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As one of the most famous creatures in horror history, the vampire has seen an evolution that few creatures built of lore, legend, fiction, and film have enjoyed" (Karg, Spaite and Sutherland (2009:p1)).
We who thought vampires were driven to extinction by the hand of Van Helsing and his gang can think again. Bram stoker's creation, Dracula, has dominated the horror scene in film and literature for decades, creating a legacy that, like the infamous count, will live on for eternity. Vampires have become a focal point for many inspiring writers and film makers, who have embraced Bram Stoker's creation, and moulded it into their own interpretation. The Vampire has taken on many forms since the introduction of film and has become one of the most viewed and loved creatures within twenty first century's popular culture.
The first appearance of the vampire within English literature was John William Polidori's "The Vampyre", this was a short story published in the New Monthly Magazine in 1819. Polidori envisioned a suave killer who rises from the dead to prey on the aristocratic bourgeoisie of the nineteenth century. One could suggest, with the influence of Polidori's companion Lord Byron, the tragic Byronic hero/villain which we see in today's interpretation of vampires was created with Polidori's imagination. Thus forming a starting point for Bram Stoker's masterpiece eight decades later.
"Within a decade Dracula would become the standard by which horror fiction is measured and it has never been out of print since its first publication" (Karg, Spaite and Sutherland (2009:p1)).
The new breed of vampires within the twenty first century has breathed new life into the once-hunted creature, giving it an appeal within society, ensuring the lore of immortality, and a set of ripped muscles will leave any hot blooded woman or man eager to sacrifice their own lives to be the vampires' next conquest. The attraction towards vampires started with the adaption of the film Nosferatu made by German filmmaker Friedrich Maunau in 1922. Society was introduced to a new form of entertainment, and with this came a new appreciation of the prince of darkness. The film was an unauthorised version of Dracula, which gained vast interest from the pubic after a lawsuit was put in place by Bram Stoker's widow Florence Stoker, whom had retained the copyrights to her husband's work.
The vampire intrigues its audience and opens up the imagination, challenging the viewers' sense of morality, especially with adaptations of on screen vampires within the last decade like the American TV HBO series True Blood and the Twilight film saga portraying the more romantic and tragic elements of the vampires life, which gives the once-feared creature an appeal to the masses within popular culture, and allows the audience a taste of a lovable prince charming with fangs. It can be argued that vampires are, and always have been, a writer's way of reflecting on the issues and fears which reside within society.
"Vampirism has become for postmodern writers a ready metaphor for the sickness of our society" (Gordon J, Hollinger V (1997:pX1)).
Over the next few chapters one will aim to explore the origins of the vampire myth, and develop an understanding of the vampire we see today in twenty first century popular culture. Starting chapter one with folklore and the myth surrounding the infamous creature that stalks the night, devouring victims' blood, one will gather an understanding of where the legend was developed, and why it still holds such an appeal in today's popular culture. It has been argued that the vampire we see today is a far cry from the tales of folklore. The vampire has been romanticised as a Byronic hero/villain, and has become an object of intrigue and fascination for our eyes to feast upon. The second chapter will explore the transition of Dracula from literature to screen with the adaption of films Nosferatu (the adaption which is said to resemble the true form of vampires seen within folklore) and Bella Lugosi's Dracula (a sexualisation of the vampire) these are both adaption's of Bram Stoker's creation. The appeal these films held will be explored, as will what attracted the audience to the once-hated creature and turned it into a figure to lust after. Vampires have given birth to a legacy, and are used as satire to make the reader aware of the underlying problems within society. It has been speculated, theorised, and criticised that Bram Stoker was guilty of using his monster as a way of expressing the fears within society in the late nineteen hundreds when he wrote Dracula, and it has been argued that Dracula could have been seen as partially autobiographical, reflecting Stoker's own fears about society. Chapter three will delve in to the legacy Dracula has created, and to do this one will look at HBO's 2008 series True Blood, which is based on the Sookie Stackhouse books by Charlene Harris. This series could be seen as suggested in the quote above, 'a postmodern writer's metaphor for the sickness of our society'. This chapter will explore the elements found within True Blood, which could back up this statement by analysing the context of the series, and also some of the lead characters and their roles within the storyline/plot, and uncovering the reasons this show has such an appeal to its viewers. True Blood is in the process of filming the fifth season, which is due for release to the public in June 2012. This chapter will also explore the satire and political messages hidden within some of the episodes of True Blood throughout seasons one to four.
The aim here is to gain an understanding of the satire used to promote vampires in myth and fiction, and to develop one reason as to why vampires are one of the most filmed creatures within today's popular culture. To understand where a legend/myth comes from, you must first understand its origins, and how it came to be in the first place—and the vampire has had so many different interpretations in different cultures throughout history, it is impossible to uncover them all, the only facts we find are within text books, and some of these have been greatly exaggerated and fabricated.
The word 'vampire', in its written form first appeared in the eleventh century as a scribbled note in a manuscript in the book of Psalms. This was translated by a humble priest for a Novgorodian prince, Vladimir Yaroslavovich, In this note the priest addresses the prince as 'upir lichyj' (a 'wicked vampire'). Given the lowly position of the priest to the prince it is highly unlikely to be a criticism. The derivation of the word 'vampire' is uncertain, but theorists believe it comes from various Indo-European words for the verb to fly (Montague, C (2010:p18)).
