Vampires: What is the Appeal?
Vampires represent so many things both alluring and disturbing that it is difficult to categorize them as either monsters or romanticized lovers. They may represent death, disease, fear, supreme power or control or other such negative connotations. On the other hand, vampires may also represent romance, sexual tension or sexual acts, the power to bring about sexual submission, immortal life etc…Vampires are perhaps the only mythological creature that causes such a battle of emotions in the human psyche. The question is: Do we love or hate them? Perhaps it is a little bit of both.
This essay asks that question and provides several examples of what we connect vampires with both confirming and arguing against certain points that we assume when we think of the vampire novel: http://www.dvorkin.com/essays/vampallure.htm. Dvorkin makes many good points throughout his piece, questioning common beliefs about vampires and Dracula specifically and the appeal or the allure of the vampire. For instance, the point about Victorians being afraid of sexuality was untrue; they were not afraid of sex but they did not openly speak of it. Sex, would be written about obscurely and it was often difficult to pick up on, at least for us modern readers. It makes me wonder how some of our contemporary literature might go over had it been introduced in that time period. Our views about sex have changed a great deal over the years. In American society we are fairly open about sexuality, it is in our movies and media and sexy women or men are portrayed almost naked on magazine covers or advertisements that anyone in the public may see. Homosexuality and its acceptance in our society is shaky at best but such organizations as LGBT have made many changes toward greater acceptance. We feel free to speak about sex in the open, while in Victorian England it was not acceptable or proper.
Women that encounter Dracula change a great deal. The three Weird Sisters, as Jonathon called them, were lusty creatures that wanted nothing but to sate their desire for blood and sex, often at the same time. Dracula himself seems to have an infatuation with Jonathon, though it is somewhat understated.
“How dare you touch him, any of you? How dare you cast eyes on him when I had forbidden it? Back, I tell you all! This man belongs to me! Beware how you meddle with him, or you’ll have to deal with me.’ The fair girl, with a laugh of ribald coquetry, turned to answer him—
‘You yourself never loved; you never love!’ On this the other women joined and such a mirthless, hard, soulless laughter rang through the room that it almost made me faint to hear; it seemed like the pleasure of fiends. Then the Count turned, after looking at my face attentively and said in a soft whisper—
‘Yes, I too can love; you yourselves can tell it from the past. Is it not so?” (p.43)
Homosexuality being expressed in the open was as uncommon as women being ‘loose’ or open about sexual encounters but this does not necessarily mean that vampire novels represent a fear of homosexuality. The same goes for women and the concept of sex. Women in Dracula such as Mina and Lucy were supposed to represent an ideal Victorian Lady. Neither was perfect of course, yet both were more ladylike than the vampire women. Of course, both changed a great deal after encountering Dracula, particularly after being involved with the exchange of blood—which represents a bodily fluid or a subtle representation of a sexual encounter. Lucy in particular changed a great deal; she was not quite as ‘Ladylike’ as she should have been after all the visits from Dracula and the loss of her blood, followed by the transfusions of others inside of her. There are plenty of sexual innuendos in Dracula though they are well masked and a reader often has to read between the lines to find them.
Another point in Dracula and Dvorkin’s essay is that vampires are both loved and hated. The three ‘Weird Sisters’ in Dracula are both feared and lusted after for example,
“They came close to me and looked at me for some time, and then whispered together. Two were dark and had high aquiline noses, like the Count, and great dark, piercing eyes, that seemed to be almost red when contrasted with the pale yellow moon. The other was fair, as fair can be, with great wavy masses of golden hair and eyes like pale sapphires. […] All three had brilliant white teeth that shone like pearls against the ruby of their voluptuous lips. There was something about them that made me uneasy, some longing and at the same time some deadly fear. I felt in my heart a wicked, burning desire that they would kiss me with those red lips. It is not good to note this down, lest some day it should meet Mina’s eyes and cause her pain; but it is the truth. They whispered together, and then they all three laughed—such a silvery, musical laugh but as hard as though the sound never could have come through the softness of human lips. It was like the intolerable, tingling sweetness of water-glasses when played on by a cunning hand.” (p.42)
Stoker uses such words as intolerable and sweetness, musical and hard in the same sentences, contrasting the vampires against a human by portraying their monstrous characteristics next to their appealing ones. This brings to light the question; can something be loved and hated at the same time? In this case, vampires can and are feared, hated and loved. Vampires adapt through time, yet our emotions and feelings toward them remain the same. They are terrible creatures, but there is an enticing allure about them that we just can’t seem to resist.
Yet, why do we love vampires so much? Perhaps we have an infatuation with them because they have no rules. They can revel in their sexuality and their power without consequence while we are tied to morals and rules of society.
Dvorkin says, “We aren't afraid of monsters hiding the dark; we're afraid of ourselves.” Which is a very fascinating point and I cannot say I disagree with him. We are afraid of our vices such as lust and greed and the corruption it can ultimately bring about. We may become monsters ourselves simply by being human.