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Interview with Vampires and the Psychology of Our Desire for the Undead

Eater alert! This article contains major spoilers for the first five episodes of the first season of the AMC series “Anne Rice Interview with the Vampires”.

Among all the supernatural creatures that haunt pop culture, including zombies, werewolves, ghosts, and monsters, it’s the vampire that never dies. In recent movies, TV shows, books, plays or more recently, podcasts, vampires have always lurked in the shadows, waiting for their moment to reclaim the spotlight.

After years of flying under the radar, in 2022, vampires are once again flooding our TV screens, with four shows co-pearing Vampire Academyof Syfy Reginald the Vampireof Showtime let me inand AMC’s Anne Rice’s Interview with the Vampire – debuting in just two months.

Yet, even though we historically think of vampires as creatures of fear, all of these shows have one thing in common: the vampires they focus on are sympathetic, not monstrous. Moreover, in case Interview with the VampireIn particular, the main vampire characters Louie (Jacob Anderson) and Lestat (Sam Reed) are romantic figures, even as they crave human blood and engage in gruesome violence.

To adapt the 1976 novel by Anne Rice, the creative team behind Interview with the Vampire The author took a few liberties with the original story. Not only does it set the action in the early 1900s instead of 1791, but it adds a powerful exploration of race and racism by making both Louis and Claudia (Bailey Bass) into baby vampires created by Lestat to please Louis, Black.

This allowed the show to more clearly examine the power imbalance between Claudia, Louis, and Lestat, a white Frenchman who was also a vampire hundreds of years Louis and Claudia’s senior.

Additionally, many of the book’s subtexts are now text in the show. Of most interest (and excitement) to many viewers who are fans of the novels, the series makes it clear that Louis and Lestat are in a romantic relationship from the start.

Although Rice’s novel only hints that the pair’s relationship was sexual, the show establishes Lestat and Louis as a couple and tracks their relationship over the years. But the interviewer of the title, Danielle Malloy (Erica Boghossian), points out that Louie’s relationship with Lestat comes off as downright abusive, even if Louie doesn’t want to admit it. Confirming Malloy’s suspicions, and once again creating the subtext of the book’s text, in the show’s fifth episode, Louis suffers a horrific beating at the hands of Lestat.

This is the first time Lestat has physically assaulted Louis onscreen or in the pages of Rice’s book. Prior to this, Louis and Claudia have always suffered mental and emotional abuse at the hands of Lestat. However, it was always subtle enough that it could be justified.

There is no gray area of ​​physical abuse, however, enabling the show to directly question and comment on the way fans tend to romanticize the unequal power dynamics and abusive behavior that is a part of many recent works of romantic vampire fiction. Interview with the Vampire.

This article will explore how vampires became icons of empathy and romance and why we continue to be drawn to them. It will also investigate whether viewing stories featuring romantic representations of vampires may lead fans to be more accepting of abuse in their real-life romances.

A history of the sympathetic vampire

Although the details of the vampire myth vary, the idea of ​​vampires as immortal beings who must drink blood to survive has been in pop culture since the time of Bram Stoker. dracula Published in 1897.

Still, though Dracula was still a terrifying figure in the 19th centurym In the 18th century, there were vampire stories that evoked the sympathy of readers, including Lord Ruthven in 1819. Vampireand the 1847 titular vampire character Vernie the Vampire and of 1872 carmilla. Although these vampires must drink blood to survive, their nature is a source of both torture and inspiration for them, making them more alluring and tragic than feared.

The same goes for Louis Inn Interview with the Vampire. While the sympathetic nature of Anne Rice’s character was not new, the introduction of Louie ushered in the era of sympathetic, romantic vampires that continues to this day in everything Stephenie Meyer. The Twilight Saga per Buffy the Vampire Slayer per The Vampire DiariesAnd of course, the TV adaptation Interview with the Vampire.

Vampires as desirable and romantic

Like other romantic vampires, Interview with the VampireIts Louis and Lestat don’t look like demons. Instead, they are attractive, seductive and misunderstood. This is a point often hammered home by the show, which is narrated and told from Louie’s point of view.

For example, when Louis is rejected by his family, the show emphasizes his pain, even though it was previously shown that his need for blood nearly drives him to eat his baby nephew. Meanwhile, while Lestat’s murderous tendencies are often touched upon, the show also portrays the character as intensely afraid to face his immortality alone.

The desire to be accepted by family and not be alone is a deeply human concern, which is one of the reasons vampires are often so attractive. They are the most human of all supernatural beings.

