FROM SUPERSTITION TO LEGEND: THE SATIRICAL EVOLUTION OF THE VAMPIRE

November 11, 2017

 

Introduction

 

“As one of the most famous creatures in horror history, the vampire has seen an evolution that few creatures built of lore, legend, fiction and film have enjoyed.” (Karg, Spaite and Sutherland (2009:p1))

 

We who thought vampires were driven to extinction by the hand of Van Helsing and his gang can think again. Bram stoker’s creation Dracula has dominated the horror scene in film and literature for decades creating a legacy that like the infamous count will live on for eternity. Vampires have become a focal point for many inspiring writers and film makers who have embraced Bram Stokers creation and moulded it into their own interpretation. The Vampire has taken on many forms since the introduction of film and has become one of the most viewed and loved creatures within twenty first century’s popular culture.

The first appearance of the vampire within English literature was John William Polidori’s ‘The Vampyre’ this was a short story published in the ‘New Monthly Magazine’ in 1819. Polidori envisioned a suave killer who rises from the dead to prey on the aristocratic bourgeoisie of the nineteenth century. One could suggest with the influence of Polidori’s companion Lord Byron the tragic Byronic hero/villain which we see in today’s interpretation of vampires was created with Polidoris imagination and was a starting point for Bram Stokers masterpiece eight decades later.

 

“Within a decade Dracula would become the standard by which horror fiction is measured and it has never been out of print since its first publication.” (Karg, Spaite and Sutherland (2009:p1))

 

The new breed of vampires within the twenty first century has breathed new life into the once hunted creature giving it an appeal within society ensuring the lore of immortality and a set of rippled muscles will leave any hot blooded woman or man eager to sacrifice their own lives to be the vampires’ next conquest. The attraction towards vampires started with the adaption of the film Nosferatu made by German filmmaker Friedrich Maunau in 1922. Society was introduced to a new form of entertainment and with this came a new appreciation of the prince of darkness. The film was an unauthorised version of Dracula which gained vast interest from the pubic after a lawsuit was put in place by Bram Stokers widow Florence Stoker who had retained the copyrights to her husband’s work.  

The vampire intrigues its’ audience and opens up the imagination challenging the viewers’ sense of morality, especially with recent onscreen vampires like the American TV HBO series True Blood and the Twilight film saga portraying the more romantic and tragic elements of the vampires life which gives the once feared creature an appeal to the masses within popular culture, and allows the audience a taste of a lovable prince charming with fangs. It can be argued that vampires are and always have been a writer’s way of reflecting the issues and fears which reside within society.

 

“Vampirism has become for postmodern writers a ready metaphor for the sickness of our society” (Gordon J, Hollinger V (1997:pX1))

 

over the next few weeks one will aim to explore the origins of the vampire myth and develop an understanding of the vampire we see today in twenty first century popular culture.

Starting chapter one with folk lore and the myth surrounding the infamous creature that stalks the night devouring victims blood one will gather an understanding of where the legend was developed and why it still holds such an appeal in today’s popular culture. It has been argued that the vampire we see today is a far cry from the tales of folklore. The vampire has been romanticised as a Byronic hero/villain and has become an object of intrigue and fascination for our eyes to feast upon.

The second chapter will explore the transition of Dracula from literature to screen with the adaption of films Nosferatu (the adaption which is said to resemble the true form of vampires seen within folklore) and Bella Lugosi’s Dracula (a sexualisation of the vampire) these are both adaption’s of Bram Stokers creation, the appeal these films held will be explored and what attracted the audience to the once hated creature and turned it into a figure to lust after.

Vampires have given birth to a legacy and are used as satire to make the reader aware of the underlying problems within society it has been speculated, theorised and criticised that Bram Stoker was guilty of using his monster as a way of expressing the fears within society in the late nineteen hundreds when he wrote Dracula, and it has been argued that Dracula could of been seen as partially autobiographical, reflecting Stokers own fears about society.

Chapter three will delve in to the legacy Dracula has created and to do this one will look at HBO’s 2008 series True Blood which is based on the Sookie Stackhouse books by Charlene Harris. This series could be seen as suggested in the quote above ‘a postmodern writers metaphor for the sickness of our society’, this chapter will explore the elements found within True Blood which could back up this statement by analysing the context of the series and also some of the lead characters and their roles within the storyline/plot, and uncovering the reasons this show has such an appeal to its viewers.

This chapter will also explore the satire and political messages hidden within some of the episodes of True Blood throughout it five seasons.

The aim over the next few chapters is to gain an understanding of the satire used to promote vampires in myth and fiction and to develop a reason as to why vampires are one of the most filmed creatures within today’s popular culture.

To understand where a legend comes from you must first understand its origins and how it came to be in the first place and the vampire has had so many different interpretations throughout history it is impossible to uncover them all, the only facts we find are within text books and some of these have been greatly exaggerated and fabricated. 

Please join me over the next few weeks in uncovering the myths surrounding the vampire legend.

 

 

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  • Author Anna-Louise Dann
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