“Drink from me and live forever.”
Remember that? It’s the tag line from the film adaptation of Anne Rice’s Interview with the Vampire. I’ve been shopping for a poster from that movie to hang in my classroom and seeing that tag line again reminded me of why the vampire was so scary for so long.
Then I came across this news story yesterday and got to thinking about the response I got to teaching parts of the Bible in my Advanced Placement English class last year.
I offer for your consideration the theory that today’s readers are the most self-absorbed and ignorant since the invention of movable type.
I taught parts of the Bible to these seniors so they would be able to recognize allusion in other works of literature. I was amazed at how little they know about the book that has been the cornerstone of Western culture for 2,000 years. (Keep in mind, not all of them were ignorant, but the majority knew very little about Christianity.)
“Drink from me and live forever.” Readers who only know vampirism through reading Stephanie Meyer, L.J. Smith and others in that vein likely don’t see the horror in that statement. Living forever? Sounds great, right? Me, me, me. I get to live forever. I get to be different than everyone around me.
But when you look at that line as the allusion it is and recognize what it really means, there’s a dark side to immortality. In the Gospels, Christ tells his disciples the wine of the Last Supper is his blood. He also says anyone who accepts him as the Son of God will have eternal life in Heaven.
For centuries the horror of the vampire was that it was a perversion of this promise from Christ. Drink from the vampire and you’ll live forever, yes, but you’ll forever be confined to the flesh and this world and have to feed on others. You’ll be cut off from God, from all that is holy and light. That’s why the crucifix and holy water were effective weapons against the vampire.
Based on what I saw in my AP class, and what I’ve learned talking to dozens of other readers of the new young adult vampire novels, I’ve come to believe the modern generation is woefully under read and they don’t seem to care. It’s better, they believe, that vampires are “vegetarians” that only feed on animals (because it’s okay to completely redefine a word despite its etymology, too) and that they offer not damnation but eternal romantic devotion. Physical death and a broken heart are the only real fears when you are this shallow.
DISCLAIMER 1: I realize some of you are not Christian and maybe because of that you see no problem with the younger generation not being familiar with the Bible stories. As I told my students, whatever your religious beliefs, I think it’s important you understand the principals that helped to establish the culture in which we live.
DISCLAIMER 2: Yes, this site is supposed to be about werewolves, and if I’m going to bash Meyer and her ilk I should focus on what she did to the werewolves. Maybe later.
DISCLAIMER 3: The good thing about young readers is that they are young and still have time to discover the literature that has stood the test of time. Despite what sounds like pessimism and disgust, I do have hope for them.