Once bitten, twice shy … or not

What is it with the vampires? We lived quietly for years in our little village in the mountains without being bothered by anything more threatening than the occasional flickering Bela Lugosi or totally-over-the-top, strictly black and white Christopher Lee on the late movie slot. But recently the un-dead have moved out of the B-stream and into the mainstream, till every second teen has one tapping off their bloodstream. I blame Tom Cruise and Brad Pitt for re-starting the latest wave back in the early 90s and it’s been building and building ever since: Shadowland, Suck, Let the right one in, True blood, Twilight, the Vampire Diaries, the whole Van Helsing and Blade thing … the list is endless.

Suburban icons and urban avatars

To the late Victorians, vampires were an uncensored way to represent carnality and longing. For the early Edwardians they romanced death in preparation for the hecatomb of the First World War: “Dulce et decorum est pro Dracula mori”. The Nazis made them Jewish, of course, and propagandized their leeching of healthy Teutonic blood. The post-war generation was the first to get to know the frivolous and satirical side of vampires as they sucked the life from corrupt lawyers and politicians on the make, and to the new Elizabethans they were another symbol of the drug culture; they accessed the bloodstream and looked like Mick Jagger.

So why do these Transylvanian critters suddenly occupy so much of our media landscape now? What have we done to deserve this plague? Vampires seem to channel a modern adolescent need to romanticize mortality and estrangement, a need that is currently stronger than any other urge in this age full of divorced parents, rootless kids and sexually transmissible death. As a result, the bloodsuckers lurk on every shelf, their decaying scent haunts our libraries and bookstores, they hang around film studios like dark bunches of sickly-sweet grapes, they take a spin on your turntable, they show up in ads for insurance and cocktails, perfume and beer, they’ve kept the Seattle area fashionable long after Hendrix, Cobain and Meg Ryan left the zone. They simply will not lie down and die, neither in the casket, nor on the stake. They’ll paint themselves with zinc and gut you in broad daylight at the laundrette. They always get the cutest girls and now they’ve even got Chloë Grace Moretz … which means she’s never going to grow up and that’s just not fair.

Poster monster for the emo generation

Maybe vampires are the high-road cultural expression of our low-road depravity. They are the avatars of our decadence, the graceful icons of our own gracelessness. We worship at the dark altar of their immortality in the hope that our brief lives may acquire some primal meaning. Because, compared to us – with our over-complex needs and requirements, our vile bodies with their itches and scratches, rashes and odours, our permanent state of hyper-everything, our ongoing lack of satisfaction (hey-hey-hey), our blogging and tweeting, our obsession with food and drink and sex – vampires seem purposeful and pure, clinical and clean, ineffably cool despite all the sachets of type-O-neg on hooks in the fridge and the crates of “empties” left on the landing. Are we jealous? For sure we are! They’ve got sex appeal, fast cars, six-figure contracts, perfect skin, they’re immortal and one of them may be dangling from your shower rail right now.

As for me, I’ve tried everything: mint spray, the Lord’s Prayer backwards, getting home by nightfall, staying in crowded places … all to no avail. They laugh at crucifixes, the silver bullets don’t work anymore and garlic is over-rated. I never thought I’d say that. And they’ve still got Chloë (who I thought could truly kick ass), so your average Joey or Jane hasn’t a ghost of a chance. Perhaps I’m imagining it, but did I just see my study curtain tremble slightly? Odd, I don’t remember leaving the window open.

Edwin Nosferatu Drood

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