The vampire myth, it has been argued, could have developed with the misunderstanding of death, and the decomposition of the bodies in the middle ages, as the corpses were normally laid out for everyone to witness, but folklore tales date back much earlier than this, and have stemmed from societies' superstitions of the unknown. The idea of something dying and coming back to life to prey on the living has said to have been derived from old religion of Slavic times, and ancient folklore when Christian imagery described hell and the rise of the devil. The stories of horror and eye witness accounts would have been derived the people/peasants within that society at the time seeing their loved ones die from illness like plague and tuberculosis, also seeing nature at work; like witnessing bats sucking blood from cattle, or wolves devouring their latest meal, these things would have been imbedded into their everyday lives creating fears of the unknown. It all comes down to the lack of education, and dire living conditions people of this time would have had to endure.
"Such superstitions were based on ignorance and fear; for the most part, stories told by uneducated peasant communities about the frightening, cruel, and brutal conditions of life around them, and which they had little scientific knowledge about. However, these stories also expressed some deep-rooted, and understandable, anxieties about a world in which their needs, their individual circumstances, and their common humanity were often ignored. For that reason, these stories are still powerful today" (Montague, C (2010:p18)).
Folklore are stories passed on throughout the ages, changing slightly and inevitably becoming more exaggerated each time they're told. There are reportedly vampire legends and stories all over the world within different cultures, but all seem to carry the same fear of drinking blood.
Recent finding have indicated there is another form of vampire called a 'psychic' vampire, which drains energy from its victims rather than blood. Some may find the idea a little strange to say the least given the unusual theories surrounding the vampire myth, but with vampirism one should keep an open mind to the possibilities, as this creature has endured many transformations throughout the ages. One theorist in particular, Konstantinos, has indicated an interest in uncovering the truth behind 'psychic' vampires, and within his book Vampires: The Occult Truth he claims to have met 'psychic' vampires, and helped people who have suffered at the hands of such a creature.
"A psychic vampire is a creature, in either human or phantom-like form that feeds on psychic energy. What do I mean by "psychic energy"? It's been known by many names in different cultures and time periods- Orgone Energy, Odic Force, Bioplasma, Chi and Prana to name a few. Whatever it's called, the energy is what seems to keep us alive and well; think of it as our life force"(Konstantinos (2002:p126)).
This idea could be criticised as being farfetched, or it could just be added to the extensive list of new interpretations. The idea that vampires live among us is not a new theory; many books have been written indicating the existence, or the belief of certain individuals within history who could be bestowed with the title of vampire. One name in particular is brought up frequently within vampire studies, and this is Elizabeth Bathory (1560-1614) of Hungary. The infamous "Blood Countess" legend has it Bathory slaughtered virginal maidservants, and bathed in their blood as she believed this helped her maintain youthful looks. Bathory was put on trial accused of witch craft, this led to the execution of two of her maidservants, but she escaped the same fate as them being of noble blood. Bathory was locked away with her only access to the outside world being an air vent where food was passed through. Bathory is believed to have murdered over six hundred and fifty women, but as with much of the information passed down throughout history the amount of people who were slain could all be fabrication passed down through folktales. There is apparently a diary which has been kept in Hungarian state archives, but this diary has never been published and its existence is highly doubted.
It is tales like the one of Elizabeth Bathory that have been bred into the imagination of people. Given the lack of education and the fear of the unknown, stories like the one of the "Blood Countess" would have haunted them. It is only now that society is more aware of what certain people and animals are capable of with the discovery of science and substantial evidence; we can now understand that the things which we were once fearful of can be investigated and analysed. One could suggest that with the lack of education, and the harsh living conditions people once endured they were more likely to believe anything and pass down their fears and anxieties through generations, giving us the folklore stories we see today within text books and media.
During the eighteen hundreds, the need to uncover the truth behind the existence of vampires became a focal point for many. There were reports of vampire epidemics circling around Eastern Europe, and these spread westwards towards England and Germany; these tales of vampire sightings and superstitions were brought back with travelers and soldiers who told fascinated audiences tales of their experiences.
"Throughout much of the later seventeenth and eighteenth centuries there were reports of vampire epidemics in Eastern Europe, the first in Istria in 1672, followed by Prussia (1710, 1721, 1750), Hungry (1725-30), Silistria (1755), Wallachia (1756) and ending in Russia in 1772... The scale and longevity of these reports caused a considerable amount of interest among the great thinkers of the period. On November 1, 1765 the 'Gazette des Gazettes' put forward a challenge to the scientific community to 'provide conclusive evidence' against vampires and settle the argument for good (Beresford, M (2009:p99)).
Unfortunately for the scientific minds of the time, society was reluctant to let go of the superstition and mythology surrounding the origins of the vampire. Many saw the scientist's investigations as ridiculous and unnecessary. It wasn't until great philosophers of the time began to ridicule the notion of the vampire being real that people started listening. Voltaire (1694-1778) author and philosopher of the time, argued against the prospect of the existence of vampires, believing the only true vampires were the churchmen draining the resources from the land and people. It was around this time when people were questioning religion and the moral order of the country with the advancement of science, and the vast growing world of the industrial revolution.
"What! Vampires in our Eighteenth Century? Yes... In Poland, Hungry, Silesia, Moravia, Austria, and Lorraine... There was no talk of vampires in London, or even Paris [The] true bloodsuckers did not live in cemeteries, they preferred great places... Kings are not, properly speaking, vampires. The true vampires are the churchmen who eat at the expense of the king and the people" -Voltaire (Beresford, M (2009:p113)).
