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Vampires Become Human?

Nick Lacey | Thursday July 16, 2009

Categories: Film, Horror, Key Concepts, Genre, Representation & Stereotyping, Hot Entries, Skills, Television, Television Drama

Vampires don’t exist, unless they’re bats. However they are potent monsters that have been recently finding favour with audiences: the new independent-Hollywood Twilight franchise (2008-), based on Stephanie Meyer’s novels; the Swedish horror film Let the Right One In (2008), from John Ajvide Lindqvist’s novel; series one of the BBC3 genre hybrid series Being Human (2009). Genres need to evolve in order to remain fresh so it’s interesting to consider what’s new in the vampire sub genre of horror?

A key element of the horror genre is the ‘return of the repressed’. What ‘returns’ are aspects of humanity that have been expelled (‘repressed’) from (bourgeois) society. These ‘aspects’ are the ‘Other’, which is represented by the monster:

the Other’: that which bourgeois ideology cannot recognize or accept but must deal with… in one of two ways: either by rejecting and if possible annihilating it, or by rendering it safe and assimilating it, converting it as far as possible into a replica of itself. (Wood, 1985, p. 199)

As a monster the vampire represents the Other, but what repressions does the vampire represent? Ken Gelder (2000a: 145-6) suggests the following with reference to Bram Stoker’s seminal novel, Dracula (1897):

  • The rise of the ‘New Woman’ in late 19th century Britain
  • Anxieties about Darwin’s theory of evolution
  • The impact of Freud’s psychoanalysis
  • The emergence of new technologies
  • The influence of eugenics
  • Anxieties about losing the Empire (reverse colonisation)

Although vampires had pre-existed Stoker’s novel, it was he who set Dracula’s homeland in Transylvania. Stephen D Arata suggests that this was because:

The region was first and foremost the site, not of superstition and Gothic romance, but of political turbulence and racial strife. (2000, p. 165)

So the setting of Dracula’s origins in Eastern Europe meant that Stoker’s readers would associate the region with a...

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