Metanarrational Monsters, Part Five – Vampires: Blood, Addiction, Sex, and Drama Queens

part 5 of 8

Archetype Four: Vampires –

 

Blood, Addiction, Sex, and Drama Queens

 Oscar: “Are you a vampire?”

Eli: “Would you like me anyway?”

Oscar: “Will you be my girlfriend?”

–        Oscar and Eli in Let The Right One In[1](2008)

 

Edward: “That’s all superhero stuff – right? What

if I’m not the hero? What if I’m…..the bad guy”

Bella: “I know what you are. Your skin is pale white.

You don’t go out into the sunlight.”

Edward: “Say it – out loud…say it”

Bella: “…vampire”

Edward: “Are you afraid?”

Bella: “No”

Edward Cullen & Bella Swan in Twilight[2] [2008].

 

 

The vampire archetype is by far the most sexual of all the monster meta-narratives, and for good reasons.[3]  However, most understand that vampire mythology is grounded in the story of Vlad the Impaler of Wallachia[4] and the story that Bram Stoker[5] wrote that used him as its own metanarrational, historical contextualization. When we picture Dracula, we usually imagine Bela Lugosi, famous for his many roles as the monster in a long line of classic vampire movies.  Lugosi’s Dracula was directed by a former carnival regular, Tod Browning[6]. It is said that Lugosi, in a very real way, ironically became a slave to the character of the Count[7] and is reported to have spent hours just looking at himself in the mirror[8]. It was in these early movies that Dracula came to be seen as a metaphor for frustrated and degenerated sexual energy.  In another case where life seemed to imitate art, Lugosi is said to have become addicted to a regimen of drugs to remain functional.[9] He was buried in his Count costume.[10]

Blood is the primary element that vampires supposedly need to live. Interestingly enough, as science continues to advance and more is known about the biomechanics of the body’s system, we have a deeper appreciation for the complexities of the fluid that courses throughout our bodies. It is possible to spend a lifetime researching the process by which blood clots. It is a world seemingly unto itself in terms of irreducible complexity.[11] Whereas vampires are seen as thieves of blood, with the advent of blood transfusion technology, the need for donors increases each day[12] as the list of potentially life-saving treatments[13] derived from donated blood products grows with each passing year [14], [15], [16].  Despite the number of lives saved, there are risks associated with blood component therapy.[17] There are rational fears to be weighed. There is a wide diversity of diseases – many of them fatal – that can be transmitted through a blood transfusion.[18]

Addiction. The idea of needing blood to live is central premise behind vampire survival, just as the idea of needing something unnatural to live is the central premise behind the concept of addiction. Most people would consider it a deeply irrational fear to be afraid of a vampire jumping on them in a dark alley and sucking their blood so the vampire can continue its existence and then subsequently turning them into a vampire as well, also needing blood to live as well.  However, a number of those same people are subject to a degree of fear in terms of their own selves becoming somehow addicted to something, perhaps out of the bad influence of someone else. In the southern states, many evangelical churches prohibit alcohol consumption and forbid their parishioners from entering bars[19], [20]. There is a great deal of theological discussion as the biblical/theological validity of this position.[21] The fear of irrationally becoming addicted to something is a huge concern that dominates the lifestyles of many people both inside and outside churches. Indeed, numerous agencies and programs exist to facilitate and encourage addiction recovery[22], [23].

Sex. The neck where vampires bite is regarded as a very important erogenous zone. An article on how and where to kiss women (aptly entitled the “Touch-O-Meter”) reads like an introduction to how to become a vampire.[24] “…What she needs to really surrender herself,” could be instructions on how to thrill your girlfriend or seduce an unwilling meal. This is perhaps the most powerful meta-narrative behind vampire mythology, owing to the tremendous degree to which sexuality can be addictive, abused, and perverted. Sexuality, in terms of the human condition, arguably is the most transcendent and existentially all-encompassing aspect of humanity. A degree of mutual, moderated co-dependency is assumed in a monogamous, committed relationship, which is argued by some to be the very foundation of western civilization. In fact, there are organizations dedicated to its defense as a social institution.[25] Any significant, organized aspect of culture (such as sexuality and dependency upon each other, as used in this example) is open to a ‘fear-contextualization’ whereby it is sublimated or altered in such a way that those who participate in its dynamics can be moved from an emotional position of love and acceptance to one of fear and rejection. From a religious, sociological and even political perspective, important lessons can be learned about the subjective content of the subject all along this ‘change-continuum.’ The vampire represents a ‘conjoinment of Thanatos[26] and Eros[27]’ in an individual character.[28]  The broken, degenerate sexuality of the vampire[29] serves as an instructional-narrative device in this way.

