What defines a vampire? I believe every vampire must drink blood and be undead. They must also be immortal except if they die by a wooden stake to the heart. Vampires should also be harmed by the sun in some way. Can you imagine a vampire who was never previously dead and never drank blood and died of old age and walked around in the sun with no effect? If you thought about Edward Cullen from Twilight, his sparkling skin does not count. He would receive a bad evaluation from me. In this essay, I will evaluate Damon Salvatore from The Vampire Diaries and Count Dracula from Bram Stoker’s novel, and how they both represent the culture that created them, and if they meet the basic standards of being a vampire.
Based on a Ted talk on how Dracula became the world’s most famous vampire by Stanley Stepanic, an associate professor who has been teaching “Dracula” for more than ten years at The University of Virginia, informs us that vampires have been around for about 800 years before Bram Stoker’s 1897 novel Dracula. Slavic folklore gave us the word vampire. According to Stepanic, “Stories of vampires originated from a misinterpretation of diseases such as rabies, pellagra, and decomposition.” During decomposition, blood oozed from the mouth, so it looked like the corpse was alive and feeding. This led to many burying rituals intended to keep the dead from rising like burying corpses with garlic and poppy seeds, mutilating them, staking them, and burning them. Reports of burial rituals became publicized in Austria in 1755 which caused the public to panic. It got so out of hand that the Austrian Empress sent her personal physician to put an end to the vampire rumors using scientific evidence. As Stepanic said, “The panic subsided, but the vampire had already taken root in Western Europe’s imagination.” This means that even though the science proved that vampires are not real, the idea of vampires cannot just be forgotten.
Because vampires still existed in people’s imagination, works like The Vampire by John William Polidori in 1819, and Carmilla by Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu in 1872 was published. These books along with his mother’s bedtime horror stories influenced Bram Stoker into writing Dracula. According to Stoker, Dracula’s “eyebrows were very massive, almost meeting over the nose,” “[he had] peculiarly sharp white teeth,” and “his ears were pale, and at the tops extremely pointed.” Dracula is described as having pointed teeth and pointed ears, strong eyebrows, and very pale skin. He was tall and had the “strength in his hand of twenty men.” This means that he was very strong.
Dracula has the power to turn other people into vampires by biting them. A quote from the book reads, “When they become [vampires], there comes with the change the curse of immortality; they cannot die but must go on age after age adding new victims and multiplying the evils of the world. This proves that vampires are immortal. There is no direct proof in the book to show that vampires are harmed by the sun, but it was recorded that “It has always been at night-time that I have been molested or threatened, or in some way in danger or in fear. I have not yet seen the Count in the daylight. Can it be that he sleeps when others wake, that he may be awake whilst they sleep?” We can only assume that sunlight has some type of effect on Dracula. In this book, people do not have to die before becoming vampires, so they do not meet the criteria of being undead. However, there is no doubt that Count Dracula drinks blood.
Jeffrey Jerome Cohen is a professor of English and director of the Medieval and Early Modern Studies Institute at George Washington University who edited “Monster Culture (Seven Theses).” The seven theses of monster culture help us understand the culture that produced the monster and what defines a monster. Cohen’s first thesis states that “The Monster’s Body Is a Cultural Body” meaning that “the monster is born as an embodiment of a certain cultural moment” and “the monster’s body…incorporates fear, desire, anxiety, and fantasy, giving them life and an uncanny independence.”
Bram Stoker’s depiction of Count Dracula truly embodied the culture that produced him. In an article written by Greg Buzwell, Curator of Contemporary Literary Archives at the British Library whose research focuses primarily on the Gothic literature of the Victorian fin de siècle, he states Draculas “ability to move unnoticed through the crowded streets while carrying the potential to afflict all in his path with the stain of vampirism, play upon late-Victorian fears of untrammelled immigration.” Buzwell also says, “The act of vampirism itself, with its notion of tainted blood, suggests the fear of sexually transmitted diseases such as syphilis and, more generally, the fear of physical and moral decay that was believed by many commentators to be afflicting society.” Dracula played on the fears that people had about immigration, sexually transmitted diseases, and the moral breakdown at the time.
Now, let’s talk about Damon Salvatore from The Vampire Diaries (TVD). The Vampire Diaries is an American supernatural teen drama television series that aired from 2009-2017 and starred some very handsome vampires, especially Damon Salvatore who is played by Ian Somerhalder.
Damon is over 100 years old and has killed many people in his life. Vampires are born if a human dies with vampire blood in their system. If you are wondering why a human would drink vampire blood, it is because vampire blood heals any type of nonfatal injury. Vampires in this show have super strength and speed. They can compel humans to forget things and do anything they are coerced to do. Vampires burn in the sun, but they wear daylight rings infused with magic to be protected. They can also be burned with vervain, a plant, and killed with a wooden stake to the heart, decapitation, and having their heart removed from their chest.
