Vampires, as a cultural phenomenon, are something like a mirror for society; every age constructs them according to the world they see around them.
Their origin, remember, is that of a nightime bloodsucker, to be feared by the villagers and peasants of centuries past. The wampyr and nosferatu were invented as explanations for cholera and plague, and maybe even random murder and senseless death. But in any case they were accordingly horrible, horrifying and certainly unembraceable.
Then came the Victorians, who created them anew; still terrifying, but suddenly embued with the allure of forbidden sex. That the sex was always deadly was to be expected; but oh, they suggested, the foreplay made it worth it and the bite wasn’t all that bad. Bram Stoker’s Dracula certainly upheld that ideal, to an iconic level in fact; but Stoker saluted tradition by creating his eponymous Count as disgusting to look upon, even going so far as to give him stomach-wrenching halitosis…and yet, his bite was irresistable. It was sex itself.
Lesser known, but still emblematically Victorian, was Le Fanu’s Carmilla, written 25 years earlier. In this case the titular vampire was female, beautiful, and in an unspoken way, a lesbian. Clearly, the Victorians anticipated our modern day tastes, by using vampires as surrogates for pornography…even if they were obliged to be a bit more subtle about it.
Which lead us inevitably to the present. We’ve taken the sex-appeal of vampires to a strange extreme. Today’s most popular vampires are sparkly and lovable, they help young girls find their way, and heaven help us, they even abstain from murder. What the hell is going on?
Again I say, vampires are a mirror. They tell us much about society. Today’s vampires speak of market forces and the buying power of teenage girls. Twilight‘s Edward is on the scene because a market exists for him. His buying public want a vampire, sure, but mostly they want a boyfriend. And if they’re to be bitten, it’s to be under their terms. They want a vampire who understands that No means No.
But one of the beautiful things about vampires is their infinite reinventability. They are not only remade anew by every culture and every age, but also by every writer, producer and actor. This means that purists like me can always find the vampire we’re looking for. I can sneer at Edward, or I can redirect that energy toward digging a bit through the ephemera of modern vampire culture (which is huge) to find the vampire I want.
Which, I think, reinforces my theory that vampires are a mirror. After all, what better defines our age than that of extreme customization. I can custom order almost anything – why not vampires?
So at long last, who is my ideal vampire? I’ll tell you, but first I’ll point out that this is a purely personal choice, based on my tastes and my idea of what a vampire ought to be. Even though a vampire-boyfriend (or even a vampire-lesbian-threesome) isn’t what I’m looking for, that doesn’t mean it’s not right for you.
Embrace your own ideal vampire, is what I’m saying.
For me, a vampire needs to be terrifying, powerful, evil, and nearly unstoppable. The closest I’ve seen to that is Herrick, from the BBC’s Being Human. He’s a cop, which gives him a remarkable degree of temporal power to begin with…but he’s also cold, calculating, pitiless, and when the occasion calls for it, rather funny. He’d kill you and your family without thinking twice, but he’d also probably crack a pretty witty quip while doing so. And if Herrick decides that the time of Vampire Ascendant has arrived, and that you and I are to serve as nothing more than cattle, there’s absolutely nothing we can do about it.
And that, my friends, is what a vampire ought to be.
Disclaimer: all of the above was written with the assumption that vampires are a purely cultural construct, and do not actually exist. If I’m wrong about that, and if any vampires are reading this, please forgive my impertinence and please don’t kill me. If you need a Renfield, I’m your guy.