What makes a great Vampire?

With the explosion of vampire fiction bombarding us from every direction, going from Meyeristic sparkle to Burtonesque camp, from Coppolidian veritas to Ricean evolution, what is it about vampires that pulls in our imagination? What is it that makes a great vampire in modern mainstream media?

The list of fictive vampires that would encompass this criteria can be exhaustive, so a measure of measuring criteria would need to be established before any meaningful result can be ascertained. In short, we would need to define the meaning of ‘great’ in this context. Could it be the popularity of the character? If so, then dear Edward Cullen might have what it takes to be great, even with that unfortunate skin condition. Is it a closeness to the founding myths of our favourite nightstalkers that needs key consideration? Then perhaps Francis Ford Coppola’s Dracula could have a seat at this table, hairy palms and all.

As that line of reasoning is not really getting us anywhere, could we propose an alternative measure in this conflict? Reading the recently stumbled upon great article by psychologist Dr. Belisa Vranich in the Huffinton post (the fact that the article has been there since 2010 is moderately irrelevant) that documents her 10 reasons why we love vampires, we can have a clear benchmark for our late great fictive escape.

These 10 reasons breathe understanding into the phenomenon hitherto-unseen to date to my mind, and should form the basis for our exploration into vampire fiction.

After reading that article, how many vampires un-live up to your expectations now?

Herrflic

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The psychology of vampirism

When I was a child I developed an obsession (what some would call a dangerous fetish): an unwavering love for vampires. And I did not fall into any category either. If there was any implication that something drank blood and had fangs, I was enamoured. It started out innocently enough, frequently I would sit in front of the television in anticipation of those cartoons and kids’ shows I most favoured and secretly hope for a Halloween special or the hint of something bloody to titillate my fear. But really, it was not the sensation of terror I was after, but rather the squirming rush that bound itself to my fear, the liquid warmth that would make my mind flurry with unthinkable opportunities.

It began in innocence, as all such things do. A crush on a boy. Granted, a boy with fangs… A fictional boy… A boy who drinks blood… But a boy nonetheless. A man that harboured a dark secret; the desire to drink human blood. A hero, really. Someone who fought his nature, tried to remain on the beaten path, tried to tow the line. It started with the Angel’s and Louis’s of the world. It stemmed from the need to love something that does not want to be loved. Lust after something that hints at the vaguest possibility of danger. Something, or someone, that could eventually tear the fragile, human body apart in passionate abandon.

The obsession grew from a simple love for a simple vampire with complex motives and notions. The precursor to Edward Cullen, really. I’m terribly sorry to break this to you, Twilight fans, but your Edward is not an original concept. In all vampire tales there is one. The vampire with a soul, the vampire with human passions, the vegetarian vampire, the man that hates his own monstrous nature and seeks to change it.

When we’re young, this appeals to us, no doubt. We crave the danger of vampirism and we want to dip our toes in that pool ever so gently, trying not to stir the monsters beneath the surface, trying not to get too wet, swirling our feet in misted patterns and thinking ourselves ever-so-daring for stepping outside of our own ignorance to indulge an ‘amoral’ vice. We think ourselves better than the monsters. Good little girls want to change bad boys; they want to be the ones to drag them over to goodness, make them see the bad in their behaviour. Good little girls want a man they can fix. The vampire stereotype of a bad boy, seeking redemption is the perfect outlet. No real danger can be incurred and innocent fantasies remain unspoken.

Gradually, however, that fantasy evolves and transforms into the desire to experience a potentially fatal lust, I suppose. At least, this is the way it was for me and many other girls I have known. And this, Twilight moms, is what will eventually move your daughters. Not Edward any longer, he will become dull and uninteresting, and soppy to them, just as he is to the rest of the world. We start innocently, wanting an emotionally available vampire, a vampire that cares, that is not afraid to talk about his feelings, a Stefan Salvatore. But as we mature so do our needs. Sweet and gentle is no longer acceptable. I want fire, passion, a man that uses the threat of his fangs as a means to dominate me.

Vampires… The ultimate Doms?

Dracula is clearly the Hue Hefner of vampires; everywhere he goes, women are unable to resist his old world, noble charms, despite his age, his reputation as a womaniser, and his strange physical deformities (Hairy palms? Kind of gross when you consider the connotations). His magnetism, his way with people, allows him to control them, makes slaves of them, to the extent that he keeps a number of them to himself and they live only for him.