Damon meets all four criteria of being a vampire. He had to die in order to become a vampire and has to drink blood. He is immortal because he has been alive for over 100 years and has not aged a day. Now, let’s look at how the portrayal of Damon represents our culture. For thesis I, we learned that “each culture will produce their own monsters and their own versions of monsters.” This related to this show and Damon because we live in a very oversexualized culture now compared to when the original Dracula was made. According to an article from the USA Today magazine, “Americans Are Right to Worry More About Media Sex than Media Violence,” research “concluded that representations of women and men indeed have become more sexualized over time.” Back then, vampires were very scary monsters, but now we sexualized them. We justify everything bad Damon has done just because he is sexy. Personally, I enjoy shows with a very attractive character more than a show with no eye candy. We have created this monster because that is what will catch the attention of people nowadays. Our society does not have a genuine fear of vampires because we understand science, so we have changed them into something else. Something seductive.
In conclusion, Dracula from Bram Stoker’s novel and Damon Salvatore from The Vampire Diaries both do well in representing the culture that made them. Although I am a big fan of The Vampire Diaries, I think that Stoker’s Dracula is more significant and does a better job at truly embodying the culture. People were actually afraid of vampires back then, but now vampires are used for entertainment. Regarding the four criteria: undead, blood-sucking, immortal, and affected by the sun, Damon Salvatore meets more of these criteria then Dracula. I will rate both of these monsters on a five-star system: four stars for each of the four criteria and one star if they portrayed their culture well. Dracula earns a 3/5, and Damon Salvatore gets 4/5 stars.
“Americans Are Right to Worry More About Media Sex than Media Violence.” Media Violence,edited by Noah Berlatsky, Greenhaven Press, 2012. Opposing Viewpoints. Opposing Viewpoints in Context, https://link-galegroup-com.chaffey.idm.oclc.org/apps/doc/EJ3010153402/OVIC?u=ranc95197&sid=OVIC&xid=8462380c. Accessed 30 Apr. 2019. Originally published as “Hypersexualized Women Say ‘Come Hither’,” USA Today Magazine, Dec. 2011
This article proves that the representations of men and women have become more sexualized over time and that women are more sexualized than men. I will use this in my essay to show how we live in a hypersexualized culture, and why this relates to the representation of Damon Salvatore in The Vampire Diaries compared to Dracula in Bram Stoker’s novel. I believe this source is credible because I found it on a reliable library database.
Buzwell, Greg. “Dracula: the Victorian Vampire.” The British Library, The British Library, 26 Feb. 2014, http://www.bl.uk/romantics-and-victorians/articles/dracula.
This article considers the way that Bram Stoker’s Dracula “reflects the fears that haunted late 19th-century society – fears of immigration, sexual promiscuity, and moral degeneration.” I will use this in my essay to show how Stoker’s Dracula reflected on the culture at the time. This article is credible because it was written by a Curator of Contemporary Literary Archives at the British Library whose research focuses primarily on the Gothic literature of the Victorian fin de siècle.
Cohen, Jeffrey Jerome, editor. Monster Theory: Reading Culture. NED – New edition ed., University of Minnesota Press, 1996. JSTOR, http://www.jstor.org/stable/10.5749/j.ctttsq4d.
The seven theses of monster culture explain that we understand culture/society through the types of monsters that are featured. The seven theses are the entire basis of my essay. This source will be used to evaluate Damon Salvatore in The Vampire Diaries compared to Dracula in Bram Stoker’s novel. This source is credible because it is theories that we can prove and it was assigned reading.
Plec, Julie and Kevin Williamson, directors. The Vampire Diaries. Netflix, Netflix, 2009, http://www.netflix.com/watch/70212837?trackId=200257859.
The Netflix show, “The Vampire Diaries,” is my primary source. I will use the representation of Damon Salvatore in various episodes and evaluate him using the seven theses of monster theory.
Stepanic, Stanley. “How Did Dracula Become the World’s Most Famous Vampire? – Stanley Stepanic.” TED, TED-Ed, ed.ted.com/lessons/how-did-dracula-become-the-world-s-most-famous-vampire-stanley-stepanic.
This video details the history of vampires and how Bram Stoker’s novel Dracula was inspired. I will use this in my essay to describe how vampires came to be. This is a reliable source because it was made by a professor who has been teaching “Dracula” for more than ten years at The University of Virginia. It is also credible because the video was published by TED.
Stoker, Bram. “D R A C U L A.” The Project Gutenberg EBook of Dracula, by Bram Stoker., 2013, http://www.gutenberg.org/files/345/345-h/345-h.htm.
This book is my second primary source. I will use the representation of Dracula throughout the book and compare it to Damon Salvatore from the Vampire Diaries.