Commentary on Popularity of Vampire Fiction

It seems that lately there has been a massive explosion of books and movies dealing with the subject of vampires, and seems to have gained a large following of young teenage girls. This is rather different than in the past years where the main audience was either goths or other horror fiction lovers. It also seems that the new type of fiction has been specifically edited to be attractive to younger girls. In this article I will discuss various aspects of this new wave of fiction and why it can be very dangerous if not done properly.

The Typical Vampire Myth

Most people think of a vampire as a walking corpse who needs to live off of human blood. They are often depicted as sleeping in graveyards or coffins, and coming out at night to feed off of living humans. The very earliest vampire myths were quite strange. Some said that the vampire could turn into a bat, mist, a wolf, others said they couldn't cross running water, that they couldn't see their reflections in a mirror, that they must sleep in the dirt of their homeland, etc. Usually vampires can't come out during the day and are killed by sunlight. Most cultures have some form of a myth of a blood drinking creature, however none of the early legends ever romanticized the vampires - they were purely evil creatures to be afraid of and to be killed if possible. For other vampire myths and origins, see [1].

The most famous vampire story most people will think of is probably Dracula, written by Bram Stoker in 1897. This story is about a Romanian count who is a vampire, and desires to travel to England to seek new hunting grounds. In the process he meets a young lawyer named Harker, who is married to a girl named Mina. Dracula becomes obsessed with Mina, and holds Hawker prisoner in the castle, while he travels to England to try to seduce Mina and her friend Lucy. Doctor VanHelsing comes to the rescue when Lucy is killed by Dracula, and becomes a vampire. They discover where Dracula is hiding in London and plan to kill him, but not before he marks Mina as his own and escapes back to Romania. VanHelsing and other characters (including Harker who escaped from the castle) travel to Dracula's lair in Romania and finally kill him. Here, Dracula is the villain, and there is no sympathy for him and he is considered an abomination to be destroyed. He is pure evil, and there is hardly anything likeable about him - he's described as old and rather ugly, and he seduces and uses Lucy and Mina for his own purposes, not out of love. However, there have been many remakes of this story where they try to make Dracula much more attractive, and the girls often want to be with him and are attracted to his power, abilities, and immortality. This trend has been continued in modern vampire fiction.

Vampirism vs. Christianity

If you look carefully, there are many things which indicate that the vampire myth (at least as it is well known in North America/Europe) are just twisted aspects of Christianity. I will compare/contrast a few here below:

  • Immortality: Most vampires are considered to be immortal (never die, but can be destroyed), and don't age physically. Many many people are afraid of death, and don't want to die and do wish to live forever, so this aspect is probably the most attractive attribute of being a vampire. Christianity also promises that people will live forever in heaven and on the new earth (see my article here), but in order to receive this, you must believe in Jesus and devote your life to doing God's will.
  • Drinking blood: Vampires must usually drink blood to survive - either animals or humans. Various interpretations have it that the vampire must drink every night, but sometimes less often. If they don't, they weaken or die, and some are described as having horrible withdrawl symptoms. Christianity has the tradition of Communion, which is symbolic of Jesus' death on the cross. Jesus started this tradition at the last supper before he was killed. It is described in Luke 22:19-21: "Jesus took some bread in his hands and gave thanks for it. He broke the bread and handed it to his apostles. Then he said 'This is my body, which is given for you. Eat this as a way of remembering me.'. After the meal he took another cup of wine in his hands. Then he said, 'This is my blood. It is poured out for you, and with it God makes his new agreement.'". Christians repeat this ceremony at least a few times a year as remembering Jesus' death. So in a way, Christians drink Jesus' blood and eat his body, which does sound rather vampiric/cannibalistic. However, this is just a symbol and a way to personalize what Jesus has done for us. (Note that Catholics sometimes believe in trans-substantiation, where they believe that the bread/wine are mystically turned into real flesh/blood after they eat it, but this is non-scriptural.). With Jesus' sacrifice on the cross paying for our sins and giving us eternal life, it could be said that Christians get life from Jesus' blood, but only symbolically.
  • Rising from the Dead: Vampires are traditionally considered to be dead, but come back to life at nighttime. When someone is bitten by a vampire, the myth is that they die and come back to life a few days later as a vampire (and usually have to dig out of their coffin or escape their crypt). In Christianity, we believe that Jesus came back to life after three days of being dead in the tomb. Christians also look forward to the Rapture, where it is said that the followers of Jesus who have died will be raised from their graves and come back to life and ascend into heaven (1 Thessalonians 4:16). When Jesus came back to life he was not a zombie or a vampire, but was a perfected human being.
  • New/Better Body and Abilities: In lots of modern vampire fiction, the vampire is changed from what they originally looked like (usually is paler, sometimes more beautiful, different coloured eyes and large teeth). Christians often look forward to having a new body in heaven, which will not die and will be beautiful and strong (2 Corinthians 5:1-4, 1 Corinthians 15:42-58).
  • Darkness vs. Light: Often vampires are associated with darkness because sunlight burns/kills them. In contrast, all throughout the Bible darkness is a metaphor for ignorance, sin, absence of God, hell, confusion, and disobedience. Light is associated with love, knowledge, being able to see clearly, living right without sin, and God's presence.[1] In heaven it is said that there will never be night in the city of New Jerusalem, because God's glory will provide light for the city (Revelation 21:23-25 and 22:5). It could therefore be shown that if you are analyzing the vampire myth using Biblical tradition, that vampires are the opposite of God because they cannot stand the light. Really though, I'm sure this just came about because the medieval peasants were more afraid of evil creatures at nighttime than in the day.
  • Reaction to Holy Objects: Often in the older myths, vampires were said to be repelled by Christian items such as crosses, holy water, and churches. In the story of Dracula, when Mina is corrupted by Dracula she is burned by touching a Communion wafer. This shows that usually the vampire hates God and all that represents God, or is very corrupted and evil. Often the vampire is destroyed using a combination of these religious symbols. This seems to indicate that the vampire is closely related to demons or Satan who also hate anything that reminds them of God.

