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Long Live Vampires

Tahlia Palmer: Steady Eye

Long Live Vampires

Andrew Ryan

I have always had a fear/fascination with zombies. As soon as I was old enough to understand what a Zombie was, I’ve been terrified of the Zompocalypse. Like, actually think it might happen one day, have dreams about it, watch films, get involved, had stoned paranoia, affect the way I look at people when I walk down the street at night, the way I view society as a whole, all of that.

And then I stopped smoking pot, stopped watching so many zombie films, and suddenly the world is full of people who are MASSIVELY into vampires. So I indulged a little. I’ve always been intrigued, mainly because Brad Pitt was a very, very alluring man in “Interview With a Vampire” (and Kirsten Dunst was strangely believable, despite her tiny lifespan), and the idea of vampires has always peaked my curiosity. Are they monsters? Are they evolved humans? Are they devils? Why is the idea of getting bitten so sexy? Etcetera.

The Twilight series has never interested me. From what I can tell, the whole book/movie saga is about idol worship, in terms of both the retards that star in the films, and the way the heroine in the books/films desperately wants a boyfriend- an intelligent, SUPER-cool, well dressed, broody and sparkly-in-the-sunlight boyfriend at that, despite the fact he’s dead and would totally kill her if they had sex. Not that sex is even the main point of the Twilight human-vampire relationship, it’s more about the protection-whilst-still-in-obvious-danger thing. That primal “male protecting female” fantasy that all women, despite how independent and liberal minded they may be, have. And it’s something that all boys are willing to try to be for their women, despite how sensitive and non-domineering they may be. Bless.

The thing that I find most interesting about this evolution of classic horror monsters is that zombie and vampire films (and, recently, TV series) have become far more personal in the last decade than the 50 years before it. I suppose with the increasing popularity of science fiction comes a need to explain the potential causes for these creatures. A sci(entifically)-bi(ological)-ex(planation)-fi(ction)- perhaps. Today, a zombie film is only taken seriously if the zombie-virus is explained in terms we can understand (but gosh, do film nerds love a zombie film with brutal violence). Vampires not so much, despite the fact that they are immortal and can carry on with super-human functions that zombies could never even dream of… (do zombies dream? Do vampires dream? Do humans dream? What IS a dream? Could we all just be connected through a pathway that our chemicals project into the atmosphere while we’re asleep and we experience a connection with every living being that shares the same chemicals when we’re disconnected from our sense of ego enough to just SEE?)

The connecting factor between vampires and zombies in historical myth has always been the human element. Both get bitten by a creature of that form, then they die, then they come back to life, lusting for blood or brains. And as long as cinema/pop culture has had the inclination to reflect the attitude of the people, the bad guys have always represented the aspects of humanity we deem darkest, given the political, economical or environmental situation we find ourselves in.

Given this notion, the rise of vampires lately- and my addiction to the HBO series True Blood- has given me a lot of food for thought. Zombies, being the emotionless masses striving toward the consumption of brains, represent the monotonous worker-ant culture that creative young things of the 70’s were so adamantly against (according the wikipedia, the 70’s saw 28 zombie films releases, whilst in the 28 years before hand, 30 were released). The creative (and more commercially aware) young things of the 80’s took zombie movies lightly because that worker-ant culture brought with it a supply of cocaine (see: the rise of slasher flicks during this period). But in the 90’s, these brain-consumers/worker-ants were the brutal reality of people the creative young things of the 90’s came into contact, and idealistically clashed, with every day. And probably had to work with/for in order to fund their films.

But vampires, that’s a whole different story. Vampires posses human characteristics, far more than zombies. Zombies are the walking dead, rotting as they go. Vampires are humans who happen to be dead, who feed on humans to regain their strength Oh, the humanity. Oh, the society. Oh, the sexuality! Ohhhh the longing to live forever.

The way that vampires have been portrayed- and, in turn, the way this portrayal has been accepted- in the last 5 years or so , as with every horror film since the genre was invented, directly reflects the way that aware humans see their societal circumstance. The Earth’s fossil fuel supply is running dangerously low. We know that without the mass production of alternative energy sources, or at least mechanisms that can harness them, human life as we know it will be POOF all different/gone. And both are terrifying. Worst case scenario is that we all die. And no one likes the idea of dying, right? And most people under the age of 40 haven’t accepted that we die before that age, right? It is the biggest fear that plagues humanity, right?

Vampires don’t die, unless they’re staked through the heart. But given their speed, strength and knowledge of the human emotional spectrum, mixed with their thirst for human blood and apparent ability to heal really fast, which brings with it a fear of NOTHING, the prospect of this happening is actually very slim. They’re going to live for at least a good five hundred years, which is more than any human can say for themselves now. Young people are especially prone to denial of mortality, so it only goes to follow that hordes of people between the age of 17 and 35 are REALLY into True Blood or Twilight (the latter crosses a wider age gap, perhaps the 13-45 year old market, due to the aforementioned man protecting woman thing, which is more accessible than the comment on society thing), because it is desirable to live forever in the knowledge that one can out live this pathetic, wasteful existence that is humanity, and have a massive free-for-all, dark, sexy, decadent experience that may last for a whole bunch of centuries.

That is, until vampire society becomes as politically minded as human society. And then it will turn into a cluster fuck, just like human society. As you may have seen in Daybreakers- which is terribly directed, acted, and also full of god awful special effects and Australian actors, but has a slightly reasonable sci-bi-ex-fi aspect- becomes all bullshit and hopeless.

I believe that the lesson to be learnt here is that human beings have to embrace their darkness, instead of creating mythical creatures to embody it. Once we learn to accept these parts of our humanity; that is, the violent, selfish, self destructive aspects- only then can we start to transcend the confines of anger, resentment and self pity, and become truly at peace with ourselves and each other. Vampires are sexy and everything, but only because we imagine that ideal to be so, only because we imagine that if vampires were to actually exist, they would desire the peace in death that we find so terrifying. Grass is always greener and all of that.

I will continue squealing and moaning and jumping up and down and clapping my hands at the end of each True Blood episode, as will anyone that has been downloading it as it is released. Oh boy is is it exciting, if you’re into trashy fantasy. Just keep in mind why this trash is so appealing. It is more than just a good story, good production, and in a foreign yet accessibly familiar setting- it’s also because we know, deep down, that we don’t really want to die. Vampires for life. Or a lack thereof. Bring on the apocalypse, it’s definitely on it’s way. PARTY.