in these tales is more often than not, human. These female characters seem to adjust almost instantaneously to the idea of being in love with a monster. This quote from Edward, suggests that their relationship would be almost impossible, as he is the predator and she is the prey. In less poetic terms, it would be like a human resisting chocolate… hard, right? Many readers and viewers are interested to see how and if, the relationship will progress. There is always a moment of anticipation as the responder waits for the vampire, in this case Edward, to lose control of himself.
"About three things I was certain - First, Edward was a vampire, second, there was a part of him - I didn't know how dominant that part might be, that thirsted for my blood, third, I was unconditionally and irrevocably in love with him." This is a quote from Bella early in the first twilight novel, when Bella realises that her love for Edward is more important than the fact that he is killer. Here we are taken into the heart of Bella, an ordinary girl from a broken home. Everything about her seems normal, except her taste in men. Bella is taken by Edward's charm and grace from the very first moment she lays eyes on him. Their relationship takes off when Edward expresses his unusual desire to protect her. Mostly from himself. In this line Bella decides to take the risk and put her safety on the line for the one she loves. Some responders would argue that Bella is a weak character in the way that she is ignorant to the potential danger she is putting herself in. How many people in real life would choose to love a killer, a potential threat to themselves? We are selfish beings and the safety of our lives is often more important that the safety of our hearts
"You are the only one who has ever touched my heart. It will always be yours. Sleep my only love." What girl's heart wouldn't melt at that? Bella's did, after all, she's only human. This is a classic example of why teenagers, girls in particular, are so infatuated with the idea of vampire culture. The romance that is advertised in these novels, television shows and movies draws in responders who believe in true love. Edward is poetic and is the poster boy for the perfect man. Vampires don't exist, so is there such thing as the perfect man?
"If I could dream, I know I'd dream about you. I'd dream about the way you smell and how your dark hair feels like silk between my fingers. I'd dream about the smoothness of your skin and the fierceness of your lips when we kiss. Without dreams, I have to be content with my own imagination-which is almost as good. I can picture all those things perfectly." This is a quote from Dimitri from Vampire Academy. Throughout the Vampire Academy series, Rose and Dimitri's undying and unconditional love for each other, despite the obstacles they face, is what makes the series so fantastic. The relationship between Dimitri and Rose is a lot more dangerous and conflicted than the Bella-Edward relationship we see in Twilight.
Teenagers who have been misled about the realities of romance by society look to these types of media as an example of what true love is supposed to be like. Unfortunately, it's not always like the movies.
Humanity is what separates humans from vampires. Fans of this culture are encouraged to support the idea that vampires aren't the monsters they are perceived or try to be. Some vampire characters in vampire culture are more in touch with their humanity than others, and some have more respect for the lives of humans. Responders to vampire culture are strongly urged to sympathise for these creatures who fight their morality and suppress their humanity. The war that vampires have within themselves tempts responders to feel for them and believe that deep down they are good.
"I'm lost. Metaphorically, existentially" Throughout the entire series of Vampire Diaries, despite his recklessness and evident lack of respect for human life, Damon struggles with his own humanity. When we first meet Damon in season 1 of Vampire Diaries he is portrayed as a sadistic monster. Only when he realises that in order to get to Elena's heart, he needs to get in touch with a more emotional part of himself, he reveals a side of himself that no one has seen before. His humanity. In this quote he is talking to a human victim before he kills her. He admits that he has lost himself and questions the worth of his existence.
"I am not human, and I miss it. I miss it more than anything in the world. That's my secret. But there is only so much hurt one man can take." This is the secret that drives Damon throughout the series. Despite his desire to turn off his humanity and relish in his predatory nature, he struggles to convince himself that he doesn't care. In Vampire Diaries, Damon talks about how vampires "flip the switch", in other words, they shut off their humanity. They block out all of their human aspects and feelings, becoming monsters. How many people in the world today would "flip the switch" if they could? How many would leave all the pain, suffering and loss behind if they could? Damon is such a captivating character because people can relate to the confliction he has with his emotions. This is such a powerful quote and it makes responders empathize with vampires. Do they all secretly just want to be human?
