I’m no longer sure there is an appeal to vampires that’s any different from the appeal of pirates or cowboys/girls or folks in uniform or witches and warlocks.
One reader says it’s the heightened senses conveyed in stories about vampires, another says it’s the bad boy allure, another says it’s the protective strength, and still more call it the aspect of danger or the tortured soul or the gift of eternity.
Couldn’t most of these be applied to any antihero? Someone who is set apart whether by job or by general essence. There is something different about them. A challenge to the norm. We have to step out of ourselves and what we know, take a chance, risk.
I don’t think the desire to take a risk is the same as liking the “bad boy” or “bad girl.” Look how many have fallen in love with the good vampires of Twilight. But they do offer something different.
So, if the appeal of antiheroes is fairly universal, then why does one reader choose vampires and another pirates? I wonder if it reverts back to our first awakenings of sensuality or first taste of adventure.
My older sister had me watch Christopher Lee when I was fairly young. I saw something I’d never seen before. I saw a man bending over a woman who leaned her head back willingly, opening her neck to his lips. I saw something in their eyes that I’d never seen in kid-TV. Sensuality. Heightened pleasure. It looked a little dangerous but irresistible. A bit like sex.
For someone else, it might have been the cowboy sweeping the wild-haired woman up onto his horse. Or maybe that look on the pirate’s face when he saw the reward of his travels: adventure. Our first taste of something new that set the adrenaline pumping and imprinted in our memory.
Stories imprint in our memory. Reading is sometimes about learning and sometimes about adventure, often both. Our peculiar passions are part of our growth.
Just as vampires have grown into our culture, the thing of the night, night’s potential. They will always be here, just as the antiheroes will always appeal, in whatever dress they wear.
Something different, something to take us out of ourselves, a step away from safety, with the promise of adventure, the promise of good or wicked pleasure.