In one of my favorite comedy skits from Key and Peele, the comedy duo makes fun of the sexy vampire trend. A mild mannered guy walks into a coven and blatantly denounces the sexualized vampire trend, saying it’s over the top and that there’s no point. The skit is funny, and also kinda sad, cause it mirrors an opinion we all share (or should share). The whole sexy vampire thing was never a great idea to begin with, and now there’s an oversaturation.
If you’re not sure what I’m talking about, count yourself lucky. Well, until now, anyway.
I’m not entirely sure which particular piece of media made vampires maddeningly sexual, but members of the global nerd intelligentsia seem to point to the 1816 short story “The Vampyre,” by John Polidori, that’s apparently based on the womanizing and intrinsically awesome Lord Byron. Also, there’s the whole Dracula having a harem of lady vampires in Bram Stoker’s 1897 novel. And that, before Dracula, there was Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu’s Carmilla, a novella published in 1971 that featured lesbian vampirism.
So we can’t very well blame Twilight, True Blood, the Vampire: The Masquerade role playing game, or the billion or so other vampire novels and films that’ve come out recently for giving the vampire its general atmosphere of lust. However, we can easily (and rightfully) be incensed at the dumbing down of the vampire myth by the creators of all these newer bits of so-called horror media.
The gothic vampire was, however sexualized, as a metaphor for inner lusts and fears of the time–I had a professor that analyzed the famous Count as an example of reverse/revenge post-colonialism swooping from Romania to England and converting ladies to bloodsuckers–a thing of fear. They’ve transcended death and decay, and enjoy immortality the way we wish we could.
Vampires then certainly did not sparkle, like the worst vampire ever, Edward Cullen, nor did they get all broody over southern belles like Sookie Stackhouse. They were horrific undead monsters with classy exteriors, not emo pretty creatures who’d probably befriend the likes of that jerk Christian Gray, who may as well be a vampire in this current world of sexy, brooding assholes. It’s wrong that the scariest vampire over the past many years, if my expansive memory serves, was from an episode of Are You Afraid of the Dark? in which a classic, gothic, Nosferatu-stylevampire terrorizes a movie theater. Current ruiners of vampire mythology, take note: that was a kid’s show.
One could say that the alternate evolution of the vampire into a badass and ancient ninja monster (you’ve all seen Underworld) balances out the sparkly jags that populate our modern vampire lore, but not entirely, as most of the films aren’t even that well made. They’re kinda like worse visual versions of plots cooked up by people playing the aforementioned, super broody vampire role playing thing. So, we’re left with sleek, forgettable vampires, and obviously, idiotically, mushily sexualized vampires that do nothing but fill me with rage for a lost mythology that was pretty damn awesome.
What makes vampires scary is similar to what makes zombies scary. Zombies fill our hearts with fear because they could be anyone; they’re a collective representative of infectious diseases, mindless hunger, and also brain lust. Vampires are much more intelligent than the zombie horde, but they still defy death, can convert us unwillingly into bloodsuckers (zombies and vampires both nosh on our organs), and, very different from zombies, show us what we’re afraid to admit about our own sexual urges. Vampires are our illicit selves, but the current incarnations are so overt, enough so to devalue the fear they should very well inspire.
At least we have ultimately dumb vampire comedies with attractive ladies like Vamp U. At least the filmmakers here know their contribution to the death of vampire mythology is dumb, unlike certain sparkle vampire writers.