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The Wussification of Vampires
December 12, 2009 · By Mitch Cyrus

Once upon a time, vampires were some of the nastiest creatures out there in movie-land.  Evil bloodsuckers without an inch of remorse or compassion.  Sort of like divorce attorneys with fangs.  Vampires have been onscreen to scare the bejeezus out of us since Max Schreck put on rubber ears and prosthetic teeth in 1922 for "Nosferatu" (or did he?  Not according to 2000's fascinating comedy/drama/horror film "Shadow of the Vampire"), and we've been loving it.

Vampires are vicious, malicious, scary, soulless cretins who want only one thing...to suck the blood out of people...a process that usually also means killing them.  So yes, that puts them pretty much in the category of "monster" in my book.

But yet, there has also always been somewhat of an allure to vampires.  Starting with Bela Legosi in 1931's "Dracula", vampires have been seen as not only dangerous, but fascinatingly mysterious, and captivatingly alluring.  It's not hard to understand why.  They look a lot closer to human than any of the other monsters out there; they often charm/seduce their victims; and they have that whole immortality thing going, which is nice.

Even with that, vampires have universally been the villains throughout the history of cinematography; no matter how charming they were.  Sometimes they are nothing but evil, as shown graphically in "John Carpenter's Vampires" "Salem's Lot" the "Blade" movies (other than Blade himself, who is half human), "30 Days of Night", and "From Dusk Till Dawn".  Other times they are charismatically evil, such as "Bram Stoker's Dracula", "The Hunger", "Lost Boys", or "The Addiction".  Throughout all of this, we could count on one thing:  Vampires were badass mofos.

And then something changed; vampires went mainstream.  Suddenly, vampires are "heroes" in the movies and some television shows.  Frankly, I could live with that.  The problem is in becoming more "likable", they've become boring wusses.

I suppose I could go all the way back and blame this all on Barnabas Collins from the campy 60s gothic soap opera "Dark Shadows"; but given that it took over 30 years for the rest of Hollywood to jump on the bandwagon, I think I'll give old Barney a pass.  Same with Kiefer Sutherland in 1987's "Lost Boys".  It wasn't his fault that his character David was 1,000 times more appealing than Corey Freakin' Haim.  It's like saying you're taller than a jockey.

So I'm going to blame Brad Pitt and Anne Rice for creating the first true weenie of a vampire; Louis de Pointe du Lac in "Interview with the Vampire".   God, what a pansie!  Was there really anything more pathetic than the one scene where Louis, who couldn't stand killing people, was sitting around with that old hag screaming while he feasted upon her spoiled little punt dog poodles?  The only thing worthwhile in that scene was the look of disgust on Lestat's face (right before he made a meal of the old hag).

But the audiences LIKED Louis!?!  I was flabbergasted, and it took awhile before I warmed back up to Pitt again.  After all, when you're out-acted by Tom Cruise (and an 11 year old Kristen Dunst), you're really hitting rock bottom.  It didn't matter a bit, as the proverbial horse was out of the proverbial barn.  From there, we went to having "good" vampires such as Angel from the "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" TV series...which was a total departure from the original Buffy movie, but what else is new?

The "Underworld" series continued the glamorization of vampires, but at least some of them were bad...and who cared, if they looked as hot as Kate Beckinsale in all that leather.

Vampires literally came "out of the closet" in 2008 with Alan Ball's exquisite HBO series "True Blood".  In it, vampires made their presence known to mortals after Japanese scientists found a way to synthesize human blood, making it no longer necessary to kill people to feed.

Now I'll be honest; I really, really love the series, as it's one of the best written and acted shows out there.  But my problem this last season has been with the "lead"  vampire, Bill Compton.  In the first season, he was shown as anguished and torn as he tried to live a life among humans, and as he fell in love with the telepathic waitress Sookie Stackhouse.  Despite those efforts, Bill could still kick-ass with the best of them, including a time when he killed Sookie's uncle, who he learned had molested her years before, as well as killing a couple of low life rednecks who had earlier tried to drain him of his blood.

This year?  Not so great, as Bill took the word "morose" to a new level, whining all the way about his poor life and worries.  The series was still highly watchable, however, due to the larger roles of other vampires, especially the unapologetically amoral Eric Northman.  Eric has all the charm you'd want, but still a serious streak of naughtiness as well, and just a touch of "good" in him, too.  Here's to hoping Bill's kidnapping at the end of Season 2 stretches out several episodes in Season 3...so we'll get that Sookie/Eric hookup we've been waiting for.

But I save the worst for last.  And you guessed it; that would be "Twilight".

Who knew that immortality could be so damn boring?

I didn't think too much of the first movie, but given the phenomenon it's become, I felt compelled to watching the sequel "The Twilight Saga: New Moon"...and while it wasn't a disaster on the "2012" level, it was two hours of my life that I wish I could get back.

Maybe I should first go and apologize to my daughter...because after watching this film, I realize that all the pouting, moping, and sighing she did in her teenage years could have been SOOOO much worse.  And that's most of the first hour of the movie.  Poor Bella's had her heart broken as dreamy Edward has moved away, so we get to sit around and watch her cry and do stupid things for over an hour until we get to the werewolves...who are only moderately more interesting than the vampires.

OK...I understand that I'm not exactly the demographics Stephanie Meyer was going after when she wrote the books...and I can also understand why these books are so popular with teenage girls (and their mothers, who remember back to their days in PerpetualFunkVille).  For that's all these books/films are; teenage romance stories about the shy, quiet, unpopular girl getting the cutest guy.

I just wish Meyer would have chosen some other mythical creature for Bella's object of obsession, because Edward might actually be the Worst. Vampire.  Ever.

He goes to High School every day just to keep his cover?  WTH is with that?  He doesn't drink human blood...which means he has copper colored eyes instead of red ones (I'm so glad to have learned that important bit of information).  He doesn't have fangs, he's not harmed by stakes to the heart, you can see his reflection in the mirror, and when he steps into the sunlight, his skin glistens like gold.

Too much.  I don't want my vampires on psychiatrists' couches, I want them on psychiatrists' necks. I want them brought down by a wooden stake in the chest, not by a broken heart.  And by God, when they go out in the sunlight, I don't want to see them shining like expensive jewelry, I want them looking like Michael Jackson filming a Pepsi commercial!

Doubt I'll get my wish, however.  $250 million at the box office in three weeks pretty much guarantees that we'll be seeing more Mopey Vampires, not less. 

But at least I have solace in this thought.

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