This analysis is quite interesting, because it shows clearly how many of the major aspects of the vampirism myth are twisted versions of aspect of Christianity. Granted, perhaps this occurred because back in the medieval times many people went to church, and so they figured that something evil such as a vampire would be repelled by Christian objects. However it is perhaps more interesting to consider that perhaps Satan decided to create the vampire myth to use some of the truths in Christianity to attract people to vampires, which are often associated with evil/Satanism, etc. This is discussed further in the next paragraph.

Vampires' Connection to Satanism

Often in the old myths, vampires were created by a demon or evil spirit possessing a corpse [2]. In the movie version of Bram Stoker's Dracula, Dracula is shown as cursing God and defiling a church's sanctuary, and is then stricken with vampirism. The vampire Lestat in Anne Rice's books disliked God and the church, and many of her other vampire characters are involved with magic or other strange rituals, and her entire vampire origin myth is based on Egyptian mythology. Many vampires in modern movies are shown as wearing Egyptian ankhs (a symbol of immortality) or pentagrams (related to Satanism or other pagan practices). There are hardly any vampires mentioned that are Christian, or if they were before, they often give it up afterwards.

Recent Changes to the Vampire Myth

In the last 30 or so years there has been a change in the way that vampires have been portrayed. Instead of being evil monsters to be destroyed, often now they are romantic, sensitive, very beautiful/sexy, and driven by romantic passion. Some have been the hero of the book, instead of the villain - most notably in Anne Rice's books. Her vampires are given backstory, emotions, and feelings which make them more relateable than just a walking corpse. In the most recent vampire fiction (such as the Twilight series), the vampire myth has been so changed that hardly any aspects of the original remains. Now most vampires are shown as: very attractive, experts at romance/seduction, superhumanly strong and fast, sometimes have special mental abilities such as telekinesis or telepathy, and live forever without aging. Also, more of the negative aspects are being reduced. Sometimes they no longer have to drink blood, but "psy-feed" from other's energy directly. They don't have to sleep in coffins or graveyards, they aren't hurt by religious objects. In the newest Twilight series, the last few negative things about vampires seem to have been removed - they aren't hurt by sunlight (instead they are super-beautiful and sparkly when light shines on them), and they don't kill people to drink their blood (they kill animals instead or psy-feed). Sometimes drinking blood becomes more of a romantic sexual bonding event than something to be feared. Now there seem to be only positive attributes given to vampires, and anything that is negative is ignored. I believe this is very dangerous, because it idealizes vampires and makes it appear very desirable to be one.