The eighteenth century saw the rise of the gothic era where ghouls and creatures that stalk the night became a topic for many aspiring writers who could allow their imaginations to explore new boundaries of literature. It is no secret that the Victorians had a morbid fascination with death and graveyards. This was the century where the vampire was born within literature, and progressed into the iconic legend we see in today's popular culture. The first story, which is said to have made an impact into vampire literature was John William Polidori's "The Vampyre." This was a short story published within The New Monthly Magazine in 1819. Polidori was a physician and companion to the infamous 'mad, bad and dangerous to know,' Lord Byron. "The Vampyre" envisions a Lord Ruthven, a villainous and spoilt aristocrat who preys on the ruling class, charming and swooning women, feeding off them to survive once he has them lusting after him. This tale is believed to be a revival of a short story Lord Byron had constructed in 1816, but never finished. Polidori made some changes to Byron's creation, starting with the name Ruthven. In Byron's version, the lead was called Darvell, a heroic young aristocrat who voyages to Turkey only to return to England to die in a cemetery vowing to rise from the dead. Obviously with Byron's influence, Polidori saw the appeal of this story and decided to carry the tale on. By the time "The Vampyre" was published, Polidori and Byron had parted ways, this was after Byron had discovered Polidori had been commissioned to keep diaries of his exploits, after a series of rows between the pair, Byron fired Palidori.
The lead character Lord Ruthven is said to have been based on Lord Byron; arrogant, greedy, dangerous, and a predator to women. It could be argued that Polidori, in his own envious rage, created a monster that would unfortunately cause his own demise. The ironic thing about Polidori's creation was that he didn't gain recognition for "The Vampyre," it was published under Byron's name—and because of Byron's reputation and stature of that time, the story was released as a book, and became an immediate best seller. It could also be argued that the likeness the lead character had to Byron could indicate why still today the male vampire seems to prey more on women. Vampires of folklore stories didn't distinguish between sexes; Polidori gave the vampire a guise to fool its victims, using charm and good looks, the vampire in Polidori's story is the victor. This idea will be reversed later on with Bram Stoker's Dracula where good defeats evil. Understanding Polidori's story, it is easy to see where Stoker formed the basis for his creation eight decades later.
"In spite of the deadly hue of his face, which never gained a warmer tint, either from the blush of modesty, or from the strong emotion of passion, though its form and outline were beautiful, many of the female hunters after notoriety attempted to win his attentions..." (Jackson, K (2009:p33)).
The more sympathetic vampire was created in 1847 by James Malcolm Rymer with Varney the Vampire; this was over 850 pages long and stemmed to 237 chapters in a series of Penny Dreadfuls. Rymer had taken the idea from Polidori's Lord Ruthven, and changed the character making him more relatable to folkloric ideas of the vampire, giving the character gaunt features, sharp pointed teeth, and bone-like hands, which were similar to the stories of the un-dead heard of within folklore tales. Rymer also played on the conscience of the character, portraying guilt after turning one of his female victims.
"I thought that I had steeled my heart against all gentle impulses," he laments after turning a young girl into a vampire, "that I had crushed –aye, completely crushed dove-eyed pity in my heart, but it's not so, and still sufficient of my once human feelings clings to me to make me grieve for thee" (Jenkins, M (2010:p82)).
Varney commits suicide mercilessly by throwing himself into the crater of a volcano to prevent his remains from re-animating. He does this because he is disgusted and sickened by his lack of self control, and the atrocities he has inflicted on his innocent victims. One could suggest that with the influence of Polidori's Byronic interpretation and Rymer's more sympathetic approach, Stoker had the beginning of his infamous count.
Stoker's Dracula is the epitome of eighteenth century gothic literature that has set the bar for the interpretations of vampires we see in today's popular culture. Stoker grew up in Ireland as a sickly child, bed bound by his illness. His mother told him tales of Irish folklore and ghost stories. Stoker as an adult, worked within the theatre, becoming manager for Henry Irving, the sought after actor of the time. He grew very fond of his boss and would work long hours for him, his only escape being the quaint little fishing village of Whitby in Yorkshire, it was here where Stoker found the premise for his masterpiece. Dracula took Stoker seven years to write, as he spent time researching the premise of his book, studying folklore and other stories surrounding the vampire. Stoker kept journals and notes on his findings, including times tables of trains. Stoker would have been well aware of the fears felt within society at the time, possibly feeling the same fears himself. The industrial revolution was advancing fast, and people who once looked to the church and religion to find solace were starting to question their beliefs with the advancement of science and the vast growing technology, the very morality of society was being scrutinised.
"The people had always looked to religion to feel safe and now with the advancement in science and the introduction to a new vast growing world made society sit up and question the religious doctrine which had formed the basis of moral and social order for centuries" (Spark notes (2011)).
Dracula re-invented the vampire myth introducing death by sunlight, steaks, crosses, and the conception that Count Dracula did not cast a reflection in a mirror, this was also the first time the vampire had been seen to transform into animals and weather elements; bat, wolf, mist etc. The story unfolds through different character's journals, diaries, notes, and letters. This gives the impression of multiple narrators throughout, and can be classed as being written as an epistolary where the reader becomes a detective; this made Dracula seem biographical, rather than a fictional novel, making the reader believe that the contents were true accounts of real people. It could be believed that this was Stoker's clever idea to bring his monster (Count Dracula) to life to give the unsuspecting reader a feeling of realism on the existence of this sinister fictional character. However, it could also be argued that Dracula is autobiographical, and Stoker was writing down his true thoughts within the book, but being a good Victorian kept them hidden within the narrative.
