Essay Society's Fascination with Vampires

Essay Society's Fascination with Vampires

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You’d have to be living under a rock not to have noticed the prevalence of vampires in today’s culture. One of the most popular television shows in recent years was “Buffy the Vampire Slayer;” Anne Rice’s Vampire Chronicles continue to be widely read; HBO is currently running a series about vampires called “True Blood;” Wesley Snipes starred in a trilogy of vampire films called Blade; and one of the most successful movies of late is “Twilight,” the story of teen mortals and teen vampires in love. How do we explain the seemingly endless fascination with the undead?

Obviously, clever marketing has a good deal to do with it, but I think there are deeper reasons as well. There is, in the spiritual order, a law analogous to the law of the conservation of energy, which I would express as follows: when the supernatural is suppressed, it necessarily finds expression in indirect and distorted form. What we have witnessed in the last fifty years or so is the attenuating, and in some circles, complete disappearance of the biblical worldview. I’ve complained in the past about a bland, bored secularism that simply sets aside questions of the spiritual, the supernatural, and the transcendent. And this widespread bracketing of the religious dimension is abetted by a consumerist culture that teaches us in a thousand ways that sensual pleasure and wealth are the keys to happiness. For the secularist mind, God is, at best, a distant, indifferent force; Jesus is a guru of self-affirmation; and eternal life is a childish fantasy.

But in accord with the above-mentioned law, the supernatural will not be denied. The instinct for God and for a world that transcends the realm of ordinary experience is hard-wired into us and thus our desire, thwarted...


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...l thing.

Anne Rice’s Catholicism brings to mind the Catholicism that played a central role in the original Dracula by Bram Stoker. Stoker, a nineteenth century Irishman, placed the vampire legend within the overarching biblical narrative of sin, grace, and redemption. In Stoker’s telling, Dracula had cursed God and hence fallen into a hellish state (which helps to explain his aversion to the crucifix). Professor Van Helsing, a scientist and a devout believer (yes, the two can co-exist!), brought the tortured vampire to salvation. Throughout the novel, Catholic themes abound: the Eucharist, the Mass, eternal life, etc. At the end of the nineteenth century, it was still possible to situate the vampire story within the far greater story of Christianity. What we witness today is a sad declension, whereby vampire tales are a bloodless substitute for robust Christianity.

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