Tuesday, May 19, 2009


Since when did vampires become sexy?

This just makes no sense to me. Mythologically, vampires are undead – meaning they are animated, sentient human corpses. They feed off the blood of living humans. They are powerfully magical, cunning and merciless. They are pure evil!
This is, at least, the ‘traditional’ view, and the view that seems still dominant in much of the horror-fantasy genre. Note that term, horror. These creatures inspire horror – that’s a very strong word indeed.
In other parts of the genre, vampires are portrayed as suave and charismatic, but still ruthlessly evil.
In other parts, they have become sexy. Now, I don’t watch much TV and haven’t seen that many films, but I think Twilight is an example of the ‘sexy vampire’. I just don’t get it. Vampires, surely, are anything but sexy. They are one of the biggest fantasy villains (along with werewolves, ogres etc).

I did a very small amount of research, and apparently (be aware that of all the blogs I’ve written, this is probably the topic I know least about), the ‘sexy vampire’ can actually be traced back to Bram Stoker’s Dracula and beyond. I must admit I was mildly shocked, as I thought it was a much more recent phenomenon.
Apparently (I haven’t read it), Stoker’s book has strong sexual themes and is a major influence on the ‘sexy vampire’. A few years before Dracula was Le Fanu’s Carmilla, about a female lesbian vampire, and this book greatly influenced Stoker’s.

That’s all I’ve found out so far, but I was intrigued by this information. It seems that Le Fanu and Stoker (and maybe others) bridge the gap between the classic vampire and the sexy vampire. Personally, for me, vampires will always be horrific, and I’m please to see that the horrific vampire still exists today. I am baffled by the new sexy vampire, which seems to be a completely different creature. I’m confused as to why these new creatures are called vampires – I suspect it’s because of the drinking blood habit, though I know nothing about the Twilight books and other ‘sexy vampire’ literature and films.

One more thought – I think (correct me if I’m wrong) that the new sexy vampires are alive, rather than undead. This would admittedly make them sexier. Though I am confused as to the transmission of sexy vampirism. Classical vampirism is usually transmitted by a lethal bite (often to the neck) from an existing vampire – the victim then awakens from the dead in its vampiric form. If sexy vampires are not dead, then how does one become one?

As I said, I know very little about classical vampirism and even less about sexy vampirism, so please enlighten me if you know more than I do.


Jessiefatso said...

Yo Ben.
Having read twilight, i think the idea of the sexy vampire in those books at least is that it is a way that the vampires attract their "prey". In that, if they're good looking, smell good, can sweet talk, etc, the humans will think "ooo, dashing" and will be easily led away to be devoured...or something!
To be honest, i think it mainly was a convenient way of explaining the romance in the books!

James Doc said...

Real men don't sparkle...

Unknown said...

Some wisdom from Jon Kitley, via Facebook:

"I've actually spent a substantial amount of time considering this too.
"Paranormal Romance" is its own sub-genre and from my experience qorking in a bookshop in 2003-05 and then again in 2009 represented the most increased area of sales. It accounts for over half of the horror section in Waterstones and is in the book trade refferred to as "porn ... Read morewith fangs".

So while youu're correct as to the sexual tension present in Dracula (incidentally a good read, can lend if you're interested), I would nonetheless argue that this growing "fetish" for the occult is a much more recent thing. I'm no expert either but I can't help wondering if Buffy was instrumental in making it acceptable in the manstream (Angel + Spike) (thinking about it, you could argue Willow does the same for witchcraft).

I don't claim to be an expert on vampire lore either but I do have a couple of thoughts on you're scary verses sexy conundrum.
In our society of plastic surgery and growing old disgracefully the concepts of the eternal undeath the vampires possess, coupled with eternal youth seems to be increasingly attractive. Also blood and gore is inceasingly glamourised in much of our media.

I guess what worries me about this is that many of the thousands of girls who've enjoyed the thrill of themild taboo's in "Twilight" will go looking for similar reads in the adult horror sections and find themselevs reading much more sexually explicit material. These type of things can become like drugs where stronger hits are soon needed to provide a similar level of excitement.
... Read more
Or perhaps I'm just being prudish or not crediting the general public with enough intelligence, or both.

Sure, had a couple of further thoughts.
I believe you're possibly slightly wrong as to how classical vampirism was transmitted. In Stoker's dracula I'm pretty sure that the drinking of the victims blood was merely to allow the vampire to feed and to weaken the human. Mina Murray's "illness" is repeatedly lessened by blood transfusions.
Once the ... Read morevictim is already near death from blood loss then they must in turn drink some of the vampires blood in order to become a vampire - otherwise they will simply die.
When you think about it this "exchange of bodily fluids" also can have sexual connotations.
Also, as to whether "sexy vampires" are dead or not I would say that I think all vampires are refferred to as "undead". They are not dead to the extent they either decay or like zombies lose any capacity for intelligent thought. They are very much however dead to their formerselves (like Christians!) and their friends and completely changed by the process.

Finally I would add that vampiric lore, from the little I understand, is a very tangled area, there aren't really any hard and fast rules. As with all fictional concepts, authors often feel free just take a few elements they like and run with those while discarding anything else - in order to put their own original slant on the concept.

While I ... Read morewould reccomend Dracula, I'd also reccomend Richard Mathieson's classic "I am Legend" to you - It's far superior to the recent film (though I have not seen the two older productions) and very interesting. Mathieson attempts to make the vampire concept scientifically viable, finding explanations for everything from aversion to garlic to death by stake. The ending is also much cleverer than either of the ending's offerred by the film. I can lend you this too - if you're interested."