Vampires are probably the most popular mythical creatures, having some manner of cultural existence across the globe. In every culture and mythical folklore across the globe there has been some reference to a creature very similar to the vampire. The vampire myth has not been confined to Europe but has been observed over centuries across various cultures and geographic distances with vampire references popping up in India, Africa, Brazil, Arabia, and numerous other places (Ronay, 2007). This proves that the vampire is probably the most known of all the mythical creatures present.
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However, over the years, due to extensive media exposure and various literature pieces, the perception of vampires has changed and they have become close to sex symbols in today’s world. The changing perception can be attributed to a number of causes but the most valid and sound reasoning is that due to the popularity of countless vampire shows and movies, people have begun to regard vampires as attractive people with superhuman abilities.
Vampires have been feared since the 18th century as those were superstitious times and due to the horrific tales perpetuated at the times, people were afraid of these “undead”. However, in 1897, Bram Stoker wrote his immensely popular novel “Dracula” and through it he created the notion of vampires as we see them today. He created a detailed personality of vampires and these conditions are still prevalent today.
Bram Stoker’s Dracula had a charming and seductive personality and had the power to convert other humans into vampires by biting their jugular vein. After dying the victims would come back to life as vampires. To kill the vampire either a stake must have to be driven through the heart or it must have to be doused by holy water. Vampires would be scared of crucifixes and would burn upon contact with them and sunlight. These vampires also had the ability to change into animals to better stalk their victims and creep up to them undetected (Harris).
This book breathed new life into the vampire mythology and pretty soon numerous other authors realized the goldmine which could be tapped by writing about these creatures. To make the subject of vampires more appealing to the audience, authors took liberties with the characteristics of vampires and pretty soon vampires became trendy, black-wearing, seductive beings of the night which in turn boosted their fan following phenomenally.
Reason behind Reinvention
After Bram Stoker’s version of Dracula, the second most popular known author regarding all things vampires is Anne Rice. She introduced readers to a complete history of vampires and created archetype characters amongst vampires in her book “Vampire Chronicles”. Introducing conflicted characters within vampires themselves proving their “humanity”, Anne Rice opened a new avenue from where others had a lot of material to work on. The confused and conflicted Louis, the enigmatic yet blood crazy Lestat (who later became into a pop idol symbol after this book and movie), the woman trapped within a child’s body vampire, Claudia; each character had his or her own internal conflicts which helped the audience affiliate with them and relate to them (Rolling Stone, 2001).
Providing the human aspect to vampires gave the creatures a depth which had been untouched before. Providing the creatures with emotional conflicts and struggle to fight against their demonic ways created the potential for vampires to be good characters other than the regular blood sucking image that they had.
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The Changing Image of Vampires
As mentioned earlier, vampires were given more humanistic characteristics after Anne Rice’s popular novel and it opened up new avenues to explore regarding vampire content. After the adaption of the Vampire Chronicles into the movies a stream of other vampire related movies entered the market. In some instances the vampires were portrayed as hunters who preyed on people and were later killed using the cross or wooden stakes whereas the more memorable movies portrayed the vampires as suave characters who harbored somewhere between good and bad.
In changing the image of vampires some specific shows and movies must be acknowledged. The most influential media today is the television and it holds the most potent power of suggestion as compared to any other medium. People relate more comfortably to the television telecasts than internet or newspapers or even books. Therefore the changing image of vampires can be attributed mostly towards television. Therefore, no matter how much a character make-over was given in vampire books, until they were translated onto the screen people did not accept the change.
During the 90s, with gothic culture being recognized, a number of tv shows went on air out of which “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” was one. The central character of the show was a young high school student who was given the responsibility to protect her town from vampires, demons and other such dangerous creatures. This show was created by Joss Whedon, who gave the vampire storyline a different arc. Even though the central character was a normal teenage girl, through her various interactions with other vampires we were introduced to characters such as Angel (a vampire who had received his soul and had forsaken the vampire ways) and Spike (a ruthless vampire who later had an electronic chip installed in his brain to stop him from harming others) who would both prove to be the most popular characters of the show. Angel became so popular that he would receive his own show after leaving Buffy the Vampire Slayer.
Similarly vampires were becoming more popular in comics and other graphic novels. Characters like Anita Blake, Blade and Vampirella became the most selling comics of their time and later movie adaptations were also made such as the Blade Trilogy and the horrific 30 Days of Night.
Factors behind popularity of new vampires
In recent years people’s preferences have changed. The glamorous and materialistic world view is more acceptable these days than ever before. The revamped look of vampires fell in complete accordance with the notion of what people found appealing. Wearing trendy clothes, being involved in day to day activities, unlike the previous reclusive character given to vampires, and having Adonis good looks made vampires the most sought after mythical creatures. This statement can be proven by the recent success of the movie Twilight as its portrayal of vampires was of extremely good looking people with superhuman abilities. Vampires are still as popular as they were before as even today they are a sure fire way to lure people to watch shows and movies. The most popular movies and tv series today are based around vampires, such as Twilight, True Blood, Blood Ties and the Underworld Trilogy.
The vampire craze is yet to subside. Vampires combine the 2 most primitive needs of people, namely their sexual presence and their immortality. People are drawn to these 2 factors and it provides them with an escapist approach. Vampires now play the role of what people would want to be (minus the blood sucking part) and that is why they are the most popular mythical creatures. Providing more and more human touches to them has shifted their characters from being the reclusive undead which everyone feared to popular sex symbols who could be found anywhere, from your high school to any normal job setting. Talking in terms of fashion statements, it can be said that vampires are the most “in” thing these days and can be said to have their own specific style. As is common with any other changing thing, vampires have been subject to people’s changing desires and needs. To fulfill their own feeling of inadequacy they have come up with the modern day character of the vampires and it is solely due to the materialistic marketing needs of publishers and producers as they can see how the better looking, more sex appeal holding vampires are better in raking in money than the old ghoulish evil versions were. This monetary influence has time and again proven that even cultural artifacts and symbols are not free from its constraints. To adapt the vampire culture into our modern culture, the major revamping of the undead was necessary else it would not have held the appeal which it currently does and would have become a forgotten tale of yesteryear like so many other mythical creatures like the leprechauns, fairies, pixies, and gremlins of the past.