That may be overstating the position a little, in fact. But this October we start with our new policy of themed months, in which each month we all blog on a similar topic. This month, as one might expect for the month in which Halloween falls, the theme is the paranormal. As a result, I am musing about vampires.
I’m writing a novel with vampires in it at this very moment. Which probably makes it a bit odd that I have to confess that it’s been a long time since I saw the appeal of bloodsucking corpses in opera capes. Is it just me, or is it widely accepted that the lure of vampires is thematically almost identical to the popularity of rape in romance stories? Ie, our dear repressed reader likes thinking about sex but has internalised the idea that they ought not to. As a result they are stuck in a mindset where they want to be forced into it, so they get to have it, but to not have it be their fault.
Maybe I am making this up, but I feel sure it’s old hat as a theory, that the blood drinking part of vampire stories, with the penetration by pointy objects and the swooning etc, is symbolic for sex. So the appeal of vampires as a whole is the appeal of sex to someone who isn’t really comfortable with dealing with sex except at arms length through a metaphor. It’s all very Victorian, I can’t help thinking. Surely we don’t still associate sex with death in quite such an overwrought, repressed-but-guiltily-titilated manner? Aren’t we all a little more liberated than that, more comfortable with our own sexuality, these days?
Judging from the popularity of sexy vampires, maybe not.
But what about those of us for whom sex is not a terrifying (but strangely attractive) monster in the room? Is there anything vampires can do for us? Can they be used as a different metaphor? Can they be made interesting in another way?
I think so. One of the best vampire shows I’ve ever seen was Ultraviolet, the TV series with Jack Davenport as a cop turned reluctant ‘leech’ hunter. (Look at that ‘leech’ as a nickname for vampires. Doesn’t that already give everything a different slant? Wonderful!) In this series, vampires were bloodsuckers in the sense that they were the people who latch onto your emotions and drain them dry. They would use all your soul – dreams, compassion, fears, everything sacred to you – to manipulate you. This series took ‘sexy’ vampires, allowed them to do everything possible to snare the viewer’s sympathy, and yet by the end of it you honestly believed these were irredeemable monsters, and if you were anything like me you detested them with a passion you’ve never felt for any other villain in your life.
It made vampires interesting again, as monsters.
That’s what I’m going for in my book – vampires as monsters. We seem, IMO, to have lost the horror we should have at the thought of a parasite that takes the body of your loved one and uses it to suck the life out of you. Vampires as a metaphor for AIDS, I could see. Why hasn’t someone done that yet? Or perhaps they have?
What do you think? Is there mileage in the monster still, or are you too busy enjoying the sexy kind to want anything different from that?