Vampire Genre Storms Popular Culture (Again)
The vampire genre is today’s most popular form of pop culture. Vampire movies and literature have risen to fame in American popular culture today, but vampire genre popularity dates back further than many people realize. Sprouting from humble origins of fireside lore, vampire fiction has been a mainstay in the literary realm. It is in literature today that we see this ever-popular fragment of popular culture truly blossom in Stephenie Meyer’s hit-novel series, Twilight. In the novels, Meyer’s characters display an incessant whirlwind of complexities involving the rare, seemingly non-existent, romantic bond between vampire and human. Most importantly, she influences American culture by tempting readers, and eventual viewers of the film version of the series, of an almost tangible adolescent fantasy of undying adoration, romance, and lust that vicariously plays out through the vaunted fictional vampires. Meyer’s popular novel series and films have ignited a craze that has stormed American popular culture and reshaped the perspective of the vaunted vampire entirely.
Currently, vampires are the ruling picturesque protagonists of the pre-teen genre, but the undead have not always been the heroes. According to ancient eastern European myths, the undead phantom was a decrepit corpse named Nosferatu. Nosferatu “is a Slavic word for ‘plague carrier’ from the Greek word nosophoros” (Shaurette) and was greatly feared by the townspeople. Another early cousin of the modern vampire was “the Incubus from the Latin incubare, meaning ‘to lie upon’” (Shaurette) which was a spirit that took the form of a man and would sexually force itself upon unsuspecting, sleeping women. The similarities between the two monsters may seem limited to their obvious imaginary beginnings, but it is the social perception of Nosferatu and the Incubus that truly unites the beasts. Both legends were created as cautionary tales. The plagued Nosferatu, driven by his insatiable hunger, feasted on the meat of the living. The Incubus’ needs were as ravenous as Nosferatu’s, but he merely craved the carnal devouring of flesh.
Gradually, as Hollywood became the prevailing influence of society, the vampire began to change. The earliest depictions of Nosferatu were eerie and monstrous. As the genre progressed, so did the undead phantom. Motion pictures soon depicted the vampire as a tall, pale, mysterious man with a thirst for virginal blood. Fragments of the legends had remained, but most of the terror had faded with the plague. The non-human physical qualities had sloughed off and were replaced with more sensual weapons. Pointed canine teeth replaced plague-riddled skin, a gliding waltz refined the stilted zombie saunter, and a sensual sip of blood stood in for the beastly devouring of flesh. This new vampire was named Dracula. The new depiction of the...