Stoker had used his vast research of Romanian mythology, and had discovered a piece of Transylvanian history surrounding a prince Vlad Dracula in the 1400s: it has been said that Prince Vlad impaled his enemies on poles, thus earning him the tile of 'Vlad the impaler'. Stoker had also discovered the term 'Dracula' as being Wallachian for 'devil' although this has recently been discovered to be an incorrect assumption (Karg, Spaite, Sutherland (2009:p70)). It was Prince Vlad's medieval castle in Transylvania which became the setting for the Counts dwelling within the novel, and later on, the name which has turned Stoker's masterpiece into a legacy. The original title for Dracula was The Un-dead, but he changed it just before publication. One could suggest that the name change has influenced the book's success, and it could have turned out very different if Stoker had stuck to the original title. The book was released in 1897, unfortunately for Stoker he never gained satisfactory recognition for his novel within his lifetime. He died in 1912 in the same week as the Titanic. One thing is for certain, Dracula definitely didn't die with him, and still lives on within today's popular culture. Bram Stoker's masterpiece will live on for an eternity (like its lead character) and be re-invented time and time again.
Friedrich Murnau's silent film Nosferatu (1922) was the first film adaption of the infamous Count Dracula, taken from the pages of Bram Stoker's creation without authorisation, and onto the screen for our eyes to feast upon. The names of the characters had been changed. The fact that there was such a fuss made by Florence Stoker who wanted the film destroyed, could indicate the reason for the film's success as the lawsuit gained much public interest at the time. Stoker won the law suit; in 1925 it was ordered that the copies be destroyed. Fortunately for Maunau some of the copies survived, and the film resurfaced three years later and reached American screens twelve months after that (Pirie, D (1977:p36). Since then the film has become a cult classic within popular culture, defining the beginning of the vampire craze among the masses, although it took a while to be in the public domain, it undoubtedly holds significance for vampires depicted on screen. Nosferatu arguably paved the way for the films which followed.
"While it clearly moves at a slower pace than most modern films, it is still one of the most beautiful and atmospheric horror pictures ever made"(Barclay,A, (2001)).
Maunau's vampire, Count Orlock, was played my Max Schreck (whose name means terror in German), and with his gaunt, bony, rat-like features, thin frame, and long menacing claw-like nails, it could be speculated that Maunau's version of the vampire was closer to depictions of the creature described within folklore. The reason for this is because Maunau is said to of ignored the 'Ruthven formula' (Polidori's "The Vampyre") and made a vampire which was set on terrifying and shocking its audience, while portraying a sense of realism. For obvious copyright reasons the vampire in Nosferatu was given a different name as were the other characters. Count Graf Orlock's character could be seen as more of an interpretation of James Malcolm Rymer's Varney the Vampire; he is isolated and lonely and condemned, and also appears to resemble the description Rymer presented within his novel. One thing is for sure, this interpretation is a far cry from the depiction of vampires used a decade later.
Another difference to the plot is the use of rats—this could indicate another point towards folklore, as we are aware the bubonic plague or Black Death in the fourteen hundreds, which was introduced with a rat infestation. And according to folklore a lot of superstition surrounding the 'un-dead' came from this period with people at the time seeing their loved ones die from grotesque illnesses like the plague, one could suggest Maunau wanted to re-awaken the true origin of the vampire found within folklore. The ending to Nosferatu is also different from Dracula.
The leading female protagonist, Ellen (Mina), sacrifices herself by distracting the count as he drinks from her as dawn starts breaking, meaning he turns to dust (which is an element we still see today in most vampire fiction) when the sun comes up, ridding the town of the plague his existence has caused. Other than the differences which are obvious to a Dracula reader, Nosferatu follows the same storyline as Dracula, and the characters' names have only been altered slightly Jonathan Harker becomes Waldemar Hutter, Mina Murray/Harker, Ellen Hutter (rather than being his fiancé she becomes his wife in Maunau's adaption), Renfield becomes Knock, and Van Helsing becomes Bulwar. The other characters found within Dracula, Lucy Westenra, Dr Seward, Quincey Morris, and Lord Godalming are not present in Nosferatu.
Although Florence Stoker fought and won against Nosferatu going ahead she was not completely against her husband's book being portrayed within film. A few years after Nosferatu she gave her blessing to another adaption of her husband's work. This was Bella Lugosi's 1931 classic Dracula, directed by Tod Browning, and based on a stage play by Hamilton Deane and John L Balderston. This stage show had also drawn inspiration from Bram Stoker's masterpiece (it is believed Florence Stoker had seen this stage show, and was impressed giving her blessing for the film adaption), although the use of the cloak was all Deane's idea, which has become a signature trademark since releasing the film. Lugosi as Dracula became the standard for how the character would be portrayed for decades to come; his pale complexion and deathly speech both frightened and excited its audience. The film was a success, representing a milestone in cinema, it showed how the film industry had moved on from the silent era into 'talkies'. The movie drew massive crowds to the cinema, curious to see what the attraction was. There had been tales of people fainting from the shock of seeing Bella Lugosi's portrayal of the count, some people reportedly had to be carried out of the cinema, and the popularity of this film made Dracula a household name, promoting the sales of merchandise and gimmicks all over the world. At this period of time, the film industry and Universal in particular, was going through the depression. There has been a link made between vampire films and depression by some cultural historians.
"The Universal film Dracula finally made the count a brand name familiar around the world. It was also the only profitable film Universal Studios made that year, and helped rescue Universal from the Depression" (Jackson,K (2009:p92)).
