But vampires are also evolving. Susannah Clements charts their development from Dracula to Edward of Twilight fame. She notes that Dracula (the novel) is saturated with Christian imagery. Pollution is a prevalent leitmotif. “Unclean, unclean!” cries Mina, having stained her husband’s night-robe in blood. She later recounts how she herself was bitten: “Then she began to rub her lips as though to cleanse them from pollution.” As one theologian notes: “Both literally and metaphorically to be fallen is to pollute and be polluted.”
But as vampires became more ‘secular’ they lost their fangs. Hence, the title of Clements’ book: The Vampire Defanged: How the Embodiment of Evil Became a Romantic Hero. Whereas Dracula represents a threat to the Christian British Empire, penetrating its boundaries, polluting its people, Anne Rice’s vampires – a century later – are immune to Christian symbolism. They are also riddled with post-modern angst – a sense of shame without resolution. Subsequently, theology is reduced to spirituality. And the loss of sin – which only makes sense if there’s a God – becomes a search to make sense of evil.
In turn, then, whereas Rice explores the tension between free will and evil embodied in the vampire, Stephanie Meyer (who wrote Twilight) explores the tension between free will and infatuation. This leaves little room for evil, let alone sin.
Or does it?
In a piece written for The Guardian, Slavoj Zizek writes about the “decaffeinated other”. Coffee without caffeine, beer without alcohol, vampires without fangs, men without – you get the picture.
Devoid of a convincing evil nature, Edward is a sham vampire: a shampire, if you will. In Clements’ words he has “become rather tame, repressed, pretty, glittery, and vegetarian. He has lost his fangs”. And a sham vampire is a dishonest one in my book, sinful even. The vampire is not redeemed by kitsch, like Meyer’s portrayal of Edward. Rather, the vampire is redeemed by faith, like Lucy in Dracula. The Christian hope does not lie in airbrushing away sin. It lies in the resurrection of the dead (and perhaps of the undead too).
More honest is Rice’s Lestat who divides his time between revelling in his evil nature and wrestling with it. “Allow me my significance!” he exclaims. “I am the symbol of evil; and if I am a true symbol, then I do good.” The loss of God and (therefore) sin leaves Lestat defining good and evil in terms of himself. And yet, this is sin. As Adam and Eve are exiled from the garden, so Rice’s vampires feel a sense of exile as they search for their place in the world.
Clements is right. The vampire has become more secular. But it is also true that the vampire simply manifests sin differently: Dracula’s pollution, Lestat’s despair, and Edward’s kitsch. Each requires a different antidote. Whereas faith engages Dracula, Rice’s writing becomes more hopeful as she rediscovers God in her later work. But Meyer never really writes about the love that Edward so desperately needs.
For to love is to love unconditionally, warts and all, rather than succumb to sinful sin-denying infatuation.