Opinion: Guillermo del Toro on our obsession with vampires

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Adam-Troy Castro
Dec 14, 2012

Guillermo del Toro's not missing any opportunities to flack his new vampire novel series The Strain, which he co-wrote with Chuck Hogan. First came news that Buffy alumna Marti Noxon and her partner, Dawn Parouse Olmstead (Prison Break), are working on a TV adaptation.

Now del Toro (with Hogan) chimes in himself with a thoughtful rumination on the sources and enduring popularity of the bloodsucker genre in an op-ed piece in The New York Times. Some excerpts:

John William Polidori stitched together folklore, personal resentment and erotic anxieties into "The Vampyre," a story that is the basis for vampires as they are understood today.

With "The Vampyre," Polidori gave birth to the two main branches of vampiric fiction: the vampire as romantic hero, and the vampire as undead monster. This ambivalence may reflect Polidori's own, as it is widely accepted that Lord Ruthven, the titular creature, was based upon Lord Byron—literary superstar of the era and another resident of the lakeside villa that fateful summer. Polidori tended to Byron day and night, both as his doctor and most devoted groupie. But Polidori resented him as well: Byron was dashing and brilliant, while the poor doctor had a rather drab talent and unremarkable physique. ...

The vampire may originate from a repressed memory we had as primates. Perhaps at some point we were—out of necessity—cannibalistic. As soon as we became sedentary, agricultural tribes with social boundaries, one seminal myth might have featured our ancestors as primitive beasts who slept in the cold loam of the earth and fed off the salty blood of the living. ...

Whereas other monsters emphasize what is mortal in us, the vampire emphasizes the eternal in us. Through the panacea of its blood it turns the lead of our toxic flesh into golden matter. ...

Now, vampires simultaneously occur in all forms and tap into our every need: soap opera storylines, sexual liberation, noir detective fiction, etc. The myth seems to be twittering promiscuously to serve all avenues of life, from cereal boxes to romantic fiction. The fast pace of technology accelerates its viral dispersion in our culture. ...

Click through to read the entire piece.