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Step 9--Vampires in Modern Culture

Vampires in our culture? Yeah, sure, there's a lot of vampire stuff out at Halloween. But most people see vampires nearly everyday, the other 364 days a year, and don't even know it. To begin to study vampires in pop culture, we must first identify all the places they pop up.

Commercials

Vampires in capitalism? You bet! A far cry from the days of horror stories and signs to ward off the evil eye, vampires now sell us all kinds of things. My favorite commercial has to be the one for Ray Ban® sunglasses.

The scene: A group of average looking people are sitting on some stairs outside, in predawn light, facing the sea. As the sun begins to rise, they all put on their Ray Ban® sunglasses. One latecomer to the group fumbles around, not finding his. The sun rises over the ocean, the light falling on them. The hapless guy zaps into a smoking pile of dust. "Looks like someone forgot his Ray Bans.®" All the normal looking people laugh, flashing their vampire fangs.

I love that commercial. For one thing, the actors have the best done vampire fangs I have ever seen in movies or print. Not too big or overly acted. Bravo Mr. Director. Secondly, the fact that a good pair of sunglasses are all vampires need to ward off a death by the sun just strikes me as humorous.

What it sells: The commercial takes into assumption a few things. 1. The population knows what a vampire is. 2. The population can gather that they are vampires merely by their fangs; they don't have to blatantly tell the audience, "Hey, these people are vampires." 3. The population knows the myth that vampires cannot tolerate sunlight and/or it can kill them. The message that comes across? Ray Ban® sunglasses are so good at blocking out the sunlight that they could save a vampire if his life depended on it.

Video Games

One of the greatest video games, ranking right up there with Zelda® and Mario® in number of sequels/ spin offs made, is Castlevania®. The epic of Simon Belmont®, the vampire hunter has millions of hooked fans all over the world. Hey, even I have the second game one, Simon's Quest®.

The storyline: As the sequels vary, so do the storylines for the game. But the underlying, most basic of them is vampire hunter hunts and kills vampire. Now, that's not exactly going to win points for vampire lovers, but still, there is something about the game. Simon and Dracula are very much alike. Simon is the lone hero, Dracula pretty much the lone bad guy. Dracula, the embodiment of evil, Simon the best and the bravest. Even though the player's ultimate goal is the death of Dracula, there certainly is no lack of respect for the fallen adversary. The ending credits even show Simon at the grave site of Dracula. It takes a big man to bury his foe in a marked grave.

What it means for vampire kind: While the Castlevania® games do not put vampires in a great light, it does show the continuing fascination with vampires and their appeal to all generations. It also brings in a lot of the old mythology concerning vampires, played out in the storylines and information gathered on the quest.

Food

®

Vampires with our food? Ridiculous! How can a blood-sucking vampire sell food? Does the breakfast cereal, Count Chocula® ring a bell? Oh yes, that. Albeit it is a chocolate vampire, it is still pretty obvious. One thing I have never gotten over, however, is the fact that he has pointed ears. What do pointed ears have to do with vampires? Though it is most likely harking back to the first vampire film, Nosferatu, who's vampire actor had pointed ears, it still doesn't make any sense. Perhaps one more way the vampire image has changed over the years. Like a Santa Claus who has slimmed down and lost his jolly old pipe in advertisements, so the vampire has changed. If anything, the vampire losing his pointed ears (and in the Nosferatu case, his general ugliness) has only taken one more step into making him look more like mainstream humans. If Freud were here, he'd say it was the subconscious of the human species making what they consider the beast even closer to them. I.e. visually making the beast look like them because they believe and know the beast to be inside them. But Freud isn't here. I said that and I take all the credit. :-)

What the vampire means to advertising: Who knows how vampires are supposed to sell breakfast cereal? Just a clever (or nauseating) pun. The cereal's good enough it speaks for itself.

What it means for vampires: Chalk one up for the vampires. Nothing like a smiling, fanged face greeting you in the morning to make your whole race look good.

And by the by, if you like Count Chocula cereal, you should click on the link above and go to the General Mills website and tell them that. Count Chocula is not easy to find (though Wal-Mart has it) and the Count's contemperaries, like Boo Berry and Frakenberry are almost completely lost. One day the world might be devoid of Count Chocula cereal! Oh, the humanity!

