terça-feira, 15 de janeiro de 2013

Who´s who in the Undead: The Vampire.

This a brief series I want to do here, where I´ll talk a bit about those figures of speculative fiction, fantasy, dark fantasy that are the undeads. So, I´ll start with the first one - the vampire. From the wikipedia, we have that: 

Vampires are mythological or folkloric beings who subsist by feeding on the life essence (generally in the form of blood) of living creatures, regardless of whether they are undead or a living person/being. Although vampiric entities have been recorded in many cultures, and may go back to "prehistoric times",the term vampire was not popularized until the early 18th century, after an influx of vampire superstition into Western Europe from areas where vampire legends were frequent, such as the Balkans and Eastern Europe, although local variants were also known by different names, such as vrykolakas in Greece and strigoi in Romania. This increased level of vampire superstition in Europe led to mass hysteria and in some cases resulted in corpses actually being staked and people being accused of vampirism. While even folkloric vampires of the Balkans and Eastern Europe had a wide range of appearance ranging from nearly human to bloated rotting corpses, it was interpretation of the vampire by the Christian Church and the success of vampire literature, namely John Polidori's 1819 novella The Vampyre that established the archetype of charismatic and sophisticated vampire; it is arguably the most influential vampire work of the early 19th century, inspiring such works as Varney the Vampire and eventually Dracula. The Vampyre was itself based on Lord Byron's unfinished story "Fragment of a Novel", also known as "The Burial: A Fragment", published in 1819. However, it is Bram Stoker's 1897 novel Dracula that is remembered as the quintessential vampire novel and which provided the basis of modern vampire fiction. Dracula drew on earlier mythologies of werewolves and similar legendary demons and "was to voice the anxieties of an age", and the "fears of late Victorian patriarchy". The success of this book spawned a distinctive vampire genre, still popular in the 21st century, with books, films, video games, and television shows. The vampire is such a dominant figure in the horror genre that literary historian Susan Sellers places the current vampire myth in the "comparative safety of nightmare fantasy".
Notable works that involve vampires: Some works that deal with vampires are for instance, the most known book from Bram Stoker, called Dracula, Stephen King´s Salem´s Lot. But vampires are everywhere now, so we could point to roleplaying games, like Vampire the Requiem, animes like Hellsing, videogames such as Castlevania, and also some live action programs from Japan like Kamen Rider Kiva. These all may or may not change the perspective on these creatures a bit, but the general aspect is always there. 

A vampire is a monster, not any kind of monster, but an undead, meaning, that he is a human - on most accounts - that is bitten by a vampire, and then begins his own transformation into one, by force of magical circumstances depending on the specifics of each story. Then, he starts his life as an undead, generally having to avoid the sun and leaving his coffin only at night, to chase hot-blooded victims for him/her to prey upon. It´s generally thought, by some accounts, that the vampire can be killed by sunlight and wounds (generally from wood) to his heart (or, the place where it was before). Decapitation and fire are also enemies of some vampires, and some depictions even go as far as adding silver bullets to the mix (those are for the most part reserved for werewolves). Anyway, depictions may vary, but generally, vampires are nasty fellows, and that´s where I begin to have some problems with the currently display of them in the media: the gallant, lovey-dovey, virtuous vampire. 

After some time, people wanted to redeem the bad guy, and throw a fitting suit to match the mask of goody two-shoes that fiction vampires almost all the time display to everyone that don´t know them all too well. The saint vampire, the lover, the tortured one, was born that day. 

Let me add my two cents here: I believe this monster shouldn´t be taken lightly in stories, and put in the category of the tame monster - with notable, rare exceptions this was (and should be in the future) done well. Vampires should be cold-blooded (pun intended!) murderers and not love interests (unless the person loving them is one psychopathic lost soul, but in that case, they wouldn´t be the protagonists). Since ancient legend, vampires are monsters, but, for loving their influence so much, perhaps people wanted to redeem them of their more demeaning qualities by giving them consciences, souls, virtues and whatnot. Notable instances of that are the vampire Angel from Buffy: The Vampire Slayer and the Angel spin-off, Alucard from Castlevania: Simphony of the Night, and ultimately, the vampires from Stephanie Meyer´s romance, the Twilight Books. Of course, there are many others, but you get the point - at some point, everyone´s thought was: what if we could get this awesome character and turn him to the "good" side, our side? Thus, the story of the vampire looking for redemption took place. And it was all downhill from there, if you ask me. 

I side with people - authors, literary thinkers and everyone else - that believe the vampire is a monster, period. It should not be used otherwise - with notable exceptions as I put before. Some of the names that believe that this is the best route include Stephen King and Thomas Ligotti (for one article I read in this book). That´s where the vampire is better, when he an threatening force, not some school girl´s sweetheart. 

Don´t get me wrong, I´m all for reshaping of old formats, and throwing some rules out in favor of even better stories, but that is one of those times that I draw a line: vampires are undead, eldritch monsters and they should continue being that. Period. 

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All the works and ouvres herein quoted were done so briefly and with the purpose of commentary.

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