The Appeal of Vampires and Other Supernatural Beings in the Modern Day

Before making my way to bed this evening, I watched the first 20 minutes of Interview With the Vampire and began to feel all nostalgic.  As a young girl, I read everything that Anne Rice had ever written (yes- everything) and was enthralled with the Vampires and the Mayfair Witches- more so the witches I think.  This got me to thinking- why?  What about these series was the factor that drew me in to loving them?  I then began to ask myself- why has the supernatural made such a literary comeback in pop-culture over the past decade?

All good questions for which I’ve not done any research, so I googled- yes, googled- and found a very interesting article by David Dvorkin (no, I don’t know who he is either).  He’s mostly analyzing the meanings of Dracula to Victorian society and the fact that modern culture no longer fears the dark of the forest.  I also read a few other good posts, but they seemed to be saying the same thing- we love them because they are more than human, they are hyper-sexual, and they don’t have to follow any of the rules.  For most of the people trying to explain the appeal of the vampire, they first go to the flexibility of the characters and then to sex, which makes sense, but then they ignore the rest of the supernatural beings that have made a popular resurgence. 

Can you honestly say that the werewolf is sexy?  The werewolf is hairy, violent, and prone to killing you in an uncontrolable fit of rage, but WAIT!  The wolf is a powerful creature and in human form often described in the same terms as a body builder, but apparently also has a heart of gold.  OK, I’ll play along with that for argument’s sake.  The vampire is always super sexy, super strong, and über conflicted about its own darkness.  Sooooo, apparently as a society we are really attracted to exceptionally dysfunctional people and relationships.  In a way, that makes sense.  I mean- a stable, happy, healthy relationship is just kind of boring literarily- there’s no way to grow a character.

The appeal to me, as a writer, of these supernatural beings is that they have their own built-in plot device.  You don’t need to create a mythos about how they came to be, you don’t need to tell the reader anything more about your creature than you feel like changing in the commonly understood history.  They can be normal people with abnormal problems, just trying to get along, or they can be over the top devils a-la Dracula.

One theory that I’ve also been toying with, and I will state for the record that I have not done any research or poling on this, is that these creatures have become more appealing because as a whole we are feeling more helpless than any generation since the depression.  Before 9/11, supernatural fiction was reserved for the D&D playing, black coat wearing, nerds and computer geeks.  The respectable novels to see on a plane were the Robert Ludlums, Tom Clancy’s, and even Daniel Steels.  Somewhere in the last 10 years, it has become perfectly normal to see a person reading one of Charlaine Harris’ Southern Vampire series novels and lets not forget the Harry Potter, Hunger Games, and Twilight phenomena that has hit young and old readers alike. 

The main correlation that I can see with these books is that they are an escape to a world where there is something more powerful than men, more influential than government, and that could swat at terrorists like they were gnats.  We are coming up on the 10 year anniversary of the attacks on New York and DC and I still remember those days like they have just happened.  I can only believe that the surge of interest in this genre that I’ve loved since I was 10 is due to the need for people to be a little escapist.  The feeling of security we had prior to that day will never come back and we know in our conscious minds that there is no real Captain America who will swoop in and save us, but that doesn’t mean that we can’t pretend in those few minutes between point A and point B in our real lives.

David Dvorkin’s Essay on the Allure of the Vampire


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