"Forgive me if I have a lingering respect for life." In Interview with a Vampire, Louis is disgusted with what he has become and tells the story of how he hated himself for a very, very, long time. Unlike Lesat, Louis holds human life in high regard and does not delight in taking another person's life. Louis suffers from the typical bloodlust of vampires, but decides to feed only on animals. This decision persuades responders to takes sides with Louis and see him as the good guy, despite what he is. Teenagers find comfort in seeing that even beings who are portrayed as invincible, still have the same day to day battles.
The mysterious and dangerous lifestyle of vampires portrayed in vampire culture is a tempting and ideal lifestyle for teens and seduces teenage responders. The Salvatore brothers from The Vampire Diaries are an impeccable example of "bad boys". With dark skinny jeans, leather jackets, sports cars and a mansion fit for a royal family, Damon and Stefan are the ultimate of bad boys. It is not just that vampires have the physical appearance of rebellious, tortured sex gods; they generally keep to themselves and their natural methods of survival are unquestionably against human standards.
"What if I'm not a superhero? What if I'm the bad guy" This is a quote from Edward in the first Twilight movie, where Bella is on the verge of figuring out his secret. Bella suggests theories of kryptonite and toxic waste, where Edward suggests the idea that he is not the good guy. Edward Cullen (Robert Pattinson) is a teenage heart throb and his flawless physicality leads us to be in disbelief of the idea that he could be anything but the good guy. Bella appears to think the same way. As the story progresses, Bella is often the one to reassure Edward that he is not the monster he believes he is.
"She is a different person! She`s a vampire. We are predatory species, we enjoy the hunt, the feed and the kill and when the guilt gets too bad we switch off our humanity and we revel in it." In the latest season of The Vampire Diaries, Elena struggles to adjust to her new "life" as a vampire. As a human, she was compassionate and selfless, now she is fighting the urge to give in to her blood lust. Vampires are killers. They hunt. They feed. They kill. That is their nature. This is a quote from Damon as he confronts Elena. Like most female characters in vampire culture, fans and responders often become frustrated with the ignorance of these somewhat "helpless" characters. Fans are persuaded to feel excited by Elena's new rebellious character. She's not the boring, whiny human that she was before. She's a bad ass. Unlike Bella in Twilight, Elena doesn't have any desire to become a vampire. Bella on the other hand, has a distinct urge to become a monster like her beloved.
"As if you could outrun me. As if you could fight me off. I'm designed to kill…" Edward is dangerous. And he knows it. Unlike some other characters in vampire culture, Edward does not delight in the fact that he is a threat to those around him. There is no pride in what he is capable of. Edwards resistance to Bella is fascinating because in most stories in vampire culture, the vampire is infatuated and tempted by the human. In Twilight it seems to be the other way around. As the viewer, we know that Edward is only trying to initiate a sense of fear in Bella, although he desperately wants to be with her. The dangerous lifestyle associated with vampire cultures seduces and tempts teenage responders.
Vampire culture has become a highly accessible obsession for teens in today's society. Forms of media such as TV shows, books and movies have all captured this modern craze and capitalized its popularity. Characteristics and features of vampires have progressed over the years from creepy creatures of the night to sports car driving, sex symbols. This obsession in society is deeply rooted from what is valued in our world today e.g beauty, power and wealth. Characters from today's popular vampire culture such as Damon Salvatore, Stefan Salvatore and Edward Cullen, have supported the progressive themes in vampire culture today and symbolise what a vampire is now, compared to the original vampire, Dracula. Vampire Diaries, Interview with A Vampire, Twilight and Vampire Academy are texts that I have studied to answer the question, why is vampire culture so compelling to teenagers? It is clear that teens have been sucked in by the beauty, romance, emotion and mystery associated with vampire culture.