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We All Love A Vampire: Pop Culture’s Many Blood-Sucking Iterations

Humans have long harbored a fascination with the unknown. We love lingering in the deep recesses that hold dark secrets. Do we delight in the deliciousness of danger, or is it the thrill of the chase that propels us? Perhaps it’s our compulsion to always find an answer that pushes us into dangerous territory. Maybe that’s why our fascination with the vampire runs so deep, and why vampiric folklore can be found across the continents. Though iterations of demons and spirits existed in ancient civilizations, 18th Century Southeastern Europe served as the birth place of the vampiric folklore we’re familiar with today.

Modern technology definitely played a part in disseminating the spine-tingling tales of bloodsuckers to every corner of the globe, and it’s fascinating to see how those archetypes have shifted over time. Iterations of the vampire have ranged from highly-sexualized, blood-thirsty, soulless ghouls, to brooding, guilt-laden creatures who despise their very nature and yearn to co-exist with humans. But truthfully, there are three vampiric archetypes that I hold dearest. (Yes, there’s probably some deep-seated psychological reason why these are my favorites, but that’s an entirely different article.)

The OG Vampire

The original vampire archetype is one we know well. Born out of Bram Stoker’s 1897 novel Dracula, this vampire exists only under cover of night. Driven by hunger, its motivations are clear: consume, thrive, and consume again. Sometimes they’re inspired to turn their dinner into more than just a one night stand, but most of the time they’re just on to the next. They’re never inclined to fight their compulsions, but rather hold themselves in high regard—to them, they are predator and we are prey.

My favorite vampire in this category is Nosferatu in both of his incarnations: the 1922 German film, and from Werner Herzog’s 1979 film Nosferatu the Vampyre. I would never use the word “sexy” to describe Max Schreck or Klaus Kinski’s portrayals of Nosferatu, but you can’t deny the magnetism held by these extremely creepy leading men. *shudders*

Honorable mentions: NOS4A2‘s Charlie Manx, because even though he’s a “different kind of vampire” he’s insanely ruthless (ugh, kids…really?!) and still drains his victims dry.

The Self-Hating Vampire

These vampires are definitely more modern in nature—they’re self-deprecating in all the right ways. Sure, they’re still killers, but they often try to fight their compulsions in the name of love. They emerge as tragic heroes that are committed to nurturing whatever is left of their humanity. Often times they’ve been turned against their will, or because turning was their only mode of survival.

My favorite vampires in this category are objectively “sexy” and totally adhere to that highly-sexualized archetype I mentioned above, BUT they’re usually guilt-laden and totally wish they didn’t have the innate desire to drain a body dry. Angel from Buffy the Vampire Slayer comes to mind, and of course Twilight’s Edward Cullen, and True Blood’s Bill Compton. I tend to feel bad for these guys—they’re suckers in a whole other way.

Honorable mentions: Eli from Let the Right One In, because she tries her darnedest to fight her nature and when she can’t, at least she wields it against crummy people. Matthew Clairmont from A Discovery of Witches, because his taboo love for a witch is totally against the rules and he’s broody AF.

The Foolish, Comedic, Out Of Touch Vampire

The last vampires to make my favorites list are definitely the least explored archetype. These vampires do their best to blend into humanity, but there’s always something a bit off. Whether it’s their outfits, their attitude, or strange moments of unchecked behavior, these vampires bring me joy because they’re just so out of touch. They often consider themselves superior to humans just like the OG vampires, but sadly their grandiose visions of themselves don’t reflect reality.

So which vampires dare to be so pedestrian? Well, I loved the Valley Girl appeal of Amy Heckerling’s 2012 Vamps, which reunited Heckerling with her Clueless star Alicia Silverstone (adding in the fabulous Krysten Ritter for good measure). But more recently, Nandor the Relentless, Laszlo Cravensworth, Nadja, and Colin Robinson of FX’s What We Do in the Shadows have me reeling as they bumble their way through their attempts at human domination from their headquarters in “Stat-ehn Isl-ahnd.” Gone are the days of Dracula’s blink-and-you’ll-miss-it bat transformations—they’ve been replaced by Laszlo’s obligatory cry of “Bat!”—a much less sinister transformation indeed.

Honorable mentions: Eddie Murphy as morphing vampire Maximillion in Wes Craven’s 1995 horror-comedy, Vampire in Brooklyn. For two reasons: 1) Eddie Murphy, 2) there’s something about setting a vampire story in the Tri-state area that makes it just the weirdest.

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