Vampires have always had a place in pop culture from the gothic novels of the 1800s to the nineties cult TV show Buffy. But in the last three years we’ve witnessed a vampire craze unlike any other in recent history.
It all began, as I’m sure you’re all too aware, with the ubiquitous Twilight series. The four novels, written by Mormon author Stephanie Meyer, were eaten up by preteen girls and their mothers across the country but the Twilight epidemic truly began when the first movie came out in 2008. The young stars of the film were catapulted into an embarrassing level of fame and dominated the tabloids for months, if not years.
Many, such as myself, struggled with the self-loathing that accompanied the guilty pleasure we took in reading the Twilight novels and paying money to see the films in theaters. Luckily, new and more socially acceptable opportunities to enjoy the vampire trend arrived soon after the debut of Twilight with HBO’s True Blood in 2008 and the CW’s Vampire Diaries in 2009. True Blood, created by Six Feet Under and American Beauty writer/director Alan Ball, is dramatic, sexual and often grotesque and uses the vampire theme as a way to comment on racial and religious issues in a small southern town. Vampire Dairies takes place in Virginia in a town with a supernatural colonial history and involves a love triangle between brother vampires and a girl in high school. Both shows have garnered huge followings and excellent reviews.
I’ve often wondered what exactly it was about vampires that enabled them to become and remain a significant current in pop culture for the last three years. I think much of it has to do with the particular breed of the 21st century vampire. Unlike his evil, bloodthirsty ancestors, he hates the cold life he’s forced to live and is capable of love. He’s a hero that protects humans from the dangerous members of his kind. And he’s supernaturally handsome. In short, he is the ideal love interest—and nothing like the vampire villains from years before.
It’s interesting that Twilight and its respected TV counterparts share a central storyline: a star-crossed romance between a male vampire and human female. Their love for one another is in constant peril because he is immortal and she grows older with everyday. Oh, and also that he might kill her by accident at any moment if his vampire urges take over his free will. It feels like the vampire trend might be on its way out, but it think the way 21st century vampires lend themselves to modern versions of classic unending romance is what makes them so appealing.