The vampire analogy

Today’s post is a complete change of pace. I’ve been thinking about the extraordinary recent popularity of vampire narratives in popular culture. And it occurs to me that there is something very specific about the semiotics of the vampire: Symbolically, vampires are to sexual passion as humans are to friendship.

Think about it. Vampires are immortal, yet they can die in a moment. In fact, they instantly expire either the moment their heart is pierced, or the moment they are exposed to the light. This is a precise analogy to the power of romantic sexual passion. When you are in love, it is forever — you feel that your love transcends all space and time, even mortality itself. We are all capable of experiencing these powerful feelings toward otherwise total strangers.

Yet such passion can (and often does) end in an instant — the moment the bubble of illusion is burst, or the moment some outside truth brings in the harsh light of day. And then that all powerful, all consuming feeling, a feeling that pulses through our very blood, can simply vanish, as though it had never been.

Friendship is more like humans. Not transcendent, nor all-powerful, nor even immortal, yet very hard to kill. Unlike a lover, if you try to stab a friend through the heart, your friendship might very well survive the betrayal. Between friends, blood runs warm but rarely hot.

We are drawn to the vampiric power of sexual desire, to its promise of eternal flame, to that extraordinary heightening of all the senses which only passion can bring. Yet in the harsh light of dawn, when we awake from our fever dream, it is friendship that will still be there.

3 thoughts on “The vampire analogy”

  1. It is ironic that while symbolically, vampires and humans are opposites, in actuality, the vampire-like behavior is a darker side of all-too-human behavior. The passion of the hunt, the use of another person in selfish pursuit of one’s own carnal pleasure, the need to move on to a fresh victim each time. Maybe that’s why vampires are so scary and yet alluring (because we see parts of ourselves that we fear in them). Come to think of it, the Barney character that Neil Patrick Harris plays on How I Met Your Mother is something of a vampire, isn’t he?

  2. Yes, I agree that the character played by Neil Patrick Harris in How I Met Your Mother is the comedy equivalent of a vampire.

    It’s interesting that vampires rarely work well as comic characters. There can be comedy involved, but when vampires are used successfully in a narrative, the character him/herself is generally essentially a dramatic character.

    I don’t include the Count, because there is no evidence that he is a vampire (to the relief of parents everywhere).

  3. By “rarely work” do you mean that in playing it for laughs they lose their dangerous quality, and perhaps consequently, their allure? Barney is an annoying and pitiful character. They viewer knows that *they* would not be dumb enough to be taken in by his attempts at seduction. With someone less than NPH in the role, it would be completely forgettable.

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