Not only do they have unique personalities and concerns, but they look just like us And consequently, transcend the division inherent in other works of horror between human and monster. In many cases, as their nature leads them to isolate themselves, vampires become metaphors for rebels or outsiders on the fringes of society.

In its TV version Interview with the VampireLouis and Lestat’s status as outsiders is not solely a product of their vampirism, although it may be their most notable characteristic in the minds of viewers.

However, they are also a same-sex interracial couple in their early 20sm Shatabdi and Louie are black business owners, positions that make them more marginalized and make them more sympathetic and interesting.

Self-realization

Horror scholar Matthias Klassen suggests that vampires like Lestat and Louis fulfill different emotional needs for readers and viewers than vampires who are purely terrifying figures.

On the one hand, vampirism is made attractive because it not only provides beauty, power, and wealth, but also enables the vampire to devote himself to their own self-realization.

It can certainly be seen Interview with the Vampire, as becoming a vampire enables Louis to expand his business in ways he never imagined before. Meanwhile, Lestat has been shown to be the originator of at least one famous musical composition. Obviously immortality has its benefits.

Classen Also interesting are the stories revolving around vampires and their human girlfriends as mentioned The Vampire Diaries And twilightEnables consumers to consider the dilemmas of mate choice and romance, ensuring that while the vampires in these stories may be dangerous bad boys, they are not figures of fear (at least not for their romantic interests).

blood lust

As Dr. Lee Phillips, psychotherapist and certified sex and couple therapist, points out, humans want to be wanted and desired, and vampires’ need for blood makes their desire for humans a matter of life and death.

This makes romance with a vampire the ultimate fantasy. “People imagine surrendering to their romantic partners, the same way a person surrenders to a vampire after being charmed and seduced,” Phillips notes. “Giving up, surrendering and being vulnerable are not particularly popular in our culture. However when it happens with fictional vampires and the people they hunt… it fulfills that fantasy.”

when Interview with the Vampire Inherent in the show is this ability to brilliantly experiment with mate choice, centering on the relationship between two vampires. Louis’ narration encourages the audience to identify with him, enabling them to experience his relationship with Lestat through their eyes.

As a result, the audience experiences the romance of Louis’s relationship with Lestat from Louis’ perspective, including the comfort and empowerment that comes with embracing his sexuality as well as the betrayal and emotional manipulation Louis suffers at the hands of Lestat.

At the same time, journalist Malloy’s observations throughout the show of how troubled Louie’s relationship with Lestat is encourages viewers to see cracks in it—and before Lestat beats Louie to a bloody pulp in the climax of the show’s fifth episode.

Does romanticizing vampires lead to real-life abuse?

The romanticization of vampires has led to concerns that people, especially teenage girls, will become more open to the idea of ​​entering and remaining in abusive relationships. However, while it’s easy to compare the behavior of real-life romantic partners to fictional vampires, whose actions often include stalking, manipulation, and abuse, studies suggest we don’t have to worry too much.

For example, a study found that people who watched vampire dramas were as distressed by controlling, threatening, and bullying behavior as those who did not, and that this group was no more likely to experience abuse in their own romantic relationships.

In another studyWomen who watched movies that romanticized stalking behavior were no more likely than those who watched movies that portrayed stalking behavior as scary to support myths about stalking.

However, there were exceptions: Women who found the romantic depiction of stalking particularly realistic or were particularly engrossed in the movie were significantly more likely to endorse the stalking myth.

These studies suggest that some people may be more likely to engage in abusive behavior in real-life romances after being exposed to romantic vampire narratives, as vampire characters bear little resemblance to real-life romantic partners, which is unlikely.

The Vampire as Erotic Escapism

Phillips agrees with this assessment, noting that the idea of ​​being oppressed and controlled by vampires as sexy and attractive is a fantasy, and that romantic vampire fiction is a form of erotic escapism.

On the other hand, “people in real-life abusive relationships may not desire their abusive partner sexually. These people want to get out of the hands of an abuser and feel trapped. They might not want to get out of vampires’ hands.”

Interestingly, the sexy escapism presented by romantic vampires may also be the reason why some fans were outraged after Louis Lestat’s brutal beating. Interview with the VampireIts fifth episode. These fans feel that the show did a disservice by depicting such extreme levels of violence in the pair’s romance.

Other fans, however, believe that the scene only brings the emotional abuse that the pair already inflicted on each other into the physical world, making it harder to excuse or mask the toxicity of their relationship.

Still, the scene brings a new element of horror to a romantic vampire narrative. The show’s startlingly vivid depiction of domestic violence subverts our expectations of romantic vampires, but it also creates a frightening subtext to many of these vampire stories, forcing viewers to confront some uncomfortable truths about vampires as figures of empathy and romance.

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