OK, I blasted the Twilight books well enough during the course of this “series“, and I also promised that I’m too compulsive to start the Episodes I-VI joke without finishing out, so here’s the obligatory “last” blog in the Vampire series with a suitably horrific pun on a Star Wars title.
While thinking over the vampire myth, I often try to figure out what it is about the vampire that would (formerly?) make it so terrifying. And during the course of my wonderings this time around I compared and contrasted the Zombie to the Vampire. Both are staples of the horror genre and both share a very important theme.
The majority of faiths in the world acknowledge the idea of life after death. How you feel about those claims is not the point of this thought, but rather, what I think the vampire and zombie myths reveal about our cultural ambivalence toward it.
These stories explore a fear that comes with the possibility of an afterlife. I also think that atheism is rooted in a fear about an afterlife as well. Because if there is an afterlife, it’s something we cannot ever hope to control.
This becomes an issue because the history of civilization trends toward anti-Transcendentalism. We spend our energy toward controlling our environment and overcoming nature, if not outright dominating it. Even the hippies that fancy themselves environmentalists live in homes. Farming, hunting, towns and cities are all about retaining our vaunted position at the top of the food chain by manipulating and controlling our environment. It even extends to our obsession with the Internet; we control what we read and hear so that we’re not challenged unexpectedly.
Humans can be a bunch of control freaks.
But vampires and zombies play on our fear of losing control. Vampires will not (traditionally) control their base urges though they can. Zombies cannot control their animal nature. Any hope of reason and morality is lost. In both cases, death is the transformative act. The vampire and the zombie both gain a certain invulnerability and have to be stopped only in proscribed ways like a stake to the heart or a shot to the brain.
The added layer is that they’re a walking advertisement for the afterlife not working out the way we’d hope it would. Our worst fear is revealed as the result of our inevitable death.
Hell on Earth
While the zombie mythos is fairly overt in its Hell on Earth philosophies, the vampiric one is more personal. Hell on Earth in the context of a vampire is simply that your former self, regardless of whether you’re good or bad, becomes a living prison out of which you can never escape. It’s fairly tragic, really, with only a few legendary superstars, such as Dracula, commanding their fates.
Perhaps there’s also a window into what we see about our baser natures. We see the opportunity of immortality as an opening to unleash the terrible parts of our ego upon the world. We could be completely and utterly selfish, the most terrifying thing imaginable in the world. We could be a nearly invincible animal with human intelligence.
Considering the power of our intellect allowed us to overcome the physically powerful natural creatures that would make short work of us in the wild, that’s a fairly frightening concept.
What Zombies Reveal
Zombies, on the other hand, show our anxiety over the duality of our nature as it concerns the spirit. Because if our body is a vessel, and we abandon it when we die, what becomes of the vessel? Or more frighteningly, they show the other end of the spectrum of the vampire. When our higher intellect is removed, perhaps we’re just id, and zombies tap into the fear that all we are underneath is mindless matter.
Either way, both say something. I’m taking a stab at it, but I’d be curious as to what other people might think the nerves are that these two myths tap.
Because frankly, I know a zombie apocalypse is coming and I want to be prepared. Maybe diplomacy is an option if we can figure it all out.
However I’m pretty sure vampires will pretend to negotiate with an eye toward our ultimate destruction.
P.S. Sorry for the delay on the posting. I have a busy life. But I don’t make money on it, and you don’t pay for it, so there you go.