The Lure of the Vampire

Julie Steinberg for the Wall Street Journal:

If you step out of your house late Thursday night, you’ll witness an overwhelming scene. At 12:01 a.m., movie theaters will release “New Moon,” the next film in the “Twilight” series. Anxious viewers will finally discover whether mortal Bella Swan will choose Jacob’s werewolf den over Edward’s sparkly coffin. Clearly, creatures of the night have returned to societal consciousness.

As a testament to their adaptability, vampires are front and center on the pop-culture stage. Television shows such as “True Blood” and “The Vampire Diaries” feature titillating exchanges between fanged supermodels. Movies like “Twilight,” “Let the Right One In” and “Blood: The Last Vampire” explore vampirism through teenage, independent and gore-tinted lenses, respectively. Even the BBC can’t withstand Bram Stoker’s lure, and has come up with “Being Human,” a show that focuses on three housemates who happen to be ghost, werewolf and vampire.

What accounts for this 21st-century obsession? Less than 30 years ago, dealing with blood was considered a risky and unclean business as society encountered the AIDS-laced transfusions of the 1980s. And even though those fears have mostly abated, having blood drawn at the doctor’s office is still enough to bring out the squeamish adolescent in all of us. How, then, have vampires been able to influence cultural discourse without activating our gag reflex?

Sex plays a part, undoubtedly—today’s pop culture champions infinitely virile vampires who resemble Abercrombie & Fitch models…

[continues in the Wall Street Journal]

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