Monster as metaphor

I love vampire films and in college I actually took a class on the gothic novel, where we looked at how vampire legends and other horror stories were created, in part to help explain what happens to a body after death.

In this Big Think interview filmmaker Guillermo del Toro talks about the role monsters play in helping us to understand the world by becoming “living, breathing metaphors.” He also explains how he creates his own monsters, and gives advice to budding filmmakers.

In particular I was fascinated by his response to the question “why are vampires so popular right now?”

I think that, you know, the moment of the birth of the vampire myth in English literature is with essentially there is few writings here and there, a poem and this and that. But in fiction most everyone agrees that it was birthed by John W. Polidori with a short story, “The Vampyre.” Now, the fact that Polidori had an ambivalent relationship with his master and friend, Lord Byron and he based the character of the main vampire in that story, Lord Ruthvren on Lord Byron, you know. Immediately gave birth to a vampire that was both a loathsome parasite and a dandy. A seductive character that is later absorbed by a Stoker in “Dracula” and you know, you can trace it all the way to Anne Rice.

And I think that right now, we have an unbridled sort of melodramatic, romantic, fantasy with the vampire is only one half of the myth. The bad boy romantic lead myth, which is essentially Gothic fiction. You know, it can be Heathcliff in “Wuthering Heights,” or it can be Robert Patterson in “Twilight.”

The thing that it tells you right now is that human relationships, intimate relationships have become so completely demythified, they have become so prosaic, you know, whenever you talk about a relationship, you’re talking about it in very prosaic terms. How much does he or she make? What job security? Nest egg planning. It’s all very materialistic. Double-income household, it all becomes very prosaic and it’s almost impossible to dream romantic things without sounding corny.

So you know, of the fascination of romantic fiction with a bad boy gets sumlimated and dark angels are created, angels of the night that create a spiritual and physical bond with a love interest that is permanent and eternal. So through that fiction you can abandon yourself to the lull of a romantic fantasy without feeling silly or stupid.

What I find symptomatic I think for the… I daresay, for the first time in the culture of mankind, the vampire has been sort of defanged by making them celibate and asexual as opposed to polysexual, like Anne Rice did and they have been Mormonized, so to speak, into being a sanitized creature. And you know, I’m not in favor or against it. I’m fascinated by it, because I do think it is a very strong symbol of where we are. And I find it intriguing and I try to watch the phenomenon without judging it. But it’s quite peculiar.

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