How, in the realms of the imagination, could necrophilia ever be sexy? Yet our continuing love affair with the vampire belies a natural and deep seated revulsion of sex with the dead. In 1898 Bram Stoker published his novel Dracula and the vampire in a modern literary sense is launched into popular culture. Dracula was not the first literary vampire, but he has become synonymous with the genre in the popular consciousness. Since the late 1970’s and Anne Rice’s reinvention of the vampire into a heroic character, vampire romances have sold in their millions. When Joss Whedon wrote the script for the original Buffy The Vampire Slayer film he portrayed the vampire, played by Rutger Hauer, as an ageing ineffectual, lecherous caricature of Bela Lugosi. Buffy, the new Fay Wray, would not have loved or lusted after her vampire, but when her character is brought back to life on the small screen things have changed. Buffy is less of an air head and the vampires have a new spinted group, the vampire hottie.
The vampire is recreated into an angelic soulful Angel, transformed by a gypsy curse from the evil Angelis. Sex with the vampire is still taboo, still something inherently bad and degrading. Angel is transformed by sex from new ‘good’ vampire back into bad old world vampire. Sex with the vampire ends the new order and the only thing that restores it is love. Very moral and worthy for the teatime, teenage audience. As this audience grows up, Buffy comes of age and, although the darker side of sexuality within her is always tempered with almost Catholic guilt, she hopes to find a human love. Enter Riley, the all american, action hero, college guy and still he is flawed. He is a steriod-raged masochist, who is jealous of Buffy and threatened by her strength. Once again Buffy is left alone, feeling she is to blame for Riley's shortcomings. Human men, like vampires, struggle to deal with a girl who is stronger than they are. Buffy then enters a relationship with Spike and this is where necrophilia hits a brick wall, because technically Buffy is also dead and the guilt she feels becomes a metaphor for what happens when 'nice girls' step off society's notion of right. Buffy, now the motherless waif, is brought back to life by Willow using black magic. The choice of Willow, another girl who is deviating from the paternal ideal of womanhood, as Buffy's savior brings Mr Giles's wrath as she is meddling with forces more powerful and corrupting than she can understand. When Buffy finally gives into her baser instincts, she literally brings the house down and then spends her time filled with self-revulsion. Willow stands outside the boundaries of patriarchal law, she worships not "God", but the "Goddess" and has rejected male sexuality. Yet again ,as with Angel, Spike is redeemed by love and his soul is saved by his devotion to Buffy. Buffy is saved both physically and morally by Spike's, the vampire's, death.
Bram Stoker’s Dracula is a metaphor for sexuality outside the legal and moral boundaries of marriage. Since the publication of Dracula this sexual metaphor has been deeply ingrained in the character of the vampire. Reading Stoker’s novel, the character of Lucy, seduced by Dracula, can’t be saved, her nature preordains her fate. However, Mina, the wife, the stable down-to-earth helpmate, is saved by the men who defend her, who decide she is worthy as a woman. Mina isn’t a woman, she is the cause these modern day knights fight for; she must be cleansed for she is the carrier of the future. Victorian sexual morals coloured Stoker’s writing, just as 21st century sexual behaviour colours the writing of vampire fiction today. Anne Rice, writing about beautiful young men living apart from society, found fame and success just as AIDS and the end of the millennium filled the collective psyche. Again the vampire and sex are intrinsically linked in a metaphorical way.
The vampire has now become the beautiful young man, the Tristam to the modern day Isolde, doomed by a fated love that cannot be consummated. The dead Romeo in love with the living Juliet, portraying an innocent courtly love from the medieval romances. Sex has become unclean and our daughters, the untouched obsession of ageless teenage boys, who agonise endlessly about corrupting their love. These modern day, star crossed lovers are doomed, just as Dracula, Spike and Lestate were doomed, because as society changes, so does sex with the vampire.
Whether we like it or not, the vampire represents us, not the other, alien evil. The vampire is our fear, our savior, our love and our longing for something new; someone larger than life, a perfect love and a perfect lover. Society decrees how we love and share our bodies with each other. Patriarchal societies protect their daughters, as the future mothers of its sons and the vampire threatens this and so, eventually, the townsfolk will arrive, pitchfork and torch in hand. The day of the vampire hero may be coming to a close and with it our infatuation. The superhero may sadly return to our fear of the one dimentional, evil undead.