Since the days of Bela Lugosi’s classic take on Count Dracula, the undead have been portrayed as mysterious and alluring creatures of the night. Often, they alternated between bloodsucking fiends and sensual beasts, captivating audiences time and time again.
For example, today’s incarnation of vampires can best be exemplified by the most divisive entertainment phenomenon of the moment. Yup, this is the Twilight saga.
Edward Cullen has thus far spent three films and four novels moping about and feeling really, really conflicted about everything except his adoration for his beloved Bella. Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to the age of the emo vampire.
At first glance, the inherent problem with the Twilight clan may be that its characters aren’t tied to a compelling mythology, such as an aversion to crosses, holy water and garlic, or the ability to place their victims in a trance just before they strike. There’s nothing particularly interesting about them and rather than sporting fangs, they become all glittery in the sunlight. Bram Stoker himself would be mortified.
However, over the decades, the depiction of vampires and the various “rules” of whatever universe they inhabit have frequently been adjusted. For instance, on television’s “Buffy the Vampire Slayer,” vampires’ faces become beastly when their fangs are in action and they evaporate into dust when killed.
Nope, the biggest problem with today’s vampires lies in a lack of balance.
In days past, vampires appeared in everything from children’s films like “The Little Vampire” to ultra-violent action films like “From Dusk Till Dawn” and the Blade series. Nowadays, courtesy of the monster success of “Twilight” and its sequels, they are almost exclusively limited to soap operas like “True Blood” and “The Vampire Diaries.”
All these vampire tales are so enveloped in the angst of the forbidden love between humans and vampires (although admittedly “Buffy” devoted its first few seasons largely to this as well) that they forget that what made these creatures so much fun to watch was the scope of their stories. There was -– literally and figuratively –- something otherworldly about them that captured audiences’ attention on a primal level.
But the magic and imagination that fueled so much of the most popular vampire entertainment is lacking in current popular culture, and with nothing but “Twilight” and its derivatives to keep them in the mass consciousness, the broad appeal that vampires once held with the general public is beginning to descend precipitously. Where are the days when fans of all ages could find a vampire story to embrace as their own?
Given Hollywood’s nature to cash in on the latest craze, it’s not surprising that the marketplace is flooded with teen-centered vampire love stories. But in doing so, they’re alienating long-time followers of the undead, who may end up losing interest by the time all the Twi-hards have moved on to bigger (and hopefully better) things.
Given the tendency for its many subgenres to fall in and out of style every few years, horror is arguably the most cyclical form of entertainment. It’s simply a matter of time before vampires are reinvented yet again, and with any luck, they’ll reclaim their mass appeal from today’s adolescent set before they lose whatever bite they still possess.
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