Let us not forget my personal favourite, Anne Rice’s Lestat de Lioncourt. Beautiful and impetuous, he does what he chooses when he pleases and despite his (often) childish behaviour, no one can deny him, he is adored by most and secretly desired by others. Interview with the Vampire is a study in sadomasochism, really. Louis is alone, miserable, and aching for death when Lestat finds him. He has nothing left (or so he believes) and wants to end his life. But his maker-to-be sweeps in and changes the entire game. Making Louis’s life an erotic combination of love for this strange, nobleman, childish, petulant, and fiercely loyal and protective all at once, but also a misery more intense than living had been, an existence tied to hurting and taking. Lestat spends eighty odd years instructing Louis (albeit badly at times) and binding him, treating him as a treasured lover at times and punishing him for (what is perceived as) bad behaviour at others. Louis spends most of his nights straining against the tethers of his master. And these mannerisms do not change. Even after Lestat’s assumed death, Louis seeks a vampire that can instruct him and teach him and love him as a master. In this he finds Armand, who, of course, has his own masochistic tendencies playing on his past. His relationship with Marius built of him a masochist, but his induction and training with the creatures that kidnapped him from Marius’s home twisted his psyche, moulding him into a sadist.

I could spend reams of pages discussing the bondage relationships inherent in the Vampire Chronicles, but let me continue with another fictional character…

In the Laurell K. Hamilton Anita Blake: Vampire Hunter series, one character stands out above the rest, Jean-Claude, the conniving, lustful, and occasionally cruel vampire that finally wins Anita’s love after… How many books did it take? Eight? I lost count. While I do not like the main character, Anita, I do have a world of affection for Jean-Claude who plays an effective game with her. Allowing her to come to him on her own terms and then owning her as both his human servant and lover. Yet again though, I must stop before I digress further. So many vampires to study in this series and a whole universe of taboo sex.

I could remain on this tangent, listing the vampires we love to want. The vampires we wish could keep us as pets, playthings, toys… Zillah, Eric, Damon Salvatore, Asher…. But it all boils down to these inescapable truths: Vampires are not always kind or compassionate, occasionally they are these things, but as a whole we have encountered very few that follow these strictures; Girls desire vampires because it allows them to indulge their own wickedness, the wickedness they attempt to hide from the world at large; When we accept our need to be dominated, we accept vampires as the most succinct outlet.

I know where my masochism started…..

http://www.rovinginsight.org/library/index.php?content=features-sex-and-sadism – An intriguing piece, it does not support the notion in detail, but a good read nevertheless.

Lafaeyette

Are vampires real?

I’m a cynic. I prefer to believe that vampires are not real, if only not to get my hopes up and have them dashed all over the cold, stone heart of reality. This cynicism tends to colour my opinion whenever someone tries to prove to me that vampires are real. Certainly, one may say that ‘there is no smoke without a fire,’ but anyone who has taken the time to read up extensively on vampire mythology and the origins thereof will register that the fire we speak of is simply the collective superstitions of people trying to understand odd occurrences. Why do our neighbours become sick and have a depleted will to thrive after the recent death of a loved one? Vampires. Why do the bodies of the recently deceased appear flushed, lively, and creased with blood when we dig them up to prove vampirism? Vampires. When human beings fail to understand a thing… Anything at all… They tend to make up stories to explain phenomena. Take the ancient Egyptians – A great ball of fire rises in the sky each day. It must be the hand of a god.

So, there’s your fire.

Although there is a group of people who call themselves ‘real vampires.’ Yes, folks. Real vampires, and heaven help you if you disagree with them. Apparently, vampires exist in the form of individuals who suffer from energy deficiencies. In other words, they cannot maintain their own energy levels sufficiently and they are forced to siphon energy off of others. These individuals refer to themselves as psychic vampires (and occasionally sanguinary vampires for those who use blood as their source of energy). Psychic vampires are an intriguing oddity in that in NO WAY do they resemble actual vampires as we recognise them from myth. In fact, aside from needing to take from others in order to ‘survive,’ I would say they share no similarities at all. And, of course, one could easily say that those who coin the phrase ‘sanguinary vampirism’ for themselves and claim to need blood in order to survive have simple subconsciously chosen to adapt to the banner ‘vampire’ under which they find themselves.

I say that these people bore me. When I discovered this community, I was desperately in search of a real vampire and instead I found people that had not even the vaguest resemblance to my vision of vampirism. Psychic vampirism only holds weight if one believes in auras and fluctuations of energy.

So, if vampires are not real, why is the world so suffocated by people who love vampires and vampire paraphernalia? Simple. The more we believe that something is not real, the more we want proof of its existence. This is how I function. Although I will maintain that Twilight is a stretch. The Saga contains less real vampires than the psychic vampire community does.

I do not believe vampires are real. But I would be thoroughly ecstatic if someone could prove me wrong.

Lafaeyette