Vampires and the Fall

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Vampires seem to be more popular than ever. Underworld, Twilight and True Blood are the newest expressions of the vampire story, and at this year’s Comic Con it was announced that Tim Burton and Johnny Depp will be reincarnating Dark Shadows in movie form after the Alice in Wonderland project is complete.

The vampire is a great Gothic figure, if we consider Gothic literature as that which gives us stark images and symbols of fallen humanity. Having lost immortality in the Fall, the vampire is a picture of humanity seeking deathlessness by taking the blood of others – a stark contrast to the gospel, wherein Chris gave us deathlessness by letting others take his own blood.

dracula-bela-lugosiLooking at it this way, stories of vampires who refrain from taking human life show a fallen humanity that has evil desires (to kill and drink the blood of others) and has had evil done to them (being bitten by a vampire) striving for immortality not at the expense of others. In a strange sense, the vampire who will not kill human life to stay alive is a picture of the Christian life, battling with evil desires, previously captive to evil, now attempting to live out a freedom from that evil. This is something of George MacDonald’s concept of “making righteous use of the element of horror” (Preface to Letters from Hell, 1885).

Three links might be of interest to the fan of vampires (via The Kibitzer):

Guillermo del Toro and Chuck Hogan: Why Vampires Never Die. This article takes a shot at explaining out love for the creepy immortals.

The current vampire pandemic serves to remind us that we have no true jurisdiction over our bodies, our climate or our very souls. Monsters will always provide the possibility of mystery in our mundane “reality show” lives, hinting at a larger spiritual world; for if there are demons in our midst, there surely must be angels lurking nearby as well. In the vampire we find Eros and Thanatos fused together in archetypal embrace, spiraling through the ages, undying.

Neil Gaiman explains that we’ve become over-saturated with them already, and it’s time for them to take a rest in the coffin for about 25 years.

And here’s a list of vampire novels.


7 Comments

  1. revgeorge

    Vampires may be more popular than ever but they also seem more trite & wearisome than ever too. But perhaps I’m a cynic for never having been caught up in this modern vampire craze. I likes my vampires Gothic, inhuman, & monstrous, unsympathetic characters paralleled against the more noble aspects of humanity. Of course, I found some of the vampires in Buffy & Angel to be interesting but such troubled, tormented, struggling vampires like Angel & Spike have become almost too cliched now, like the hooker with the heart of gold sort of thing.

  2. Jason Gray

    @jasongray

    It is interesting to wonder what motivates this current fascination with “noble” vampires. I watched a couple of episodes of True Blood a number of weeks ago in a hotel room when I was on the road. The show is driven by sex and violence and seems like an excuse to entertain the lower angels of our nature, and yet I found the concept so fascinating the dilemma’s compelling enough that I couldn’t turn it off. I’m glad I don’t have HBO at home or I’d probably use up a lot of my time watching this series. It has an addictive quality…

    The redemptive vampire story – does it reflect our own desire for the evil in us to be tamed? Or does it reflect our desire sympathize with evil and to domesticate it, giving us the sense that we can manage it?

    One thing I’ve noticed over the years is how vampire stories/films in general seem to reflect the spiritual zeitgeist of it’s time. At some point in the late 80’s and especially from the 90’s up til now, the cross – which once caused the vampire to tremble and shrink back in terror – is now impotent and has become a source of scorn and mockery. Picture the poor human being cornered by a vampire… he holds up a cross to deflect the evil creature, who in turn smirks, laughing as he slaps the cross out of his victim’s hand and goes for the kill. When did the cross lose it’s power against the vampire? When did it lose its power in the mind of our culture? And why?

    Am I to rely on garlic now to save me instead of the a cross?

    Where is a good werewolf when you need one?

  3. Aaron Roughton

    “Where is a good werewolf when you need one?”

    He’s dancing on top of a van after winning the big basketball game for his high school in 1985. Talk about noble.

  4. Trice

    “When did the cross lose it’s power against the vampire? When did it lose its power in the mind of our culture? And why?”
    the previous reply was a lot funnier, but anyway, this is connected to a loss in western society of faith in Christ and the Bible — there’s often an associated conversation at some point in the film that, in order for a symbol to have power, its bearer must have faith in it and in what it stands for, otherwise it is simply the sum of its parts. My question then is whether this was really different in the older vampire stories – at some point I actually need to sit down and read Bram Stoker’s Drakula, for reference if for nothing else.

    In a completely different direction, revgeorge might enjoy reading Terry Pratchett’s Carpe Jugulum. There he addresses the idea of this modern gentleman vampire, but sees it more as an attempt to clean up the image rather than a true cleansing of the underlying evil. This could be seen as having wider implications for society – e.g. people medicating away guilt and other feelings without actually addressing the root of the problem – as well…

  5. revgeorge

    Trice, thanks for the Pratchett recommendation; I’ll try to find that.

    Jason’s questions are also good places to start examining this whole fascination with the redemptive vampire theme. “The redemptive vampire story – does it reflect our own desire for the evil in us to be tamed? Or does it reflect our desire sympathize with evil and to domesticate it, giving us the sense that we can manage it?”

    As a simple answer, I’d say yes to both of those questions. I also think it might be an attempt to turn things around, that everything thought of as evil in the past really is good or at least more complicated than simple black/white terms. There’s perhaps something to that way of thinking but one can only really push it so far.

  6. Stacy Grubb

    When I was a ‘tween, one of the network channels redid the “Dark Shadows” series for a brief stint and one of my sisters and I were absolutely obsessed. Barnabus was my first indroduction to the “tortured” vampire. Then a handful of years later, “Interview With A Vampire” was released (with both Tom Cruise and Brad Pitt, no less) and again, I was in love with a tortured vampire (Louis, Brad Pitt’s character). I eventually even read a few books from Anne Rice’s series, as well as paid a theater money to let me watch “Queen of the Damned” (my disappointment was palpable). Since then, my overall interest must’ve waned as I’ve never gotten into the “Twilight” phenomenon, despite my other sister’s best efforts to get me on board and even my best friend hasn’t been able to lure me into “True Blood.” Reading this post, however, has made me ponder my original reason for having such a crush on Barnabus and feeling so sympathetic toward Louis (since the reason for the crush was evident) and I like all these theories floating around. I was intrigued by the fact that someone made these vampires hold onto much of their human characteristics, which made perfect sense since they started out, afterall, as human beings. They weren’t all bad (and only Jessica Rabbit was drawn that way), because they loathed the part of them that was.

    Stacy

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