So this is extracted from a post I made on an old blog back in 2009 when I decided I should read Twilight because everyone loved/loves it so much. I felt I should keep the original title which is one of my favorite quotes from the book and, for me, nicely sums up Edward’s type of vampire.
But I wanted to resurrect the post because I recently finished reading Interview with the Vampire and have been sort of enmeshed in vampire-related media lately – American Vampire and Buffy, namely – which got me thinking about vampire mythology and stereotypes. Yes, vamp stereotypes are real, just like they are with any other mystical beast we encounter in horror, and I feel like that’s part of the reason (some) people might find (some) horror narratives to be old, uninspired; lacking freshness.
There’s no doubt that the horror genre is full of just plain bad vampires – The Anointed One, Max, Dracula himself comes to mind – but it has its fair share of bad-ass ones too – Count Duckula, Count Chocula, Santanico Pandemonium, the vampires in the Necroscope series, the Count because of his catchphrase, anyone who became a Grand Master vampire in Sims 4, and even Angel is annoying but alright. (Edward is my least favorite by far though; I just couldn’t get past the sparkles and I usually really like sparkles.)
What qualifies a “good” and “bad” vampire for me comes down to the spin the author/creator has put on the lore. I love a classic vampire tale complete with garlic and darkness, but I also enjoy new takes that give these classics more complex, interesting lives. I’m going to discuss a few of these in detail over the course of a few posts, but I wanted to start with what I feel are the forgotten vampires:
Code Vs are the vampires of Ultraviolet. And no, I don’t mean the awful film with Milla Jovovich but rather the BBC television series. The BBC has put a clever twist on the vampire myth, one that has an awesome main plot underpinned by lots of really cool and intricate smaller plots that reflect and subtend some contemporary issues (disease, mortality, and the frailty of human bodies; rights of the individual/privacy issues especially in the medical sphere; the ever-present relationship thing; crises of faith (of all kinds: religious, political, social); sexuality, legitimacy, and protecting the body; &c.).
Code Vs do share similarities with your standard vampire but I think it’s the scientific spin the show puts on the lore that’s really engaging and fresh. Code Vs (or “leeches” – they’re never called vampires in the show) suck blood; they need it to survive; but they don’t kill to feed. Like Danny knocking at the window, you have to invite them in. Code Vs don’t “forcibly” recruit humans to their side. Everyone has a choice to join or not join, and rarely do we see a leech completely drain a human host, turning the host into a Code V. The leeches themselves exert an enormous amount of self-control when they come into contact with humans but they ultimately don’t give up the biological necessity – feeding on human blood – that characterizes them.
Here again this series brings an innovation to the feast, making the vampiric feeding process relatively painless and of a different effect than tradition suggests. The wound of a Code V host heals over within minutes of the feeding, and can then only be detected under ultraviolet light. The bite wound can be treated: the skin is burnt away with lasers. If the wound goes untreated, then the host become a sort of cattle-like minion of the parasite, susceptible to suggestion and averse to sunlight.
Again, Code Vs can’t go out into sunlight and they can’t enjoy a nice Italian meal, but the protagonists of the show don’t just chuck cloves of garlic at them because that wouldn’t work on its own. And although they can be repelled by ultraviolet light or allicin, the chemical compound in garlic, these things alone can’t kill them. In fact, they don’t “die,” but rather are neutralized by exposure to the UV rays in sunlight and can be regenerated and resurrected when their ashes are mixed with human blood. They’re like doubly immortal. Really they have the potential for infinite immortality.
Another interesting thing about the Ultravioletian manifestation of the vampire: The “Congregation of the Doctrine of Faith” – the government funded organization in charge of locating and neutralizing Code Vs – discovers that the vampires can be affected by contaminated or polluted blood, which answers a question about the vampiric transfer of bodily fluids that’s always been in the back of my mind. It also makes me think about another cool way this series recreates the vampire myth. The stake through the heart isn’t just the realization of a folkloric tradition determining that a vampire must be staked to die (because why? what’s the deal with wood?). Rather, the stake serves to open the chest cavity and introduce carbon, a contaminating agent, into the heart, which pumps the blood that fuels the vampire. So carbon, too, neutralizes the vampire, and we see CDF agents using carbon bullets rather than wooden stakes to neutralize the leeches.
It seems that Code V molecules have a high oxidation rate, because they don’t experience just a plain old neutralization, but rather a combustion, an immolaton. This highlights a significant aspect of the plot: Code Vs have goals. The vampires’ goals don’t necessarily extend beyond the sphere of their own survival, but are still interesting in terms of the critique they launch against humans. The vampires claim to be developing a synthetic blood off of which to survive, so that they don’t have to feed off humans anymore, allowing humans and vampires to co-exist. But really the vampires are old, they’re immortal, and they take a long view of life: they can see that, with the proliferation of diseases of the blood like CJD and AIDS, and phenomena like global warming, and the lack of human awareness and action in regards to these things, humans are now more than ever capable of destroying themselves – and vampires with them because of course the existence of Code Vs is bound to the existence of human blood.
So the vampires don’t just fun it, controlling humans for the sake of it, they are trying to protect their food source. It sounds evil and selfish because they’re perceived as monsters by the humans who battle them, but qualifications for the labels “human” and “monster” are almost always subjective, right?
And vampires don’t even need to bite to get what they want. They ask nicely, they’re full of human emotions and capabilities – in a superior way (they create technology as quickly as humans do, and let’s face it: vampires have some obvious advantages over humans). It’s hard to say whether the Code Vs are essentially human or inhuman. Although they don’t leave fingerprints; don’t physically appear on video, film, or in reflective services; and are inaudible on electronic devices and telephones, they look and, for the most part, act like humans. They’re like Angel with a soul or Louis before his blood transfusion, except it seems they never lost their souls or connection to morality/morality.
It feels like Code Vs blur easy distinctions between good and evil, human and monster, existing in the interstice between the human and the non-human/Other, characterized by an intelligent, persuasive force that allows them to draw humans in of their own will for the sake of their preservation. (Isn’t that what humans do to other creatures, anyway?)
The Immortal Moral?
The question I take away from this series and which I feel should be posed to some of our world “leadership” in 2019 is how to justify the hunt for and annihilation (or manipulation or control) of a group so similar to our socially constructed notion of the “superior human race” – evolved, in fact, from the human? Is it possible, is it right? And what would we sacrifice in doing so; what things that we think of as comprising the essence of humanity would we strip away in the process – and gladly?