The film estimated at three hundred and fifty-five thousand dollars, and ran for seventy-five minutes. Bella Lugosi plays a suave nobleman, charming with a smooth Hungarian accent. Lugosi's portrayal was appealing to the females within the audience with his obvious, dark good looks, but he also appealed to the male viewer when the counts true nature is exposed, showing the dark and predatory side of Count Dracula. At no point in the film do you see fangs or bite marks on the victim's neck, although there is a Spanish version where the bite marks are shown. Although this was classed as a 'talkie', there is not much dialogue, but Lugosi's accent gave depth to the character, obviously filmmaking at this point was still in its prime, only just breaking the sound barrier three years previous so everything seen on screen came down to good camera work and lighting.
"Lugosi's Portrayal of Dracula is a chilling performance; his accent, facial expressions, threatening yet sophisticated demeanour and grandiose attire are still widely associated with vampires today" (Beresford, M (2008:p144)).
Although Lugosi saw some success with other work in the early thirties, unfortunately he was stereotyped with his role of Dracula. Although his depiction of the count rewarded him with massive amounts of female admirers, he wouldn't be taken seriously as an actor again. It seems the film has given us what we see in today's popular culture as a depiction of the count we have come to love and embrace, for Lugosi it was the death of this acting career. Ironically Lugosi was not the first choice for the role. Lon Chaney a popular actor at the time was Browning's first choice to play the Count, but unfortunately he died of throat cancer in 1930, and the obvious person to take over the role was Lugosi who had portrayed the Count before in the Deane/Hamilton stage show.
"Lugosi's Dracula-style left no room for development. A sexual element was implicit, as is indicated by the actor's subsequent fan mail from women and his own previous career as a romantic lead, but it was heavy-handed and superficial sexuality, given more credibility by the vampiric associations of the film than it actually deserved. Consequently there was no direction it could take except that of self-parody. Lugosi often protested that he was trapped by the role. It is hard to imagine how he would ever have been able to exist as an actor without it" (Pirie, D (1977:p55)).
For any die-hard vampire fans, the true legend is Christopher Lee's portrayal of the infamous Prince of Darkness. He has reportedly played Dracula over seventeen times throughout his career; this started with the British Hammer Horror series the first of these was Dracula 1958 (the title was changed for America's viewing public to Horror of Dracula). It has been suggested by many critics that Lee brought to the character a refreshing awakening, giving the Count a more suave and magnetic sex appeal than Lugosi's depiction of Dracula. It has also been said that Lee as the Count brought a terrifying authentic feel to the role of Dracula with his tall six foot five frame, and his devastatingly menacing good looks. The Hammer series weren't short of gore either, it was the first time viewers got to see a close up shot of the vampire's face in feeding mode. This showed his sharp, protruding fangs, blood stained mouth, and the piercing red eyes. These were all characteristics of the Count described within Stoker's Dracula. One could suggest that this interpretation of Dracula brought to life, and gave a sense of realism, to the vampire described on the pages of Bram Stoker's classic novel.
The Hammer Horror version of Dracula met with some restrictions from the censoring board; they believed the vampire should not be seen sinking his teeth into the neck of his victims, and the women should be suitably dressed. Basically any scenes of a sexual nature were demanded to be removed from the film that would be released for public viewing. They believed there was no room for sexual content within horror films. Hammer argued against this stating.
"The x certificate suggested for 'Dracula' would automatically prevent anyone under the age of sixteen from seeing the film, and to argue that the audience expected a certain amount of horror and gore from the film. They also suggested that the proposed cuts would remove the excitement and shocks that the audience were expecting" (Beresford,M (2009:p147)).
Lee carried on portraying Dracula into the seventies, and did his last Dracula film in seventy-three which was The Satanic Rights of Dracula. There would only one be one more Dracula film made by Hammer after this. The audience had started to lose interest in Hammer films. This could be because throughout the years the films they were producing were becoming more farcical, and had lost direction, although Lee's character always remained a strong favourite with the viewing public. Unfortunately for Hammer, they were resigned to the fact that their films had no leverage within the film industry anymore, and the Hammer series went out of business.
"As the seventies progressed, the themes became more diverse: there was even a film about race, the blaxploitation movie 'Blacula' (1972). One subject however continued to be a stable box-office draw: the vampire as a sex symbol" (Montague,C (2010)).
The use of the vampire as a sex symbol is the one thing which has remained strong since the release of Lugosi as Dracula. Even in today's culture, the vampire can be used as a way of portraying a forbidden or dangerous love like in recent films like Twilight or HBO's popular television series True Blood, which both predominantly appeal more to teenagers and young adults. Gone are the days when there was only one predator to concern ourselves with; they now come in swarms of vampires, setting residence with humans, and enticing women/men into their beds to feed on, or do with as they please. Gone are the days when just the biting of the neck, the flick of a cape, or a smooth accent were innuendo enough for sexual liberation; now audiences are given full on scenes filled with sex, violence, and plenty of blood.
This just indicates how the film industry has moved on, and how society has become de-sensitised to all things sexual and gruesome.
One could argue that maybe the depictions of modern day vampires have lost their definitive imagery that turned this creature into the legend it once was. Although, one can clearly see the appeal these three depictions Dracula had for the fans of vampire fiction. They have all gone down in history as 'classics', and have opened doors for the vampire films we see in today's popular culture. The vampire legacy owes a great deal to films like these that have created a mass cultural following of the vampire within film and literature, allowing people to trace the origins of this mythical being, and explore new and exciting interpretations of the infamous Count Dracula.
