How history, literature and film have shaped our view of the vampire

A common suggestion is that vampirism is very erotic. “Part of it is about lust and submission and dominance,” Frayling says. “It’s seen as sex from the neck down.”

Fenn agrees. “When it comes to our innermost and most secret desires, blood and lust are often more intertwined than we realize,” she writes. “Perhaps our love of vampires is itself some kind of evil?” A form of power play in which we as humans play the role of the outwardly reluctant submissive who is, truth be told, deeply turned on by the situation.

There is also a political element, with shades of Eastern Europe versus the West. Indeed, in Bram Stoker’s novel, it is after Count Dracula’s journey from Transylvania to England that his true evil manifests. Then there is the issue of social class. “Vampirism plays on middle-class resentment about rights and aristocrats behaving badly,” Frayling adds.

Perhaps most important of all, the vampire myth allows us to examine societal taboos that we may not always be able to discuss. “It’s about wanting a demon lover to take over; to desire undesirable things,” says Frayling. “It transposes them into this mythos in a rather enjoyable way.”

A spooky icon of the season

All of these factors help explain why there are so many vampire-centric novels, comics, movies, TV shows, plays, and even operas, ballets, and musicals. This, in turn, secured the vampire’s annual lead role on Halloween. “A lot of Halloween iconography comes from Bela Lugosi as Dracula,” says Frayling, referencing the 1931 film. “Halloween has gone Hollywood, and the vampire is a very big part of that.”

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