Friday, May 25, 2012

Death to Vampires

I have a confession to make: I don’t like vampires. I actually kind of hate them. 

This is probably surprising, coming from a guy who runs a Dark Shadows fanpage. But it’s true … if I never see another "new" vampire movie, novel, TV show, etc., I’d be a happy camper.

I began to turn on the entire concept sometime during the final years of Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel, two shows that I still love. It was around that time that vampires became a creative pestilence in popular media. The once kinda-diverse “horror” section at book stores began to be overrun with books about vampires. Not just that, but they were all part of a series, whether it was The Vampire Files, Sonja Blue, Suki Stackhouse, Anita Blake, The Southern Vampire Mysteries or any of the hundreds of vampire books that have been published over the last twenty years. Imagine where the world would be if Stephen King wrote only The Dark Tower, or if Phillip K. Dick wrote nothing but books about the same fucking robot hunter.

Buffy the Vampire Slayer ran out of steam around the same time as interest the Anne Rice conceit of the “romantic monster,” an idea lifted from Dark Shadows. Just when it looked like we were finally done with vampires, something more insidious and disturbing reared its ugly head: the vampire as superman.

The groundwork for this new trend was laid by Buffy, Angel and the Blade series of movies, which depicted vampires as greedy, corrupt monsters. But they also asked a question that has received a troubling answer: if you had superpowers that required you to kill people to survive, how far would you go?
Most people seemed intrigued by the idea of a lifetime of murder if it helped them fend off the reaper for a little longer. At the very least, they’d request a couple of pamphlets on the subject.

Vampires have been used as so many different metaphors over the years that the concept now falls under one gigantic counterculture banner. Vampires, like comicbook mutants, have become stand-ins for whatever cause you choose to read into them, from homosexuality, to politics, to race and class. As much as everyone wants to bitch about the gross gender dynamics of the Twilight series, those books and movies have more in common with the X-Men movies than not. Edit the word “vampire” out of those films and substitute “mutant,” and their stories don’t change at all.

The same goes for True Blood and its related books, which also treat bloodsuckers as misunderstood, unappreciated heroes that might as well be wearing capes and spandex. I don’t think this is a case of vampires becoming good guys. It’s the other way around. If given the chance, far too many people would trade everything for power and never look back.

But all of that is beside the point. The public’s fascination with vampires isn’t any more disturbing than it’s fascination with that other tired cliché, the Serial Killer. My real dislike for vampires is that they’ve become storytelling crutches that absolve the writers from explaining the chemistry of their characters in any meaningful way. James Ellroy abandoned the use of serial killers in his novels when he realized the idea was inherently lazy. Serial killers just kill because they’re supposed to … invent some bullshit psychological explanation for their behavior and viola! Instant badguy. The same goes for vampires.

It’s not vampires I dislike, but our continued dependency on them. I don’t think anyone believes the world needs more vampire stories at this point, let alone another series about a misunderstood, tortured antihero who likes sex much less than his perpetually horny lady friend. I'm not suggesting we abandon our past, because there are tons of vampire stories that I still love. But it's well past time we start looking to the future, and to new ideas.


retzev said...

Well said, man. Very insightful. Best DS fan site on the web.

Anonymous said...

Just one thing, VAMPIRE HUNTER D predates everything like Blade & Anita Blake. It's the Varney the Vampire of half-vampire super slayer franchises. Nobody liked Blade until the Wesley Snipes movie came out, which ripped off VHD. The first direct-to-video VHD cartoon has been available in the US since the late 80's. The long running series of novels just began publishing in 2005 in the US. chronological listing:

Blade stories were published very infrequently. It wasn't until 1993, when character got a revamp that he started to actually carry a sword. This is version that the movie was initially inspired by, until they decided to combine with VHD since Goyer knew no one would notice.

AngantyrTheKing said...

I hate modern vampires because they have lost all the horror, chills and mystery that they used to have. Outside of Dark Shadows and ''novels'' (or serials) like the great tome that is 'Varney The Vampire, or The Feast of Blood', I am not all that interested in the personality of the vampire, nor in his acts of heroism or personal relationships. Nor do I wish to see him as a yuppie, a punk, a thug or a ''Goth'', I just want something like good ol' Christopher Lee or Jonathan Frid in 'House of Dark Shadows'. Now they have become a little too romantic and a little too heroic that they are not even Byronic heroes! And a problem I have is that their vampirism is portrayed as part of that heroism, despite the fact that it is drinking blood from living beings. Vampirism is a supernatural plague, a curse, not a superpower.

And, hmmm, Anonymous, you are wrong! Vampire Hunter D (which is the type of vampire related nonsense I loathe) was created in 1983, Blade was created in 1973 by Marv Wolfman and was one of the first major African American superheroes and the true breakout star of Tomb of Dracula, being popular before the Blade films were released. Blade didn't rip-off VHD, he predated VHD who is a rip-off of Van Helsing and Blade.... I have no idea if the movies of Blade rip off VHD, however, so you could be right about that.

Blade also carried short swords (if memory recalls wakizashi) since the 70s, but they were more imaginably made of wood.

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