Vampires are on my mind. The funny thing is this often is the case when I’m unemployed. Feeling lost and alone, I settled down to watch the most depressing vampire movie I know, The Hunger. Miriam Blaylock, an unaging vampire, has made her way through history by taking lovers with the promise of eternal life. As she makes her lovers vampires, they survive centuries as young people, but then suddenly age and die within days. Terribly artistic (how could it not be with David Bowie as the male lead?), the film has a very heavy atmosphere and a calculating coldness as Miriam promises her lovers that they will live forever, knowing that once the aging begins, their decaying corpses will continue to live, weak, hungry, and wanting to die. I did say that it was depressing, right? The vampire, besides feeding off the essence of others, is concerned with eternal life. Religious symbols do not affect Blaylock and her ilk—in fact, they wear knives hidden within ankhs to stab their victims. The ankh, the Egyptian sign of eternal life, is the means of death. The only way to live forever is to feed off others.
Like many of those who pay attention to society, I have been fascinated by the enduring power of the vampire. When I was a child watching Dark Shadows on TV after school, I supposed vampires were things kids were interested in—the adults I knew had other things on their minds. As my generation grew, however, the vampire grew along with us. We had Interview with a Vampire, Lost Boys, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Blade, Underworld, the Twilight series, I am Legend, Van Helsing, Priest, the Vampire Diaries, and on and on and on. Why are we so fascinated with a mythological creature? The vampire is profoundly religious and deeply symbolic. Evolution endows us all with a will to survive, the desire, if you will, of eternal life. The vampire is the symbol of that hope with no constraints. We are taught, and some of us even believe, that other people have the same rights as we do. The vampire’s urges, however, overwhelm even personal conviction and we are all potential victims.
Vampirism may be the ultimate symbol of our society. When future historians look back on the late twentieth and then the twenty-first century, won’t they see a world of profoundly deep inequality? Won’t they see multiple millions being sucked dry by the reassuring words that they are “middle class”? In The Hunger, daylight, crosses and mirrors do not dissuade the undead. Miriam needs her lovers, even though it will mean an agonizing unending end for them. Promises are made, and, when broken, the lovers are too weak to fight back. And her wealth increases with every generation. I lost my job at a very profitable company. Those who remain, on top, do not suffer fear of want. I look at Miriam Blaylock and wonder what it must be like to think that way.