The Scarlet & Black

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The Scarlet & Black

The Scarlet & Black

Feven Getachew
Feven Getachew
May 6, 2024
Michael Lozada
Michael Lozada
May 6, 2024
Nathan Hoffman
Nathan Hoffman
May 6, 2024
Harvey Wilhelm `24.
Harvey Wilhelm
May 6, 2024

Embracing The Vampire

Let’s get one thing straight: Edward Cullen sucks.

Or, to be more clear, I should say he (idiomatically) sucks as a vampire because he doesn’t literally suck as a vampire, and being a vampire is supposed to be all about the sucking.

(To be honest, I’ve only read the first “Twilight” book and I don’t know how the rest of the series plays out. Maybe Edward becomes more interesting, but I really don’t care to find out.)

Vampires are everywhere these days. The success of Stephanie Meyer’s abstinence allegory, the “Twilight” series, has led to all kinds of vampire tales filling the shelves of the teen sections of bookstores and multiplexes across the country.

What accounts for the resurgence of The Vampire these days? Why are they such a big part of the zeitgeist at this particular moment, and will their popularity outlast other recent fads like The Jonas Brothers or the Internet?

The new Vampirism finds its origin, I think, in “Buffy the Vampire Slayer,” Joss Whedon’s exquisitely crafted serio-comic horrorshow soap opera. “Buffy” skillfully rendered the high school-as-Hell metaphor in its first three seasons, and it (along with its spinoff “Angel”) proved that vampires could be presented with sophistication and seriousness as symbolic representations of our not-so-deeply-hidden psycho-sexual fears.

It was always interesting to see how Angel and Spike wore their human faces in order to mask their inner demons, but we were all really watching to see when their fangs would come out. As much as Angel is the hero, it’s the soulless Angelus who steals the show. And nothing compares to the sheer joy conveyed by the sublime James Marsters as he transforms from William the Bloody to William the Bloody Awesome Ass-Kicking Vampire.

No wonder that, at least with these two, she became Buffy the Vampire Layer.

The real visceral pleasure of reading or watching a vampire story comes during the reveal of the inner monster, and this is where “Twilight” fails but shows like “Buffy” and “True Blood” succeed. The Vampire’s masking builds tension that is supposed to be resolved when they give in to their darkness and we give in to our own, not when they show the chronically-bland Bella that they sparkle in the sunlight.

Vampires feed off of the blood of living creatures and have the ability to turn a victim into a vampire by first sucking the human’s blood and then having that human suck the vampire’s blood in return. Vampires typically appear hyper-attractive, which allows them to seduce their victims, and their method of generation means that anybody could potentially become a vampire.

What makes vampires scary is their ability to walk among us undetected, their incredible physical strength and the fact that they feed off of the living to continue to exist as undead.

Also, they’re real.

In an age when presidential administrations can gain power by exploiting tragedy and asking its citizens to shed blood in a war of choice, when men like Bernie Madoff fatten themselves on the trust and wealth of their fellow citizens, when baseball players inject Human Growth Hormone into their veins in order to increase their physical prowess, it’s not hard to see Vampirism run amok. We then need to find answers as to how to stop it.

We can’t help but wonder if our own necks are exposed, and whether our victimization might mean our untimely end or our continued existence as one of Them. To be a vampire is as attractive as it is terrifying, and any good vampire story plays on this ambivalence.
The problem with Edward Cullen is that he’s not scary, that he doesn’t force us to confront his demons or our own. We know that he is on our side and that we should be on his. It’s all too easy.

We need vampire stories to present an alternate world that looks like our own so that we can learn how to spot the real vampires—political, financial, emotional—walking among us. We need a space where we can safely explore what it’s like to lay our necks open to the fang, or to admit that what drives our obsessions with 24-hour news coverage of scandals and murders, our need to tune in to the mindless tragedies of reality television, our utter complacency in corruption and exploitation is our insatiable desire for the taste of blood.

We need to know that at the end of the day we can leave the darkness and walk in the sunlight, not necessarily to sparkle but simply to live.
Ultimately, our fascination with vampires has less to do with our fear of what’s out there than our fear of what lies within. It’s only by facing that fear that we can overcome the inner darkness and come out of the shadows. We need to watch or read the vampire tales so that we can write our own in which we feel the fangs but choose not to bite.

That would be a vampire story with a happy ending. That would be a vampire story, as Buffy might say, that doesn’t suck.

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