The fascination with vampires as sympathetic creatures in popular culture really began with Bela Lugosi’s portrayal of Dracula in the 1931 film. For the first time the film created an image of a vampire that was sexy, sympathetic, romantic, and desirable. Previously vampires were reviled and feared as ghoulish creatures that killed indiscriminately and were dangerous. Once the face of the vampire changed to become something attractive the danger associated with vampires seemed intriguing, and drew people towards the image instead of repelling them. Through movies and books vampires became came figures that millions of people could relate to because of their outsider status in society and their loneliness.
Anne Rice’s Vampire Chronicle series cemented the sexy, sympathetic image of a vampire. The vampires in Rice’s books were attractive, wealthy, ruthless killers who nonetheless clung to humanity. They had human emotions and were very dark, seductive, and enticing. Ann Rice’s books, and the film adaptations of her books Interview with the Vampire and The Queen of the Damned made vampires romantic figures that were attractive both because of their power and because of their pain. Around the turn of the last century the vampire mythos changed again as vampires went mainstream in movies like Underworld. Vampires were portrayed as strong, savvy, killers who were not to be messed with but had a distinctly seductive edge to them. When Stephanie Myers Twilight books came out, and the movies based on the books were released, the image of vampires in popular culture became softer, and the view of vampires once again became a sympathetic one.
The lead vampire in Twilight, Edward Cullen, is non threatening to Bella, and is not sexual with her which is a distinct change in the vampire characterization that has always existed in pop culture. Vampires have always been closely tied to sexuality in pop culture. The other massive pop culture phenomenon that features Vampires, True Blood, turned the vampire mythos on its ear by creating a world in which vampires live and interact with humans in the open, instead of having to hide in the shadows. Vampires in True Blood rarely feed on humans, instead they feed with a synthetic blood substitute. Taking away the most central role of a vampire as a predator who needs to feed on human blood has renewed public fascination with vampires because they are no longer as threatening. Even people who never cared for vampire stories before became avid fans of True Blood because of the unique interactions between humans and vampires portrayed in the show.
At the core of the vampire mystique is a glorification of the darker side of human nature. The desires for sex, power, and the ability to live forever outside of society and not being bound to society’s rules are desires that most people keep hidden and only express through things like dressing up for Halloween or at other times during the year. Vampires are much like humans, only they are not ashamed of their darker drives and live as they please. That is why vampires are always appealing to humans.