People are regularly asked what they found so appealing about the vampire. The answers reveal incredible diversity. Qualities mentioned include: eroticism, immortality, power, victimization, beauty, elegance, romanticism, the supernatural, mystery, and the unknown.
Of these, three were mentioned most often, the first of which was sexual attraction. People found the biting and blood-sucking element of the vampire extremely sexual. They also found the fact that vampires are immortal quite appealing.
The third major appeal of the vampire is power. The vampire’s dominance in the biting of its victim was especially highlighted in this category. All three of these appeals are supported with extensive testimony by vampire fans.
With its original association with evil, disease, and death, it is surprising that this creature of the dark has garnered the appeal it has in American culture today. Indeed, our fascination with something that was once feared seems to indicate that the vampire’s function in today’s society is fundamentally different from that which it was originally.
Many scholars have attempted to explain the vampire’s appeal in psychological terms literary scholar James Twitchell claims that psychoanalytically speaking, the vampire image is so popular because it represents a “complete condensation of problems and resolutions of preadolescence.” He claims that children must deal with first time feelings of sexual energy and hostility, and that the vampire image acts out these situations, through its blood sucking and preying on the living.
Kirk J. Schneider, a faculty member of the California School of Professional Psychology, offers a vastly different explanation. He maintains that the vampire figure, specifically Dracula, is appealing because it is horrifying.
Schneider states that true horror is when we are unexpectedly immersed in the infinite. Seeing this boundlessness is analogous to the boundlessness of that which is sacred, and thus dealing with the horror allows us to get a feel of what it would be like to deal with the holy.
Dracula seems infinite is his power — and the characters in the story as well as the audience must deal with that endless power. In regards to Dracula, Schneider states that “Dracula is not simply about a monster, it is about the mysterious force which permits monstrosities.”
Perkowski claims that the figure of Dracula the Vampire functions as a symbol of evil. He states the Vampire “is a focus of fascination for forbidden, proscribed feelings and acts rife with guilt and fear, a focus for venting one’s secret desires to surfeit.” To support his claim, he contrasts Dracula’s role with that of Santa Claus, claiming that they embody elements that make them polar opposites.
There are many reasons that vampires are so popular. The vampire has the appeal of immortality, which has been a goal of man for ages. Men built the pyramids in an attempt to gain immortality, yet it comes naturally to vampires. Vampires have the appeal of power over others, which is very alluring to someone who feels that they have no power of their own. Finally and most importantly, vampires have a sexual appeal. This sexual appeal ranges from the more normal (dominance, charming, and innuendo of oral sex) to the strange (blood fetishes, sadomasochism, and necrophilia). All claims can be justified in some way or another.
The vampire usually is seen as a metaphor for the dark side of humans: our greed, lust, obsession, predatory natures, desire for eternal life, the tragic quality of being boxed in by fate. On another level, the vampire has the qualities of the dark rebel, the outcast, the ultimate opponent of the established order and the daylight world. Trapped in a half- world between the living and the dead, the vampire carries the tragic qualities of an outsider who does not fit in, a situation that many people can identify with.
Whereas the vampire was needed in the past as an outlet of fear and anxiety by being a scapegoat for unexplainable calamity, today not much seems to remain from his original essence. The vampire has freed itself from the contingencies of its social role to become a true archetype. Earlier in history, the associations of fear with the vampire were inseparable in its transmission, whereas today the image can stand alone, making it subject to a much broader scope of interpretation. As a multifaceted creature, the vampire is able to fulfill a wide range of elements in the individual psyche.
One thing, however, is known for sure: the image has withstood the test of time and change of cultures. In doing so, it has shown that, real or unreal, the vampire seems immortal with its continued presence in our society.