The End

Posted in Uncategorized on December 10, 2010 by maggb05

The semester has come to an end which means, so has my blog for this literature in culture class. My knowledge on vampire history and myth has certainly expanded. Vampires to me had always been a sort of rolled into one kind of character that hollywood has tried to interpret many times and that kids everywhere enjoy dressing up as for Halloween. I never understood the extent to which it is actually a culture. I mean I can see that now with the whole Twilight saga, True Blood, and Vampire Diaries fiasco, but I never knew how far back this went.

We began with literature in the 18th century written when vampires were believed to truly exist. Unexplained death and mysteries of bloody corpses along with religious superstitions brought these beliefs. Without the scientific knowledge we have now and with religion dominating most culture, it was the only explanation they could come up with. During this time vampires were more disgusting and horrifying than now; more monstrous, sometimes sexual but never romantic.

 Then we read Bram Stoker’s Dracula which became a foundation and home plate for all other literature we read. Dracula definitely set the bar for all themes we would see recurring except maybe for the vampire as a romantic. In this story we saw fears of gender role confusions, homosexuality, masculinity and femininity, social class, sexuality, nature vs science and knowledge, invasion, and fear of the unknown.

There had become an obvious difference between male and female vampires in that females were more sexual, attractive, and seductive in preying while the male vampires were ugly, barbaric, and perverted. Any time we read of a romance between human and monster it was with a female vampire and a human male or even a human female as in Carmilla. The 20th century is when we started to hear of sexy and attractive male vampires. By this time there had been advances in science, technology, and medicine and the movie industry had been born. So now that it was common knowledge that vampires did not really exist, writers had more freedom to create sexy vampire characters and romance plots. Not only this, but vampires were made more humanistic, living among humans, and were sometimes humorous.

I think 21st century vampires have come far from the original ones, but when you read a modern novel or watch a blockbuster hit, if you know the background and history of vampire literature, you can still see the influence of Dracula and company on modern writers. I don’t think this makes stories such as Twilight stupid or ridiculous because Stephanie Meyer did the same thing Bram Stoker did. She wrote a novel in her own interpretation of the modern vampire and was influenced by past novels as well as by the culture around her. Bram Stoker was surrounded by people who were afraid to talk about homosexuality and who lived by the status quo, so he wrote a novel that secretly highlighted those areas of interest. Stephanie Meyer now lives in a time when homosexuals have come “out of the closet” and it is widely known that high school girls love bad boys whom her parents don’t approve of.

Overall I’ve really enjoyed this class and the many stories we read whether they were easy to read or not. So much so that I’ve decided to keep the books I ordered online for this class and add them to my collection of the Twilight saga. Who knows, I may even be adding more to my collection as time goes by.

Thanks Mrs. Foster!

Twilight

Posted in Uncategorized on December 8, 2010 by maggb05

Finally I get to write about my favorite vampire story! I know I know, a lot of people hate Twilight because of the overdone romance story, but that’s exactly what drew me into it. I guess I’m your typical female who enjoys romance flicks. I didn’t get into Twilight as early as most. It was only after the first movie came out in theaters and I saw it that I began reading the books. Actually, I haven’t even started reading the last book, Breaking Dawn yet. I was waiting until after this semester when I would have time since I knew I would be busy reading other vampire books. So no spoilers please!

I never had any complaints about the story in the book or movies until now; now that I’ve learned so much about vampire history and literature. Don’t get me wrong, I still love Twilight (espeically the vampire Edward) and cannot wait for the next movie, but there are a few important elements missing that I think would have made it even better.

When I first saw Twilight I didn’t mind that the vampires did not have fangs because I thought it would have made the movie cheesy. But bite marks were the main evidence that one had been killed by or turned into a vampire. After watching True Blood I feel that even retractable fangs would be best. That way it’s not completely obvious that you are a vampire unless your fangs come out. This makes it easier for vampires to live among humans which the Cullens do in Twilight.

My biggest problem with Twilight now is that the vampires are not made of blood! They drink blood yet they contain no blood in their system. Instead they are made of ice or stone or whatever that was in Eclipse. I know now that blood is so important for vampires. The blood is the life! Not only does drinking blood allow vampires to live after death but it also allows them to create life after death. Or at least that’s how it was portrayed in several stories we read in class. I prefer the idea that vampires are not simply created by being bitten, but instead after draining a human of blood they muct suck or drink the blood of a vampire in order to become one themselves. A vampire’s blood could be considered poisoned so it makes sense that if someone drank it, they would become infected. Also it adds more of a sexual or romantic element because the human that drinks from a particular vampire sort of becomes one with that vampire as a result.

Thankfully Twilight still has many similar elements to the historical vampire stories. The supernatural speed and strength. The pale, cold, and marble-like skin. The old age, yet being unnaturally beautiful even after death. The colored eyes. Some magical or special mental ability. The wealth or aristocracy. The hunger for blood. And Twilight doesn’t include elimination of a vampire through staking, but it does include breaking off their heads and burning their bodies in fire.

