What is it about vampires that is so exciting and enthralling? Are they merely fantasy creations – or psychologically rich archetypes?
[The image is Viktor (Bill Nighy), the cruel vampire king in the movie Underworld: Rise of the Lycans.]
Writers such as Nina Auerbach, and filmmakers Guillermo del Toro and Alan Ball talk about the mythology and how vampires relate to our inner depths.
But first, here is a great video mashup: Buffy vs. Edward.
“In this remixed narrative Edward Cullen from the Twilight Series meets Buffy the Vampire Slayer at Sunnydale High. It’s an example of transformative storytelling serving as a pro-feminist visual critique of Edward’s character and generally creepy behavior.
“Ultimately this remix is about more than a decisive showdown between the slayer and the sparkly vampire. It also doubles as a metaphor for the ongoing battle between two opposing visions of gender roles in the 21st century.”
[From site of video creator Jonathan McIntosh: RebelliousPixels.]
Vampire psychology – what do they mean?
In Our Vampires, Ourselves, Nina Auerbach writes about the meaning of the mythology: “My central idea: that vampirism springs not only from paranoia, xenophobia, or immortal longings, but from generosity and shared enthusiasm. This strange taste cannot be separated from the expansive impulses that make us human.”
Those “expansive impulses” help make “Buffy” and “True Blood” and many other vampire literary and movie creations such rich pleasures – terrifying, but so appealing. These “creatures of the night” can do so much more, better, with more power. And they don’t suffer harm from injuries and have their own version of longevity.
Video: interview with author and acclaimed filmmaker Guillermo Del Toro.
But Director Guillermo Del Toro, author of the new first book of a planned vampire trilogy The Strain says he has never been attracted to the “Romantic languid young men sucking the necks of beautiful people” sensibility of the “Twilight” series and others.
The undead – hungry for life
He admits “Those strands will always be intertwined in the common imagination. But I’m attracted much more to the re-animated corpse hungry for life, which is the one that is common to most human mythologies.
“You can find them in Asia, you can find them in Europe, you can find them in America. The vampire is the ultimate anti-everything.”
From article Guillermo Del Toro on Vampires, By Gilbert Cruz, TIME.com. Also see related photo slide show 90 Years of Vampires On the Screen.
This is a photo of Sookie Stackhouse (Anna Paquin) and Bill Compton (Stephen Moyer) from the HBO series True Blood, which Alan Ball developed, about vampires living openly among humans.
Ball notes he made an off-the-cuff summary to an HBO exec that the series was “about the terrors of intimacy.”
But, he added, “the more I think about it, the more I think that’s true. It’s about how terrifying it is to really let your guard down and open your psyche up to another creature.
“And with vampires, you’re not only opening yourself up emotionally, you’re opening yourself up physically – you could die.”
Connecting – and letting go of negative concepts
Ball continues, “We live in a world where emotion and the need to connect with something deeper and more profound has been distilled into these negative doctrines – ‘Feel bad about yourself. You have to behave; you have to be controlled.’
“We live in a culture that wants people to be afraid and protect themselves from everybody else, which is the exact opposite of what the human soul wants.
“We all have that part of ourselves that needs abandon. We all have a need for transcendence, so maybe people turn to this fantastic fiction for that.”
From The Alan Ball interview that LA.com didn’t want you to see, By David Kronke.
But opening ourselves up can have potentially negative consequences, he seems to say, when at one point Sookie says “The more open my mind gets, the more evil I seem.”
Author Katherine Ramsland, PhD, a forensic psychology professor explains, “The archetypal vampires are larger-than-life, charismatic entities of power and mystery who once were human and now display abilities beyond human limitations. They can defeat death, seduce anyone of their choosing, obliterate their enemies and stay up all night. What’s not to like?” [APA Monitor on Psychology (American Psychological Association), May 2006.]
In some creations, vampires are shown as having more life force and depth. The Wikipedia page on her novel The Vampire Chronicles notes that Anne Rice’s vampires “are all excessively emotional, sensitive, and sensual, being easy prey to intense suffering and aesthetic passions.”
The book Blood Read: The Vampire as Metaphor in Contemporary Culture says, “An ambiguously coded figure, a source of both erotic anxiety and corrupt desire, the literary vampire is one of the most powerful archetypes bequeathed to us from the imagination of the nineteenth century.”
The female vampire
Pam Keesey, author of Women Who Run With the Werewolves: Tales of Blood, Lust, and Metamorphosis, thinks “the female vampire is an incredibly empowering image, an example of a woman who has taken control of her life and her sexuality, not letting society dictate who she ought to be and what she ought to do.”
From The shadow self page 4.
Another dynamic involving real people, not literary characters, is the energy vampire.
Judith Orloff MD, an assistant clinical professor of Psychiatry at UCLA, explains, “Energy vampires are people who suck our energy dry. Everyone can benefit from skills on how to cope with them.”
From post Energy vampires can suck our life energy.
But aside from that, fantasy vampires are delicious, so to speak. And may even tell us more about ourselves.