I have always been a huge fan of Gothic literature, especially such dealing with vampires and the occult. No, I’m not constantly brooding in a corner dressed in all black coming up with a list of people to bite. I just find the history and the legends behind vampires absolutely fascinating. The concept of a vampire in itself is just mystical. Just imagine a creature of the night who feeds on the blood of humans. Sleeping in coffins in great big castles in the middle of the day. I mean come on! That stuff’s just great! But ever since media sensations such as Twilight, and even with food brands such as Count Chocula, the gory and gothic image of the vampire has diminished into nothing more than a glimmer, or in this case, a sparkle.
Now, don’t get me wrong, I love the Twilight series. It has been a weakness of mine ever since the first book came out. I’m not afraid to admit I’ve dreamt of being loved irrevocably by Edward Cullen. But the hardest thing for me to swallow about these books has been the image they give of vampires. I’m used to reading Bram Stoker’s bloody detailing of snarling beasts, ravaging desire, and dark rituals. I’m accustomed to watching Bela Lugosi and Gary Oldman tear through flesh and step out of a creaking coffin once the sun goes down behind their towering castle.
But when Twilight came along, these vampires didn’t even hunt humans. They came out in the daytime and when they were exposed to bright sunlight, they didn’t melt or burst into flames, but rather, they started sparkling like diamonds. They lived in a house made of glass and they drove fast cars. They were your typical rich kids that you envied in high school. And the weirdest thing, they were all romantically involved within their “family.” Granted, none of them were technically related, but still, it was just too strange. I understand that Stephanie Meyer was catering toward a younger audience and that the gothic image of the vampire may not have suited well with most readers or their parents.
But because the Twilight series has been so explosive, the image of the true vampire has been chocked back to the old dusty shelves at the library in that one section where no one goes. You know you’ve seen one. People are no longer reading the original Bram Stoker or Anne Rice novels that depict a much darker creature than the ones portrayed in the media today. Most people don’t know the name Nosferatu anymore and would probably say “bless you” if I ever mentioned it out loud. It makes me sad that centuries worth of both history and folklore have been washed away all because of a pale heartthrob who will love you forever.
People are no longer afraid when they watch a vampire movie. They expect to see him start kissing the leading lady and to whisk her off into the sunset in his shiny new Volvo. I remember not sleeping for weeks after seeing Coppola’s movie version of Dracula. My sister shares my passion for vampire-lore and used to watch this movie all the time. The downside: She’s 11 years older than me so she watched it while babysitting her 7 year old sister. I wouldn’t even go near the VHS because the cover was so scary (oh yes the VHS days…remember those? I feel old now). But once I hit junior high, I was finally able to watch it by myself and was completely immersed in it. Yes, I was still jumpy at parts, but that’s the whole point of a horror film. Vampires are meant to be scary creatures. Even werewolves are meant to strike fear in our hearts, and now people expect the beast to transform into a tall, dark, and handsome with washboard abs. Where’s the fun in that?