Children's Shows

®

No, you say. No, I have gone too far. Breakfast cereals for children is one thing, but you absolutely cannot point out a vampire in TV programming for children. Alas, with smug pride I point out Sesame Street's® "Count."® The Count,® with his lovely purple color (both a color of the night and asphyxiation) and cape and monocle (hey, he is royalty) and Bela Lugousi-like accent, is as vampire as they come. True, like the cereal, he has been put in as a pun on words (The Count® likes to count numbers, objects, etc.), but the basics of vampirism still exist. Aside from the other ones I have pointed out, he lives in a castle, is shown at night, has pet bats, and even fangs, though in his smiling, friendly face, they are more like a pointed overbite than lethal weapons.

TV Shows

TV shows throughout the broadcasting years have featured vampires, just as movies have. Their lasting appeal, in a variety of circumstances, leads for great ratings and loyal fan followings. Vampire shows aren't just for vampire-interested people.

Forever Knight® (Far left picture) I've only managed to see a bit of this show, shown on the Sci-Fi channel. It is to my understanding that they aren't making anymore. Which sucks, since the part of the show I saw was the finale, I think. Right when the vampire main character is about to bring his girlfriend over to "the dark side," if you will. Then the guy gets cold feet. His sire is nagging him about doing it, trying to make him feel guilty and not do it, and then it ends right there, when she's about to die and they can't decide what they're going to do. Let her die or embrace her. What jerks! She trusted him, she loved him, and then what? He tries to chicken out. Aggravating to no end. But, it does what it should; it's a clencher all right.

Buffy, The Vampire Slayer® (Center picture) I've not actually seen this show or the movie. I haven't made it past the title. I'm not sure if it's the Buffy part or the vampire slayer part. Shame on killers of vampires. Just because some are nasty and try to kill you, that's no excuse. All right, enough with that. Despite my not having watched it, I do know about the affects of the show. It has spawned companion books, and it is rumored there is to be a new line of Buffy action figures coming out. From my experiences, it seems that the largest number of Buffy fans are young, around 9-15. It just shows how the vampire floats through our culture; from children's shows and breakfast cereals, right on through pre-adolescence and then into adulthood.

The Munsters® (Far right picture) Long live reruns. As long as there are TVs, there will be reruns; like vampires, they are seemingly eternal. Though the Munsters® date back to when TV shows were black-and-white (If memory serves, they were a 50's phenomenon) they still had the vampire fever. If anything, monster flicks at the drive-ins were bigger than they are now, so the Munsters® were just a family show spin off of the more popular movies. Whereas monster flicks were for teenagers, along a line of more adult content, the Munsters® had all the strangeness of monsters with the wholesomeness of primetime television. It was safe to let your kids watch. And what could be funnier than monsters thinking they are normal and trying to fit into a society that doesn't understand them? Looking at it as a "monsterologist," however, it is rather strange and amusing for the fact that they tried to throw in all the possible monster combinations. Herman is an obvious Frankenstein. Lillian a bride of Frankenstein, with her white-streaked hair down. Grandpa and Eddie are vampires, Draculas reincarnate. Various other monsters and relatives pop up here and there in different shows, putting in all the more that was popular at the time. The Addams Family® came along later and mainstreamed the monster craze a little, making up its own strange things, like Thing® and Cousin It,® rather than spinning them off. But the groundwork had already been laid. Monster shows could make it on regular, nightly, TV.

Cartoons

® And what else is Batman® but the Count cleansed of his evil and endowed with social conscience? -- Clive Leatherdale, Dracula: The Novel and the Legend

What else is left to say? Draw your own conclusions. From the cape to the night prowlings of the city, to the often-associated-with-vampires creature, the bat, I think Clive's hit that one on the head.

All pictures, products and names are copyrighted by their respective owners. To go to any of their web pages, simply click on the picture.

The above picture was taken by myself. Kilkenny Castle, home to the Butlers of Ormonde for about 800 years. Kilkenny City, County Kilkenny, Ireland. © June 2001.

Celtic spacer bar reproduced with kind permission from: Karen Nicholas--Celtic Web Art

You are on: Step 9

Dictionary/Terms | Step 1, The History of Eastern Europe | Step 2, Pre-Vampire Entities | Step 3, Vampire Creation Myths | Step 4, How Vampires Are Made | Step 5, Vampire Folklore | Step 6, "Living" Vampires | Step 7, Medical Information | Step 8, Vampire Names | Step 10A, Vampire Book Reviews | Step 10B, Vampire Movie Reviews | Essays | The End | Home