True Blood

Posted in Uncategorized on December 7, 2010 by maggb05

After reading the book Dead Until Dark which the show is based on, I decided to rent the first two episodes just to compare it to the book. After watching it I could see what all the hype over the show was about; it is a great show and very intriguing! So, both my husband and I got addicted to it and we’ve just started watching the second season now. The show carries many similarities to the myths and theories of previous vampire stories, but also has its uniqueness which I believe makes it a success.

In True Blood, vampires have come “out of the coffin” and openly live among humans, even having relations with them. This became possible when a new synthetic blood was created that vampires could purchase at a bar or store and drink to feed their hunger without harming humans. This added to a part of the humor to the show for me. Like other vampire stories the show contains a lot of focus on sex, sexual orientation, and race and religion. Except the show does not try to hide it between the lines or behind other mysteries.

There are plenty of open homosexuals including Lafayette (an African-American male), lots of male fang bangers, gay vampires, and even a gay senator who is still hiding behind the closet. These people trade sex for blood or vice versa. Fang bangers are like prostitutes for vampires; they allow and enjoy vampires to bite them and in return the vampires will have sex with them. Lafayette was a “V” (vampire blood) dealer but not necessarily a vampire drainer. He had a consistent male vampire client who would allow Lafayette to drain a little blood at a time out of him in exchange for sex. Other human clients including the senator paid Lafayette in money or sex for V. Vampire blood had become a drug ever since vampires came out of the coffin (or closet as said for homosexuals) giving humans a great high and a sexual boost such as Viagra does for men and many had become addicted to it (another theme for this story).

There was a lot of tension not only between vampires and most humans, but also within the human race. In True Blood there are those normal everyday humans that dislike vampires simply because they’re vampires or because their dangerous, and then there are those who believe their sole purpose is to kill the vampire race. The Fellowship of the Sun is a religious group or church who believes in God’s light and bringing other humans (and vampires) out of darkness and into the light. But they have also created an army of vampire slayers. Within the human race there are judgemental and critical people who think very little of those other humans who associate with vampires, especially those fang bangers. So much so, that a resident of the town was hiding his identity and killing women who had sex with vampires.

Then of course there is the romance theme between the innocent and curious human girl and the male vampire who is always strappingly handsome and wealthy. But when you fall in love with a monster, there are always consequences and conflicts that come between the relationship, making it hard to be together.

“Shadow of the Vampire” Review

Posted in Uncategorized on November 22, 2010 by maggb05

Interesting concept for a film. A movie about the making of another real movie. This was a fictional movie about the supposed making of “Nosferatu”, a take on the Dracula novel. The director of the film is obsessed with his job and with creating the perfect picture. He is so obsessed that he seeks and finds an actual vampire to play the role of Count Orlock.

The director keeps this a secret from the rest of the crew of course, but makes an agreement with the vampire in order to persuade him to act. He promises the vampire the famous actress who plays the role of Mina. Throughout the movie, the director caters to the vampire, bringing him blood in a bottle and kind of acts like a Renfield character to Dracula. He brought the vampire there, made a deal with him, and offers him a human. The director soon becomes aggravated and impatient with the vampire because he does not keep his end of deal when he feeds off of other members of the crew, leaving him without a camera man and other members.

The movie comes across as a comedy and not a thriller. The whole idea of an actual vampire being an actor is hilarious, but to actually see the vampire trying to act and misunderstanding instruction he is given is even more humorous. It’s all so unrealistic the way everyone in the movie crew accepts that this is just a man who is so artistic and into his character that he is never out of his wardrobe and makeup, can only film at night, and is always in the vampire character. He bites and drinks the blood of a bat in front of 2 men for goodness sakes, and they don’t run or do anything about it. Not to mention he bit a man while filming a scene in front of the whole crew.

The director eventually reveals the vampires identity to everyone and they plot to kill him by sunlight at the end of their final shooting, but the vampire catches on and kills them all, except for the director who is saved by other crew members who were outside by revealing the sunlight. It is very sickening though that the director actually allows the vampire to kill the actress after completing the last scene and films him doing it. The director is so involved in capturing the realistic murders that he even films the vampire killing the other members on set after he finds out they were going to kill him.

Overall the film was interesting because it kind of gives an insight to the filming of Nosferatu, but comes across as corny and humorous in its nonsensical portrayal of a vampire as an actor.

Let the Right One In

Posted in Uncategorized on November 22, 2010 by maggb05

There are many differences and ways that Let The Right One In has been modernized compared to older vampire stories we’ve read. Still, some of the same themes we have become familiar with are present in this book as well.

The main vampire in this book is a child (a fresh concept but something we read in ‘Salem’s Lot), but the interesting thing about this child is that it appears to be a girl, but the truth is, it’s a boy who has been castrated. The vampire Eli meets and becomes very close to Oskar who is bullied in school. Eli eventually saves Oskar from his bullies. Two new themes can be taken from these pieces of information.