One thing is for certain, we as a viewing public have not seen the last of vampires being portrayed within film and literature, and like the infamous Count, the vampire legacy will be with us for generations to come.
"What better food for the imagination than a creature who incorporates sex, blood, violence, shape shifting, super human power, and eternal life?"(Jenkins M (2010:p8)).
Set in The fictional town of Bon Temps in Louisiana, True Blood has become one of America's most-watched shows. Adapted from the Sookie Stackhouse Diaries written by Charlene Harris True Blood burst onto our television screens in 2008, and was an overnight success.
"To date the show has attracted over 12 million viewers per week, becoming HBO's most watched series since 'The Sopranos'" (MontagueC (2010:p176)).
True Blood was created and directed by screen writer Alan Ball (Six Feet Under and American Beauty). Ball discovered Charlene Harris's novel Dead Until Dark (first novel in The Southern Vampire series) in a book store on the way to a dentist appointment, he was intrigued after the first few pages, and found the book to be clever and funny. Ball Wanted to create something a little less morbid than Six Feet Under, which is a series about life within a funeral director's business. Harris' books had inspired him, and could offer a different perspective of death. Being an openly gay man who fought for his rights with with the LGBT society, it has been said that Ball created True Blood as a satire to the struggles the gay community face in America. Ball has openly admitted himself that he feels the LGBT community doesn't have the same rights as other people.
"I am not given the same rights as other people because of certain religious convictions. Call me crazy but I thought there was a separation between the church and the state of America" (Lynn, P (2011)).
When it came to creating the setting, Louisiana was perfect; it is warm, earthy, and creates the ideal landscape for the reflection of the American South. Ball wanted to keep things rural and natural giving the audience a sense of realism. Bon Temps is shrouded in greenery with woodland areas, it gives the impression of being closed in from the outside world; a safe haven for the residents of Bon Temps, but a place where a predator doesn't have to look far to find its next meal.
The opening for True Blood doesn't contain any of the cast and conveys religious fervour, death, sex, and drinking, also a bill board, which states 'God hates fangs'. This scene is all played out to Jace Everetts "Bad Things" a very southern gritty soundtrack which adds to the appeal of the show.
"In addition we wanted to explore parings of religious and sexual themes with implied violence. During a healing a white preacher wraps his hands around the throat of a black woman. Flashes of writhing naked bodies could be love making or rape. A woman thrashes violently, and is restrained, while in the (death) throes of the Holy Spirit, another woman suggestively wraps and constricts a man with her legs at a bar... the whole sequence is peppered with moments like this and depending on the viewers perception they will have a different gut feeling in response to them" (Vlaanderen,R (2009)).
True Blood focuses on the life of Sookie Stackhouse, a blond, attractive twenty-five-year old waitress working in Merlotte's Bar & Grill in Bon Temps. Unbeknown to her customers Sookie is telepathic and can tap into their deepest thoughts. One night when working her shift in Merlotte's a stranger enters the bar, and to Sookie's amazement she cannot hear his thoughts. It becomes apparent that this stranger is a one hundred and seventy three year old vampire named William Compton, and he is looking to reside in Bon Temps in his late family's home. There is an immediate attraction between the pair as Bill is intrigued by Sookie's lack of fear, and can sense that she is different from any other human he has met before.
Having the 'gift' she carries, Sookie has limited her relationships with men, as she knows what they are expecting before they have said it, which means she is a virgin, and wary of love. Sookie has old world values as her and her brother Jason were raised by their grandmother after her parents untimely death. Sookie is proper and polite, and demands respect from the opposite sex, it could be suggested that this is another reason why Bill is so fascinated by her, she reminds him of women from the nineteenth century, and of when he was human. The innocence of Sookie, and the lack of judgement is one of her more destructive qualities as she always puts herself in danger. But fortunately for Sookie, Bill is never out of reach to save her.
True Blood envisions a world where the vampires have 'come out' of their coffin, and into society to intermingle among humans. Japanese scientists have created a synthetic blood, which the vampires can survive on, allowing them to reside among humans (of a night) without the worry they are going to feed off human blood. There are many people who believe vampires are a parasite, and should not be allowed to live among 'normal' citizens seeing them as outcasts, the people who choose to accept vampires, or become sexually involved with them are classed as 'fang bangers'. The lack of acceptance for the vampires within society can be seen as people having fear for change and the unknown, which is a concept that has always been within society as stated within chapter one.
Society is afraid of change and things that cannot be explained properly, this can be identified as just a case of bias or lack of education about certain ways of life.
Within Bon Temps it is not only vampires humans need to concern themselves with; there are also werewolves, shape shifters, fairies (season three), ghosts, and a Maenad (season two). It seems Bon Temps is the hotspot for supernatural's to find solace, or a good place to hide a murderous intent.
"The message is of course, a liberal humanist one that the distinctions between 'normal' individuals and misfits are never simple, and that vampires/outcasts can be victims too" (Montague, C (2010:p176)).
There have been many forums and blogs posted on the internet about 'True Blood' from fans and haters alike, this is just a indication of how popular this show has become, and Ball welcomes opinions and criticism. one of the more critical reviewers found on the i09 rant website argued the indication that the vampires represent the repressed minority of society (gay and blacks) can suggest that they are nothing more than brutal thugs and murderers, and using these as metaphors for gays could only suggest that the show is indicating that gays are an unwelcome commodity within society.
