Quite an old article now, but still quite interesting – particularly in terms of how adolescents are imagined… Joseph De Marco writes:
“The vampire is a creature of endless, some might say undying, fascination for the young adult, but there is something serious underlying this attraction. [/] Although vampires in sundry forms and versions have existed almost as long as humankind, the hundred years since the appearance of Bram Stoker’s Dracula has seen a veritable explosion of vampires and vampire stories. The venerable Count has spawned so many “children of the night” it is difficult to keep track. Each year 30 to 40 books (from middle reader to YA to adult, from scholarly non-fiction to the flimsiest fiction) are published. There are movies and television programs.”
“Dr. James Twitchell, the noted literary scholar, claims that the popularity of the vampire stems, in part, from the fact that this creature represents the condensation of the problems and resolutions of pre-adolescence (Twitchell, 1980). I believe that the vampire represents this for the adolescent to an even larger degree.”
“The average teenager, rife with confusion and ambiguity, filled with fear of the future, possessed by the need to find stability, a role, a purpose, sees the vampire and knows that everything is possible, every goal can be reached. The vampire is suave, sophisticated, certain of himself, rooted in history, poised to take the future with neither fear nor reluctance, self-possessed, sexual, powerful, sometimes cruel and sometimes kind, not possessed by doubts, not burdened with conscience, cool and resourceful, supremely intelligent and, best of all, immortal. This is everything the young adult is not and everything they aspire to be. The vampire suffers no identity crisis, save for the fleeting moment when the undead personality commingles with the human.”
“Norine Dresser, in her book American vampires (1989), reports the findings of a survey she conducted among 574 college and high school respondents. She identified a group of vampire “fans” and asked them to list those things about the vampire figure that appealed to them. The results, in order of frequency of response are revealing:
- Sexual Attraction — the vampire represents the forbidden, the mysterious and the exciting. Some thought it exciting to be enthralled by a superior being. Others admired the ability of the vampire to do the forbidden. Still others seemed to feel a kinship with a creature who wants to love and be loved.
- Immortality — living forever as a youth with vitality and energy.
- Power — the ability to control others or to dominate the opposite sex, the ability to drain life or to bestow eternal life. One respondent drew the parallel of having control over one’s own life.
- Blood lust — mostly, it seems, as a symbol for sexual lust.
- The beauty, elegance and sophistication of the vampire.
- Marginality — the vampire as someone “different”, an outsider and also persecuted for that difference. One respondent said: “I have always considered myself an ‘outsider’ … I feel more comfortable alone. The vampire gives us the belief that there are beings that can live outside the problems of society, [and still] rise above all that with grace and dignity” (Dresser. 1989).
- Horror and the thrill of fear.
- The Dark Unknown — the dark side of life in which almost anything seems a possibility including taboo impulses.
- The vampire as scapegoat.
- The evil nature of the vampire.
Dresser noted one respondent who said that the vampire is “fascinating because the vampire is usually an unwilling victim of a bodily change he cannot control, a change that brings on frightening new desires and cravings. This makes it easy for the adolescent to identify with the vampire, since he, too, is in the grip of bodily changes beyond his control — new sexual desires which are strange and frightening to him and may seem as evil as the vampire’s craving for blood” (Dresser, 1989).”
Ref: (my copy is without pagination, sorry) De Marco, Joseph (1997) Vampire literature: Something young adults can really sink their teeth into. Emergency Librarian; May/Jun Vol. 24 Issue 5, p26
Reference is to: Dresser, N. (1989). American vampires: Fans victims, practitioners. New York: Vintage.
Twitchell, J. (1980). The vampire myth. American Imago, 37, 83-92.