The Evolution of Vampire Sex Appeal in Modern Media
The allure of vampires is as immortal as the undead creatures themselves. But while vampires have always been supernatural icons of sexiness, what that sexiness manifests as, and how it reflects the aspects of human desire commonly left out of mainstream media, has evolved.
The Victorian Era
In the Victorian era, vampires like Dracula and Carmilla represented the forbidden. Their monstrosities — from lizard-like wall crawling to long, needle-like teeth — were prominent, but at the same time, there was still something about them that the books’ protagonists found physically compelling.
The Twilight Craze
A hundred-some years later, during the midst of the Twilight craze, young adult authors sanded off vampires’ more undesirable traits to make them the ultimate object of adoration for teen girls. Sparkly and occasionally played by Robert Pattinson, these vampires represented a type of desire usually left out of mainstream media: namely, the young female gaze.
Now, just a few years after Edward Cullen, the Salvatore brothers, and other YA-friendly creatures of the night mesmerized teenagers, vampires have a totally different appeal. Their darker traits aren’t amplified to be dangerously sexy, nor have they been transformed into something ethereally beautiful. No, today’s vampires are more “realistic” in how they actually have to deal with real life. To put it bluntly, they are pathetic little shits.
Embracing Pathetic Vampires
Being a vampire sucks (pun very intended). Forget tortured Byronic figures or beautiful immortal teenagers; life as a regular person who also has a craving for blood, sensitivity to sunlight, garlic allergies, and other vampire-specific complications is rough.
What We Do in the Shadows
The creators of What We Do in the Shadows get it. Through the mockumentary format, vampiric oddities — both good and bad — are treated like mundane everyday experiences. Nandor, Laszlo, Nadja, and the rest of the gang are a messy bunch of losers. They struggle to relate to humans and modernity, but that’s just part of their charm.
Image: Matthias Clamer/FX
A Modern Antidote
In a media landscape where we’re overwhelmed with beautiful people coupling in an orchestrated corporate manner, where perfectly curated moments adorn social media and hide reality, the modern vampire is the antidote. Even vampires who do seem stereotypically sexy and alluring now have loser moments.
In this wave of vampiric resetting, fans are looking back and recontextualizing older bloodsuckers, too. Twilight fans have seized control of Stephenie Meyer’s sparkly vampires and imagined them as they truly are: a bunch of weirdos masquerading as teenagers and struggling to keep up with the modern day. Dracula Daily, the newsletter retelling of Dracula, unleashed a whole wave of memes turning the monstrous vampire into an anxious host who wants to appear like just some normal dude.
Adding a more vulnerable and approachable side to crushes has served the traditional romance well for centuries. Vampire fiction has typically been an antithesis to safer, more standard romance stories. But as the romantic comedy genre continues to be in flux and other genres shy away from the more humanistic side of sexuality and romance, vampires are once again stepping in to remind us of what’s really sexy.
Embracing the Cringe
Vampires are more human than ever, and they still represent the parts of humanity that we shrink away from. But in the modern day, that’s not lust for blood or power, or irrepressible carnal desires. It’s the fact that everybody’s a total loser, at least sometimes. That we’re all trying to hide parts of ourselves or fit in where we don’t belong. That we all have desires in some way, shape, or form, be it for blood, food, or sex, and it’s OK if those desires don’t take shape in perfectly choreographed and Instagrammable ways. We’re all cringe. And vampires, as they have done for hundreds of years, help us embrace the sexiness.