Difference and the Vampire in Popular Culture
Table Of Contents
- About the author
- About the book
- This eBook can be cited
- List of Figures
- Chapter 1: The All-American, Un-American Vampire: Nationhood and the Vampire
- Chapter 2: It Made Me Do It!: Disorientation and Vampiric Objects
- Chapter 3: What a Girl Wants: Agency and the Becoming Female Vampire
- Chapter 4: The Vampire Survival Guide: ‘Reel-Life’ Vampires
- Chapter 5: The Vampire in Neverland: Nostalgia and Becoming-Child
- Chapter 6: Vampiric Invitations: Becoming with the Vampire
Becoming Vampire is an interdisciplinary exploration into the ways in which the figure of the vampire in the twenty-first century has been used to create and define difference, not as either a positive or negative attribute, but as a catalyst for change and the exploration of new identity positions. Whilst using the focus of two films, Let Me In (Reeves 2010) and Let the Right One In (Alfredson 2008), and the novel Let the Right One In (Låt den rätte komma in) by John Ajvide Lindqvist from which both films are adapted, to highlight the referential and intertextual nature of the genre itself, it also utilises a broad spectrum of methodological approaches to show how the many facets of the vampire can destabilise traditional categories of who we are and what we might become. This volume, then, provides a timely examination of the multifaceted and multivalent character of the vampire and the possibilities inherent within our interactions with them, making this study a consideration of what we might term ‘vampiric becomings’ and why the undead ‘creatures of the night’ remain so fascinating to Western culture.
Perhaps more than anything else the appearance of vampires is about questions, such as why now? Why here? And, generally, just why? And so it is appropriate that this book about vampires should begin with questions, though if the intersection between vampires and becoming says anything, it is that there are no definitive answers, only ones that can tell you something about what a possible answer might be at this moment, but with no guarantee that it will be the same the next time the question is asked. Consequently, this volume will begin with a series of questions, the answers to which will give some idea of where the trajectory of the book began, though not necessarily its complete line of flight or where it might eventually end up. After all, becoming is about beginnings rather than endings. ← 1 | 2 →
The first question ‘Why vampires?’ is possibly the easiest as at the start of the twenty-first century it is, arguably, one of the most well-known, ubiquitous, even most loved, of ‘monsters’ in Western popular culture. The plethora of films, television series, plays, ballets, books, graphic novels and social media sites that feature or make reference to vampires or vampiric texts is seemingly never-ending, highlighting the enduring and transformational nature of this fictional undead creature and its continuing fascination and relevance to ongoing generations of ‘consumers’. Transformational and consuming are two vital points in this ongoing trajectory, for one can see that with the entry of the vampire into mainstream culture, which also coincides with the beginnings and growth of industrialisation, consuming and being consumed became an inherent part of the dominant ideologies of modernity, capitalism, late capitalism and what might now be called ‘global consumerism’. As Franco Moretti notes about Stoker’s Count Dracula, he, like capital, ‘is impelled towards a continuous growth, an unlimited expansion of his domain: accumulation is inherent in his nature’ (Moretti 1998: 91). The twenty-first century itself is somewhat vampiric because the world speeds to consume itself, and the greatest fear is not nuclear war, global warming, religious extremism or the next pandemic,1 but an economic crash. And yet, the vampire is too transgressive a character to remain in the service of but one master, and so he/she equally becomes the ghost in the machine of the dominant and dominating rule of capitalist, patriarchal heteronormativity, positing that change does not necessarily mean the accumulation of the newest technologies, consumer products or money, but in being different. And so whilst the overarching systems in contemporary times demand conformity to the choices offered in a drop-down menu, the vampire brings the possibility of agency and the chance of becoming something more than we already are. ← 2 | 3 →
Of course, not all vampires are of the Dracula biting-the-neck-blood-sucking kind, and this study includes those that, for example, drink blood but have no fangs; will only drink animal blood; that feed off the psychic energy or life-force of others; or are parasitic, spiritual manifestations that live in a host. Equally, as the present book will prove, vampires are not just human in form but can be things that exhibit vampiric qualities. They can include objects, such as cars, musical instruments and alchemical devices, as well as pieces of land, planets and ideological systems. As such, ‘vampire’ or ‘vampiric’ here denotes an entity that feeds off or consumes another, often human, has an exceedingly long life-span – again in relation to humans – and is excessive or more than human, often categorised as supernatural, but can be also configured as super-human, super-normal or simply (just something) more than normal.
‘Becoming’, at least for this volume, is fundamentally about difference and one which is particularly configured against the standardising practices of dominant ideologies. Whilst it intimates the uniqueness of the individual, it also points to the importance of a desire, a drive or motivational force, which causes one to want to move or change. Movement here can be the change from one state to another, or the beginning of a line of flight which can be to a single known, or unknown, destination or which can be an ongoing and evolving trajectory. As such, being changed into a vampire might be enough to embark one on a trajectory away from the dominant ideology of being human. This can be motivated by an individual desire for change and for finding agency and individuality in an increasingly disenfranchising and globalised world – and thus an end in itself – or can also be a move to expanding beyond the limitations of the human into other subjectivities and identity formations, and so is an ongoing and continual process. Of course, vampirism can be configured as the expression of the ← 3 | 4 → all-consuming forces of consumerism (i.e. normativity itself), and a move away from being a vampire equally constitutes a form of becoming.