Drama Queens. It can be argued that the most powerful vampire meta-narrative is much older than any movie filmed or story written, or even the story of Vlad the Impaler himself. It may be as old as humanity itself because it may in fact be an integral aspect to humanity. For as long as people have interrelated with one another, conflicts and difficulties have gone along those relationships. The day the first boy and girl fell in love, the day after, somewhere, another boy no doubt learned that he could both control and enjoy the emotions of another girl. While the first couple may well have lived happily ever after, the boy would have become humanity’s first energy vampire, a fancy term for what most people would simply call a “drama queen.” Drama queens live off the energy they invoke in other people, and they are, essentially, constantly preoccupied with both cultivating and subsequently feeding off it. In many cases, those subjected to the influence of a drama queen/energy vampire become slaves to their agenda. This abusive, co-dependent dichotomy is well-established in the field of psychiatry.[30] Often referred to as “toxic relationships,”[31] they are a very real concern for both counselors and anyone looking for a relationship with another.[32] A psychologically well-adjusted individual, regardless of how far back into history (or even prehistoric times) they might have lived, would have been on the lookout for toxic relationships, and having seen the emotional destruction and enslavement that a Drama Queen can create, would make an effort to stay out of their destructive path. Regardless of what rhetorical-semiotic terms they might have used to label such a person, they would identify them as someone looking to suck the very life out of them. They would know to look for an energy vampire and to stay away from them. Before the monster meta-narratives of Zombie, Frankenstein, Wolf Man, or Mummy appeared on the scene, the idea of a vampire would have been fearfully present in the minds of those in a socially-advanced civilization. Only one monster meta-narrative would have pre-dated it, owing to that monster’s own abusive and transformational fear archetypes: the Transformational Love Monster.

Vampire movies both classic and modern almost always incorporate this additional monster meta-narrative into their story line. The relationship between Bella Swan and Edward Cullen in the Twilight series[33], [34], [35], [36], [37] has transfixed millions of readers. The author of the bestselling books and their subsequent blockbuster films is a Mormon, and the characters in her books abide by what would seem to be approximations to Judeo-Christian values. For example, in many popular movies, the love interests immediately hop into bed. But Edward and Bella abstain from sex until they are married. This might seem like genuine science fiction to many secular viewers, but to those reared with a Christian background, sex before marriage is what a true evil would look like. Many commentators have made the suggestion that Edward does not as much represent a vampire – as much as he represents the fearful responsibility that comes not just with sexual biological maturity – but actually having sex with another person – and the commitment this entails from the Judeo-Christian ethical perspective. His vampirism could be thought of as an encoded mythos of the danger that it brings and the constant temptation to digress into evil and selfishness. Edward resists the darker nature that he embodies, choosing (with great duress) to protect Bella and not “consume” her. His rebellion against his vampiric nature to feed represents a rebellion against the sexual nature: to abstain in the face of great sexual desire is common to all who undergo puberty. Here again, amidst a complicated storyline, powerful objective truths are subjectively transposed through the story’s metanarrational archetypes. Critics argue this is the single greatest most powerful pull that the movie’s story has upon the hearts of the fans who are so devoted to the books and films. They want so deeply to be swept away by a masculine archetype who is strong enough and loves them enough to protect them from their own intrinsic qualities (sexual and otherwise), ones that in proper time and place, they will not shirk from, but rather will enjoy and participate in fully.[38] In this case, it could be argued that her story is the most hidden, subversive to modern sexual liberalism apologetic for evangelical sexual values. Meyers has written a story about darkness that helps us see the light.

