A few days ago, I received a call from my employer asking me to work the overnight shift for a week. I have become a creature of the night, sleeping away the daylight hours and awaking in the evening to revel in my reign of darkness—not unlike a vampire, albeit one who prefers coffee to blood.
As I was working a couple of nights ago, I stumbled upon a vampire picture book belonging to one of the men with whom I work. Early yesterday morning, a coworker rhapsodized about the new Twilight movie.
Vampires are everywhere, and there are so many kinds. Action movies star leather-clad vampires with silver pistols and cool shades. The Twilight series features Edward “Sparkles” Cullen, a pale, irritating excuse for a creature of the night. The novels of Anne Rice depict vampires whose bloody lives are marked by moral quandaries and existential crises, and classics like Bram Stoker’s Dracula give a more traditional interpretation of America’s favorite monster.
Why are vampires so popular? I think part of it must be that vampires are tragic. They live without hope, doomed to survive by draining away the lives of others, hiding from the day, lurking alone in the cold, dark night, unable to die any death but a violent one, forever separated from love and light and happiness.
We sympathize with vampires, especially the ones who seek redemption. Edward from the Twilight series is engaging—well, tolerable—well, not quite one hundred percent awful—because he clings to his humanity. Vampire Hunter D, a character in Japanese media, travels alone, protecting humans from his own kind, never asking for gratitude or recognition.
Characters like these are compelling. Although they’re cursed with the destiny of villains, they choose instead to be heroes. They persevere, alone and misunderstood.
Of course, vampires can also be great bad guys. There’s something truly horrible about a creature that drinks blood, and this brutal bloodlust is often balanced by a cold, refined politeness. A vampire can be both a monster and a gentleman. That duality makes vampires exceptionally sinister villains.
The problem with vampires is that they’ve been done to death. (No pun intended.) Like zombies, vampires are ubiquitous. They’ve lost their novelty. When I see a novel or film or television show featuring vampires, my first response is to think, “Dash it, not another one.”
As I hinted in a recent creative piece, “A Portrait of the Artist as a Performing Monkey,” I dislike most vampire fiction. The genre has become stale, and I detest the violence, sexual perversity and muddy morality often associated with vampires. I miss old-fashioned stories like Dracula, in which evil evokes disgust and good inspires hope.
I must work a few more overnight shifts, and then I shall no longer have to be a vampire. I look forward to seeing the sun again.