On a warm spring day back in 1999, I stood outside of Anne Rice’s house hoping to catch a glimpse of the brilliant mind that created the Interview with a Vampire series. I was in love with Lestat and the idea of being a "real" writer. I managed to catch a glimpse of the back of Rice’s head as she rode away in a limo. While Rice no longer owns the beautiful New Orleans mansion, the experience was enough to make me feel like I was part the vampire trend rampant at the time. Lestat was the vampire for our grungy, goth age. Who, then, is the vampire for this age? Is Edward the (sparkly) face of the vampire of the first decade of the 2000's? As we roll toward the end of the Mayan calender, I would suggest that we have entered another reality. The vampire, dear Dr. VanHelsing, is dead.
I’ve always liked vampire stories. My dad took a friend and I to see Dracula in '92, and I developed a crush on Gary Oldman (aka Sirius Black--see below). In fact, my favorite books as a child were the Bunnicula Series. I remember reading The Celery Stalks at Midnight with great delight. If you’re not familiar with the books, I suggest you check them out. They chronicle the tale of a "vampire" rabbit. As a scholar, I have studied Slavic folklore and early literary works like John Polidor's The Vampyre--a cheap rip off of Lord Byron's "Fragment of a Novel". It seems that vampires or vampire-like beings have been noted in almost every culture. Some scholars date the earliest vampire to ancient Sumerian civilization. For the most part, I’ve always been “checked into” the vampire craze. More recently, I loved the first Underworld movie. We have entered the era of a strong female protagonist. Ladies, we'll have no more shrieking in the corner thank-you-very-much. As for the Underworld franchise, it has now gone down the same road from which the Highlander series never returned. Alas. I watched Blade with a woman who screamed: “Look out! He’s behind you!” at Snipes all through the movie. The day-walker ignored her. But she might as well been shouting to the "race" of vampires as a whole. Something was stalking them, but it wasn't Buffy.
When Twilight came on stage, I was not disgruntled like many vampire traditionalists. Meyers did a great job of capturing the essence of a new kind of contemporary vampire. As Nina Aurbach so eloquently put it, “every age embraces the vampire it needs.” Edward appeals in Beatle-esque fashion to hordes of young women today. “Twi-hards” should not be ridiculed. Instead we should seek to understand the vein that Meyer hit—pun intended—and follow it to its natural conclusion. While True Blood is still hot and we have another Twilight movie on the way—assuming we can all get past the fact that Stewart is a cheater--it appears that the most recent vampire "ride" is coming to an end. The vampire doesn't seem to "do it" for us anymore. But, why?
Vampires have generally reflected the fears of the society from which they come. Whether it is the fear of improper burial, contamination or disease, societal disconnect from sexuality, or the need to find someone who will love us “for reals,” the vampire serves a purpose. The vampire reflects the fears of the society. But what happens when a society is numbed? Are vampires still scary? For many, the answer is no. With Twilight, we learn that the only one who can really, really love and understand us is someone who is dead inside. Nice. He might love you forever, but it’s only because you are both divorced from any sense of humanity. The vampire has lost its punch, but it’s not Twilight’s fault. In fact, Meyers clearly sees that the dead lover is the only effective lover we can possible have in western society where more than half of marriages end in divorce.
We are numb to even the scariest of the bogey men in our closets. No wonder we are dreaming up legions of zombies invading our streets. We seek to understand our reality by putting a face on it, but Rice’s romantic Lestat just does not serve anymore and Edward just frustrates many. We no longer have patience for lace collars, gentlemanly fiends, or poetic creatures of the night. Our id is searching for a face for the great the dissatisfaction we feel with the general state of the world. It is rather revealing that even a blood-sucking undead creature can’t serve as a figure of transference for our malaise. As a result, the vampire is dead again. Only time will tell if--or in what form--they will next be resurrected.