Magazine article The Christian Century

Vampires among Us

Magazine article The Christian Century

Vampires among Us

Article excerpt

Met any vampires lately? They are unavoidable in popular culture, from Stephanie Meyer's books Twilight and New Moon (both made into films) to television fare such as True Blood and The Vampire Diaries. And though Buffy the Vampire Slayer may have gone off the air years ago, she lives (and slays) on in DVDs and comic books.

Vampire and other monster stories have long held an appeal for adolescents, an appeal the Twilight Saga movies exploit with hot young stars. Adolescence is a period of strange, new, powerful feelings. As sexual maturation and awakening occurs, menstruation begins for girls. Boys, like werewolves, grow more hair and experience their own hormonal turbulence. Amid these disturbing changes, teens often feel alienated and freakish, alone in the world.

Monster stories allow them to approach their sense of monstrosity sidewise. In many tales the monsters are vanquished, suggesting that the disconcerting bodies and disturbing urges of adolescents can be mastered. In more recent narratives, the monsters are domesticated--a sign that the adolescent can mature and tame his or her sexuality. The vampires in Twilight and True Blood aren't all evil. Some have learned to subsist on animal or synthetic blood rather than human blood.

The vampire is an enduring figure in our culture because it plays into the myth of romantic love. This myth concentrates on the adventure of two lovers who must overcome obstacles to consummate their attraction. Romantic love is a love of being under the spell of love more than it is a real, enduring relationship. That's why classic fairy tales end at the point where the lovers come together.

For romantic love, then, a distant, apparently unobtainable, even dangerous lover is ideal. The vampire is the ultimate tall, dark stranger--seductive, impressively powerful, mysterious, if also threatening.

I suspect that beyond the drama of adolescence and the conventions of romantic love, there are reasons specific to our time that vampires are pervasive. The catastrophe of 9/11 shook some American certitudes. Before that day in 2001, we believed acts of serious terrorism, at least by foreign agents, happened only in other countries. Now we know they can happen here.

In a post-9/11 world, we are confronted with terrorists who seem to operate outside our understandings of good and evil. …

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