I’ve been known to say that vampirism is informed by the quirkier subtexts of human nature. That is to say, vampires aren’t usually about vampires. Vampires are about foreigners and sex and dealing with our own baser urges. The very flexibility of vampirism as a trait is because of the pure variety of our own issues are. A specific movie or book may have vampires in it that are pretty clearly just what they appear to be, but as as genre (if it could be called a single genre) the experiences of fighting a vampire, killing a vampire or becoming a vampire is allegory for another human experience.
Because everything is layered in symbolism.
And lately vampires have been all about love. Twilight has seemingly taken the teeth out of vampires, but it wasn’t always so. There have been quite a few brave souls who dared to love vampires.
1. Happily Ever After
Seen where: Twilight, Mormonism?
This almost never happens. Twilight really broke the mold… or shoehorned the plot. This is basically the story version of plot immunity, except instead of a character being immune to death because of the plot, the plot is immune to logic because of the author. By all rights it shouldn’t work out this way, and I, honest to god, can’t think of an example outside of Twilight where it does. Does it count that the doctor at the end of the first Blade film didn’t die? Maybe Sookie from True Blood will beat those odds.
By my estimation, this didn’t even really happen in Twilight. The only reason their romance worked, a romance based on a girl whose boyfriend wants to absolutely kill her for the first 3 books, was because it had to. Not to mention all of the creepy cult-like behavior and stalking. No amount of public protesting could stop that loving story from reaching its destination while pretty much missing the point of vampires as a literary tool. I bet Stephanie Meyer feels foolish with all that egg on her face. No doubt her millions and millions of dollars do nothing to salve her shame.
2. Too Emotional/Murderer To Love
Seen where: Interview With The Vampire, The Vampire Diaries, The Lost Boys, any high school relationship
One of the great things about a short life-span is that it seems like love lasts forever. Not so for vampires. They just screw and fight and screw and fight until they eventually die. Even if it takes a couple thousand years to do it.
The quintessential example of this is Anne Rice’s Interview With The Vampire. Lestat, lonely and unable to cope with modernity, turns Louie to use and abuse into the new era. While they don’t explicitly have a relationship, the overtones are there. And it’s not just Lestat. Vampires everywhere are looking for someone to use to get them through modernity.
For a more contemporary look, check out The Vampire Diaries. Every week it’s another betrayal and another dramatic twist. In these stories vampires are users that sometimes freak out and kill you.
3. Everything Turns Out Terrible
Seen where: Buffy The Vampire Slayer, 30 Days Of Night, Bitten, Bram Stoker’s Dracula, I Am Legend, Underworld: Evolution, any high school relationship
This is usually the natural conclusion to to the last section, but most stories stop before they get here. Look at this dialogue and guess where it comes from.
Guy: Listen. If we date, you and I both know one thing’s gonna lead to another.
Girl: One thing already has lead to another. You think it’s a little late to be reading me a warning label?
Guy: I’m just trying to protect you. This could get out of control.
Girl: Isn’t that the way it’s supposed to be?
Guy: This isn’t some fairy tale. When I kiss you, you don’t wake up from a deep sleep and live happily ever after.
Girl: When you kiss me I want to die. *runs off into the night*
Things have gone really shitty, and everyone knew it was going down that way. This kind of attitude – emotive, self-destructive, and a tad sexually confused – is damn near universal in vampire romance. Maybe the heroic, vampire-slaying ex-husband has accidentally contracted vampirism, and it’s now on the wife and only survivor to kill him. Or maybe your zombie virus turns everyone into night-walkers and now your evenings are haunted by the shade of your undead wife. Courting the dead is… well, it’s courting death.
Dating someone that constantly wants to beat you is stupid, but dating someone who constantly wants to kill is romantic. Oh, and that quote above is from supposedly ultra-feminist, 90’s cult phenom Buffy The Vampire Slayer. Which was doubly fuggled since the female lead is fated to die by any given vampire.
4. All The Other Stuff
Seen where: Vampire Hunter D
Just kidding. There is no other stuff. These are all the options and if you find a story that goes a different direction, they just haven’t gone far enough. The reason Vampire Hunter D is listed here is because, to my knowledge, he never tries to court anyone. He’s too dark, too androgynous, and enough of a hero to realize that he has to kill all the vampires on earth and then kill himself. He gets it. Vampires are a scourge on humanity, as well as a convenient plot device. If the romantic interest is the kind of hero we need (and we could probably use more than one in a world with actual vampires) then he should realize he’s a killing machine and not indulge in his baser urges with innocent people. And if he’s not that kind of hero, well then he’s just a killing machine that fancies someone. And those are the kinds of people we warn our daughters about.
But I’m being a tad too literal. Symbolically, vampire romance still carries the “other” stigma from traditional vampire lore. A lot of the warning protagonists get from their friends about dating vampires could have been overheard concerning interracial couples about 50 years prior. And since bloodlust often means sex lust (hey myself, redundant much?) and being devoured is a form of vampiric corruption, these romances are often also about ideas of purity and chastity. In short: vampires are bad = sex is bad.
Case in point, Buffy has sex with her vampire boyfriend and it, literally, pulls his soul out of his body. Because he was too happy. And then he turns evil and, literally, starts Armageddon. Yeah. If vampire sex is a metaphor for regular sex is it too on the nose?
Whatever symbolism you want to infer, vampires are supposed to kill you the same way I’m supposed to eat steak. Or, put another way, the reason so many of these stories end so badly is the same reason domestic violence ends so badly.