"'True Blood' shows us a glimpse of sexual freedom, only to strongly suggest it equals freedom for amoral murderers. Initially, the show's writers seemed to be toying with the idea that the vamps might be stand-ins for blacks or gay people. Set against the backdrop of Louisiana, whose culture the show depicts primarily as a mixture of bigoted rednecks and creole perverts" (Newitz,A (2011).
True Blood has been described as a satire for social, religious, and political views within society; this is evident throughout the discourse of the series. It has been assumed by many theorists that the series is an outlet for Ball to vindicate his knowledge of the struggles of acceptance for the gay community in America; Ball is aware of the chauvinism the LGBT face every day. The overlying issue is that people are prejudiced against something they don't understand or can't relate to. When Harris wrote the book, she wanted to express the point that people should not be afraid of difference as fear builds walls and divides society.
"Vampires are a great metaphor for minority groups that the struggle for rights and recognition. But also for republicans in that they're vicious and blood thirsty and will destroy anything that gets in their way" (OlmsteadK (2011: p)).
Analysing the series, it is evident that it's not just LGBT rights which are portrayed. Ball has stated in many interviews that although people could interpret the show as a hint for the gay rights movement, he just wanted to create something which appealed to the masses.
The character with the most flamboyant flare within the series is Lafayette played by the late Nelson Ellis; he is an overtly feminine, gay, black man who works within the kitchens at Merlotte's, and when he's not in the kitchen he's shooting porno videos and selling drugs to the locals. Being gay and also black in the south doesn't reside well with some of the citizens of Bon Temps, but Lafayette overcomes their prejudices by being outspoken, witty, and tough. The character of Lafayette is killed off early in Harris's books, but Ball felt he could add to the character and make him his own.
The religious overtone of the series is a Christian, one although a much divided view. Sookie's grandma is a devout Christian who attends church regularly, and is accepting of everyone. In the second series we become aware of a group called 'Fellowship of the Sun' who claim to be a Christian group, they believe vampires are interfering with the sanctity of life, and believe they are creatures of the devil. The main antagonists of this group are reverend Newlin and his wife. The first appearances of the couple would indicate a caring, loving partnership intent on spreading the word of Jesus. Sookie's brother Jason joins this group after battling through a 'V' addiction, trying to find his faith/calling. It becomes apparent that this group is more like a Christian cult intent on destroying vampires, and anyone who stands in their way. They run a bible camp where they screen devoted followers of their cause, where they recruit the fittest/strongest to commit acts of terrorism against the vampires. Jason being easily led and in a vulnerable state, unknowingly becomes one of their recruits, and is used as a puppet in their scheming.
Another aspect of the show which stabs at racism is the character Tara she is Sookie's best friend and Lafayette's cousin. Tara is also black, and has a very short fuse, believing everyone other than her close friends to be racist, often taking things the wrong way she has struggled through life, and been let down so many times that she finds it hard to trust anyone. Sookie and Tara have grown up together, and often Tara has taken refuge in Sookie's house from her alcoholic, violent mother. Tara is self educated and very intelligent. In the first episode she is seen reading The Shock Doctrine by Naomi Klein. One could suggest that Tara embodies Ball's attempt to highlight the struggles for the black community within the South of America. This is apparent within series three, when Tara, wearing a white Victorian style negligee, is chased by werewolves whilst trying to escape from a vampire whom has imprisoned her. This is reminiscent of escaping slaves being chased down by dogs.
"The latter image was popularised in both pro-slavery propaganda and abolitionist tracts as warning to what could happen to fleeing slaves" (OlmsteadK (2011)).
Another interesting aspect of the show is the drug use; the main drug on the market within True Blood is 'V', which is vampire blood drained from a vampire for recreational use, other drugs are mentioned within the show but 'V' seems to be the most predominant on the market within Bon Temps. The reason behind this is possibly because it is the most available, having vampires willing to provide their blood for such use. Lafayette describes the drug in series one, episode five while selling the drug to a possible buyer.
"This is the life force of a vampire. They are just blood in a skin casing. Ain't a whole lot of difference between a vampire and a boudin sausage except for the blood. Our blood sustains life, this blood is life" (True blood, S1-E5).
The effects of this blood have been said to differ from person to person, it has healing qualities, heightens the libido, and has a euphoric effect causing hallucinations, and making the user feel invincible. The interesting thing about Harris's take on drinking vampire blood ('V') is that in other depictions of this creature, the vampire has fed the blood to its victim after draining them to create another vampire. The concept that humans can now devour blood from a vampire for pleasure gives an interesting take on how we now see a creature that was once feared, and the very thing that frightened us can now be reciprocated by getting 'high' off their blood. This could indicate how society has changed, and now sees vampires within popular Culture as a thing of satire rather than something to fear.
The influx of different interpretations of vampirism, which have been portrayed throughout the years could suggest that we, as avid viewers, have become more open to suggestion, and been de-sensitised as a viewing public. This in turn could question our own morality.
"Vampirism has become, for postmodern writers, a ready metaphor for the sickness of our society" (GordonJ, Hollinger V (1997:pX1)).
One could suggest that there are elements of postmodernism found within True Blood. Sookie Stackhouse could be classed as the typical southern Belle; she is pure and righteous, the only traditional ideal she doesn't have is that she has little masculine support within her household. True Blood maintains and upholds its own genre conventions, forging and blurring the old traditions of vampirism, like the new synthetic blood, which has been invented to allow vampires to reside among humans, or the fact that vampires now have civil rights. The audience is supposed believe this is the true 'reality', which turns it into a hyperreality, so to say True Blood is a postmodern series can be argued against. One could suggest that this series could be classed as a hypermodern television series, because the breaks with conventional, traditional 'norms' are taken to the extreme.
