Vampire History: Four Degrees to Twilight

Suburban vampires and powerful jawlines: Where did it all come from?
Suburban vampires and powerful jawlines: Where did it all come from?

Twilight, otherwise known as the reason paranormal romance takes up half the bookstore, is the spark that reignited fangers back into the public eye.

The book's main character, Edward is an odd vampire. Rather than facing an inward battle between his animalistic need to suck blood and his rapidly-receding humanity, he's a really attractive guy with a lot to offer. He sparkles, too. Old-school vampire fans scoff at Twilight, but the series is an optimization of the vampire formula.

Vampires are already sexy, being immortal beings and all that, but Twilight takes all of the negatives traits about eternal life and turns them into big fat positives. Rather than fearing what a vampire might end up doing to the reader, he or she can now self-insert comfortably into the room-temperature arms of their pale-faced God.

Here are four degrees, starting from give-or-take the early 80s that should tide you over until the next movie release and will take us from Anne Rice to Twilight with some themes seen in Stephanie Meyer's big series strewn about.

4. Anne Rice

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The now-evangelical Christian author has been the mistress of modern vampire fiction for decades. She took the classic neckbiting vampire formula and gave the pale-fleshed bloodsuckers six-packs.

The sexy/deadly formula has stuck, and Twilight takes the formula further by keeping the drug addict allegory to a minimum, and instead using vampires to symbolize cosmic love and eternal union. Taking all of the gross parts out of Anne Rice novels was Twilight author Stephanie Meyer's masterstroke, as audiences were no longer limited by disgust in the death of children.

 

3. Bram Stoker's Dracula

Francis Ford Coppolla turned the classic Nosferatu tale into an acid trip love story that spanned across centuries.

Instead of painting Dracula as the villain, in 1992 he was proclaimed as the lovelorn conquerer cursed with eternal life. The human fear of the unknown was the villain, and Keanu Reaves' aura of wooden disdain is a stark contrast to the warm curiosity of Dracula, played by Gary Oldman. Ultimately, folks will argue that Dracula was merely an excuse for Copolla to show off a bunch of weird setpieces, but it really set the stage for vampire-kissing without any of the murder stuff.

2. Vampire: The Masquerade

Vampire: The Masquerade is a bit of the odd man out here, and for good reason: It's a tabletop roleplaying game. It does, however, assume a grand vampire authority that has kept their existence secret across centuries.

The Camarilla, generally populated by individuals that lived as royalty before being "embraced" serve as an authority. Twilight's Voltaire is extremely reminiscent of this, blood-soaked doublets and all. The game also features a "humanity" meter which quantifies the difference between Edward and, well, just about all of the series' antagonists. A vampires connection to their past life and humanity keep them from going hog wild on a blood feast and also more relatable to the audience.

In True Blood, it hurts to be a vampire and everyone is kissing all the time.
In True Blood, it hurts to be a vampire and everyone is kissing all the time.
HBO

1. True Blood HBO's wildly popular series represents the most recent rift in Vampire fiction. Instead of banking its popularity on the will-they-won't-they relationship of Edward and Bella, it throws the blood, sex, and self-aware camp at its audience with fanged glee.

Bill, Sookie, and the rest of Bon Temps are the other side of the vampire coin reborn for audiences that like a little risk with their vampire lore.

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