9th May 2012
Gina Goes Pop: The Vampire’s Changing Faces
Well hello everyone, and welcome to my new fortnightly column. The beautiful people of For Books’ Sake have given me my very own column (I’ll try not to let the power go to my head) in which I’ve decided to talk about whatever’s tickling my fancy in the world of literature, feminism and pop culture; I hope you enjoy it!
Thanks to a combination of a university essay and a curiosity that lead to the purchase of Fifty Shades of Grey, I’ve been thinking a lot about gothic fiction and how much it’s changed over the years, primarily in terms of what the vampire represents. It wasn’t always about quiffs, sparkling and talking about feelings in soppy metaphors, y’know.
The gothic literature scene actually started in the Romantic period, quite a bit after the actual movement in architecture and fashion across Europe.
The vampire itself didn’t really gain popularity as a defined villain until the later trends in Victorian literature, but you can find vampire-esque qualities in much earlier gothic fiction. Haunted castles, wealth, a lust for young women, overt sexuality…these are just a few of the personality traits attributed to the early development of the vampire.
Much of the well-known aspects of the vampire developed in Victorian fiction. Think of a vampire pre-Twilight? Nine out of ten times, I bet you’re thinking about Dracula. The deathly pale skin, the fangs, the cloak, the over-dramatic accent and a penchant for dark graveyards all stem from the Victorian trope of the vampire.
Gothic narratives have always served as both a cautionary tale combined with a mirror in which societies biggest fears were reflected, and the vampire has often been attributed to sexually transmitted disease and sexual deviancy.
Looking at Dracula in particular, consider the manner in which victims fall prey to his attack. Apparently in the Victorian era, women couldn’t resist a bit of Transylvanian seduction, and once their blood had been corrupted by Dracula, they’d fall into a deep sleep, moaning, gasping and writhing around.
Men, of course, were too emotionally stable to fall prey to Dracula’s seductions. So Dracula soon had a team of female vampires, dressed up in corsets and with an intense sexual appetite that would of course lead to their downfall. In other words – female vampires represent prostitutes on the streets of London, carrying sexual diseases.
So we go from a warning against prostitutes and suspicious men who will seduce sensitive women to the modern vampire.
Well, it’s still all about sex. The STIs have been long forgotten and instead we delve into a world of forbidden sex and women who apparently just can’t wait to submit.
It started with Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Of course there were vampires who wanted to do what the typical vampire wanted to do (i.e. suck blood and kill). But then there were Angel and Spike, the misunderstood, brooding, and attractive vampires who, with a little encouragement, wanted to help the vampire slayer.
Don’t get me wrong, I love Buffy and have always had a soft spot for Spike, but I do blame this new vampire trend on the popularity of Buffy.
Twilight took misunderstood vampires to a whole new level. Twilight took the attractive lure of the original vampires and ignored all the creepy “I vant to suck your blooood” aspects that are typical to a lot of vampires.
Vampires still relate to sexuality, but now vampires are sexy about it. I’d love to think that these new novels serve as a warning to people not to change their personality because a pretty boy wants them to, but unfortunately that’s not the case.
Vampires represent the side of the personality that’s curious about the unspoken, but rather than going about finding out in a normal, healthy way, the female protagonists appear to just submit their bodies, lives and personalities in order to submerge themselves in a dangerous, unfulfilled lifestyle.
I love gothic fiction, and the old vampire stories are the best to me because they’re a fantastic way to discover the fears and trepidations of societies of old. But I fear that we might have reached the end of the road for our good friend the vampire. Because I simply can’t take him seriously anymore.
Rest well dear friend, maybe one day we’ll meet again when you’ve realised what vampires are supposed to be like.
What do you think about the changing face of the vampire? Love the classics, hate the sparkly new wave approach? Or do you have a soft spot for a misunderstood bad boy who just wants to love?