History of Vampires in Media

What comes to your mind when you hear “vampire”? Chances are you think of a pale-skinned, unmistakably beautiful, strong and sculpted person. But how do we know to associate these traits with vampires? Over the last few decades, vampires have stepped into the pop culture spotlight that feature different yet similar interpretations of these monsters. This feature will break down some of the unique takes on vampires presented in movies, TV shows, and books.

Feel free to listen to this ~spooky~ vampire playlist while you browse this article

Dracula

It wouldn’t be a vampire feature if I didn’t include the original bloodsucker. Dracula, the gothic horror novel written in 1897 by Bram Stoker, is knowingly based off of the non-fictional person, Vlad the Impaler. Throughout the novel, Dracula the vampire begins a plan for world domination to secure his reign of terror. As Dracula feeds on and eventually turns the young woman, Lucy, into a vampire, Lucy’s fiancée investigates the situation and deduces it as a supernatural occurrence. Determined to deter Dracula, he takes measures to weaken Dracula and prevent him from achieving his goal. Though this ultimately leads to his death, his other companions finally destroy Dracula with a stake to the heart. You can read more about Dracula’s story here.

Dracula is characterized as an undead creature who hunts for fresh human blood. He is also described as immortal, with a lack of reflection, weakness to sunlight, aversion to garlic, and of course, fangs. It is Stoker’s interpretation of the vampire that becomes the foundation for decades of vampires in pop culture to come. 

Carmilla

We like to dub Dracula as the father of vampires, but what about the mother of vampires? The story of Carmillais fascinating, as this story is actually the first vampire story to be written in history. Written in 1872 by Joseph Sheridan Le Fau, the story is narrated by a young woman, Laura, preyed upon by the female vampire, Carmilla. Laura seeks friendship in Carmilla, unaware of her state of undeath, but Laura begins to notice some questioning things about Carmilla. Laura falls mysteriously ill, and it is realized that she is being visited by a vampire. Her father recruits an authority on vampires who destroys the true body of Carmilla, named Millarca, from her grave with a stake in the heart. Sounds like something you might like? The novel was turned into a movie in 2017 and you can purchase it here.

Le Fanu’s interpretation of vampires is interesting. He gives Carmilla the ability to walk through walls like a ghost and morph into a cat (not a bat). Uniquely, a feature of Carmilla’s vampire characteristics is the fact that they must rearrange the letters in their given name to come up with a new one. Thus, Carmilla is actually the spirit of Millarca’s body. 

The Strain

Likely one of the most original interpretations, vampires inThe Strain are less human and more monstrous. This movie, directed by Guillermo del Toro in 2014, also refers to these vampires as “strigoi”, a Romanian mythology word describing undead people. To give a short summary of the plot, the series begins with the transportation of a mysterious package when the plane grows dark, silent, and the communication is cut. Dr. Ephraim “Eph” Goodweather from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is called upon to investigate. He finds that everyone is dead, with the exception of four people. These four people, free in New York City, begin to show signs of infection, and they ultimately infect more citizens of the city. Eph and several people aware that this infectious virus is actually vampirism, go on a mission to hunt these bloodthirsty creatures. 

The Strain includes yet another interpretation of vampires. In this series, the state of vampirism is often referred to as a virus or infection. The infected people are parasitic and out of control, with ears, nose, and fingernails that seemingly disappear and are replaced with talons and pale, smooth skin. They still possess red-colored eyes with a black pupil after feeding, which is a common characteristic of modern vampires. These vampires cannot sleep, are harmed by the sunlight, and cannot be killed by traditional ways. 

Conclusion

This feature only includes a few of thousands interpretations of vampires throughout pop-culture. While there are some characteristics that are unique to that one specific literature, It is important to notice that in most cases many of the vampire characteristics are the same. Still, people have the creative freedom to make their own interpretations.  


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