Why People Want to be Vampires

Originally, when vampires were portrayed as evil walking corpses that drink blood, hardly any peasants would have considered wanting to be a vampire. However, as discussed in the previous paragraph, nearly all the negative aspects of vampires have been removed, and the desirable qualities have been exaggerated or improved. This makes it very attractive to many people because they see the good aspects (beautiful, strong, immortal, sexy, powerful, etc.) and want to have them. By emphasizing the benefits and de-emphasizing the negative aspects of vampirism, the perspective is not balanced and there is no longer the connection that for power/beauty you must pay a horrible price. Even in Anne Rice's books, it is clear that there are major drawbacks to being a vampire which should deter anyone from wishing to be one. However now there are characters such as Bella in the Twilight series who earnestly desire to become vampires, and have passed this on to young teenage girls who read these books.

Consequences for Young Girls

Perhaps one of the most attractive aspects of vampire fiction to young girls is that the vampire usually chooses a young girl as an object of affection. At this age, many girls are looking for boyfriends and love, and the idea of someone who will love them forever is very attractive (especially after experiencing a few romantic breakups). Many girls also focus on outward beauty above all else, and so the idea of being young and beautiful forever is very tempting. Now that vampires are being targeted towards young girls, who idealize them for their beauty and romantic/sexual nature, they do not realize all the other connections and possible dangers of worshipping vampires. They may become involved with the occult (since often the occult is also promoted in vampire novels), or they may be easily led into premarital sex if a charming guy claims to be a vampire. They might even go so far as to self-harm in order to drink blood like the fictional vampires do.

In the Bible, the very first of God's commandments is "Do not worship any god except me." (Exodus 20:16). It certainly seems that many young girls are now getting dangerously close to worshipping the fictional vampires in modern fiction - if you go to the teen fiction section at any major bookstore, you can see how popular the vampire has become. It is especially dangerous to young girls because they often don't yet have the maturity to analyze the subject critically, and are swept up in the hype around the movie stars and television shows. I believe that Satan is perhaps using authors to promote his own ideas (that you can be immortal without following God, encouraging sex outside of marriage, encouraging idolatry), and perhaps leading people into occultism or other dangerous practices as a way of keeping them from the truth. The vampire myth is particularly useful for all of these purposes, and because it contains twisted aspects of Christianity it may be more useful than other forms of fiction.

Possible Solutions

I believe that to prevent any issues coming from this new wave of vampire fiction, certain things should ideally be done. Authors should take responsibility for their work and be sure that there is a healthy balance between the positive and negative aspects of vampirism in their books, and that they should not intentionally portray vampires as heroes. However, that is very unlikely to happen because they realize the teenage market is huge, and desire money over any possible cultural/personal problems that their work could cause. A good vampire story is not a threat when treated as fiction and as a moral story between conflict between good and evil. In fact, most classical horror stories only amplify the differences between good and evil, therefore encouraging people to choose the good side and to hate evil. The new vampire fiction does the reverse, encouraging people to choose the vampires over those who oppose them (i.e the priests or vampire hunters). I also believe that if someone does become overly attached to the vampire myth, they should research the origins of it and see that the vampires were quite ugly and not attractive at all (i.e. watch the movie Nosferatu), and see the clear connections with evil/occultism.

The best way to avoid being tempted by the lure of vampires is to realize that that all the good things that the vampire myth promises is already found in the promises God has made to his followers. If you are a Christian and accept Jesus as your saviour, one day you will be immortal, beautiful, strong, respected, and honoured by God. You will have a perfect body, and live in on a new earth where there is no more sadness or pain. God loves you forever, and you will one day be with him and never be unloved again. And God loves people much better than vampires, who often use romance for their own needs. God loves perfectly, completely, and knows you deeper than you know yourself. You can tell him anything, and talk to him anytime. Compared to these promises, the attraction to the vampire myth is significantly decreased. It's like comparing a bright true diamond ring to a cheap plastic imitation.

Vampire fiction can be a fun way to escape, and can be a useful moral lesson of good versus evil, but it should not be used to idolize the vampires. I still enjoy vampire shows, but only if there is a balance between good/evil, and evil is not portrayed overly positively. If I'm ever tempted to think of the vampire as cool, instead I look forward to God's promises of what he has planned for us in heaven, and see that nothing on earth (or in fiction) can compare to that.

References

[1] Results for "darkness" from www.biblegateway.com
[2] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vampire

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