Friday, August 14, 2009


Phil Helliwell

The Media is compelled to dip into pop culture and its deeper vein of modern myth whenever a film, novel or other form of story as phenomenally successful as the Twilight film comes to public attention. In keeping with the core interest of Twilight, vampires, I will briefly shed light on possible reasons why these supernatural beings continue to maintain a hold on modern lives.

The modern vampire had its conception in Bram Stoker’s 19th Century gothic novel Dracula, and it remained relatively unchanged in Western culture until the late 20th Century when authors began shifting the paradigm away from horrific monster and into seductive lover; a key author being Anne Rice with the release of her novel Interview with a Vampire in 1976. This change in conception brought out the human element in the vampire, made them more accessible, and less blatantly evil (Ramsland, 1989). This was an important change in the development of the vampire, as with the boost in popularity came an acceptable avenue for people to fulfill their interests in myth (consciously or otherwise).

Apart from the obvious fun one can have reading, watching and telling stories about vampires, some have proposed ideas dealing with the religious imagination as the motivator behind the fascination. Sociologist and Priest Andrew Greeley gives an interesting perspective: “It’s a hunger for the marvelous. If you give up angels and devils… …some people are going to turn to aliens, Darth Vader and vampires. Life seems too dull and unexciting, especially if you’re just a yuppie, so you have to hunt down something marvelous enough to bring back the excitement.” (Ramsland, 1989)

With the initial attractiveness of the modern vampire mixed with the deeper want to contact something greater than oneself - be it God, angels or even vampires - it may be that vampires now fulfill a role (at least partially) in modern Western society’s mythological framework that would otherwise be taken by something traditional (angels, devils). With religion, and by association religious imagination, evolving into cultural forms like entertainment and media (Ostwalt, 2003), we can predict that the life of the vampire will continue along the path currently set, mostly likely into further entrenchment.


Ostwalt, Conrad, Secular Steeples: Popular Culture and the Religious Imagination
Harrisburg, Trinity Press International, 2003

Ramsland, Katherine, Hunger for the Marvelous: The Vampire Craze in the Computer Age, Psychology Today
23, 11, November 1989, p31

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