Twilight may be a feel-good move for young girls and evangelicals who consider themselves culturally aware enough to see past the stories’ vampire mythos, but many vampire movies explore not just the moral side but he amoral as well.

In the Swedish production of Let The Right One In, we watch the story of a pre-pubescent young boy and the equally young vampire girl that he encounters.  The characters of Oscar and Ellie flow through a story that includes Existential Empowerment (Oscar is picked on by his classmates, and Ellie teaches him how to stand up to them, albeit in brutal fashion) and Mutual Vulnerability (at different times, each character has the opportunity to destroy the other). The viewer is left to question whether there is a true love narrative going on between the two characters or if they are just each vampires in their own respective ways who come to work together. It is these questions, combined with the fact that each character is on the penumbra of appropriate sexual self-awareness, that create a story line more frightening than any violent act in the film. Are we seeing a monster born in the character of Oscar? Or is he enabling another monster to continue her work? Does love transcend the monstrosity of the situation or enable it?

These questions – the fear of real-life, psychological-driven energy vampires (emotionally dysfunctional individuals), the fear of inappropriate or premature sexual eroticism, and the fear of enslavement consequential to it – form the crux to both it and many other vampire stories.

 


[1] http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ICp4g9p_rgo Let The Right One In Trailer.

[2] http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=S2T7d8j6I5I Twilight Official Trailer.

[3] “Q:  Who’s scarier, zombies or vampires? A: Vampires are sexualized and there’s something kind of personal and special about them wanting you. Zombies, especially the slow-moving ones – all you have to do is step to the side, and they will eat somebody else’s guts. It’s not about me or my guts. It’s the totally impersonal nature of it that is most terrifying. “  Steven Schlozman of Harvard Law School. Also author of Zombie Autopsies: Secret Notebooks From the Apocalypse. From The ‘Secret’ About Zombies, USA Today, Friday, March 25, 2011, pg. 14D.

[6] The Monster Show – A Cultural History of Horror, pg. 126.

[7] The Monster Show – A Cultural History of Horror, pg. 118.

[8] The Monster Show – A Cultural History of Horror, pg. 118.

[9] The Monster Show – A Cultural History of Horror, pg. 124.

[10] The Monster Show – A Cultural History of Horror, pg. 255.

[24] “Neck: a nexus of nerve endings make this one of the most sensitive parts of a woman’s body. Exhale while placing soft kisses along her hairline. Cradle her nape, lightly. That will give her a feeling of trust and safety, what she need to really surrender herself.”  From Men’s Health.com, Women’s Erogenous Zones, (www. http://www.menshealth.com/touchherhere/).

[28] “Eros and thanatos: brought together by Horace Liverright’s Dracula, Clara Bow and Bela Lugosi soon found that opposites attract.” From The Monster Show, chapter four; The Monsters and Mr. Liverright, pg. 93.

[29] “He [Dracula], after all, is the ultimate charlatan and con man. He is a ‘castrated’ seducer who cannot penetrate in the conventional way; all sex energy is displaced to his mouth. Instead of providing stimulation, repeated encounters only drain and depress his lovers, who can barely recall his visits. Unconsummated in normal terms, their passion soon becomes undead as well.” From The Monster Show, chapter five; 1931: The American Abyss, pg. 127.

[33] http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1099212/ Internet Movie Database entry for Twilight  [2008].

[34] http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1259571/ Internet Movie Database entry for New Moon [2009].

[35] http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1325004/ Internet Movie Database entry for Eclipse [2010].

[36] http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1324999/ Internet Movie Database entry for Breaking Dawn – Part 1 (2011).

[37] http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1673434/ Internet Movie Database entry for Breaking Dawn – Part 2 (2011).

 

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About hollerscholar

I'm a theology & philosophy student, writer, web developer, and medical laboratory professional.
This entry was posted in Cinema Studies, Cultural Mythology, Dystopicism & Fear, Existentialism, Horror (Classic), Philosophy Studies, Propaganda Studies, Vampire Mythology and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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