I liked vampires before they were cool [puts hipster glasses on]
In recent years, the popularity of vampires has fallen to the growing interest in zombies. Despite it all, I still hold my love for vampires. These mythological creatures have traditionally been depicted as evil plagues of humankind. Recently, the word ‘vampire’ has become synonymous with ‘ridiculously hot people who never age and never die.’ It’s a shame, really, because the concept of vampires is more complex than either of those images. They teach us something about the value of humanity and the dark side of gaining all we covet.
The original lore of vampires comes to us from the Middle Ages. When misfortune would fall upon a community they would blame the dead. They imagined the recently deceased had risen from the grave to bring chaos to the land. To prove their theory, they dug up graves and found bodies with swollen abdomens and blood trickling out of their mouths. Misunderstanding the signs of decay for that of a freshly fed monster, they assumed the body was a sleeping vampires. While scientific advances have given us a better understanding of decay, the lore of vampires has continued to evolve.
Consider what vampires have to come to symbolize in our society. When you think of them, what do you see. Chances are you imagine a pale, slim person in the prime of their 20s. Their hair, eyes and skin appear inhumanly perfect and their smile is enough to lure any unsuspecting victim into their arms. In short, these are beings which have everything humanity strives for. They have achieved eternal life, eternal beauty and eternal youth all for the small price of needing human blood to survive. The cost isn’t so bad, right?
Slowly, we have started to expand upon the idea of vampires. They are no longer solely defined by their need to feed or their unearthly beauty. Stories have gone on to show the true horrors of possessing all humanity covets.
This is a bad idea. I know we all like the idea of living longer. Even at 23, I find myself envious of those who will come after me. Imagine the scientific advances they will see! What other planets will we visit and the inventions we will create! I will miss all that comes after me. That’s a romantic idea, but do we ever stop to consider what makes life worth living?
Vampires are a wrench in the gears of the circle of life. Imagine centuries passing, all the while you never change. You stand alone in an ever-changing world, watching every being you’ve ever cared for, human or otherwise, deteriorate and die. Instead of a blessing, eternal life might be the most depressing state of any self-aware being for what is life without loved ones to share in your joy? Is eternal life worth watching all you hold dear pass away?
Instead of joy, eternal life brings about disturbing questions. How many loved ones must you watch die before losing the ability to love? How many pointless deaths would you bear witness to before you took death into your own hands? Would life hold any value if it lasted forever? We answer these questions in vampire lore and often find never-ending life brings the exact opposite of joy for all except those who have thrown their humanity away.
On the surface, this sounds great. Who wouldn’t want to be eternally beautiful? Since eternal beauty is an impossibility for us, we rarely consider the shallowness of that question. What do we really expect to receive out of beauty? We admire a number of celebrities and famous figures for their allure, yet they can’t seem to hold on to a lover. Perhaps we expect gifts and money, but those things are as physical as the beauty they pay homage to.
Excessive beauty has a way of distracting us from connection. In the today’s vampire stories, we see this disconnect exaggerated. These creatures are often depicted as able to get anything they want. Money, power, possessions – it’s all theirs for the taking. Everything we are told we should desire and covet, vampires have at their fingertips. However, the only vampires who seem truly at home in their wealth are those who have lost their humanity. They have left their soul behind and turned into monstrous beings. Perhaps they do so out of self-preservation. Those who still hold their humanity tend to be lonely, brooding beings. When you can have everything, nothing is valuable. What they wouldn’t give to have someone to confide in or come home to. Their beauty can get them anything they want, but lacks the power to give them what they need.
In that respect, maybe the monstrous vampires have simply gone mad from the idea that, with all their power, they still lack the ability to gain what they most covet: connection.
How many work out programs, make up kits and face creams are dedicated to slowing down the aging process? We rush through so much of our lives and focus only on slowing down the gradual appearance of wrinkles. Never do we consider the true horrors that can come with our age frozen in time.
One thing I did like in Twilight was the discussion of child vampires. Children eternally frozen in their state. Babies who never grow. Toddlers who never mature beyond their terrible twos. What a horror and what tragedy. When people discuss youth, what they really want is the vitality and wildness associated with their 20s. Looking back, they wish for their lives to be the way they used to be and ignore the romance that can come with aging. I think our thirst for youth might come from a place of regret. Instead of looking forward to an exciting future, we obsess with the mistakes of our past. If only youth was yours again, how you would live differently!
Perhaps it’s unfair for me to comment, given my age, but I think aging is something to look forward to. Sure, there are some downsides, but each passing year also brings new experiences. We grow old with our friends, family and lovers. All the while, we watch a new generation appear and do our best to pass on our wisdom. Aging allows us to grow and change into new and better people. It connects us to a world that is also ever-changing. When we see vampires who never change, they have often lost this connection. They feel like they exist outside of this world and eventually come to feel as if they don’t belong.
What do vampires show us about humanity? For starters, they show us the shallowness and pointlessness of our deepest desires. Even more, they show us how truly depression the acquisition of these qualities would be in an ever-changing world. Humanity is one with the circle of life, with death, age and socialization. The most fascinating thing about vampires lore is not the existence of their monstrosity, but that their monstrosity is a result of gaining all humanity coverts.
What do you like more, vampires, zombies or people?