The Evolution of Vampires in Pop Culture
I realize that I am little late to the vampire game. I know that the trend blew over after the last Twilight movie, Eclipse, came out last June. I’m not really late, I’m just early for the next wave of vampire-related entertainment and am going ahead and posting my thoughts on what the evolution of the vampire in pop culture signifies. I think it is a great example of what modern culture does with just about everything that is considered evil. Before you drive a stake through the heart of my claims, at least allow me to show you the progression of vampires in literature and film (and if you don’t want to read the specifics just skip down to where it says “Here’s my point-“):
1819 The Vampyre by John William Polidori
Although vampire legends were rampant in the 18th century, this short story was the first printed telling of a modern vampire that was practically indistinguishable from a human.
In this famous vampire novel, Dracula reeks havoc in the city of London but is chased back to Transylvania and killed.
Although there were a few vampire movies made before Dracula, this one is extremely notable because it is the first major shift in the nature of vampires. Through the medium of film Dracula was pictured as a smooth and alluring sex-symbol rather than a shifty character who would be avoided by most.
Although, the nature of the vampire didn’t change, this was the first comedy in which a vampire played a significant role. It is my opinion that when a killer is used in comedy, it has officially become a boring plotline and must be changed in order to be interesting any more. This is when vampires jumped the shark.
1954 I Am Legend by Richard Matheson
This is just one example of many I could use in which the basic concept of devouring a human’s blood was prevalent but the creatures themselves were changed drastically in order to make the story fresh. Matheson made them less human. He included a biological explanation as vampirism was the result of a virus that wiped out the human race.
The popular TV series centered around a cultural shift in the world of vampires as they are everywhere, even in American high schools. The blood-suckers are still evil, but it is not uncommon for you to already know several.
2005 Twilight by Stephanie Meyer
This was the first time a well-known work presented vampires as the protagonists. There are bad vampires and there are good vampires, but the fact that they drink blood does not determine their morality.
Although not nearly as well known, this series of eight books is a great illustration of the completion of the transformation. Riding on the coat tails of Twilight‘s popularity, Marked takes the morality of vampyres (the spelling has now gone full circle also) a step farther by overtly stating that their political, educational, and religious systems are superior to that of mere humans. They have their own goddess and reject the closed-minded moral and ethical beliefs of the homo sapiens.
Here’s my point- Fighting evil is great entertainment, but people will only be entertained with the same good guys and bad guys for so long. Entertainers must change evil in order to keep our attention. First it moves to more common locations, then increases in prevalence, then becomes morally neutral, and finally develops into the superior way of life.
The good news is that vampires are not a real threat to us so our attitude toward the dangers they bring about does not matter. But what about all the other forms of evil that mainstream entertainment has managed to evolve? Sexual immorality, drug abuse, blatant dishonesty, and profanity are just a few sins that books, movies, and television originally ascribed to the villains but are now commonplace among the protagonists. Occasionally these acts and lifestyles are even portrayed as correct or superior.
Please don’t misinterpret this article–I’m not bashing Twilight. I’m simply cautioning us about the power that our choices in entertainment could have over us. Mainstream entertainment definitely affects the morality of culture as a whole and probably influences the thinking of Christians more than we would like to admit. Let’s be aware of how the world changes our view of right and wrong and make sure we are grounded on something more permanent.
Do you think that entertainment affects how we view right and wrong?
What sins have you seen culture move from villain to hero?
Do you think vampires are a real threat?
Join me next time as I chronicle how witchcraft has gotten younger and more innocent using the Wizard of Oz, Bewitched, Sabrina the Teenage Witch, Harry Potter, and the Wizards of Waverly Place. I'm just kidding...wait a second, though...there might be something to that...If I over-think it I'm sure I'll come up with something.