Thursday, September 11, 2008

Vampires As A Metaphor For Intimacy

On Tuesday, a writer on one of the loops I belong to mentioned that one of her favorite horror films was 1964's Hush...Hush, Sweet Charlotte, starring Bette Davis.

As I drove to the university yesterday morning, remembering that discussion, I made a mental list of my favorite horror films. Here it is in order from favorite to less favorite:
1) Aliens

2) Fright Night

3) Lost Boys

4) Bram Stoker's Dracula (1992/Coppola/Gary Oldman)

5) Jaws

6) The Exorcist III (George C. Scott)

7) The Thing (John Carpenter)

8) Manhunter

9) Dracula (1979/John Badham/Frank Langella)

10)The Thing (1951)
I'm not into slasher films, but one thing struck me. Four of the ten are vampire films.

That fact started me thinking yet again about why women are so attracted to vampire novels and movies.

Isn't it amazing how you'll be thinking of something and suddenly you'll see references to it everywhere?

While I was eating dinner last night, I listened to Terry Gross' show Fresh Air on NPR. She was interviewing Alan Ball, the writer of American Beauty and Six Feet Under. He has a new show that started on HBO Sunday night based on the Southern Vampire series of novels by Charlaine Harris. The show is called True Blood.

Predictably, Terry, who is a terrific interviewer, asked him about the attraction of vampires. He said all the usual stuff about vampires being a metaphor for sex. He mentioned penetration, surrender and the exchange of bodily fluids.

The answer was so facile that I was feeling disappointed. But then Ball said something else that really caught my attention. He described the series as a metaphor for the terrors of intimacy.

He said he saw it as being about breaking that wall that keeps us separate and safe from a savage and dangerous world.

I liked that answer a lot. And it rang true to me. Letting another person into your life--permitting them to get close and to see you as you are--is a terrifying act. And the vampire metaphor is perfect for both the awful yearning and the terrible fear that the promise of true intimacy brings. It's much safer to stay safe within those walls and to play the games most people play.

You can listen to Terry's interview here.

I have read Harris' Southern Vampire series. She handles humor better than most writers. Although I don't have cable, I think I'll follow the series by purchasing the episodes for my computer.


melligator said...

I read on a blog somewhere recently that another attraction of the vampire scene is that it transfers power to the victim in many cases. I'd never thought of it like that.

Maya Reynolds said...

Melligator: I like that, too.

Sharon said...

I didn't watch "Dark Shadows" as a kid because the music alone was too scary. I don't watch vampire movies or read books about vampires. In reading your post and listening to the NPR interview, I think it is the aggression that bothers me the most. Thanks for the food for thought. (I did like "Six Feet Under.")

Maya Reynolds said...

Sharon: Thanks for commenting!!!

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Jade Graham said...

Yet even if the actors were really married it would wouldn't make watching those type of actions any better. sexual intimacy in my marriage