Saturday, July 07, 2012

(RE-updated) WHY FAN(g)S? (a psychological dive into the global vampire phenomenon)

The ghostly glow of an evening mist dragging like a dying thing across the barren street that echoes with the lonely fallen steps of a solitary morsel. The melodic clacks give away a rising tension as their tempo increases; the urgency in the stride reflecting the racing of their pulse. A hushed murmur drifts by like a lingering thought—the already phantom memory of its call burning into every crevice of their terror-soaked mind—and a shadow washes over the towering and foreboding walls of the nearby building; the series of structures lining the night-bathed city quickly becoming a cage of iron and stone that closes in with every panicked breath. From behind: a chuckle—-the unmistakable tune of a predator's victory made all the more dreadful coming from an all-too-human mouth. Overcome with fear, the once-lone wanderer makes a mad-dash away from the voice, ignoring the ache of exertion and the burning of oxygen-starved lungs as they whimper and fight to form the words to call for help. Despite the effort, the futility of the attempt is made evident as the shadow falls upon them—consuming them in a whirlwind of darkness and enveloping them in a hungry abyss—and they finally find voice enough to shriek as the glow of inhuman eyes narrow on their own and a pair of glistening and dripping gore-stained fangs break past the veil.

Though the legends and myths that have existed since the dawning of human civilization always point towards the certain suffering and death of their victims, the popularity of vampires and creatures tied to their tales have flourished. Beyond that, the legends have warped and evolved to take monstrous and demonic beings that were in no way human and (more to the point) attractive in ANY way, shape, or form and turning them into a being of sensuality and beauty that has only served to take an already-compelling icon and add the element of sex and attraction to the mix. Despite the terror associated with the legends and the obvious dangers that such a being could present to our kind, the world's collective obsession with vampiric beings has escalated to points that define genres of media entertainment, motivate fashion and lifestyles, and even shape entire groups and communities.

But none of this actually boils down to the "WHY" of the phenomenon. What is it about these beings that so aggressively draws us in and sinks its metaphorical fangs into our jugulars and refuses to release.

Why are we so inclined to be fans of the fangs?

Past the inherent and two-dimensional fascination with the powerful and lustful creatures dwells a truth that, ironically enough, defines humanity. We, as people—as weak, soft, terrified, and mortal beings—will forever be compelled to idolize and focus on figures and symbols that our ever-growing minds hope will reveal some secret to their success in living, loving, and liberating themselves from the mundane and redundant. When we're young, we look up to parents, older siblings, fascinating members of the local community, and, of course, the characters we grow up loving that perpetually illustrate strength and integrity in television, movies, books, and comics. We dream and strive for the day when we'll find ourselves free of our youthful weaknesses and be free of doubt and confusion… but that day never comes. Months turn to years and then decades and, as we fall into the ever-famed adulthood that we've dreamt so long would mystically provide us with clarity and understanding of life, the universe and everything we discover we're just as frail and just as oblivious, but now cursed with the capacity to UNDERSTAND just how oblivious.

And so, with no magical age dawning upon us with rays of god-like understanding, we forever leap-frog from idol and icon in an ever-constant-yet-insatiable hope to finally feel that we're greater than we are.

Because, in the end, we're still only human.

Only human!

Our subconscious minds see the futility in the search for that one man or woman who can be a guru to cure us of our limitations, and they turn to the beyond; turn to that which transcends humanity; turn to mythology.

An obsession with our limited longevity and a fear of what lies beyond this life has been a motivator for theory-upon-theory-upon-theory. Death represents an inescapable oblivion—an eternal NOTHING—that eats away at our cores because, when all is said-and-done, "nothing" means EXACTLY that to us: nothing. How does one define something if there's nothing to define? We experience a cornucopia of REAL and TANGIBLE that to imagine nothing—no sight, no sound, no smells or tastes, nothing to feel, and no mind to recognize the void—is an incomprehensible notion. And if the history of mankind has taught us nothing else, it's that we HATE that which we cannot comprehend. We assign titles to everything to convince us we hold power over it and try to define the inner workings of this, that, and everything with a limited knowledge of what it is we're trying to define. And so, in an effort to combat the confusion and fear associated with death, we fabricate alternate realities that exist for us beyond this lifetime; theories of heavens or hells or limbos or hauntings or, rather than living an eternity elsewhere, being born as a new person and starting the cycle anew.

All because death and our impending nothing TERRIFIES us.

Enter the vampire. A being whose existence is defined almost unanimously with immortality; a being that represents no need for fear of what lies beyond. And though this eternity relies on a willingness to destroy the lives of others, the natural need to survive motivates us to take that step. If a building is on fire, the occupants' need to survive outweighs the sympathy of others' needs, and it's an all-too-common event that situations like that find people trampled and trapped so that others have the leverage to survive. Is it really such a stretch to see us as so monstrous as to literally steal the lives of strangers to sustain our own?

And what of those who find themselves at the bottom of the stampede? What of those who find themselves trapped within the inferno because somebody wanted to survive enough to lock away the threat of death with them still at risk? What do you think they would give for a body that doesn't break underfoot or the strength to take down any obstacle?

Enter the vampire. A being whose supernatural abilities make even the most able-bodied star athletes look like a joke in comparison. A being who exists in legends as capable of easily holding their own against armies and able to tear down buildings with their unbreakable claws. A being whose speed and reflexes make them a nearly uncatchable and un-killable force for any who stand in their way. A being who sees the threat of those who intimidate them in their everyday life as nothing more than an insignificant creature; no more dangerous or threatening than a newborn puppy—blind and defenseless and oblivious.

A being greater than man or beast but, at the same time, a enigmatic hybrid of the two.

A being capable of communicating and controlling and even BECOMING the animals that we eagerly and desperately struggle to understand.

A being that is not only unafraid of the darkness, but REVEL in it!

All the limitations and shortcomings of man encompass the strengths and traits of the creatures we idolize, because, at the root of it all, we crave a life that's free of fear and uncertainty.

And so we eagerly consume movies and literature and music and any-and-all forms of media and society that pertains to vampires so that we can lose ourselves in that tranquility. Men bellow and cheer as Blade and Selena take on hordes of the undead using vampire strength and cunning and women melt into the steely grip of Lothaire and Edward and Lestat in their paranormal romance novels because they represent total freedom from the normal and a sense of security (as well as cheering on Blade and Selena as they take on hordes of the undead; sorry, guys, but you gotta share the badass whether-or-not you're willing to dive into the romance).

Vampires are, body and mind and drive, what we can NEVER be, and that limitation—that hunger for a taste of what we'll never have—keeps us coming back for more of the fan(g)tastic creatures.


  1. Great indepth article, Nathan!! I LOVEd it!!

  2. I can't say I have ever really analyzed it in so much depth, Nathan! I just love Vampires and have for as long as I can remember. Something about them is so mystifying and exciting - the fight between good and evil, human or monster. I find them intriguing and sexy, well the vampires of today are - not so much Nosferatu and the likes. Very well written article, you truly are a nerd (meant in the nicest possible way, of course!):)