Vampires: Appeal of the Paranormal Bad Boy
An fittingly ‘festive’ opinion piece by Emily Molloy.
It is Halloween but you probably have noticed how vampires are no longer kept hidden until this time of year any more. The attraction of the ‘bad boy’ has been superseded by the appeal of the ‘paranormal bad boy’. It’s the Angel to your Buffy, Edward Cullen to your Bella Swan, Eric Northman/Bill Compton to your Sookie Stackhouse, you get the idea. There is a lot of love for the undead at the moment.
In True Blood, Sookie refers to being called a ‘danger whore’ because of her attraction to vampires, but can we say that of every girl swooning of the glittery Edward Cullen? What can we learn about ourselves through our vampiric obsession?
There has been thousands of research studies into the subject and what has made vampires sexy, scary and ultimately enduring. An interesting study came out this year by Emily Schuck. She looked into the conceptions of sexuality and the undead, taking examples from Victorian vampire fiction and modern day.
She explains that the reason vampires are so scary, is the connection with sex and death. For Victorians, she says, sex is ‘scary’ because of venereal diseases and the high chance of death during childbirth – ‘Part of the vampire’s horror is that they represent untamed and uncontrolled sexuality.’ Schuck argues that Victorian vampires question heterosexual behaviour but modern vampire stories go along with modern heterosexual norms. Bram Stokers’ Dracula is arguably the most famous vampire, but it was preceded by Le Fanu’s Carmilla.
Unlike witches which are characteristically female, the vampire is not. Carmilla was a female vampire which fed exclusively on women. Le Fanu wrote a relatively graphic tale about lesbian seduction under the guise of the vampire fiction. This was at a time when female homosexuality was denied. But even Laura, Carmilla’s prey was disturbed by her vampiric attraction to her attacker.
So what happened that the vampires of popular current fiction are so loveable? Emily Schuck puts it down to our changing ideas of sexuality. We are no longer scared of abnormal sexuality which was embodied by vampires. Alan Ball, creator of True Blood, said, ‘To me vampires are sex’, and that there is no better sex on screen than vampire sex. Stephen Moyer who played Bill Compton in True Blood, similarly said in an interview with Rolling stone:
If we go from a base level, vampires create a hole in the neck where there wasn’t one before. It’s a de-virginization—breaking the hymen, creating blood and then drinking the virginal blood. And there’s something sharp, the fang, which is probing and penetrating and moving into it. So that’s pretty sexy. I think that makes vampires attractive. Plus, Robert Pattinson is just hot, right?’
Modern attraction to the beautiful dangerous vampires in Twilight and True Blood can be explained because they either represent a ‘normal’ sexuality or people are attracted to their dangerous abnormality. I would put money on the latter. The popularity of 50 Shades of Grey can only lead us to believe that attitudes towards sex and relationships have changed somewhat. It appears we are more accepting of dangerous and extreme behaviour from our leading characters. We are the only ones to be able to say whether or how this translates to our everyday life.