As such, this study will utilise a somewhat free reading of Deleuze and Guattari’s writings on becoming, and indeed of their main translator into English, Brian Massumi, where becoming is a category of change and difference of more-than-human or super-normal proportions. It can be seen as an ‘expansion, propagation, contagion’ (Deleuze and Guattari 2004: 264) but it is ‘not an evolution’ but rather ‘rhizomic’ and transformative (Deleuze and Guattari 2004: 263). It is uncontrollable, sudden and excessive which, for Deleuze and Guattari, naturally links it to the idea of magic and the supernatural (super-natural), which inherently for them finds expression in the idea of werewolves and vampires, where both are excessive (more than normal) and representative of uncontrollable contagion (Deleuze and Guattari 2004: 269). Both these figures are often brought forth by their victims desire for change, but also cause unexpected, uncalled for transformations, whether such desired or enforced becoming is related directly to forms of identity which become more or different than what they were before. For Deleuze and Guattari, this specifically implies a trajectory away from normative subject positions as proscribed by dominant patriarchal, heteronormative and capitalist ideologies. As such, the becoming-man cannot exist because patriarchy is the controller and judicator of subject positions, and so all possible identities within that already exist, and so to truly become one must become-other. Deleuze and Guattari give such examples as becoming-woman, -child, -animal, -assemblage, -war-machine, -writer, which for this volume will largely encompass the idea of becoming-different. Vampires fulfil much of what Deleuze and Guattari expect of states of becoming, in that they are naturally transgressive (non-normative), are manifestations of desire, attack unexpectedly, are contagious and are excessively ‘more’, creating a difference to ‘normal’ society wherever they go, and initiating sudden (magical) trajectories on those they infect.
Becoming, then, will be used to describe categories of difference that are not proscribed by normativity and that allow for greater individual agency – this is an agency that is not always under one’s control but is the result of one’s own desire. In particular, words such as ‘trajectory’ and ‘line of ← 4 | 5 → flight’ will be used to intimate the period after becoming has been initiated. This sees it as something of a ‘big bang’ moment which is then followed by trajectories and lines of flight, though these too can be subject to further ‘explosive’ changes in due course. Along with these, ‘de-territorialisation’ will be used to describe a state, either in relation to an individual or an assemblage (a group of subjects/objects that come together for a certain amount of time), which through the act of becoming empties itself of previous forms of identity, so that it can be configured anew. It should also be pointed out that becoming is a term beyond normative qualities, such as ‘good’ or ‘bad’, and purely describes types of difference or otherness away from those that existed previously. Whilst becoming is the main umbrella term used in this study, it will be augmented by some other terms which can also be used to show ways of reacting against, or removing oneself, from the world of normativity. And so alongside becoming, trajectory and de-territorialisation, Michel de Certeau’s ideas of strategies and tactics will be employed – where strategies are the ways that the dominant ideologies of a culture ensure the compliance of its inhabitants, and tactics are the methods used to resist or actively break those rules.2 In particular, de Certeau highlights a spatial aspect to resistance and compliance and how the subject finds its identity through a negotiation with the environments/environs and spaces within which it lives and moves.
Also employed is Sara Ahmed’s notion of disorientation, which describes a moment when one loses ‘grip’, for whatever reason, temporally, physically, or ontologically with one’s surroundings.3 These are moments when not only one’s subject position can alter but also the world within which it sits, and so one can be disorientated into another dimension. This last is particularly relevant to the vampire as it is intrinsically a creature that confounds boundaries between worlds, being the undead past living in the present and a supernatural creature existing in the real world. All these terms will be used to explain the ways in which vampires can either themselves ← 5 | 6 → become or facilitate that becoming in others, either singularly or as an assemblage, whilst always keeping in mind that such change is ultimately about configuring and describing forms of difference to those expected by the dominant cultural ideologies of patriarchy and heteronormativity.
Cultural texts, such as films, books, webcasts, comics, etc., provide an important point of access to the spirit of an age. The significant numbers that watch, read or interact with such texts, highlight what an important area of study they are, not just as a representation of the strategies of cultural confirmation but also as experimenting with possible modes of tactical resistance, transformation and difference. This study will, then, consider all such texts of having certain levels of equivalence, in that whether they are intended for a serious horror, comedic, porn, high art, popular culture, adult or teenage audience it participates in the aforementioned tensions between strategic and tactical positioning’s as well as being a point in the ongoing thread of self-referential development, that is, the vampire genre, that reveals how the past intrudes into the present, which in turn reaches out to the future.
- ISBN (PDF)
- ISBN (ePUB)
- ISBN (MOBI)
- ISBN (Hardcover)
- Publication date
- 2017 (February)
- vampire becoming difference identity film studies
- Oxford, Bern, Berlin, Bruxelles, Frankfurt am Main, New York, Wien, 2016. X, 282 pp., 3 coloured ill., 17 b/w ill.