05 July 2009

Rumination: On Vampires


The Times has a rolling, (somewhat flippantly) meditative article up now about the recent pop-cultural trend toward reawakening the vampire(s). This article's authoress, Ruth La Ferla (i. e., a woman more prominently consulted for her views on fashion and on fashion-related aesthetics than for her views on fictional villains or traditional cultural metaphors [i. e., fairy-tale monsters, if you will]) meddles at length with the idea that this newly rejuvenated adversion to the vampire(s) is due to the similarly "new" way in which they are being appraised, used, and appreciated for their usefulness by the contemporary masses: namely, vicariously escapistically - a theory that is perhaps as old as the myth of the vampire itself. Though, true, Ms. La Ferla does reach back into the canon to pull a Catherine-Deneuve film from the early 80s and then literature from the century before that, the authoress does hardly justice to the fact that the culture that bore the myth was in many ways parallel to the new constellations of temperament that describe the Zeitgeist of our present own. Included therein are her suppositions like threats of contaminancy, flirtations and longed-for dalliances with danger, and yes - indeed - sexuality. The plague-ridden populations of 18th-century Eastern Europe, who never ventured far in mind or body from the path lit by God (lest he too plague them) in general, conflated all three items into one and anthropomorphized it as vampire, a hellish creature - antithetical to God - that with the insatiable appetite for risk and relations could strike them all dead if they were not careful to stay the literally lighted path. Today, a similar climate, fueled by overestimations near-terroristic of epidemics (like swine flu), by latent worries about consanguinous perils like HIV (especially in the intravenous drug trade), and by the increasingly abundant presence of homosexuality in the forefront of the Zeitgeist and in the media (e. g., Prop. 8, "Don't Ask; Don't Tell" policy), amounts to a situation facilely effigied as that creature of the past, whose origins and intentions unknown mix at the border of pleasure and pain in the bodies and minds of the people in our collective consciousness - and, of course, the reeffectualized creature bears the change in specifics in his face as well. This change, Ms. La Ferla, a change spurred on by the upward fixations of equal beauty, is what much more probably has caused the vampire to change his guise as you say he so has, from the haggard, scraggly, pointy, and leathery lechers of the nights of old (i. e., figures who bore in their very minutest details the imprints of their origins in the plagues and associated subconscious unrests of their time, like fingerprints) to the sleek, glowing, sharp, and leather-clad seductors of the twilight - if you'll pardon the silly reference - (i. e., who bear too the marks of their makers, the hands of the outcasted fringe-members of society, of the much drug-associated gaunts of the mid-'90s grunge aesthetic, and of the toned and pretty golden-boys of gay culture's often hypersexual fantasies). Have your pick of the stars from Twilight (2008), Låt den Ratte Kömma In (2008), HBO's True Blood(!), Queen of the Damned (2002), and even 1994's Interview with the Vampire (starring Brad Pitt and Tom Cruise) and surfeit yourself on evidence to show how this claim of mine is in fact the case. To deny so would be to ignore those films entirely. Now, of course, this claim is not to the exclusion of all other possibilities (e. g., Ms. La Ferla's quoted quip that the vampires of today's media are more like James Dean than Bela Lugosi), but rather - importantly - that, if one wishes to diagnose the attitude of the culture by backwards appeal to the vampiric trends of late, one must consider the aforementioned confluence of factors, parallel to those of the similar trends original, as the primary - if not outright preponderant - explanations. For that reason it is likely, I suspect, that the vampires that we know weekly these days will linger around just long enough in the forefront of the collective consciousness of our people, for them (i. e., the vampires) to sway and be swayed toward a resolution of at least the weighted majority of the issues that caused the creatures to once again spring up culturally. However, it must simultaneously be true that some essences from their newly influenced forms will be retained as their existence as a figment of the cultural imagination perpetuates their myth, that will not leave us (especially not for our undying fascination with its sexual appeal), for generations, periods, and social climates much yet still to come.

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