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Written Word > Articles & Commentaries > November 2009 > Why Is Everyone Crazy About Vampires?
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Why Is Everyone Crazy About Vampires?

By Rev. Robert Barron

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 by the environing culture, will produce some distorted version of transcendence, some ersatz spirituality. Hence the world of vampires. Let me analyze just one feature of this universe. Besides blood sucking, the distinguishing mark of vampires is immortality: they are the undead, the eternally young. Though the materialist ideology around us insists that we are no more than clever animals who will fade away at death, deep within us is the sure sense that we are more than that. There are in us, as Shakespeare’s Cleopatra put it, “immortal longings,” for we are linked, whether we like it or not, to the eternal God who stands outside of time. When the proper religious sense of immortality is suspended, we produce the weird ersatz of the vampire who cannot die. I say ersatz, because authentic immortality has nothing to do with endless life in this world; rather, it has to do with being brought outside of time into the eternal realm of God. But when we’re starving spiritually, we find even thin gruel appealing.

Just recently, I came across a most illuminating remark by Anne Rice, the aforementioned author of the series of novels that effectively inaugurated the entire vampire craze. She said that the character of Louis, the tortured vampire who is famously interviewed in her first novel, was evocative of the many friends of hers from the sixties and seventies of the last century, people who had fallen into the morass of a post-Christian secularism. Like Louis, they knew they were caught up in something spiritually deadly, and again like the vampire, they could find no way out. The anguish of the Rice’s vampire was parallel to the anguish of the secular generation, thirsty for the very thing that their culture had denied. And what makes Rice’s observation even more fascinating is that she herself followed that thirst and made her way through the secularist delusion of her generation and rediscovered Christ. Just about ten years ago, Anne Rice re-embraced the vividly imagined and intellectually profound faith of her youth and since then has dedicated her writing exclusively to the Lord. She has brought out, so far, two volumes of a multi-volume life of Jesus, told in the first person; and her most recent text is the commencement of a new series of novels on angels. And she has asserted that, despite the pleas of her legion of fans, she will never write another vampire novel. What’s really fascinating is that the godmother of contemporary vampire chic has effectively seen through phony supernaturalism and embraced the real 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.

Posted: 11/19/2009 9:38:15 AM by Word On Fire | with 12 comments
Filed under: Twilight, vampires


Comments
fikalo
Well written and insightful article.
11/27/2009 4:21:28 AM
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Ness
I used to be obsessed with vampires as there was something missing in my life. I felt the pull of the powerfullness of the immortal. Then I found God and realised he is more powerfull than anything I had ever wanted to have in my life. I am now a catholic and very happy with nothing missing any more. Anne Rice was my favourite author and is very talented I can't wait to read Angel time I have not been able to get a copy of it yet I am hoping for one for christmas :)
11/27/2009 10:40:19 AM
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M.
Everything you say here is true, but regarding the latest version (the Twilight series), a magazine article I read somewhere made an extremely insightful comment: these particular movies, with their exceptionally beautiful yet distant very young men, play on the the fact that so many high school girls want to sleep with boys who are gay! That is, many women like myself remember our crushes, our longing, for beautiful boys who seemed distracted uninterested in females. We didn't know, and perhaps they did not either, that they would end up lured into homosexuality. I think the whole mainstreaming of gay culture is something that cannot be ignored in the current crop of vampire books and films.
12/9/2009 6:52:12 AM
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Louis Vuitton handbags
so a funny movie
6/10/2010 4:44:36 AM
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Linda Arnone
Excellent article note; in New Moon Bella says "the soul?" Given the indication she has been lacking in any teaching at all. However, her vampire boy friend calls the transformation a tragedy. Yet what is planly a dysfunctional relationship is engorged. Bella see's only the relationship and the relationship is her god. The real tragedy is that so many people are unable to discern fantasy form real life. Healty relationship form a dysfunctional one.
7/3/2010 9:22:35 AM
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FileCraft
first of all I'd like to admit that I'm crazy about Twilight too. but it's not vampires that attract me, those are feelings and emotions the books and movies trigger in me. those are modern Romeo and Juliet if you wish! how can SUCH feelings leave you indifferent?
11/16/2010 8:23:06 AM
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scraps
Vampires are just the latest incarnation of the "rule-breaker. Basically every society and culture has so much respect for law and order and a desire to break those laws, at least in some way. Thus, certain types come to represent the desire of both. The "noble outlaw" is an archetype as old as they come. Before vampires, bandits had (people who robbed travelers, usually riding in carriages), pirates or mercenaries, murderers, the list is endless.

Vampires are interesting because they are even more otherworldly than a pirate. That's because I think most people believe all that can cross boundaries have been crossed. Upon reaching the limitations of human existence, only super-humans can break the barrier and drag the rest of us with them. Edward is Robin Hood with fangs when you stop to think about it.
12/3/2010 10:06:46 AM
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Mensagens Para Orkut
Good query. It is because of a popular book which then is made in to a movie in which it's 'beautiful/hot' characters... that people spaz over -.-'

Vampires are sexy, romantic, & untouchable things... Most commonly portrayed by ideal people in movies, & targeted against females.

Why do they go crazy over them? Ask them, & they will most likely say ''because they are hot''.

--------------------------------------…

Hope that helped.... although this isn't the case for everyone.. :)

Before Twilight, in case you liked vampires, you would be thought about a freak.... :/
12/5/2010 3:58:41 AM
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cheap jordan 11
Vampires are just the latest incarnation of the "rule-breaker. Basically every society and culture has so much respect for law and order and a desire to break those laws, at least in some way. Thus, certain types come to represent the desire of both. The "noble outlaw" is an archetype as old as they come. Before vampires, bandits had (people who robbed travelers, usually riding in carriages), pirates or mercenaries, murderers, the list is endless.
12/23/2010 11:49:36 PM
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Time and Attendance
My lady friends are crazy about Twilight, and True Blood. Neither one of them appeal to me, at all. My guess to the reason why the ladies like vampires so much is there mistique, and overall handsomeness. Have you ever seen an ugly vampire in a movie? I know I haven't. This is what I think the reason is behind the giant craze of vampires.
1/25/2011 9:57:26 AM
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Allen Saucier
Fr, thank you for such a positive post about vampires and our built in longing for The Immortal. My point of view was very condemning, very ridiculing, very point the finger " your way is wrong" attitude. Here, you focus on the real issue: a dead person seeking real spirituality and you addressed their need without condemning. Thank you.
9/7/2011 12:11:34 PM
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Ellen
Back again the Twilight series can be confusing...the stars drink blood for immortality as beautiful, strong, smart teenage creatures that only relate to others like them...I believe the Jews hated the pagan god- blood cult which practiced this for glamorous immortality...why are we selling this "innocent" cult to our kids and some disturbed adults and calling it OK??
11/29/2012 10:08:56 AM
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