"The postmodern return to traditional forms—by breaking with its conventions—and the open use of intertextuality are carried to extremes with hypermodernism. Through the fragmentation of boundaries between genres, as well as through the subversive picturing of traditional forms, 'True Blood' definitely exceeds postmodernism's main principles" (Icurraspaper (2010)).
True Blood captivates and draws its audience in with Ball's imagination. The viewer is left reeling for the next installment. Using characters the viewer can relate to, Ball has opened up a new interpretation of the once-feared creature, giving it new purpose within popular culture.
One thing's for certain, whether the audience loves or hates the show, with the infusion of blogs and forums posted on the internet, Ball has certainly caught some attention.
"Due to this preconceived ideology, future vampire works had to find that extra twist in order to stimulate their audiences. It is likely that everyone who watches a modern vampire film will be familiar with the vampire, and perhaps also the vampire film genre as a whole. Writers of modern vampire films use their audience's existing experience and knowledge, but must also strive to provide something different and new, or else interest in the genre would quickly wane" (Beresford,M (2009:p149)).
The vampire was originally created from society's own superstitions and fears of the unknown. Writers have used this notion to develop the infamous creature into the iconic legend we see in today's popular culture. With the vast improvements in technology within the film industry, we as a viewing audience no longer have to imagine the horror the Count inflicts on his victims; it is right there on our television sets for our eyes to feast upon. The vampire we see today is a far cry from the one read about in folklore, and was derived from the imagination of Polidori's "The Vampyre." Before Polidori, the vampire myth survived only on superstition, and the fear of death within society. The vampire myth is difficult to analyse before the eighteenth century, due to a lack of reliable information regarding the creature. The vampire myth has never caused any widespread panic, unlike the cases of witchcraft, it could be suggested that this is why there isn't much written about vampires before the eighteen hundreds. The only thing that has strong links to the start of the myth, and the superstition surrounding vampires is the plague or Black Death, which wiped out whole villages of people. With the lack of education in the fourteen hundreds, people were inclined to believe anything, and tales of the dead coming back to life is believed to have derived from the decomposition of corpses. Folklore is derived from tales passed down throughout history becoming more distorted and exaggerated as time goes on, and with lack of education, and the poor living conditions people of this time would have had to endure, it is no surprise they were terrified by the things they witnessed, and therefore created stories to pass down through generations.
Bram Stoker's Dracula can be seen as the beginning of the legacy, although a lot of his novel is made up from his research of folklore, and his knowledge of other literary creators of vampire novels, using these to aid him in his writings like Polidori's 'Ruthven formula' and Rymer's Varney the vampire. Stoker's masterpiece has paved the way for new interpretations of vampires within fiction and film. He has ultimately, within today's popular culture, given us an iconic legend to lust after, allowing women/men to become besotted with a modern day Byronic hero/villain who will stop at nothing to entice and own his next victim. Stoker re-invented the myth surrounding vampires, and has earned the right for Dracula to be called one of the greatest gothic novels of our time.
For satirical writers of our time, the vampire is the perfect candidate for depicting societies 'sickness' in dealing with the fear of the unknown, or to depict certain aspects within society which some people have bias about. Stoker himself has been said to have hidden messages within the narrative of Dracula portraying his own fears about society, as well as in his own life. Stoker was repressed for most his life, overshadowed by his boss, Henry Irving. Writing was Stoker's only release to express his anxieties about the world around him, and the fears he was experiencing inside his sphere; it is unfortunate he never lived to see his novel gain the appreciation it deserved.
One could suggest without the film Nosferatu, and the copy right lawsuit Stoker's wife Florence put in place, his work might never have gained such public interest, and developed into a legend. Although another argument could be made that Bella Lugosi's Dracula is the start of the establishment of the vampire craze within popular culture. It all comes down to preference, but one thing is certain; both of these films deserve the title of 'classic', both bringing to life Stoker's creation and giving inspiration for many other aspiring horror writers to sink their teeth into.
HBO's True Blood series has been said to use the vampire as a metaphor depicting the gay community within America, and the struggles they have endured gaining acceptance within society. Alan Ball, the creator, an openly gay man himself, has stated he can see how people would see the link between his show and the gay rights movement, but he wanted to produce a show which was fun and entertaining to its viewers. He has definitely managed to attract a wide fan base for his show; this is evident through the vast merchandise and the influx of blogs and forums on the internet. Die hard True Blood fans have been adequately named 'Trubies'. The way he has kept his viewers intrigued is by giving the characters a sense of realism the audience can relate to, for example, Sookie Stackhouse, the lead protagonist of the show; she has a girl next door appeal with an air of purity and righteousness about her, and has been classed as a depiction of a Southern Belle. Being set in Louisiana and surrounded by wilderness gives the show a gritty southern gothic feel, and adds to the isolation and escapism of the fictional town that is Bon Temp. Another thing which also add to the appeal is that there is plenty of sexual content (some have suggested it's close to being pornographic) within the series, but one could argue that the vampire has been interpreted as a sexual predator for decades, so why stop now.
Vampires are, and always will be, one of the most famous creatures to descend onto the horror scene, making the viewer question their own morality. It captivates and intrigues the audience and leaves them wanting more. The good thing about the vampire is they are diverse, and can be re-invented time and time again, giving us new and fresh interpretations of the infamous blood sucking Prince of Darkness. The vampire legacy is destined to live on forever, making this mythical creature's role within popular culture as immortal as the man/woman themselves.
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