The Meaning of Our Vampire Obsession

Three answers out of many: it's about taxes, immortality, and adolescent female desire.

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Vampires are everywhere. They're in your TV, in your children's bedtime reading, and this week in your (possibly) favorite online-only magazine and a newspaper of record in New York. Why are vampires--of the post-modern, tubercular, burning-eyed variety--such an object of cultural obsession?

Movie director Guillermo del Toro and Chuck Hogan (co-author of The Strain, a novel about--you guessed it--vampires) are hardly the first to try to come up with an answer. In fact, as they acknowledge, vampires' symbolism has been debated for centuries. Lately, theories speculate that effete bloodsuckers are projections of adolescent (female) fantasy.

But these are not the only theories. Below, a rundown of the best recent interpretations:

  • Vampires Let Us Escape from Technological Change, say del Toro and Hogan in the NYT. "In a society that moves as fast as ours, where every week a new 'blockbuster' must be enthroned at the box office, or where idols are fabricated by consensus every new television season, the promise of something everlasting, something truly eternal, holds a special allure."
  • They Embody Young Girl's Illusions about Sex, Unfortunately, says Grady Hendrix in Slate. "These women are going to be shocked when the sensitive, emotionally available, poetry-writing boys of their dreams expect a bit more from a sleepover than dew-eyed gazes and chaste hugs."
  • Fortunately, Vampires Are Exactly What Adolescent Girls Need says Caitlin Flanagan here at The Atlantic. "[A vampire] puts the young girl into a state of emotional confusion and vulnerability that has been at the heart of female romantic awakening since the beginning of time."
  • They're All About Taxes, says James Hirsen at Newsmax. "The biggest vampire population of all is huddled together in Washington, D.C. Mostly Draculas of the Dem kind, they’re sucking the lifeblood out of us."
  • They're the Epitome of Good Male Genes, says Sophie Chen at Psychology Today. "Women are programmed to respond to males who have the best chances of successfully fathering and rearing children.Vampires are often depicted as tall and handsome, a combination that signals good genes and high testosterone levels, and, thus, analytical skill, directness and decisiveness."
  • Vampires Reflect Ethnic Anxiety, says Joan Acocella at the New Yorker. "At the end of the century, Eastern European Jews, in flight from the pogroms, were pouring into Western Europe, thereby threatening to dilute the pure blood of the English, among others. Dracula, too, is an émigré from the East."
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.