The thorough Americanization of vampires

The vampire-genre used borrowed heavily from Slavic folklores and rules, or at least tried to claim some kind of European bloodline.  Remember the mythical creatures named Vlad out of Transylvania, vampires of Byron, Bram Stoker, Bronte, and later Anne Rice, and even the ones out of Blade?

Not so much anymore.

In recent years, with shows like Buffy, Twilight, True Blood, the vampire theme has morphed from a sub-genre of horror, to an entire class itself.  In recent years, its depth has risen from merely terrorizing humans and dueling with other creatures of the night, to expounding on hot-bed issues like abstinence, racial and social issues, ideas or morality and mortality.

Vampire baseball, can you dig it? If the old SCTV gang had thought that one up, they’d have knocked off early for the day to celebrate. But sometimes ninnies express truths that smart alecks couldn’t think up at gunpoint. Thanks not least to its eerie echo of Camelot’s touch-football games, the image of Lugosi’s star-spangled descendants shagging flies in ball caps had the one popcult virtue that can’t be faked: accidental profundity.

And vampire characters have progressed from two-dimensional blood-sucking monsters, to those with American suave, exposing bigotry and hypocrisy, and championing unjust causes.

True Blood‘s anti-Bush glee makes subtext as archaic as laser discs. Before Anne Rice ruined everything for her fans by going Christer on them, she won a vast gay following by creating sympathetic vampires whose non-mainstream tastes made them mournful but special. Now Alan Ball has junked the mournfulness—about time, too—while reworking the parallel to send up homophobia.

Better yet, he’s discovered that turning vampires into an interest group is a great way to crack wise about all the other smack-downs that keep God’s favorite country so lively. Smug subcultures versus heartland straight arrows, ostracism versus tolerance, assimilation versus exclusivity—yep, the whole bazaar. Subtle he isn’t, but you can’t say it’s not a joke we’re all in on.

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