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Vampires: Literature and Pop Culture

The Classic Horror icon evolved from Romantic literature to Pop culture

By Mikyah HendersonPublished 3 years ago 4 min read
Top Story - March 2021
Creature of the shadows but the nobility of a regal man

Looking into how most supernatural characters are perceived in literature, it strays far from what pop culture has seen as a being who is sickly pale with an unstoppable bloodlust. Although there's a comparison to the common supernatural being in both literature and pop culture, there are various characteristics that would set them apart. The regal interpretation within William Polidori’s The Vampyre and looking into the Salvatore brothers of L.J. Smith’s The Vampire Diaries these comparisons of vampires can also be separated by their complete differences based on the author’s perception. Withing William Polidori’s The Vampyre, this short story is described as a man of high society rather than going into the normal depiction of a typical vampire; an individual with pale skin and blood lust but can only appear during nightfall (one that fits the description a Nosferatu vampire). Although this has changed during the times of literature that tells of certain aspects of the horror or supernatural, Polidori gives this being the physicality of a high ranked nobleman in Victorian society "His peculiarities caused him to be invited to every house... though its form and outline were beautiful, many female hunters after notoriety attempted to win his attention." (Polidori)

Polidori uses such a description of deadly and fatal attraction that is an advantage to the Vampyre as his looks are what attracted his prey, which was mainly females, therefore letting the hunters become the hunted. While this may be a common stance to how he is able to fool those in society, the Vampyre has the knowledge of his own identity beyond life as a nocturnal serial killer. Polidori describes how although he holds no emotion to his female victims or remorse for his views on his immortality, he does intel how he remembers that he was once an actual man of high society and was also married to his wife who later died at his hand “His lordship seemed quite changed; he no longer appeared that apathetic being who had so astonished Aubrey; but as soon as his convalescence began to rapid, he again gradually retired into the same state of mind, with a smile of malicious exultation playing upon his lips: he knew not why, but his smile haunted him” (Polidori) Giving the Vampyre the knowledge of his former nobility and marital life also entails that at one point in time he was once fully human before enduring life as a nocturnal killer.

Many vampires that are introduced in pop culture have kept the theme of being individuals whose beauty was beyond comparison, therefore, making it easier to attract their prey rather than the opposite. However, the shift of how these beings are in literature has definitely changed. The Salvatore brothers from L.J Smith’s The Vampire Diaries, both have the majority of the same characteristics as Polidori’s Vampyre. Stefan and Damon Salvatore were both brothers introduced to their vampirism during the 17th century thanks to the betrayal of their love interest, Katerina Petrova. Although Stefan and Damon were seen as handsome gentlemen with their own contrasting personalities, it was their gifts that set them apart from even each other.

The Salvatore brothers during the 18th century, aka before their transformation

After concealing the“ripper” side from his past, Stefan chose to contain his bloodlust by feeding on animals while Damon fed on blood bags and humans. Both brothers have the ability to compel or brainwash humans in order to make them compatible to feed or even to wipe away their memories unless they are dealing with other supernaturals that are immune to their compulsions like hybrids or the Mikaelson Family (The Original Vampires). Unlike what many readers would think or wonder what would possibly happen if the Salvatore’s were to congregate with the public or even stand out in the sun. To go against what pop culture knows about these nocturnal killers, the answer is no, the Salvatore brothers don’t sparkle. Instead, they do burn unless they are wearing a daylight ring that protects them from the sun. In a reader’s opinion, I would say that Polidori’s vampyre depiction would slightly describe Stefan than Damon solely on personality.

Both Stefan and the Vampyre holds themselves to a certain standard of nobility while being in the presence of those who could pose as potential victims, precisely the women (even though Stefan feeds on animals, he slips his thirst for blood bags from time to time) as well as having the preference of one's solitude.

Stefan Salvatore (Paul Wesley) drinking a blood bag

Damon, on the other hand, walks to the beat of his own drum making him be seen as the typical bad boy vampire which is still attractive to human females, thus making them potential victims as well. Let's face Damon is more like the predator that plays and taunts his food before finally quenching his thirst.

Damon Salvatore (Ian Somerhalder) showing his pearly fangs to his male victim

Although many readers would favor classics of this supernatural creature from authors like Polidori, or have a preference for the more contemporary portrayal that has been achieved by authors like L.J Smith the one thing to keep this monster of the night in literature will share its approach from their differences in how they are perceived in their own society but will keep the constant horror of both their beauty and bloodlust that will keep readers intrigued.

pop culture

About the Creator

Mikyah Henderson

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