Why doesn’t the notion that vampires are really kind of horrifying and scary stick? We’re in a period where vampires are cuddlier than ever; I was at drinks with someone this week who literally started banging on the table in vexation over the cuetification of bloodsuckers in Twilight. We’ve got chaste hunks in that series, decidedly unchaste vampire hunks in True Blood. We had redeemable individual vamps in Buffy and Angel. And yet what I think is notable is that during the time all of these interpretations have become so popular, we’ve had plenty of depictions of vampires that make them seem creepy as all hell. The Blade movies, anyone, where the vampires looked good and behaved badly? 30 Days of Night and Daybreakers, which erred on the zombie-vamp hybrid interpretation side of things? And we’ve got the remake Let Me In and the film adaptation of The Passage coming up, both of which are popular interpretations of the vampire myth that stay on the ugly-and-terrifying side of the debate, too—The Passage in particular presents vampires as zombie-like entities that operate in some ways like a hive mind.
And yet I feel those individual works will be successful, compelling, and still totally unsuccessful in ending our romantic fascination with vampires. I understand the popularity of the idea of some entity that is glamorous, and exceedingly dangerous, but makes an exception for a character that’s an avatar of us. And I get the death wish thing, too. But I also wonder if we like to believe that dangerousness can be beautiful because we like the idea that death, if it has to come for us in a violent and unexpected way, might come in a glamorous and sexual package so at least we feel good on the way out. I think it’s possible that vampirism is less an expression of suicidal ideation, and more of a compromise with our fears about things that go bump in the night. We love beautiful vampires, because the ugly ones are a bit too true to life.