First, the corruption of children. We are used to male vampires, and if it is a story of a female vampire, then the theme is the corruption of a pure and innocent woman. With children, the same innocence is expected, pure of sin and totally dependent and vulnerable to adults. So a child vampire creates the unexpected evil which is good for a story, but it also brings controversy to the idea of children being sexually and violently corrupted. Second, Eli saves Oskar from his bullies and eventually eliminates Hakan the pedophile, so in a way she could be seen as the evil who protects the innocent from other evil. Or this could be a of the evil as a savior.

The book is also centered on punishment. The bullies at school punish Eli physically, but mostly emotionally. Hakan punishes children as a pedophile and is punished or tortured by the authorities after being charged with murder when they use him for further information. Finally, Eli the vampire punishes Oskar’s bullies as well as those she kills for blood.

A common theme in this book that we have grown accustomed to in vampire stories is homosexuality. When it is revealed to Oskar that Eli is a boy, he has a hard time accepting this but he has already accepted the fact that Eli is a vampire. My take on it is that either the author Lindqvist is expressing a negative attitude towards homosexuality, but an acceptance towards sinful nature or since the evil character is “homosexual” and is loved and accepted by Oskar and Hakan, then Lindqvist is saying that homosexuality, whether sinful or not, has become an accepted way of life.

Paper 2 Guide

Posted in Uncategorized on November 11, 2010 by maggb05

Homosexuality and/or the fear of homosexuality seems to be a recurring theme in vampire stories. I would have never noticed it if it were not for this class and our discussions.

Carmilla is a story published in the 19th century about a young female vampire who  preys on other females. It was the first lesbian vampire story ever published. In the story there are many times when Carmilla is physically affectionate with the narrator Laura, and you get the impression that it is being done in a romantic way. They refer to each other as really good friends, almost like sisters, yet this is the type of behavior Carmilla expresses on Laura which she seems to enjoy. Before Carmilla came to stay at her house, Laura had visions of a girl (who was Carmilla) in her bed both as a human figure and as a black cat. The story mentions that the girl left a warm spot on her bed; that seems like a sexual connotation to me also.

Then we saw it in Dracula between the Count and Jonathan Harker when the three wives tried seducing him and the Count became angry and claimed Jonathan as his own. The idea of something evil (vampire representing homosexuality) coming and invading the Victorians’ perfect and pure world was one of the biggest fears of that time. Jonathan’s characteristics and personality also questioned his “masculinity” according to the norms of the 1800s. This difference in gender roles was another change that the Victorians feared.

Again in ‘Salem’s Lot we find a vampire who is living with another man and they refer to one another as partners. The majority of the victims of the vampire Barlow are male, especially young boys. The idea of a male vampire penetrating a male human and sucking blood from his neck or wherever, is clearly symbolic of homo-sexual acts. And just like Jonathan, Ben Mears’ masculinity is questionable among the townspeople. When Barlow is described by the man in the junk yard, he refers to him as being or looking “queer”. Mark is also called a queer when he is being bullied at school. So this word or idea of the word is used as an insult throughout the book. Although this story takes place in a more recent time, gay rights were just blooming and since it also takes in a small town it was still frowned down upon and not accepted, along with other changes among the young kids.

The Emperor of Ice Cream/’Salem’s Lot

Posted in Uncategorized on November 1, 2010 by maggb05

Stephen King named one of the sections of ‘Salem’s Lot “The Emperor of Ice Cream” and began that section with the poem itself. Why does King decide to include this poem? What relationship does it have with this story?

The character Ben Mears recites a part of the poem when he and other men were investigating the corpse of Mike Ryerson in Matt’s guest bedroom. When doctor Cody was examining the body to see if he was in fact dead, he lifted up the sheet from his legs and exposed his feet. Ben noticed his feet were callused and it reminded him of the poem because it says, “If her horny feet protrude, they come to show how cold she is, and dumb.” But instead of reciting this part out loud, he misquoted the part that says, “Let be be the finale of seem. The only emperor is the emperor of ice cream.”

In the poem, the narrator is describing the wake of a dead woman. My interpretation is that he is describing it in a negative way, because while she is in another room dead, instead of mourning her death, the neighbors are in the home socializing and flirting with each other disrespectfully. It’s as if one room represents life (appetite for ice cream, sensuality, flowers) and the other represents death (corpse, over-worked dead feet, worn out dresser).

The whole time Ben, Matt, the sheriff Parkins, and Dr. Cody are with the body, they are casually conversing, joking, smoking, and Ben has to hold back laughter a few times. So it’s almost the same scenario from the poem. While they are not there for the wake or a get-together, they are behaving very casually as if there was not a mysterious dead body in front of them. I think this is why Ben chose to mention that part of the poem, “Let be be…” The dead are dead, there is no reason for anyone to linger on the fact because there is no undoing it, so just let it be and let life go on. Ironically however, Ben is aware of the possibility that this might not be the end for Mike if Matt’s suspicions of vampires are true; but Ben is skeptical.