Wednesday, October 21, 2009

The Vampire and the Vamp

Today's guest blog is from author Susanne Saville - who has an absolutely charming website (who doesn't love hats on cats?), thanks Susanne!

The Vampire and the Vamp

While this year's Halloween feature in Salem, Massachusetts is Zombies,
vampires always have a place at the festivities. Not only is there a horror exhibit named Dracula's Castle, there is The Vampires' Masquerade Ball.

Why are vampires so popular? One reason is their image. Their modern image. Male vampires were originally portrayed as horrific and frightening. Have you seen F.W. Murnau's Nosferatu?
That vampire is the antithesis of sexy.

Yet at basically the same time, the word "vamp" - yes, from the word vampire - was being used to describe a highly eroticized, sexy woman.

This is the original vamp, Theda Bara.

In fact, female vampires have been portrayed as sexy right from the very beginning.

This probably has more to do with fear of female sexuality than anything else. You might think this fear was limited to the Victorian period. You would be wrong.

I just came across an interesting example in Landis MacKellar's book The Double Indemnity Murder. Judd Gray used this as a defense against a murder charge: he accused Ruth Snyder of being an "erotomaniac" who exhausted him through sex until he agreed to participate in her plan to murder her husband.

His lawyer said she "was abnormal, possessed of an all-consuming, all absorbing sexual passion, animal lust, which seemingly was never satisfied." And that, "...she sapped his strength" resulting in his "exhausted vitality" which made him her love-slave and gave him no choice but to do her bidding and commit murder. (p. 221)

Sounds like a vampire to me. :)

Male vampires didn't create love-slaves. Bela Lugosi's Dracula was powerful and mesmerizing, but not particularly sexy. Hammer Horror's Dracula, Christopher Lee, certainly could have been sexy, but the scripts did not help him with that. In one of his movies, as I remember, Dracula never even speaks!

The male vampire was a threat to men - The Other who is out to Have Our Women and must be stopped - and a source of pain and death to women.

This portrayal changed after Frank Langella took the role in 1979.

His Dracula was charming and suave; his bite was enjoyable rather than painful - something erotic rather than something dreadful. He was a source of excitement and pleasure to his female "victim" - who did not class herself a victim at all and had no wish to be "rescued."

This is generally the male vampire we read about in vampire romance today.

Thank goodness! ;)

Susanne Saville is the author of Vampire Close, a vampire romance set in contemporary Edinburgh, and for Kindle users, Dance Macabre, a vampire romance set in 1897 London.


booklover0226 said...

I agree about the Frank Langella contest.

As a kid, though I loved vampires books and movies, I loved being afraid of them.

After I saw Frank in Dracula, I was was like HOT D@MN, I want a peice of that!

Tracey D

ddurance said...

Pretty much all vamps are enticing, with the exception of the vampires from 30 Days of Night. Now that's bloody disgusting and downright creepy.