By now if you’ve been reading along with my blog you’ve realized I’m an avid vampire fan. And I act like somewhat of a connoisseur at that, turning up my nose at lesser vampires: uncreative typical mindless killers in movies that are mostly about the slayers and/or victims, and at the same time over-romanticized sparkly things that we are told are dangerous but that never really risk the heroine’s neck.
But let me delve a bit deeper into our delicious monsters, not only vamps but werewolves, their Wild Man counterpart, as well. Why is it that so many people are drawn to these violent, murderous semi-humans?
Clearly we seek freedom, the kind that our society doesn’t give us, and also we want strength, something beyond the limits we perceive in or present bodies. The vampire often lives a life of decadence. They don’t need to work for a living; they don’t even need a stable house or steady food source to survive, as they are immortal. Vampires, even the wilder lost boys and brat princes, have a certain elegance, an alluring romantic, seductive quality. Werewolves, while rough and sometimes harsh, have a grounded, earthy feel, a blunt honesty. They almost always have a pack, built on loyalty and camaraderie. In many books and movies, the creatures have extrasensory powers, mind-reading and telekinetic abilities, even flight, one of our all-time favorite superpowers.
Both are known to draw their power from blood, the life force within our bodies. This aspect in and of itself has a deep and strange appeal. The vampire’s bite (when it’s portrayed right) is the most intimate way to die. Pain and pleasure are united, all barriers of the mind and soul brought down. Additionally, the vampirism or lycanthropy is passed on to others by the bite and/or exchange of blood. New lovers or comrades are brought into the group with this direct connection to the life force. I believe we all long for deeper connections with others. Some people misunderstand this longing and want to control people, or be controlled (some people want to be the victim as much as the vamp). I believe the blood-drinking relates to that sharing of self that we seek deep down inside, a way that the other person can know everything about us, be connected to us intimately, without having to speak a word.
And yet these characters are not totally free, not totally without limitations, because they still have to survive within that same society, their bodies so strong and yet still vulnerable if their dark nature is discovered. So they have to take great care in how they conduct their affairs. They have to try and enjoy their lives and their powers while constantly looking over their shoulders for the slayers, the ones who are prejudiced against them whether they try to be good or not. We, the audience, can relate to this, especially those of us that wish to live in subcultures and practices that are not accepted by society at large.
And yet still, I think there is a deeper Darkness than this longing to escape our cultural and physical bounds. The Higher Dark is there, calling us, pure and velvety soft and warm. It calls out “Take a deep breath of free air. Relax. You don’t have to be afraid of the dark. Because you ARE the Dark.” Whether a vampire or werewolf is ridden by the Dark, or rides it with mastery, they revel in Darkness, enjoy it, love it, and often find love for others within it.
Many of the best vampire and werewolf stories are about characters who struggle to retain some scrap of their humanity after they are made into “monsters.” But to me the best stories are those in which the character’s arc takes them to their worst and then they recover and achieve balance, living as with the best of both worlds, the human’s integrity and wisdom and the creature’s power and freedom.